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About the University of Rochester Debate Union (URDU)

The University of Rochester Debate Union was established in 1850. We are an intercollegiate debate team that supports two primary formats: Policy and British Parliamentary debate. We compete at regional, national, and international competitions, and participate in a variety of different debate activities, including the Social Justice Debates (a year-long set of debates on issues pertaining to social justice) and Pacific Northwest Debating.  

We are unique because, unlike many programs across the country, we try to focus on continually bringing new students into the activity. Over the past decades we have taught hundreds of students and enabled them to compete against many other prestigious institutions across the world – and to take their skills into their personal and professional future lives. Some of the many topics we regularly debate about are:

  • social justice
  • civil and human rights
  • current events
  • economics and finance
  • geopolitics and international relations
  • philosophy and critical theory
  • politics and policymaking
  • science and technology

Our travel has taken us to:

  • The Aranđelovac Open, Aranđelovac, Serbia
  • The Budapest Open, Budapest, Hungary
  • Cornell University and Ithaca College, 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
  • New York University and City University of New York, New York City, NY
  • Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
  • The Pan American Debating Championships, Miami, FL
  • Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  • United States Military Academy, West Point, NY
  • University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • University of Oxford, Okford, United Kingdom
  • University of Texas-Dallas, Dallas, TX
  • University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  • University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
  • University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Vienna Open, Vienna, Austria

See the “Schedule” section 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 meetingon Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in Dewey 1.204. For more information, please contact Brady Fletcher, Director of Forensics, at

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 2014-2015 is: The United States should legalize all or nearly all of one or more of the following in the United States: marijuana, physician assisted suicide, prostitution, online gambling, the sale of human organs.

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 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 – and, of course, how to debate like a true Parliamentarian!

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 one can only learn how to debate by debating!

For More Information

Please see the “Why Debate?” section of this site for more information about why debate is great!

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