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Welcome to Cal Poly Debate

Student debating has been a part of campus life in San Luis Obispo since the university opened its doors as California Polytechnic School in 1903. In fact, Cal Poly debaters won the school's very first trophy. This impressive silver loving cup is inscribed with the names of the three students who were members of Cal Poly's first debate team -- H. Floyd Tout, George S. Coonradt, and Charles J. Emmert.

Cal Poly Debate continues as an integral component in the university's "Learn by Doing" approach to higher education, recognizing that the research, critical thinking, and advocacy competencies academic debate fosters are critical skills that graduates will need throughout their personal lives and professional careers.

There are two primary components of the Cal Poly Debate Program:

The Intramural Competition program sponsors quarterly on-campus competition in debate and public speaking. Participation in the intramural debate tournament is associated with enrollment in COMS 250 Forensic Activity, and serves as the final examination for that course. The intramural public speaking contest is open to students enrolled in COMS 101 Public Speaking or COMS 102 Principles of Oral Communication, either of which satisfies the university general education oral communication requirement; many instructors provide extra credit to students who compete in the contest.

The Cal Poly Debate Team is the flagship component of the program. Cal Poly Debaters compete with the brightest students from some of the nation's most prestigious universities in a select schedule of intercollegiate debate tournaments. debaters conduct in-depth research on questions of major contemporary importance, participate in strategy sessions with instructors and other students, and engage in intense oral debates with students from other universities. Tournament competition is the capstone experience for Cal Poly Debate.

For more information about Cal Poly Debate, visit the links on this site. If you are a Cal Poly student or prospective student who is interested in learning how to debate, the Communication Studies Department offers a quarterly 2-unit introductory debate course, COMS 250 Forensic Activities. The course is designed to provide a low-risk classroom environment where you can learn the principles of academic debate. If you have previous academic debate experience and are interested in joining the debate team, you should get in touch with the program director through the e-mail link on this page.