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. Our team also competes within the American Parliamentary Debate Association, which is the oldest intercollegiate debating association in the United States.

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: Murtaza Shiyaji

Debate Director: Ollie Bell

Tournament Director: Peter Zhang

Communications: Eliz Zhou

Equity: Karen Chen


Violet and Alec in the finals of the 2017 Dominican Invitational

Violet Sinnarkar and Alec Kan in the finals of the 2017 Dominican Invitational

2021 - 2022

Duke IV

Ofir Dvir as a breaking adjudicator in Open Finals.

Seattle IV

Eliz Zhou/Murtaza Shiyaji as Open Quarter-Finalists with Eliz Zhou ranked as the top Novice Speaker.

UCL Economics

Murtaza Shiyaji and Rami Gruman as Open Finalists.


Zaiyana Shafqut and Yash Dave as the 5th best ranking team in the Novice division.

Colgate IV

Andrew Lin/Murtaza Shiyaji as Novice Champions.

Oliver Bell as a breaking adjudicator to the Open Finals.

2020 - 2021

Duke IV

Isaac Goldstein/Frankie Duan as Open Quarter-Finalists with Isaac Goldstein ranked as the 9th Best Open Speaker.

Western IV

Swathy Natarajan and Sam Arias as Novice Finalists.

Nathan Wong as a breaking adjudicator in Novice Semi-Finals.

Penn and Tufts APDA

Peter Zhang and Kevin Zeng as Open Semi-Finalists with Kevin Zeng ranked as the 8th Best Novice Speaker.

Seattle IV

Isaac Goldstein/Frankie Duan as Open Finalists.

Chris Ying and Zachary Pfeiffer as Novice Semi-Finalists.

Sindre Carlsen as a breaking adjudicator in Novice Semi-Finals.

Vanderbilt IV

Isaac Goldstein/Frankie Duan broke as Open Semi-Finalists with Isaac Goldstein ranked as the Best Speaker.

Kember Feuerzeig and Ryan Keane as Novice Finalists with Ryan ranked as the 8th Best Novice Speaker.

2019 - 2020

Penguin Invitational

Amit Sagar/Isaac Goldstein as Champions.

Alec Kan/Violet Sinnarkar as Finalists.

Brandon Harden/Isabel Penman as Semi-Finalists.


Varun Menon/Jonathan Bodine as Open Finalists.

Hazel An/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 Sinnarkar 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 enrolled undergraduate students are eligible to apply for membership. The application process consists of a written application and an interview. The written application is here. We will notify you about interview invitations after we have evaluated your application.

All 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 Fall 2022 application has closed. The application will reopen in Fall 2023.

Fall 2022 Recruitment Schedule

Date Event Location Time
8/8 Application Released Online 8pm
8/30 Info Session 1 Social Sciences 140 8pm
9/1 Info Session 2 Social Sciences 140 8pm
9/3 Applications Deadline Online 11:59pm
9/4 Interview Invitations Online 11:59pm
9/4-9/9 Interviews In-Person TBD
9/10 All Decisions Released Online 3pm
9/11 New Members Night In-Person 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 2 hours each, 2 times per month. General meetings will be two hours on Sundays from 6:30-8:30 PM, once per week. We also expect four days of volunteering for the team per semester (helping us host tournaments, judging, running workshops, etc.), which will be about 8 hours per day of volunteering. On an average week, we expect about 8 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 components quickly and clearly.

Q: What should I wear to the interview?

Whatever you like!

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

Please bring some paper and a writing instrument.

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.