We hope that this brief introduction to the program
at Western Washington University will be informative
and helpful. We are proud of our program both in
its competitive success and community involvement.
Please utilize the contact information provided
to request further information or to answer any
questions you may have. We also suggest that you
schedule a campus visit, and make a tour of the
facilities of the team and a meeting with members
of the coaching staff part of your itinerary. We
look forward to meeting you!
WWU Debate: Opportunity and Connection
- It's Practical
- It’s Preparation
- Unlock Personal Power
- Debate: an Intrinsic Good
- It’s A Limited Time Offer
- “Let’s Talk” On-Campus Forums
- Debate Club Co-Op Presentations
- CASCAID: Community Advocacy Support Center
- Women’s Debate Institute & Bellingham Debate Cooperative
- Director of Forensics, Dr. Steve Woods
- Parliamentary Debate Coach, Paul Charles Bingham
- Parliamentary Debate Coach, Korry Harvey
Western Debate has a long history on the campus. With an established track record of success and support Debate has been a part of Western campus culture for a majority of the institutions history. Western is well known in the college community, being host to the 1991 CEDA Nationals, and Western also hosts the William O. Douglas Speech Tournament, honoring one of the state’s native sons.
Personal choices abound in the Western program:
What style of debate, what tournaments to
attend, what level of involvement you want. As a program funded by the students of Western, the primary goal of the program is to serve its student participants.
College debate can be an exciting world, but it does not exist in a vacuum. The Western program recognizes that after your competitive experience you should have the skills and knowledge to contribute to society, not just compile an impressive victory record. There is a commitment to connect the competitive experience to personal advocacy goals, and to create opportunities outside of the tournament format for service and advocacy on campus and in the community. Connection also exists on the team, creating colleagues and friends you will have for life, bonded together through a shared experience and cooperation.
Western Debate is focused on providing quality educational and competitive opportunities to the student participants of the program. Western competes in tournaments throughout the Pacific Northwest and nationally throughout the United States. Unlike sports activities which are divided up into divisions based on size, on any given weekend Western could be competing against a university the size of Michigan State or Texas, or a college of around a thousand students, like Macalester. From public to private schools, the variety of competitive experience makes college debate a diverse and exciting experience. Western also offers a diverse set of events to participate in that can suit a wide variety of interests and needs.
- Memberships and affiliations:
- American Forensic Association (AFA)
- Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA)
- National Debate Tournament (NDT)
- National Parliamentary Debate Association
- Northwest Forensic Conference (NFC)
- International Debate Education Association
- World Debate Organization (WDO)
- Director and 2 assistants:
- Western Debate is a co-curricular program offering university credit in COMM236 & COMM436
- Western Debate is funded through Western Washington University Student Fees
This style of debate has no pre-set topic. Debaters are given a resolution 15 minutes before the start of a debate, and the Government comes up with a case in support of the resolution, and the Opposition negates. This is a growing style of debate popular with schools all across the country and internationally as well. Parli debate requires quick thinking, a wit on ones feet, and a high level of presentation skills for success.
These are differing public performance events ranging from limited preparation events, public platform speaking events, and interpretive events. For those wanting to polish their style and range of presentation, individual events offer a chance to refine ones skills in competition with some of the nations finest speakers.
- Variety of Events
- High Quality Opponents
The activity of debate is a unique opportunity for students to exert personal control over their intellectual development. A successful debater is one that can think for themselves and still be a part of the greater community of persons and ideas and be involved in the conflicts and agreements that exist. As a means to affirm and develop this attribute Western’s program will provide opportunities for students to take part in the choices that effect their participation and competitive experience. These decisions involve colleague choice, tournament selection, and argument selection. The coaches are available for consultation and guidance on these matters, but ultimate responsibility lies with the student. The coaches will take responsibility for issues of team management and organization, and make sure that the access to the privileges of the team are based on the merit of effort.
There is a goal to operate within a framework of consensus for squad level decisions, and to make sure that student input and discourse are elements in the decision making process.
- Student Choice
- Personal Responsibility
There are many good reasons for including debate experience as part of your higher education. Employers will look for practical skills in their employees. Those applicants that can demonstrate and ability to think on their feet, express complex ideas verbally, and be able to not just identify problems, but solve them, will be in the highest demand. All of these skills are not just developed in college debate, but honed to a fine level of ability. Debate is not just a resume item. Debate is a real and recognizable skill that employers notice. Even in college you will notice how debate helps you organize assignments and papers for other classes, and the transfer of knowledge between what you learn in debate and what you are learning in your coursework.
