Lithograph from the 1903 Cal yearbook section on debate

Source: 1903 Cal yearbook


The first debating societies at Berkeley were established in 1898. Separated by class, the Freshman Debating Society and the Sophomore Debating Society each met every other Wednesday to practice extemporaneous speaking in California Hall. They also hosted an annual interclass debate between themselves.

Today, debating groups on campus are separated by format. Our organization, the Debate Society of Berkeley, competes in British Parliamentary (BP) debate as the original societies did. This format is practiced internationally, and our crowning tournament is the Worlds Universities Debating Championship.

There are two other groups on campus dedicated to debating. Cal Debate competes in the policy format as regulated by the American Forensics Association. Their championship is known as the National Debate Tournament. Parliamentary Debate at Berkeley competes under the National Parliamentary Debate Association up to the NPDA Championship Tournament.

We are proud to continue the tradition of BP debate not only on campus, but around the world. Our teams have competed in the last three world championships in the Netherlands, Mexico, and South Africa; our executive members have taught in China, Korea, and Vietnam. At home, we coach and judge for local high schools, support Bay Area BP tournaments, and organize two competitions of our own.

Whether you are interested in debating near or far, we hope our club can support you!


You can reach us at contact@debate.berkeley.edu, or via our Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn group.


President: Diane Chao

VP: Nathan Wong

Finance: Jennifer Yang

Capital Management: Sam Arias

Debate Director: Samiha Chowdhury

Tournament Director: Peter Zhang

Communications: Eliz Zhou

Equity: Karen Chen


Violet and Alec in the finals of the 2017 Dominican Invitational

Violet and Alec in the finals of the 2017 Dominican Invitational

2019 - 2020

Penguin Invitational

Amit Sagar/Isaac Goldstein as Champions

Alec Kanr/Violet Sinnarkar as Finalists

Brandon Harden/Isabel Penman as Semi-Finalists


Varun Menon/Jonathan Bodine as Open Finalists

Hazel Ann/Jeffrey Cheng as Novice Finalists

Emma Edelman/Savr Kumar as Novice Finalists

Sandhya Narayanan and Diane Chao as Breaking Adjudicators in Open Semi-Finals


Ryan Ham/Michelle Lee as Open Semi-Finalists

2018 - 2019

Penguin Invitational

Alec Kan/Violet Sinnakar take 2nd in finals

Andreas Orsmond/Ian Wong advance to finals

Isaac Goldstein/Kyle Ashworth advance to semifinals

2017 - 2018

US Universities Debating Championships

Henry Weikel/Pranav Shankar broke 18th seed to octofinals, marking the first nationals break in Berkeley's history.

Ariana Jessa/Catherine Wang broke as the highest ranked team in the nation in the novice division, advancing to novice quarterfinals.

Jonathan Bodine/Ishaan Srivastava broke 13th seed to novice quarterfinals.

America's Cup

Henry Weikel/Pranav Shankar advanced to the finals.

Stanford APDA

Luke Zhang/Ariana Jessa and Jake Klawans/Laurel McGrane broke in the novice division. Luke and Ariana advanced to the novice finals and were 4th and 6th ranked novice speakers respectively.

Chicago APDA

Emma Barton/Kevin Klyman were 3rd and 7th ranked speakers.

Brandeis IV

Luke Zhang/Catherine Wang broke to the novice finals, with Luke as the 8th best novice speaker.

Cambridge IV

Henry Weikel broke 6th to the quarterfinals.

Yale IV

Pranav Shanker/Dennis Tekell broke to the quarterfinals and Luke Zhang/Catherine Wang broke to the novice finals. Luke was the 9th ranked novice speaker.

Oxford IV

Henry Weikel broke 13th to quarterfinals.

Moody Bible APDA

Kevin Klyman/Emma Barton broke to the quarterfinals, and Kevin was the 2nd ranked speaker.

Durham IV

Henry Weikel was the 4th ranked speaker.

Edinburgh Cup

Henry Weikel broke first, was the top ranked speaker, and won the Edinburgh cup.


Application Process

All current students are eligible to apply for membership. The application process consists of a short written application and an interview. The written application is here, we will reach out to you about interviews after we have evaluated your application.

New members must attend general meetings once a week, attend practices at least twice per month, and volunteer for the team at least four days per semester. There is a $50 annual membership fee.

The Spring 2022 application is open. Apply here!

Fall 2021 Recruitment Schedule

Date Event Location Time
1/1 Application Released Online 10am
1/24 Info Session 1 Zoom 8pm-9pm
1/27 Info Session 2 Dwinelle 182 8pm-9pm
1/30 Applications Deadline Online 11:59pm
1/31 Interview Invitations Online TBD
2/1-2/5 Interviews Campus/Online TBD
2/5 All Decisions Released Online TBD

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I need debate experience to join the club?

No. Some of our most successful members had never participated in organized debate prior to joining the club. But, be ready to practice diligently so you can catch up.

Q: What is the time commitment?

Practices will be three hours a minimum of twice per month, and general meetings will be two hours once per week. We also expect four days of volunteering for the team per semester (helping us host tournaments, judging in the community, running workshops for members, etc.) which will be about 8 hours per day of volunteering. On an average week, we expect about 6 hours of commitment with a high degree of flexibility week to week.

Q: How can I prepare for the interview?

Reflect and relax. We are interested in hearing about what drew you to our organization, how you reason through arguments, and any previous experiences you’ve had with debate. Consider how to describe these things quickly and clearly.

Q: What should I wear to the interview?

Whatever you like.

Q: Do I need to bring anything to the interview?

Just yourself!

Q: How much do tournaments cost?

For active members, the Debate Society of Berkeley covers registration fees and offers subsidies for tournaments. Larger subsidies are offered for out of state tournaments due to additional costs for transportation. Subsidies may be offered on a competitive basis if the demand for a tournament is high.