Answering Questions about Iowa Debate

For additional information about the team and its history, please see our About Us and Alumni sections. 

What are Iowa’s requirements for participating in debate?

First, a 3.0 or higher cumulative grade point average must be maintained to be considered for tournament travel.  We believe classes are more important than debate.  Therefore, should a student’s grade point average fall below 3.0, we believe she or he should be spending more time on class work.  Second, a student must be enrolled as a full-time student to be considered for tournament travel.  The NDT National Debate Tournament requires all participants to be full-time students and in good standing at their university.  We mirror these requirements.  Third, a student must complete assignments to the satisfaction of the coaching staff to be considered for tournament travel.  

How much time does it take to participate in debate at Iowa?

The number of hours a student needs to spend on debate is a difficult question to answer since it will vary according to the student’s ability, motivation, level of interest, and the specific assignment.  Of course, participation in any worthwhile activity is time consuming.  In addition, to squad meetings, individual conferences and practice rounds are scheduled in the late afternoons and evening.  A good estimate is 10-20 hours a week (in addition to tournament participation).

How are partners selected at Iowa?

The coaches, but student input is an important factor in colleague selection. Since different levels of commitment exist and the time vested is a personal choice, we believe the student will know who will make the best partner. The coaches will assemble after Work Week to determine partnerships as quickly as possible. 

How many classes will be missed for tournament travel?

College debate tournaments are generally three-day events.  Most tournaments will require that two days of classes be missed.  The University policy requires that debaters be permitted to make up work, but arrangements must be made with the professor prior to the absence.  Debaters are encouraged to schedule classes at times they are least likely to be absent such as Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Does Iowa offer opportunities for public speaking?

Yes, a series of 5-6 public debates are held each semester.  Students who participate in these debates often reach an audience of 100 or more.  The debates are broadcast live on public radio, WSUI AM 910.  These programs provide the only look most on the campus get of debate and every intercollegiate debater participates in at least one debate each semester.  Dr. Hingstman and Mr. Bellus moderate the debates and members of the audience provide a lively cross-examination of the participants at the debate’s conclusion.  Video tapes from these programs are checked out by the University Library and a number of classes use them as a resource.  Iowa debate does not participate in individual speaking events tournaments.

How much will it cost to participate in debate at Iowa?

The cost of participating in debate is quite low due to support of the University and alumni.  The University and alumni donations pay for the cost of travel, lodging, meals, and tournament fees.  Books, journals, newspaper subscriptions, government documents, supplies, file boxes, folders, cards, and photocopying are provided when necessary.  Debaters are provided supplies such as flow pads, pens, file folders, expandable folders, scissor, tape, and evidence carriers; though a limited supply is sometimes available.

Is debate at Iowa a squad or individual team effort?

Iowa insists that debate be a squad effort.  College topics are broad, and one team cannot research a proposition adequately without jeopardizing their grades.  Therefore, we rely on a central evidence and brief system.  Each team is responsible for certain assignments.  Briefs on specific arguments and cases are prepared, photocopied, and distributed to each team.  Every team receives a complete set of prepared briefs.

Should a first-year student participate in debate?

Yes! We do our best not to overburden new students, and those who aspire to achieve the highest level of national competition generally need to begin the activity in the first year.  Experience level does not detract from the awards offered by debate. Iowa debater Coco Christophersen has broken nearly every record established by a college novice debater, including winning a national championship. 

Do debaters participate in other activities?

Yes, debaters participate in a number of other activities, including intramural sports, student government, and other political and civic endeavors.  Some activities that are as time-consuming as debate might preclude participation in both.  While debate takes a great deal of the student’s time, debaters are encouraged to participate in other activities which provide them with a well-rounded, broad-based college experience.  During the first semester in residence, debaters are discouraged from pledging social organizations or making other major non-academic commitments. 

Is college credit awarded for participation in debate?

Yes, a debater may receive 3 semester hours of academic credit for debate once every academic year, but he or she must enroll in a course of intercollegiate debaters offered in the Department of Communication Studies.  Students who are not enrolled in the class may not receive credit, though the course is not necessary for participation.

When does Iowa begin debate preparation?

Each year the national intercollegiate debate question is announced around August 1.  We begin research on the campus in August.  The dates for the work session vary, but students are notified in advance.  Under the direction of the debate staff, debaters spend about 16 hours a day on the new topic the week prior to the start of classes.  It is our belief that the more work completed before the start of classes, the more time available for classes.  Call to make sure you are on the list to receive this information.

Are scholarships available for debaters at Iowa?

The University of Iowa offers limited number of scholarships for intercollegiate debate.  These scholarships range from $500 - $1500 per semester.  Also, there are a small number of alumni endowed scholarships.  These scholarships range from $500 - $3000 per semester.  Debaters have also qualified for the U.S.A. Scholarship awarded by Academic Affairs, and others have received Presidential Scholarships and Opportunity at Iowa Scholarships (a program to foster diversity at Iowa).

What rules govern the conduct of intercollegiate debaters?

Iowa debaters are expected to conduct themselves in an ethical manner at all times.  As a matter of policy, students are expected to abide by state laws and the rules governing student conduct set forth by the University.