Like our Facebook page to keep up on our most recent news
Entering Freshmen - Contact us to get on our Summer Mailing list and inquire about freshmen scholarships
Current GWU students - Contact us about attending our weekly meeting for more information
Scroll down for answers to frequently asked questions from prospective members
What is GWDebate?
The GWU Debate & Literary Society--"GWDebate"--is a co-curricular academic society that uses debate as a tool for civic engagement, service and scholarship.
What type of debate do you do?
Civic debate. More specifically we organize intercollegiate debate tournaments and events with other colleges and universities through the annual Civic Debate Conference. Most of these competitions involve two-person teams and research-based, cross examination debate, but we generally do 3-4 events/ year in other formats. Over the course of the year members pick-and-choose which events they seek to attend from a "menu" of civic debate programs.
What's the difference between civic debate and other types of debate?
You should read the civic debate page for a complete answer but the short answer is civic debate generally combines traditional debate tournament practices with civic engagement. This often includes using topic experts and stakeholders as judges for elimination rounds. Civic debate also seeks to promote student publication, service and development.
How would you compare civic debate to the various high school debate formats?
If we had to compare civic debate to a high school debate format ... in practice civic debate tournaments are closest to a cross between Public Forum and Policy Debate in style, but with topic experts and stakeholders as judges in elimination rounds. Scroll down and watch one of the videos. Our special projects apply our debate skills but are altogether different than high school debate. Take a look at the NATO Debates page for example.
How does the civic debate community work?
Every year the civic debate community organizes a number of civic debate programs. Sometimes the programs involve a series of intercollegiate debate tournaments on a single topic using the same format. Sometimes programs are "stand-alone" events; i.e., a single tournament using a particular topic or format or an event that is organized as something other than a traditional debate tournament. At the beginning of each semester our members pick and choose which events they will seek to attend from a list of civic debate programs that have been developed for the year.
Can you show me some examples of civic debate programs?
The NASA Astrobiology Debates, the Lafayette Debates, the Mvubu Debates, and the Elysee Treaty Debates were all intercollegiate civic debate tournaments, or involved a series of intercollegiate civic debate tournaments, on topics selected by civic partners such as NASA and the Embassy of France. The Forum on International Tourism & the Environment is a society service program and the War Powers Debates were a special exhibition debate series.
Over the course of a year members will be presented with options such as these and asked to select a combination of program events in which they are interested in participating.
Can you show me an example of a civic debate?
Follow these links to see the final rounds and judge panels for the Eastern and Western Championships of the NASA Astrobiology Debates between GWU and Yale University, and GWU and Emory University, respectively.
What universities do you compete against?
We compete against a broad range of university students, inside and outside of the United States. Our primary partners (and competitors) are the other members of the Civic Debate Conference and are listed on the website but our events regularly attract colleges and universities drawn from outside of the conference and from all of the major US debate communities: CEDA/NDT, APDA, NPDA and BP.
What is the time commitment to participate?
The time commitment varies depending on your position on the team and the responsibilities that you have chosen to take on. It can be anywhere from a couple of hours a week to 10+ hours per week plus travel.
How often do you compete? How often do you travel? Where do you travel?
Most students do 2-4 events per semester. We generally offer 4-5 opportunities in the Fall, 5-6 opportunities in the Spring, and 2-3 summer programs. In Fall 2018 we competed at civic debate tournaments in Los Angeles, Rhode Island, DC and Miami and sent two teams to a civic debate workshop in New York City. This Spring 2019, we'll compete in civic debate tournaments in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington DC, Houston, and Ocean City. And this Summer 2019 members will travel on civic debate study tours to Paris, Brussels, and Indonesia.
How are travel decisions made?
Based on seniority, effort, readiness, and success.
Do I need high school debate experience to join?
No! If you don't have high school debate experience, don't worry! Many of our members have no prior debate experience and last year one of our freshman scholarships was awarded to a student with no high school debate experience.
How do I join?
By attending our weekly meeting. After you attend two meetings in a row, we'll add you to the email group. Contact us beforehand and we'll make sure you're going to the right place
When do you meet?
During the academic year we meet every Saturday morning from 10 AM to 12 PM.
Why so early on Saturday?
We are terrible people.
Are there scholarships? How does one apply?
Entering freshmen should contact us to apply for special freshmen scholarships ranging up to $2500. Members may also earn scholarships ($250-$5000) based on effort, seniority and success.
Who is your director of debate?
Paul S. Hayes is the GWU Director of Debate and Kyla Sommers and Jefferey Lear are our assistant coaches. Click here for more.
Why do you have "Literary" in your name? What is a "debate & literary society" as opposed to a "debate team"?
Because we're a debate and publication society. As a matter of practice this primarily this means researching, writing and orally publishing arguments to the panels of topic experts and stakeholders serving as judges in elimination rounds at the intercollegiate civic debate tournaments we attend. But sometimes we pursue multimedia and written publication as well depending on the interests of our members and available opportunities. Also we were founded as a debate and literary society. In the early 19th century the phrase was used to describe debating societies that sought not only to debate the issues of the day but also to engage their civic communities and publish their ideas both orally and in writing. For more history click here.
What are the speech and debate options for GWU students other than GWDebate?
In addition to GWDebate there are several speech and debate student organizations at GWU including the Model UN Team and the Parliamentary Debate team. You can learn more about these student organizations and others at the freshman Student Org Fair at the beginning of each year. (But GWDebate won't be at the student org fair, because we aren't a student org!)
What is the difference between GWDebate and a student organization?
Students organizations receive their funding from student government and are administered by the organization's student-members. GWDebate is a co-curricular academic society, not a student organization. Among other things this means our members may receive academic credit and scholarships, most of our national and international travel costs are fully covered, and we are assisted in administering our society by a professional director of debate.
May I join both GWDebate and a speech-and-debate student organization?
Yes, we currently have members who are on either the Model UN or Parliamentary Debate team. It's up to you to manage your responsibilities and time commitment of course.