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Ruth Zisman 
Director, Bard Debate Union/OSUN Global Debate Network

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Bard College

Ruth Zisman founded the Bard Debate Union in 2004. Since then, she has worked to build a world-renowned debate program at Bard while also working to develop debate programming in Bard’s surrounding school districts and throughout Bard’s national and international networks. In 2020, as part of the launch of the Open Society University Network (OSUN), Ruth founded the OSUN Global Debate Network – a network of students, faculty, and staff at OSUN partner institutions with an interest in academic debate. By focusing on curricular debate initiatives and debate outreach work, Ruth’s work with debate aims to position debate not just as an extracurricular activity but as a centerpiece of higher education. Ruth is also a faculty member in the Philosophy program at Bard, where she teaches courses in continental philosophy and political philosophy. Ruth earned her B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Vassar College (2004), her M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought from NYU (2008), and her Ph. D. in German Studies from NYU (2015). Email:

David Register
Deputy Director, Bard Debate Union/
OSUN Global Debate Network
Faculty Fellow and Director of Debate, Bard Prison Initiative

David Register joined the Bard Debate Union in 2012. Since then, he has coached Bard debaters to the top levels of national and international competition, while also founding and coaching the now internationally recognized Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) Debate Union. Before coming to Bard, David worked at the University of Vermont where he coached top teams in both policy and parliamentary debate formats. He has also taught at debate workshops and institutes in the United States, Germany, Serbia, Slovenia, Hungary, and Russia. By focusing on public debates and events, David works with students on research and public speaking with the aim of making debate a service to the community and an activity that is accessible to everyone. David is also a faculty member in the Bard Learning Commons and the Bard Prison Initiative, where he teaches courses in Public Speaking and Argumentation. David holds a B.F.A. in Communication Studies from Emporia State University (2004) and an M.S. in Communication Studies from the University of North Texas (2006). Email:

Clarence Brontë 
Debate Coach, Bard Debate Union
Program Coordinator, OSUN Global Debate Network
Clarence Brontë (re)joined the Bard Debate Union in 2021. Between graduating from Bard in 2018 and returning, Clarence coached debate at the University of Rochester, where they worked to increase the team’s international acclaim as well as expand the team’s educational programming. Alongside coaching competitive debate, Clarence has dedicated their time in debate to increasing the equity and inclusivity of the activity, serving as an equity officer at numerous large-scale tournaments. Clarence works with BDU members on their competitive debate skills and also coordinates programming across the OSUN Global Debate Network. Clarence believes that debate is a crucial space through which students can learn to better communicate their thoughts and beliefs, develop deeper critical thinking skills, and gain a greater understanding of the complexity of our international community and their part in it.Clarence holds a B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Science, Technology, and Society from Bard College (2018) and an M.A. in English from the University of Rochester (2021). Email: