The Chicago Debate Society hosts the annual Langfan Constitutional Debate early Spring Quarter for all students in the college who are not varsity members of the debate team. Due to the generosity of William Langfan, attorney and father of two University of Chicago alumnae, we are able to award a substantial cash prize to the winning and runner-up teams. Each year a different resolution regarding the United States Constitution is announced; the 2017 resolution was “This House Believes That Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer should be decided against Trinity Lutheran Church." Participating teams are expected to argue both for and against the resolution, with emphasis on constitutional interpretation, critical argumentation, and rhetorical appeal.
The format of the Langfan Constitutional Debate is akin to an abridged version of the American Parliamentary style. Individual rounds will have a two-person affirmative team defending the resolution and a two-person negative team challenging the resolution. Speakers alternate between five-minute constructive speeches, followed by a three minute rebuttal for each side. There is a thirty-second prep period between speeches. Judges are instructed to place themselves in the position of unbiased citizens who are generally well‐informed but without constitutional expertise, and as such will evaluate debaters on the quality of rhetoric and analysis moreso than citation of excessive evidence or technical jargon.
Want to learn more about Langfan?
CDS typically holds multiple informational sessions for the Langfan Debate in late Fall Quarter, and we encourage anyone who is interested to attend. For now, you can look below for a video recording of the 2012 Langfan Final Round. If you have any further questions, please contact our Convener Jay Gibbs.