Debate binders

Students prepare for debates by creating matter binders. Since students have no access to internet sources during the event, they use these binders filled with articles and written briefs during preparation time between rounds.
Image Credit: College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

CLEMSON — Clemson University will host students from 67 universities for the United States Universities Debating Championship (USUDC) April 13-15. The main event will be at 7 p.m. Monday, April 15, in Tillman Hall auditorium. It is free and the public is invited.

This is the first time a South Carolina university has hosted a national debate championship. The prestigious event will bring more than 750 students to Clemson’s campus.

The competition uses British Parliamentary-style debate, which involves making persuasive arguments rather than debaters expressing personal beliefs on topics.

Lindsey Dixon, adviser for Clemson’s debate society, said, “It’s a great honor and privilege to host the USUDC because it is the most important student debate tournament in the nation,” Dixon said. “The Clemson team looks forward to the challenge and we’re excited to be able to compete on our home turf.”

Debate Team

The Clemson Debate Team poses for a picture at the opening ceremony for the Cape Town World University Debating Championship.
Image Credit: College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

The only debate tournament that’s bigger is the is the World Championship Tournament held every December. Clemson’s team participated in that competition last year in Cape Town, South Africa.

Debaters at the national championship are challenged to think critically about a range of topics, including international relations, feminism, U.S. politics, values and ethics.

Dixon said preparation is key for success, particularly at a national tournament. Reading the news and having a thorough knowledge of world events are only a small part of planning. Students spend countless hours practicing. They also create “matter binders” filled with information covering a variety of potential topics and write briefs to help them during preparation time between tournament rounds.

Clemson's Anish Chaluvadi debates at the World University Debating Championship in Cape Town.

Clemson’s Anish Chaluvadi debates at the World University Debating Championship in Cape Town.
Image Credit: College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

In preliminary competition, debates commence for eight rounds. After being giving a topic, called a motion, debaters have 15 minutes to develop arguments. Each team of two students will prepare a seven-minute speech without access to online resources. However, debaters can use matter binders during their preparation time. The full debate will follow, often lasting for an hour. A panel of three judges will rank the debaters from first place to fourth place.

The event is personally important for Dixon, who will be the first female to host the national tournament it in its history. She said she is honored to take on this role as a means to show other young women that they, too, should be proactive and step into leadership roles whenever possible.

“Debate is not so far removed from the rest of society when it comes to its lack of women, people of color and gender minorities in powerful positions,” Dixon said. “I hope I’m the first in a long line of women to host this extremely prestigious event. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, ‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.’”