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 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 host our own annual tournament the last weekend of March.

About Parliamentary Debate

In Parliamentary Debate, 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 show that the government’s proposal is bad. 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 excessively technical meta-debate and 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 and often do run interesting, non-serious cases about any fair proposal. More on the rules and conventions for APDA-style 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 from Oct. 27-28.

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, and 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. This year, for the first time, CDS is proud to offer 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. In past years, for instance, we finished 6th team in the nation and had 11 different debaters contribute to the point total in that category. CDS members have also historically had individual success, with Jon Haderlein and Alice Li ranking 7th in final team of the year (TOTY) standings, and Jon finishing 9th Speaker of the Year (SOTY). We always qualify multiple teams to Nationals: in the 2015-2016 debate season, we sent four debaters to the National Championship in New York City, John, Jing, Michelle, and Paul. Additionally, our annual tournament traditionally attracts upwards of fifty teams from schools all over the country. See what we’re all about by watching the videos below of some amazing CDS debaters!

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.