Civic Engagement

The Center for Civic Engagement

Among Bard’s basic principles is a fundamental belief in the link between liberal education and democracy, and Bard is firmly committed to promoting and sustaining projects that engage its students, faculty, and administrators with some of the most important issues facing society. Bard’s Center for Civic Engagement supports, coordinates, and promotes the wide array of initiatives that define Bard as a private institution in the public interest. Whether it is in social service organizations in the Hudson Valley, in prisons, in high schools in New York, Newark, New Orleans, and California’s Central Valley, or in universities in Russia, the West Bank, and Kyrgyzstan, Bard is always innovating and engaging. The Bard Debate Union is proud to be a part of this civic engagement initiative through various debate outreach projects.

Debate in Local Schools

In Fall 2010, the Bard Debate Union partnered with the Red Hook School District to develop the first Red Hook debate program! Through the program, a member of the Bard Debate Union would visit the Red Hook Middle School every two weeks in order to work with students on speech and argumentation skills and to organize exciting classroom debates! Given the tremendous success of the middle school program, the Bard Debate Union began working with the Red Hook High School in Fall 2011 and the Rhinebeck High School in Fall 2013 to help them to found and sustain their debate clubs. Through these programs, members of the Bard Debate Union are able to act as teachers and mentors helping to spread debate throughout the Hudson Valley.

Zach Israel ’12 teaching in the Red Hook Middle School

The Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament at Bard College

The Bard Debate Union hosted the First Annual Middle and High School Debate Tournament at Bard College on March 9th, 2012. The tournament hosted students from the Bard High School Early Colleges in Manhattan, Newark, and Queens, Red Hook High School, Rhinebeck High School, and the Red Hook Middle School. The tournament featured two full rounds of debate for all participants, a pizza lunch, and an awards ceremony for the top placing teams and speakers in each division. It was such a success that we were thrilled to make this an annual tradition, expanding the tournament to include three rounds of debate and continuing to grow in size. We now also welcome St. Joseph’s Middle School in Kingston each year and the Bard High School Early College in Cleveland.  We are thrilled with the success of this event and hope to continue hosting it long into the future.

President Botstein speaks to tournament participants!

Debate in the Bard High School Early Colleges

Beginning in Fall 2011, the Bard Debate Union began working with the Bard High School early colleges in Manhattan, Newark, and Queens to create debate clubs on their campuses. By inviting students from the BHSECs to both our High School and College tournaments on campus, students from the early colleges were able learn the art of debate and get excited about competition! Beginning in Fall 2015, we were excited to welcome BHSEC Cleveland and to initiate an annual debate training day for Bard students and BHSEC Cleveland students to work together.

BHSEC at Bard Debate Tournament (Feb 2016)

Debate in the International Bard Network

Beginning in 2014-2015, the Bard Debate Union began working with faculty members and students at Smolny College in St. Petersburg, Russia to help them establish a debate program. Since then, we have began working with all of the Bard network campuses (American University of Central Asia, Al Quds Bard, Bard College Berlin, European Humanities University, and Smolny College) to work on creating, building, and sustaining their debate programs. In Fall 2016, we organized the first Intra-Network Online Debate between Bard, Bard College Berlin, Al Quds Bard, and Smolny College. And in Spring 2017, we hosted the first annual Bard Network Debate Conference at Central European University in Budapest Hungary. During the conference students, faculty, and staff from Bard’s six affiliate campuses—Al-Quds Bard (West Bank), American University of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan), Bard College (USA), Bard College Berlin (Germany), European Humanities University (Lithuania), and Smolny College (Russia)—joined together for five days of workshops, collaborations, and debates. On the the final day of the conference, participants put on a public debate on the topic “Resolved: the production of fake news should be criminalized”; the public debate featured one student from each the six network universities and had an audience of over 40 people.

Bard Network Debate Conference