Skip to main content

Department ofCommunication

Debate & Forensics

The SCU Debate Team offers students a chance to compete against students from other colleges in exciting and challenging tournaments; travel to college campuses in the Western region of the United States; earn scholarships and academic credit for research and competition; and improve communication, analytic, & research skills in a supportive, dynamic environment. This opportunity provides one of the best ways to improve your critical thinking, public speaking and research abilities. Skills you will need throughout your four years at Santa Clara University. Debate also can help prepare you for advanced work in business, liberal arts, humanities, and related courses. Intercollegiate debate is great way to develop your intellectual skills plus learn strategies necessary for success in communication, law, management or politics.

Who Can Join?

No prior experience in speech or debate is necessary. Students compete within different levels of competition based on past success and experience. Levels include Rookie, Novice, Junior, & Open. (Many of our most successful debaters started from scratch even as late as their senior year in college). The Debate Team includes a variety of different majors from Business to Pre-Law to Communication to Liberal Arts to Engineering, etc. They have all joined to have fun, compete, and gain valuable experience that can look great on an application or resume.

Styles of Debates

Santa Clara competes in two types of debate: Policy and Parliamentary. Policy or CEDA debate is cross-examination; policy oriented competition that relies heavily on public policy analysis, extensive research and use of evidence. Parliamentary debate is modeled on the English tradition of "audience" debate focusing more on persuasive style, broad personal knowledge of issues and impromptu analysis. Policy debate requires research and extensive preparation while Parliamentary debate is a great place to start for those with no background in the activity.


Partial scholarships are available after one quarter of competition after a review by the coaching staff. Almost all travel expenses are paid for by the program and most tournaments involve several days. Awards & Trophies for successful competition are of course offered at all the tournaments in the different events and divisions. The Communication Department also provides academic credit as an option for students participating.

Our Competitive Season

We are always looking for new members and debaters for upcoming Tournaments. You can join the organization any time of the year although most students start in the fall. Students can compete on a part time basis or simply attend the meetings for a less time consuming experience.
Sample Tournament Schedule: Month Location

  • October Lewis and Clark Invitational, Portland, Oregon
  • October Santa Rosa College Tournament
  • November Northridge Tournament , Los Angeles
  • December University of the Pacific Tournament, Stockton
  • January Point Loma Nazarine Tournament, San Diego
  • February Willamette University Tournament, Salem, Oregon
  • February Air Force Academy, Colorado
  • March Cal. Poly. University Tournament, San Luis Obispo
  • March Towson State University, Maryland
  • April National Tournament, Colorado Spring, Colorado

Annual Activities on Campus at SCU

  • December Dempsey High School Tournament
  • March Copeland College Invitational
  • April Spring High School Invitational Tournament
  • May Ryland Public Platform Debate
  • August Summer Debate Workshops

On Campus Events

High School Tournaments
The High School Tournaments & College Invitational are hosted on campus by Santa Clara University. The SCU Debaters are asked to use their skills and knowledge about debate to administer these tournaments. The annual Ryland debate has been held for over 100 years, making it the longest running debate competition west of the Mississippi. Each year the Debate Team members choose a controversial topic that relates to an on-campus issue and have an exciting debate in front of three local judges normally made up of SCU and other debate alumni.

Summer Workshop
All students are invited to participate in summer debate workshops held at Santa Clara University in late August or early September. The purpose of these workshops is to work with students in advance of the school year on basic public speaking, debate rules and theory and research skills in an intense, long format environment.

Meetings and Credit

Most regular team meetings are Tuesday evenings in a classroom on campus listed in that Quarter's schedule. Meetings normally last approximately an hour and half with practice rounds scheduled during most regular meetings. Practice rounds also take place during the week at other convenient times for the students involved. Students with class conflicts Tuesday evenings can still join and compete.

Credit is available for each quarter by signing up for the Commuinication 194 course. Students involved in special research projects may receive additional credit for a particular quarter by arrangement with the Communication Department. Letter grades are given for all coursework taken for credit.

For more information about the Santa Clara University Debate Society:
Call Melan Jaich, Director of Forenscis, at (408) 554-4793 or email:
Philalethic Debating Society
Communication Department
Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, California, 95053.