Speech and Debate on American college and university campuses is one of the oldest traditions in academic history. Many schools have been supporting their speech and debate clubs since their founding more than 150 years ago, and the multitude of members across the generations have come to perfect their tactics and strategies for oration and argumentation. These twenty schools represent the very finest speech and debate teams in the nation, that regularly hold positions of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in national and global tournaments every year. These teams represent a diverse population of students at each school, all of whom have incredible levels of intelligence, dedication, and perseverance. Find all of the best clubs of 2018 here!
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Harvard College Debating Union
Harvard University is, of course, one of the most prestigious schools in the world, and maintains an internationally competitive speech and debate team that has been making a name for itself since 1981. According to their impressive website, the HCDU is “one of the most successful teams in the American Parliamentary Debate Association, holding a record seven national titles, more than any other institution,” and has been recognized in such distinguished publications as The New Yorker. A welcoming and supportive team, these Harvard University students represent a confident, competent, and highly skilled portion of the student body.
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Georgetown Parliamentary Debate Team
Georgetown University is another of the nation’s, and the world’s, most excellent institutions of higher education, that maintains a speech and debate team that finished in the top ten in the nation in the past year. The campus regularly hosts tournaments on campus, giving the GPDT members exposure to other teams and events related to the club—a fabulous opportunity for networking. GU is highly invested in enriching the experiences of their speech and debate students by providing as many resources and benefits as possible in their travel and competition, and team members are regularly recognized at National Debate Tournament championships as the best in that nation.
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Cornell Speech & Debate Society
Cornell University, yet another of the most outstanding schools in America, utilizes a four-team debate style based on the British Parliament and is the format used at the annual World Universities Debating Championship. These students are committed to spearing the importance of public speaking and debate to encourage a more civil and engaged society. The team works in collaboration with numerous educational and community organizations and other academic institutions, in the belief that “everyone benefits from learning and building a foundation of argumentation, debate, persuasive communication, and public speaking skills.”
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Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society
The Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society (BADASS) is one of the most successful intercollegiate debating societies in America and currently holds the number 6 position according to the American Parliamentary Debate Association; however, has previously and most traditionally held the position of 2 or 3. BADASS has also been voted one of the top ten teams of the year over the last 19 consecutive years. Students of all backgrounds and levels of experience make this team what it is, and all are welcome to try out. Working in a spirit of social camaraderie, the team also works with organizations, such as The Boston Debate League, to mentor urban students in debate, and regularly host competitions.
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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY
Cal Debate is the speech and debate team at the University of California, Berkeley, and maintains a group of members that consistently come in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the National Debate Tournament held annually in various locations. The team has been semi, quarter, and octafinalists at championships across the country, setting an incredibly impressive name for Cal Debate and UC Berkeley as a whole. A student-run, peer-coached team of speech enthusiasts, the mission of this group is to teach critical thinking skills and persuasive communication techniques to an elite group of students that compete on a national level. Students have the benefit of competition in all 11 AFA-sponsored events at local and national tournaments, giving them the opportunity to travel and meet hundreds of people!
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Yale Debate Association
Yale University is another of the most outstanding and well-known universities in the United States and is actually ranked 3rd in the world for their speech and debate team! This club competes in both the American and the British Parliamentary styles, giving them the advantage of entering into numerous championships and tournaments across the globe. Former team members include past US Presidents, a Secretary of State, several members of Congress, and dozens of leaders in law, business, medicine, journalism, academia, and the arts! Holding multiple titles for their achievements in speech and debate, this is arguably the most esteemed team in the country.
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Barkley Forum for Debate, Deliberation, and Dialogue
The Barkley Forum strives to uphold the Emory mission to make the campus a “destination university internationally recognized as an inquiry-driven, ethically engaged and diverse community.” This team has been perfecting its techniques in speech and debate since the founding of Emory University in 1837, giving them more than 150 years of experience in engaging with other schools in lively dialogue and competition. This team believes in active engagement with the community and students pay forward the privilege of their debate experience through outreach programs. Through this community service, the team established the Urban Debate Leagues in South Korea, Jamaica, Columbia, and elsewhere across the world!
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Fulton Debating Society
Since its inception, the Fulton Debating Society at Boston College has been showered with awards and recognition for their outstanding achievements in speech and debate. This team has lured huge crowds from around Boston to witness their impeccable understanding and manipulation of oratory and argumentative techniques and skills. This club has shaped some of the foremost professionals from Boston College, and the list of achievements of the Fulton Debating Society is virtually unending. Founded in 1868, the club has been only decorated in the most fabulous awards pertaining to speech and debate and supported the education of hundreds of students.
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The Brown Debating Union
The Brown Debating Union is Brown’s intercollegiate debate team. Every weekend this competitive team travels around the country for championships and tournaments, and constantly brings home gold medals and 1st prize trophies. The team utilizes both the British and the American Parliamentary Debate styles, giving them a sharp edge with which to approach their championship arguments. Open to novice and varsity team members alike, students from all walks are welcome to contribute their brain power. It is the Brown Debating Union’s mission to train individuals interested in becoming highly analytic and thoughtful debaters capable of competing at the highest level.
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Brooks Quimby Debate Council
The Brooks Quimby Debate Council was formed in 1855 just shortly after the founding of the college itself. The team attended the first intercollegiate debate in 1896 and the first international collegiate debate in 1908! Today, the team regularly competes in tournaments across the globe, such as the World Universities Debating Championships. This is an incredibly inclusive team, that welcomes beginners who have no experience in debate, and trains them to become some of the best in the world. A friendly and flexible team on the inside, the BQDC is tough in their arguments and brings home awards of all kinds.