Debate is important for those considering post-graduate education. For those considering law school, a majority of law school deans identify debate as an important preparation for the rigors of legal study and practice. Those considering a graduate education in a variety of disciplines will find that not only does debate provide a critical preparation in almost any discipline, but that debate experience can translate into graduate teaching and coaching assistantships that help cover the costs of a masters or doctorate degree. Not to mention the contacts that are created by interacting with persons from all across the nation that may be involved in the graduate program you are interested in pursuing. Western Debate alums are lawyers, educators, business people and activists.
Debate is an important personal development tool. The ability to think critically and interact with the information avalanche that is the present is a real priority. Debate will not just teach you about ideas, but how to research and discover ideas in an ever changing body of knowledge where the ideas and facts are in constant flux. The world doesn’t stop after high school, it gets distinctly more interesting, and college debate lets you in on it like nothing else. No matter what you do, you will need to think about, and know, information related to your career, society, and causes of interest. Debate is the key that unlocks personal power and competence.
Western Debate offers a unique opportunity to
interact socially with other inquisitive minds,
not just on the campus at Bellingham, but with
peers and noted scholars from across the country.
Debate is the basis for a unique student centered
intellectual community that appreciates and rewards
individuals who think ideas are important and
that thinking is fun, not a chore to be
avoided. No other campus activity offers you the chance to use your brain and explore ideas in the fun and functional ways that debate can.
Unlike many other pursuits or interest you have, once you graduate from college, there are no more opportunities for structured academic debate. After graduation you can always find some people, or join an adult league to shoot some hoops. There are always some people to get together and jam with to fulfill your musical interests. There will be plenty of reasons to get together to socialize and have fun. But there is no more debate. College is your last chance to take part in the thrill and the competition in a challenging and fun academic setting.
- Preparation for Life and Career
- Personal Development
- Refining skills for handling of information
Access to Debate: A special note to first years and those with limited or no experience
Western Debate strongly believes that the opportunity to debate should be open to all that are interested. It is a goal of the program to provide opportunity to all that seek it and to provide an appropriate level of competition to help them develop their skills. In order to operationalize this goal, the program will seek out talented students with a successful history in high school to join the team, but also students with little or no experience. Those from both high profile and less competitive squads are welcome, as well as though who may be trying it for the first time in college. The squad accepts the responsibility to be more than a cooperative of already experienced participants, but to actively recruit and train those who are not familiar with the activity.
The program also recognizes that those with limited experience need the same amount of competitive opportunities to develop. In response to the recognition, the program will employ and effort based standard for participation over a talent based or exclusively performance based reward system. Those students who work hard to prepare, and make an effort at improvement will be the students who are given the priority to travel regardless of experience.
- Effort Based Rewards
- Opportunity Regardless of Past Experience
The primary purpose of a student’s presence at Western is the pursuit and successful completion of their baccalaureate degree. Th e debate program acknowledges this priority as well. In this spirit, Western has a standard of academic eligibility for participation, and a "no penalty” policy for opting out of tournaments for academic reasons. Debaters are expected to be in good standing and making academic progress toward graduation to compete. This means they must be full time students, and have a GPA above 2.0 to compete. Students also don’t lose out on future travel opportunities by foregoing some travel due to tests or papers being due. Every attempt will be made to accommodate students academics in the scheduling of coaching and travel on an individual basis.
Debate is also a co-curricular activity through COMM 236 and COMM 436 offering the chance to earn academic credit toward graduation for participation.
Additionally, most team members feel that their participation on the debate team enhances their education. It broadens their exposure to ideas, and the skills learned in debate research are directly applicable to most class assignments. Knowing how to debate means you can research ideas, formulate positions, and develop ideas that can help you write papers more efficiently and process testable knowledge more effectively.
- Academics First Philosophy
- Credit for Participation
In addition to competitive activities the team is involved in service opportunities both on campus and in the community through out the academic year. Projects include opportunities to work with the Seattle Debate Foundation, Urban Debate Leagues across the country, community broadcasting projects, on campus forums, and mentoring projects.
