Lawrence Debate Union

vermont debate knows no fear

Many students assume that if they merely get a college degree it will be their ticket to success. Many other students assume that a high G.P.A. will be their ticket to success.


The real key to success in graduate school, in the professions, in the business world, in public service, and in your personal life is to have abilities and to use them properly. Every project and every task you face will require you to analyze problems, spell out logical alternatives, select the proper alternative, and then persuade others of the correctness of your ideas through clear and organized communication.

This is where DEBATE comes in. It teaches you to be an informed advocate of ideas and of yourself.

The incredible success of our alumni proves this. Debate creates success, that is fact!

The Lawrence Debate Union (LDU) is for those students who want to improve their mental abilities and their communication talents. If you are understimulated by your college education, if you want to be MORE than you are now and if you want to be able to do MORE than you can now, consider debating.

The LDU exists to educate, compete, and serve.

Here is what you should do if you want to find out more.
1. Give us information about you: name, address, phone number, email.
2. Attend our weekly meetings, usually held at 6 PM on Monday at Huber House, 475 Main Street, on the main campus.
3. Meet one on one with a coach and talk about debating. Ask questions. Call us at 656-0097. Email .
4. Read through the information in this website.
5. Attend a scheduled instructional session.
6. Watch a debate. See the links at the left. We do two formats: policy debate (prepared debate, extensive research, focus on content, regional and national competition); and worlds format debate (extemporaneous debate, broad knowledge needed, focus on delivery and content, regional, national and international competition).

Then you can decide for yourself whether debate is right for you. Each student can decide on his/her level of commitment to debate, and additional commitment means additional opportunities.

How the LDU works

The LDU sponsors activities around our major concerns: competition, education, service and community. It is directed by the Edwin Lawrence Professor of Forensics and professional coaches.


After students learn the basics of debate, they exercise their abilities against other colleges and universities in competition. Students find a debate partner, prepare to represent the University in competition, and then are offered opportunities to travel to often exotic places and debate other schools.

The coaches will observe teams preparing for competition and then offer some of them travel opportunities. Students can decline travel opportunities if they wish. Once committed to a specific trip, last minute changes should not be made.

Travel decisions will be made by the coaches based on the following criteria:
    *Instruction in debate basics received and internalized.
    *Practice speeches and debates participated in.
    *Familiarity with major issues and arguments.
    *Original analytical and research work on issues and arguments.
    *Ability to win.

Travel with the LDU can be a fun experience. Basic travel procedures are as follows:
    *Housing is supplied but it is rarely luxurious.
    *Entry fees and related costs are covered by the LDU.
    *Seat belts on at all times when vehicles are moving. No intoxicated drivers. Pack light for air travel. Be at the LDU office 30 min. before departure time.
    *If you leave the main party during a trip, you are on your own and the LDU.
    *University travel regulations are in effect during all trips.
    *Stick with the main party until you get home. If you leave the group willingly you are on your own.
    *You are responsible for all missed school work, but the LDU can provide letters of explanation to faculty which you should use before you miss a class.

While at the tournament, basic procedures are as follows:
    *The LDU expects you to do your best. We want to win! You have a serious responsibility to represent UVM and the LDU. Each debate is important.
    *Some debaters dress up to debate. The LDU has no set dress code, but you are encouraged not to "dress down" to debate.
    *In competitive debate, people win and lose. Be a gracious winner and a good loser. Learn from it. Show respect for your opponent and your judge. Learn from them so that you will win next time. Avoid “loser talk.” Every loss should set the stage for a future victory.
    *Take the issues you are debating seriously. Show respect for your opponents, judges and all who are mentioned in the debate.
    *Show support and assistance for other LDU people on the trip.
    *Listen to your coaches! Write down their advice before each debate. It is a cooperative debater and coach effort to win. However, you do not have to take the advice of the coaches.
    *If LDU/UVM teams should meet in policy elimination rounds, no debate will take place and the higher ranking team will advance.

A strong competitive showing in policy debate necessitates excellent research and analysis of the topic being debated. All research done by LDU students and staff should be shared by all of the LDU. This is why we have free copying. The research load should be shared by all. Do not trade evidence with another school without prior approval of a coach and the person who did the research. Know what is in the evidence system. Try to avoid borrowing evidence and arguments from other LDU teams. If it is in the system, you should have it. You are responsible for keeping your files organized.

