The University of Rochester Debate Union (URDU) was established in 1850. We are an intercollegiate debate team that participates in a variety of argumentation based activities, ranging from Policy debate and British Parliamentary (also known as "Worlds") debate to the Social Justice Debates. We compete at regional, national, and international competitions throughout the academic year. 

We are unique because, unlike many programs across the country, we focus on continually bringing new students into these activities. Over the past decades we have taught hundreds of students and provided them the opportunity to compete against many other prestigious institutions across the globe—and, even more importantly, to take their skills into their personal and professional future lives.

Some of the many topics we regularly debate about are:

Debaters competing at the University of Toronto tournament.
  • Social justice
  • Civil and human rights
  • Current events
  • Public Education
  • Economics and finance
  • Geopolitics and international relations
  • Philosophy and critical theory
  • Politics and policymaking
  • Science and technology

Our travel has taken us to:

  • Aranđelovac, Serbia
  • Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
  • Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY
  • George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • Georgetown University, Washington, DC
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA
  • New York University and City University of New York, New York City, NY
  • Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
  • Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  • United States Military Academy, West Point, NY
  • University of Alaska, Anchorage, AK
  • University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
  • University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • University of Miami, Miami, FL
  • University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
  • University of Texas-Dallas, Dallas, TX
  • University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  • University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Yale University, New Haven, CT

See our schedule page for our travel plan for the semester.

Please read below for more about debate, and then come and find out more about what we do by joining us for a team meeting on Mondays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. in Dewey 1.204. For more information, contact Brady Fletcher, URDU Director, at brady.fletcher@rochester.edu

As always, all are welcome!

UR Debate Union Action

Our Debate Formats

A Policy or "Cross Examination” Debate" involves two teams of two speakers who debate either in support of or against a resolution. Each year a new resolution is chosen. The resolution for 2021-2022 is:

The United States Federal Government (USFG) should substantially increase prohibitions on anticompetitive business practices by the private sector by at least expanding the scope of its core antitrust laws.

Policy debate makes use of evidence drawn from books, scholarly articles, and government reports through research to support arguments for and against the year’s resolution. Students introduce the evidence, analyze it, and attack the other team’s evidence to articulate arguments that will win the debate. Aside from teaching general debating skills, your coaches will teach you how to perform the necessary research, and how to make use of evidence in strategic ways to win debates!

A British Parliamentary or "Worlds" Debate involves four teams of two students who debate either in support of or against a motion that is announced 15 minutes before the round begins (making it an “impromptu” debate activity). Thus the activity requires a great deal of continuous, broad research across many different areas of focus, and especially a keen awareness of current events. Your coaches will teach you ways to keep abreast of the news while performing more in-depth research about historical and philosophical topics.

Social Justice Debates are three-to-five tournaments held throughout the academic year about a single social justice topic. This year the Social Justice Debates topic is: 

The adoption of a mandatory racial desegregation policy for K-12 public schools is desirable.

Debate Tournaments

We travel by van, bus, plane, and train to debate competitions all over the world. A debate tournament can last anywhere from a weekend to a week, and brings students from many different colleges and universities together to compete against each other. New members are always encouraged to start out by traveling to a regional tournament, because the best way to learn how to debate is by jumping in and debating!

The UR Debate Union covers the costs of travel for students competing on the team - transportation, lodging, and meals are all included for each trip.

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