The Chicago Debate Society is the University of Chicago's debate team. We're a registered academic organization that competes in the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) circuit as well as in British Parliamentary (BP) Debate. As one of the oldest student organizations at the University, we play an important role in stimulating debate on campus, including hosting the annual Langfan Constitutional Debate. Our weekly meetings consist of practice rounds, drills, and seminars that teach debate style and argumentation. We send teams to tournaments almost every weekend throughout the school year and will host one APDA tournament in February as well as a BP tournament in January.

About Parliamentary Debate

In American Parliamentary Debate (APDA), a two-member government team proposes a case that is not known to the opposition team beforehand. The government case must be a change from the status quo, and the opposition must argue against the government's proposal. Each side competes to support their own arguments and refute those of the opposing side through alternating speeches with no prep time in between. Analysis and rhetoric are both prized, while heavy reliance upon cited evidence is frowned upon. Debate on APDA is both accessible and fun; while cases are traditionally substantive and policy-oriented, teams have the opportunity to run interesting, lighthearted cases about any fair proposal. More on the rules and conventions for American Parliamentary debate can be found here. Furthermore, any debater serving their first year on the team is considered a "novice." More information may be found here. Our annual Novice Tournament geared towards debaters new to APDA will be held this year on October 19.

In British Parliamentary Debate (BP), four teams of two speakers each will argue for or against a motion set by the tournament. There are two teams (4 individuals) on the government side supporting the motion and two teams on the opposition arguing against it. British Parliamentary is unique in that the goal is to beat all other teams, including the other one on your side! On each side, an opening team is assigned to speak first, followed by the closing team, with speeches alternating between the government and opposition. Each debater has one speech in which emphasis is placed on analysis and big-picture framing rather than providing specific statistics and line-by-line responses. Motions are centered around topical current events or social issues and debaters typically have fifteen minutes before the debate begins to prepare their cases.

Public Debates

The Chicago Debate Society hosts public debates on UChicago's campus at least once a quarter. In 2018 CDS hosted a public debate in partnership with The Economist on the topic of global trade. CDS debaters participated in the event which was moderated by a journalist from The Economist. Other past topics include Antifa vs. free speech, a resolution passed by UChicago Student Government to give students on the executive slate a pay raise, and global trade policy. Check out CDS on Facebook for up-to-date information about upcoming public debates.

Competing & Going to Tournaments

Most schools on APDA are on the East Coast, and as such CDS flies to most of our tournaments. Team selections are dictated primarily by attendance, in addition to the number of years on the team and the number of tournaments attended. Anyone who attends practices and bids for tournaments regularly will be guaranteed the chance to compete at a national tournament. We typically fly out Friday morning and return Sunday morning. Airfare is paid for by the team, and tournaments provide lodging and three meals. Usually three rounds of debate occur on Friday evening, with two more in-rounds on Saturday morning followed by out-rounds. There's almost always a Chicago team to support in quarterfinals and beyond, but members are free to explore the city once their five in-rounds have concluded. We often grab a team dinner together Saturday night. Some of the schools that compete on APDA include American University, Amherst, Bates, Boston University, Brandeis, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Fordham, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Middlebury, MIT, Mount Holyoke, NYU, Princeton, Providence College, Rutgers, Smith, Stanford, Swarthmore, Tufts, University of Maryland, University of Pennsylvania, Wellesley, Wesleyan, West Point Academy, William and Mary, and Yale, among others. CDS offers opportunities for British Parliamentary Debate as well, with BP trainings offered by former attendees of BP championship tournaments.

UChicago Debaters on APDA

Chicago debaters have historically been tremendously successful. At the APDA Nationals tournament in 2018, Jay Gibbs and Drew Harrington broke to octofinals and Drew won 10th varsity speaker. Chicago teams regularly break at British Parliamentary Nationals tournaments including Zachary Lemonides & Andrew Kao in 2018 and Andrew Hamilton & Kenny Loke the year before. Chicago novices have also reached success on the national circuit with Ben Koch placing 13th Novice of the Year in 2018. As a team, UChicago placed as 11th College of the Year in 2018.

How to Join

CDS welcomes members of all experience levels to join. We meet every Wednesday and Thursday at 6pm and Sunday at 2pm, in Cobb Hall. For more information on membership, click here.


Airfare makes sending our debaters to tournaments expensive. While the majority of our budget comes from the University, your contribution will allow us to send more people to tournaments to experience American Parliamentary Debate. Click here or on the button below to give any amount through the University of Chicago's secure website by selecting "Chicago Debate Team" under Area of Giving.