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 or LinkedIn group.


President: Violet Sinnarkar

Vice President: Alexander Kan

Tournament Director: Nathaniel Mahowald

Finance Director: Parmita Das

Community Development Director: Laurel McGrane

Debate Director: Isaac Goldstein

Communications Director: Amit Sagar


Violet and Alec in the finals of the 2017 Dominican Invitational

Violet and Alec in the finals of the 2017 Dominican Invitational

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 written application and an in-person interview. The written application is traditionally released in late August, and interviews are completed in early September.

New members must enroll in the debate DeCal, attend general meetings once a week, and judge at one of our tournaments each semester. There is a $50 annual membership fee. Applications for fall 2019 are now closed.

Fall 2019 Recruitment Schedule

Date Event Location Time
9/4 Infosession Barrows 136 6:30 - 8:30 P.M.
9/5 Calapalooza Sproul Plaza 3:00 - 7:00 P.M.
9/8 Interviews begin (invite only) TBD TBD
9/12 Decisions released N/A N/A
9/13 Induction ceremony (invite only) TBD 9:00 - 11:00 P.M.

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.

Q: What is the time commitment?

The debate DeCal is two hours per week, general meetings are one hour per week, and judging a tournament takes a full weekend. So, the minimum time commitment is three hours a week and a weekend each semester. We find that students who go above this requirement have more fun in the club, though: we also host optional practices and parties, and send teams to tournaments regularly.

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!