The WVU Debate Team is hosted by the Department of Political Science. The team’s primary activity is participation in intercollegiate policy debate competitions across the United States. Team members engage in intense research on one policy-related resolution all year long, and they travel to between four and six competitions each semester. At each tournament, two-person teams representing WVU participate in between six and 10 two-hour debates apiece, and they often bring home individual and team awards.
In the past few years, the WVU debate team has participated in tournaments at James Madison University, United States Military Academy (West Point), California State University - Long Beach, University of Southern California, The New School, Liberty University and Binghamton University.
Several years ago, we created the John A. Jacobsohn Memorial Tournament in memory of WVU’s late debate coach. The tournament has attracted teams from around the country. In 2006 and 2007, it was further designated as JV/Novice Nationals, and it was one of the five largest tournaments in the country. It served as the Novice Nationals tournament for the past five years, including a virtual tournament during COVID-19 restrictions.
No experience is necessary to join the team, and debaters compete in separate divisions based upon their level of experience. Team members are expected to travel to most competitions, and they are expected to spend about four hours per week between tournaments working on their skills and arguments. Competition expenses (entry fees, transportation, lodging and most meals) are paid for by WVU, through the support of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. There is also some financial support available for debaters in the form of tuition waivers and the Peter Borsay Memorial Scholarship.
Debate is a rigorous and intense activity, but it is also a rewarding activity. WVU debaters improve their research and public speaking skills, and they often go on to some of the best graduate and law schools in the country. In recent years, WVU debaters have won two Truman Scholarships and a Fulbright scholarship; attended prestigious law schools such as Michigan, University of Virginia, Georgetown and UC-Berkeley; and enrolled in PhD programs at Texas, UC-Berkeley and the University of Pittsburgh.
If you have at least a 3.0 GPA and think you might be interested in debating, please contact the team’s coach and faculty sponsor, Samantha Godbey, at Samantha.Godbey@mail.wvu.edu.