Brown Debating Union

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Brown Debating Union
General information
Established 1824

The Brown Debating Union (BDU) is a student-run debating organization at Brown University in Providence.


The Brown Debating Union has existed since 1824. It began to organize formal debate tournaments with peer institutions, as well as on-campus disputes for student groups, during the early twentieth century. By the 1950s, the debate program had become part of the Brown University English Department. Competing on the National Debate Tournament circuit, the debate team was fairly successful.

However, in the 1980s the English department stopped funding the team, and the BDU became an autonomous student organization funded by the Undergraduate Finance Board. Without the funds to participate in costly policy debate, they participated in parliamentary debate.

Since 1882, the BDU has held the Radcliffe Hicks Debate, an annual debating contest for sophomores and juniors endowed by Hicks; the first and second-place winners receive money prizes.[1]

National competition[edit]

The Brown Debating Union competes mostly in the American Parliamentary style of debate as a member of the American Parliamentary Debate Association, an intercollegiate debate association with roughly fifty member universities across the United States. The BDU competes at tournaments across the country that take place on Fridays and Saturdays each week. It also hosts its own parliamentary debate tourney.[2]

The Union is also involved in APDA governance, with Yidi Wu '17 currently serving as APDA VP, Finance, and Richard Cambo '16 currently serving as a member-at-large on the APDA executive board.

International competition[edit]

The Brown Debating Union also competes internationally, notably at the North American Debating Championship, the World Universities Debating Championship, as well as Inter-Varsity tournaments at Oxford, Cambridge, and Yale. The Brown Debating Union won the inaugural North American Women's Debating Championship in 2015 and were semifinalists at the 2014 North American Universities Debating Championship.

Notable members[edit]


  1. ^ Mark Valdez, "Fighting words: Student debaters spar in annual tourney", Brown Daily Herald, March 21, 2013.
  2. ^ James Shapiro, "Debating union to host over 100 teams this weekend", Brown Daily Herald, January 20, 2007.
  3. ^ Ronald H. Humphrey, Effective Leadership: Theory, Cases, and Applications, Los Angeles: SAGE, 2014, ISBN 9781412963558.

External links[edit]