The University of Iowa has hosted a number of public debates on pressing issues. A small selection of write-ups on recent debates are listed below. Two videos highlight full recordings of excellent exchanges:

  • On August 10, 2020, the University of Iowa debated the University of Minnesota on the topic of COVID-19 vaccinations as part of a special invited session at the 55th annual Actuarial Research Conference (ARC). Ellie Bennett (formerly of Niles West) and Spencer Roetlin (Iowa City West), the champions of the NDT district four championship, did an excellent job representing the University of Iowa in a fantastic debate.
  • In 2014, local legends and A. Craig Baird alumni Jeffrey Ding and Liam Hancock participated in this amazing exchange on renewable energy policy. Jeffrey is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oxford in international relations, and a researcher on China's AI development at the Center for the Governance of AI. Liam recently earned his J.D. from Columbia University and is now an associate with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York. 


The A. Craig Baird Debate Forum kicked off its virtual 2020 debate season by taking part in a riveting public debate with our friends from the University of Minnesota. The debate took place as a special invited session at the 55th Actuarial Research Conference (ARC 2020), a worldwide event being held by the Actuarial Science Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from August 10 to 12, 2020. 

University of Iowa debaters Elizabeth Bennett and Spencer Roetlin negated on the important question; “Resolved; the United States should require that persons in the U.S. be vaccinated if an efficacious COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.” The debate highlighted the most pressing controversy facing 2020 and was the first in the century-long series of great public debates between Iowa and Minnesota or the 160 years of Iowa Debate to be held in a virtual format.  

Although this was the 55th installment of the ARC, this was the first time it hosted a public debate. The conference materials noted that debate provides an exciting new way for the conference to fulfill its core goal of critically assessing and sharing information: “We will adopt three different formats for these special invited sessions (SISs): the traditional format, the round-table format, and the debate format … Finally, there is a debate format, which is similar to the round-table format: it lasts for 75 minutes, but there will be two teams engaging in a spirited debate.” 

We would like to offer enormous thanks and gratitude to Ellie and Spencer for all their hard work; to our friends Hamza, Allegro, and Dr. David Cram-Helwich from the University of Minnesota; to John Robinson and everyone at the ARC for the wonderful opportunity, and; to everyone at Iowa who works tirelessly to support Iowa Debate, including the Office of the Provost and Tanya Uden-Holman, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Department of Communication Studies, and the many wonderful alumni and the friends and family of the program whose generous support has helped to light a fire for a new generation of amazing students working hard to make 2020 a great year for debate.


immigration debate










The second public debate of the spring semester took place Wednesday, April 18, 2018 in Lecture Room 1 of Van Allen Hall. The topic was Resolved: That diversity lottery immigration visas should be eliminated in the United States. A. Craig Baird debaters Geo Liriano and Elizabeth Folkers (left) were on the affirmative side, and A. Craig Baird debaters D'Angelo Oberto-Besso (standing) and Lauren Phalen (right) were on the negative side. About 55 students were in attendance. The majority of the audience voted for the affirmative at the end of debate. Congratulations to both teams for their excellent presentations!!

Electoral College

electoral college












The first public debate of the spring semester 2018 took place tonight in the Kollros Auditorium of the UI Biology Building East with around 40 students in attendance. The topic was Resolved: That in the United States, changing the process of the presidential election to popular votes is justified to preserve democracy. A. Craig Baird debaters Kalen McCain and Subbi Namakula advocated for the topic, and Spencer Roetlin and D'Angelo Oberto-Besso Pando opposed it. After a spirited debate, the majority of the audience voted for the negative team. Both teams deserve our thanks and congratulations for a job well done!