The Penn State Debate Society
The Penn State Debate Society is a student organization co-sponsored by the Center for Democratic Deliberation and the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences and advised by CDD Director J. Michael Hogan.
The Penn State Debate Society aims to provide a platform for structured, intelligent, and open debate in an environment where Penn State students can improve their skills as advocates and citizens. In pursuit of this goal, the Penn State Debate Society facilitates debates between Penn State students and organizations, organizes public debates that help to start or improve the public conversation over topics important to the campus community at University Park, and provides a platform for competitive debate against other universities.
Reinstated as a campus organization in October 2009 by Matthew Wolfson, The Penn State Debate Society carries on the rich and prestigious tradition of debate at Penn State, dating back to the 1890s.
Every Monday night at 6:00 pm in 105 Willard, the Penn State Debate Society holds its open practice. Monday practices provide opportunities for Penn State students to hone their persuasive speaking skills. All Penn State students are welcome to attend and participate in the Society's practices.
At each practice, the Debate Society holds a debate over a new topic. Students are invited to participate as debaters, to speak from the audience, or to help judge the debate. Coaches Mark Hlavacik and Cory Geraths take turns running the open practice. They provide argument training and speaking advice to those who participate, but the topics of debate for open practice are suggested by the students who participate.
Every a semester, the Penn State Debate Society holds one to three public debates. These debates provide opportunities for dedicated members of the Debate Society to display the skills that they have been working on in front of a larger, public audience. These debates also allow Penn State students and State College community members to gather and consider an important and often controversial issue. Past debates have covered topics such as the drinking age, Penn State's undergraduate curriculum, and the relationship between privacy and social media. Public debates often pit Debate Society members against debaters from other universities or other clubs on campus. The purpose of public debate is to deliberate thoughtfully and to educate both the participants and their audience.
In addition to the public debate events the Debate Society plans each semester, the society also maintains a cooperative relationship with the William Pitt Debating Union at the University of Pittsburgh. Every year since 2010, the two societies have met on one or the other's campus for a public debate.
The Penn State Debate Society participates in tournaments held by the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA). APDA tournaments bring together debaters from many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the United States. At these events, debaters compete with each other in an environment that fosters the development of public speaking and argumentation skills. Members of the Debate Society who wish to participate in APDA events receive additional training through the Debate Society and are expected to share the skills that they learn in competition with their fellow society members at open practices. Intercollegiate competition not only provides an outlet for dedicated members of the Debate Society to practice their skills, but it also allows the Debate Society to assimilate new ideas from other debate programs.
For More Information:
- Those interested in joining the Debate Society can contact its officers or coaches
- Those interested in the history of the Debate Society can check out the archival materials provided by CDD undergraduate research assistant Jessica Bigham
- Those who would like more information about recent Debate Society events may enjoy these articles about the Debate Society in the news
- To financially support the Penn State Debate Society, see our information on making gifts to the CDD