Mission and Rules

Mission Statement

The Bard Debate Union is a community of students, faculty, and staff committed to promoting civic discourse, dialogue, and debate on Bard’s campus, in the local community, and across Bard’s national and international networks. We host public debates and events on campus, participate in intercollegiate debate tournaments, conduct debate trainings and workshops, and work with local middle and high schools, the Bard Prison Initiative, the Bard Early Colleges, and our international partners to foster a culture of open conversation and debate throughout our communities and networks. For us, debate is about much more than competition and individual skill building; it is about civic participation and global citizenship.

Union Membership

All members of the Bard community are welcome to join the Bard Debate Union and participate in our campus events and activities. No prior debate experience is required and new members are welcome to join at any time!

Team Membership

Students who are interested in participating in competitive debate activities (i.e., attending debate tournaments) are expected to abide by the following guidelines:

1. Meetings and practice. Team members are expected to attend all debate team business meetings and at least one debate practice debate per week. Team members with a course conflict at meeting/practice time should make specific arrangements with the debate coaching staff.

2. Research and preparation. Team members are expected to read the news regularly and to conduct independent research to prepare for tournaments. Team members should also be in the habit of conducting regular practice speeches, speech re-do’s, and speaking drills outside of designated team practice time.

3. Confirming tournament participation. Team members must confirm their participation in a given tournament no later than the Monday prior to the tournament. Team members who cancel in the three days prior to the tournament jeopardize their eligibility to attend future tournaments.

4. Notification of faculty. Team members are expected to notify their professors in writing (and to speak to them in person) if they intend to miss class for a debate tournament or debate-sponsored event. Team members are encouraged to do this as early in the semester as possible in order to receive approval from faculty members and make appropriate arrangements for make-up work.

5. Qualification for individual tournaments. Where more students are interested in attending a tournament than spaces available, the coaching staff will choose participants based upon their records of attendance, competitive success, and service to the team.

6. Behavior at tournaments. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a respectful and responsible manner at all times and to abide by all rules and regulations of the Bard College Student Handbook. Students who fail to do so place themselves at risk of suspension from team participation. Team members are expected to attend ALL tournament events (briefings, awards, etc.), participate in ALL preliminary debates, and watch ALL elimination debates in which they are not participating. Team members should always consult with a coach before removing themselves from or leaving a tournament, missing a tournament event, etc.

Note: Bard students are NOT permitted to fund their own debate tournament participation and/or represent Bard College/the Bard Debate Union at debate tournaments without receiving explicit permission from the coaching staff. This is not only an issue of liability but of fairness; all Bard students should have equal opportunity to attend tournaments regardless of personal financial privilege.

Academic Standards

Debate is an educational activity but can be time consuming and should not take away from students’ coursework. Students interested in participating in debate events are expected to be in good academic standing. Students on academic probation or returning from a mandatory leave of absence or dismissal will not be permitted to travel to debate tournaments. All questions about debate and academic standards should be directed to Bard Debate Union Director, David Register, and/or Dean of Studies, David Shein.

Audio/Video Recording Policy

As debate is a space in which students safely test and experiment with new ideas and positions, the audio/video recording of Bard Debate Union activities is strictly prohibited unless all people in attendance have given their permission to be recorded.