The 2001-2002 school year saw the introduction of the “Let’s Talk” campus discussion series dealing with campus, national and international issues. This forum provides a chance for students and community members to learn more about topics and to voice their opinions while listening to others. Generally about 4 forums per quarter are held on a variety of issues. Samples form the 2001-2002 academic year: the War in Iraq, Tuition Increases, Drilling for oil in ANWR; the Mid-East conflict.
The team has an Associated Students recognized “Debate Club” component that is available to provide specialized presentations on topics of interest. This past year the club presented a pre-visit debate about the impact of Ralph Nader’s candidacy and participated in a forum on Affirmative Action admissions policies.
The newest community service program of the team is a chance for debaters to serve as Fellows or Interns for a community outreach advocacy training center. Utilizing the training of debaters to coach community members in speaking out and participating in the policy making process.
Western is proud to serve as host for these High
School programs. The Women’s Debate Institute
program helps to provide training and empowerment
for women participating in debate. The Cooperative
is a program to provide the summer institute experience
at reasonable cost to students.
Steve joins the program most recently from William Jewell College in Liberty, MO. Steve earned his doctorate from Florida State University in Rhetoric/Communication. His dissertation was “The Rhetoric of the Endangered Species Act” and looks forward to continuing research on issues of environment and public advocacy.
As an undergraduate Steve debated for Kansas State University, participating in both CEDA and NDT policy debate. After graduation, he joined the coaching staff while earning his masters. After four years at Florida State as a graduate assistant he took his first full time teaching position at the University of Vermont as a lecturer and co-director of debate. Steve then moved on to William Jewell College, directing the program for five years.
Steve brings more than 20years experience in college debate and speech to Western as both a competitor and coach. At this point he has been to tournaments, workshops, or conferences at 74 campuses in 25 states. Highlights include a team in the national finals, and a top speaker while at FSU, and three consecutive years of top twenty finishes while at Vermont (20th, 10th, and 5th).
Steve looks forward to working with the students of Western and working toward not only competitive success, but development of community involvement and public advocacy programs.
Paul Bingham came from to Bellingham from Lewis and Clark College where he majored in International Affairs and wrote a thesis on the theoretical underpinnings of neo-conservatism and the War on Terror. Paul also coached the 2005-06 Lewis and Clark squad after competing for the squad for 4 years.
As a competitor Paul did 4 years of national circuit Policy debate in High school before debating Parli in college. Paul and his partner of 3 years, Keith West, won most tournaments across the nation at least once, making it to semi finals of NPTE and Octo-finals twice at NPDA. Paul and Keith were the top ranked team in the nation for the 2003-04 season. Paul won several top speaker awards, and finished in the top five speakers of most tournaments. Paul is one of two people (the other, Darryl Stein, was an assistant coach at Western for the 2006-07 season) to have gone to four NPTE's, and the only person who has won hardware at all of them. His senior year he debated with Meredith Price and the two of them won the NPDA National Championship.
Paul really likes teaching and coaching and will make you a better person if you let him.
Korry Harvey rejoins the competitive debate community after work in the private sector as perhaps the only known luddite director of web operations for a nutritional products firm. The temptation of a Northwest location and a topic involving indigenous peoples issues proved too great, and he departed Salt Lake for Bellingham.
Korry has debated and assisted with coaching
at Weber State University. He also was part of
an extremely successful year while debating for
the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Korry brings
a keen intelligence, and equally important, a
passion for meaningful interaction in the community.
“As a Senior I can say that debate has been
the most educational experience for me and has
helped me not only with the classes I take, but
also with my interactions with friends and co-workers.”
-Jessica, Class of 2002; started debating in College
“WWU debate is an excellent way to establish
a new and diverse community in the intellectually
challenging college atmosphere.”
–Matt, Class of 2002
“College debate is amazing. Take high school
debate and make it 100 times better, and you’re
close. What can I say? It’s awesome.”
-Dean, Class of 2005
“Debate is far more than a line in your
resume, or a way to overcome a public speaking
phobia. It’s one of the best opportunities
a student can have: to explore new ideas and new
ways of expressing them, to meet a variety of
diverse scholars, and to engage in the process
of education as both a teacher and student.”
-Amy, Class of 2002; scored in top 1% of LSAT exam.