Welcome to Whitman Debate!

Debate has changed the way Whitman's coaches and students see the world and how we engage with it. Debate is a place where we found a home and a social circle. A place where we've learned to discuss our ideas without insulting each other.

Our Program

We rely heavily on a mentorship model. First, the coaches teach students how to debate, to be competitively successful, and to make connections between debate and the classroom. Second, student's mentor each other so new debaters never feel intimidated. Third, we contract with Diane Burkholder who is an advocate for students in higher education. She serves as an outside mentor to help the team navigate world issues debated in rounds such as: police brutality, divides between rich and poor, and transphobia.

We Do Things Differently

We love debate, but we also really value making the debate team a space where a student can find a social support network. We welcome anyone and everyone regardless of experience, year in college, or willingness to travel to tournaments.

Debate and Friends

We encourage inviting friends to debate events on campus, host public debates, volunteer in the community, plan "Debate a Friend" meals. We strongly believe that competitive success comes much easier when you foster a team culture of group accountability, public service, social support, productive dialogue across differences, and plain old fun.

Students interested in participating in Whitman's renowned debate program are encouraged to apply for the President's Scholarship in Debate through the applicant portal. All students are invited to apply, regardless of major or experience.

The application consists of four parts:

A list of your debate experience and any awards or rankings
A letter of recommendation from a debate coach
An example of your work in debate (part of a file)
A brief statement on why you wish to participate in debate at Whitman
To maintain this scholarship, recipients are required to participate in Whitman's debate team for the duration of their time as a student.

The application deadline has been extended. All applications are due by 5:00 p.m., PST, on Monday, February 10, 2020. Apply here!

Whitman College participates in NPDA and NPTE debate. 

The National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) is one of the two national intercollegiate parliamentary debate organizations in the United States. In tournaments sponsored or sanctioned by the NPDA, teams of two persons debate head-to-head. Tournaments issue a new topic each round, generally on issues such as politics, philosophy, and current affairs, and speeches begin after limited preparation time.

The National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) operates an invitation-only national championship tournament once per year for parliamentary debate. The NPTE attracts the top teams in the nation that compete in the parliamentary debate format supported by the National Parliamentary Debate Association.

Teams qualify for the NPTE based on their season-long performances at various invitational tournaments around the United States. The ranking system awards points for both preliminary and elimination round performances.

Those interested in learning more about the NPTE can visit the NPTE website or can post questions on Net Benefits, a parliamentary debate forum.

Whitman College has had a long history of national and regional success in debate including two 1st place Nationals Speaker Awards and numerous national champion sweepstakes awards. There was a pause between 2014-2017, so we are currently rebuilding our team.

Despite the fact that all of our debaters are brand new to debate and mostly first year students, during the 2018-19 academic year, we won two novice championships, first, fourth, and fifth novice speaker at the Lewis and Clark tournament, and were ranked 51st out of approximately 400 schools.

Practice is held from August to about the middle of April. You can contact Director of Debate, Lauran Schaefer at any time, 509-522-4418.  If you wish to participate in the upcoming season, contact her early in the fall semester.