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Rutgers University Debate Union
Back in 1766 when Rutgers University was first founded as the eighth oldest university in the United States, the competitive debate organizations were called literary societies. These societies laid the groundwork for what is now one of the most successful teams in the nation. Actually, the team is currently more successful than it has ever been by finishing in the top 30 schools across America in national championships and is the most successful university club on the campus! Team members get to meet students from all over the world for the tournaments hosted by Rutgers University, such as the North American Debating Championship.
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Glenn R. Capp Debate Forum
Baylor Debate has a long history of success in speech and debate since 1865. The team has won the National Debate Tournament three times and appeared in the Final Four 9 times, climbing higher than most schools ever see in their club’s history. The CDP focuses on the policy areas of debate, under the belief that the policy debate format offers the most educational and competitive approach. Students in this club receive scholarships and college credit for their involvement in the Capp Debate Forum and contribute a huge amount of prestige and competitive spirit to Baylor University.
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UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
Chicago Debate Society
The University of Chicago is an incredibly well-reputed state school that operates a massive speech and debate team. The Chicago Debate Society qualifies teams for Nationals every single year, where they more often than not win Speaker and Team awards and finish in the top 10. UC hosts the annual Langfan Constitutional Debate that is intended for students in the college, who are not varsity members of the team, to have the opportunity to win a substantial cash prize for their skills in speech and debate, and perhaps move on to become team members—the 2018 winners received $3,000! In this way, the team consistently broadens their member base with the best and brightest in the university.
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WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY
Wake Debate has been competing since 1835, giving them nearly 200 years of developing strategies for future generations of debaters. Today the team exercises a huge winning nature, having won the Atlantic Coast Conference Debate Championships Tournament three years in a row, and before that, had several team members finish in the finals at the National Debate Tournament. Wake Debate also has a long history of involving students from across the university: beginners and experts, undergraduate and graduate students, and alumni who act as coaches and mentors for the current club members. In choosing a debate team, this is one of the most supportive and successful available.
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Dartmouth Forensic Union
The Dartmouth Forensic Union houses the Parliamentary Debate Team, a six-time National Debate Tournament Champion that has reached the semifinals, or better, 21 times! The debate team is a proactive and supportive group of students as well as mentors, teachers, and coaches who are an excellent resource for debaters of all experience levels. From the start, these students face national championships with confidence and well-practiced techniques and approaches to speech and debate in a trusting and collaborative effort with teammates. With the resources of Dartmouth University at their backs, these students go on to achieve tremendous academic and competitive success!
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UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
Debate is one of the oldest traditions and activities on the University of Kansas’ campus. The first debate was held in 1867, and there continues to be a rich culture surrounding the club. Having been engaging in intercollegiate debate since 1885, the university now supports one of the most successful policy debate programs in the country. According to their impressive website, KU is “#1 among public universities in National Debate Tournament appearances, has won 6 NDT championships, and was #1 in NDT varsity rankings in 2015, 2008, and 2006.” The University of Kansas is incredibly proud of and devoted to KU Debate, giving them all the resources and funding necessary to continue winning championships!
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UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
USC Trojan Debate Squad
The University of Southern California Trojan Debate Squad is the school’s first chartered student organization and is devoted to teaching argumentation and analytic thinking through academic debate. The focus is around competitive policy debate, research on the digital transition in a debate, and expanding debate in Los Angeles’ public schools. The team currently supports over 70 members, which is an enormous amount for one school, “some of whom are making their mark on the national stage,” and has been passing down techniques since 1880! Students can expect academic, financial, and instructional support throughout their experience as a USC Trojan.
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UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – KANSAS CITY
The University of Missouri – Kansas City Debate Team operates through the Department of Communications and is a medium-sized team that allows each member to travel to many different tournaments throughout the year. UMKC Debate works in collaboration with DEBATE Kansas City, a local speech and debate team that includes young people from across the city who work as a team with members at the university. These undergraduate students are regularly first prize winners at such events as the Cross Examination Debate Association national championship in Binghamton, NY. According to UMKC Today, the news department associated with the university, “The UMKC Debate Team can boast it has the best speakers in the country.”
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COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY
William & Mary Debate Society
The William & Mary Debate Society competes in the American Parliamentary Debate Association Championship as well as international tournaments across the globe, and the society is currently the 2nd highest ranked public university in the nation. According to the WMDS website, “In 2015, the WMDS had the 2nd ranked partnership, and top-ranked debater in the country.” This club is by far the largest and most active organization on campus, supporting over 50 members and is composed of students from all different academic backgrounds in the university. The team utilizes the American Parliamentary Debate Association style and finished the APDA regular season as the #11 team overall, and in past seasons has been included in the top-10 debate teams on the league!
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Duke University Debating Society
This is one of the most prestigious schools in the country that also maintains the Duke University Debating Society, a close-knit group of students who exercise the British Parliamentary debate style, and who are place-holders at numerous tournaments and championships across the country. In 2018, the team plans to travel to Mexico, Canada, and the UK for their competitions, giving students the opportunity to travel the world, while engaging in argumentation and persuasion at a competitive level. This open and inclusive team is welcoming to debaters of all backgrounds and experience levels, and often holds tryouts for new members, encouraging even those with no background at all!
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