A strong competitive showing in the Worlds format of debate necessitates practice, theoretical knowledge, extensive preparation, study of current events and controversies and ability to concentrate in a particular debate. To succeed teams must become broadly informed about important issues, compete, engage in drills on their own and attend team practice and instructional sessions. This format may be easy to do for the first time, but it is difficult to do well. Strong preparation is needed for a strong showing in competition.


The major focus of the LDU is to teach students how to debate. Students learn to debate by debating. The coaches develop a lecture/discussion series which teaches debate fundamentals. Students give practice debate speeches and then move into practice debates. Students debate as two person teams. Before these practice sessions become substantive, students need to learn about the issues being debated, partially through library research and partially through discussion, review of arguments prepared by others, and briefing sessions. Students need to take initiative in signing up for practice sessions. If you can't make a practice session, inform the coach involved immediately and follow his/her instructions.


While not the primary emphasis of the LDU, service to the University, the community, and the state are important. These efforts include the following:
    *Promote public debates on campus between opposing advocates from the community, other colleges, and UVM.
    *Present our television program, “Flashpoint,” which now has over 430 episodes.
    *Present debates on important subjects to the community through staged events and videotaped debates played on television.
    *Sponsor students to work with local high school debate programs.
    *Work in educational activities for high school students and others through outreach activities.
    *Engage in debate training and education all around the world. Usually, LDU funds are not used for these purposes and outside sponsorship is sought. So far we have staged training sessions in 39 countries.
    *Outline and fulfill a year-long project for community action. In previous years projects included African famine relief and University divestment from South Africa. Requires near unanimous endorsement by LDU members.
    *Work in alumni relations and fundraising.


The fourth, or "unspoken" LDU emphasis is COMMUNITY. We desire to work together productively as a supportive and healthy academic community. By struggling together we can achieve that sense of community.


The LDU will have one business meeting each full week of school until the competitive season is over. The weekly meeting needs to be short. Please be prepared to schedule events and do business. Debaters are encouraged to offer agenda items. An attempt will be made to use consensus decision making. Ultimately, however, the Director and coaches call the shots.


Edwin Lawrence wanted a banquet to be held at the end of each debate season to celebrate the forensic experience. He wanted it to be free of charge for the students and the staff. Every April we invite a few honored guests and all LDU parents and supporters to join us for a good time. A record of the year is prepared, seniors say goodbye, there is a minimum of oratory, and the various prizes for debate achievement may be distributed. Many of these prizes are accompanied by substantial cash awards. These awards are distributed based on service to the LDU and others on the team, and achievement in representing the LDU and UVM in analysis and performance. These awards are given out by a committee appointed by the coaches.

The LDU also hosts college and high school debate tournaments on campus.

475 Main Street - Huber House

The LDU Offices are located at 475 Main Street.

Because we are sworn to never forget the contributions that Robert Huber made to our program over a period of more than 40 years, we call our building "Huber House." Hopefully someday we can persuade the university to officially change the name. Perhaps alumni focus on such a possibility might convince them.

LDU offices are for LDU members to use. They are places of work and discussion.

The LDU offices contain a photocopy machine, a number of networked computers, printers, paper cutter, and phones. Treat all of our machines with love and respect as they are important and expensive. Copying is for debate related purposes. LDU members should keep copying for personal academic purposes to below a ten page limit. Debate work takes priority over other work on LDU machines. However, the office is a perfect place to study in, read in, or work on papers in. Please feel free to use it. Besides copying, the LDU often provides folders, tape, briefing paper and used luggage is available...all for debate purposes. Copies can be made at the library and charged to the LDU budget for research assignments authorized by the team.

Basic behavioral guidelines for the LDU offices include: clean up after yourself, no sleeping, no pets, close windows when you leave (paper blows around and pigeons enter), if you leave a task half done put it on a shelf out of the way, moderate phone use, respect the property of others.

LDU backfiles belong to the LDU. They are to be used for debate. For other academic purposes (papers, etc.), they may be used for ideas and citations, but direct use would constitute plagiarism. If you remove something, copy the pages you need and return the originals. No guarantee can be made about backfiles that are not of UVM origin.

Why join?


Debate Central













117 Years of Speaking Truth to Power