Debate Formats

The Bard Debate Union offers students the opportunity to compete regionally and nationally in the “British Parliamentary” (BP) debate format. Bard also has a strong Model UN team.

British Parliamentary Debate

British Parliamentary Debate is a format of debate that focuses on persuasion, presentation, and improvisational skills.

In this format of debate, students are given a topic 15 minutes before the debate begins, and each two-person team must prepare a case, based on their assigned position in the debate.

A few examples of motions used in BP debate include: “This house would ban the personal possession of handguns,” “This house would invade Zimbabwe,” and “This house believes that the world was a better place before Facebook.” As is clear from these examples, motions in BP debate can range from specific policy actions to beliefs in certain political and philosophical positions, and thus students are expected to have conducted a significant amount of research on current events and various political positions and principles.

In BP debate, four teams debate against one another at a time—two teams defend the motion and two teams negate. The judge then ranks the teams one through four. Individual speeches are expected to be rhetorical and persuasive and students are not permitted to read outside evidence in the rounds. This format of debate is the most commonly debated format throughout the world.

Model United Nations

In Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. Students make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the conference rules of procedure – all in the interest of mobilizing “international cooperation” to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world.

At Bard College, we offer both a Model UN class (taught by Jonathan Becker, Vice President and Dean for International Affairs and Civic Engagement) and we offer students the opportunity to travel to conferences and simulations at colleges and universities throughout the US.

During a conference, participants must employ a variety of communication and critical thinking skills in order to represent the policies of their country. These skills include public speaking, group communication, research, policy analysis, active listening, negotiating, conflict resolution, note taking, and technical writing. The participants role-play as diplomats representing a nation or NGO in a simulated session of an organ (committee) of the United Nations, such as the Security Council or the General Assembly.