The Cornell Speech and Debate Program is the only university-sponsored speech and debate organization at Cornell. The organization is one of the largest of its kind in the United States, registering students for intercollegiate competition in:
- Policy debate
- Worlds (British Parliamentary) debate
- Individual Speech events
- Spanish Worlds debate
The program is distinctive because it is large, successful, and inclusive of all skill levels. Annual student membership typically exceeds 100 members. Students who compete in each format of speech or debate frequently make it to elimination rounds and bring speaker awards back to Ithaca, which has contributed to a consistently high national and international ranking for Cornell in each type of speech or debate. Our organization is fortunate to receive funding from a variety of sources, including our alumni network and the ILR school. This funding allows the team to support a full team of coaches, all of whom have excelled in their respective formats at the collegiate level. Any Cornell undergraduate can join the team, regardless of their skill level, and coaches regularly coach completely new novices and top varsity competitors as part of the 'big tent' of Cornell Speech and Debate.
Cornell Speech and Debate believes that the skills and experience that students gain from intercollegiate competition also prepares them to apply those skills in the overall campus intellectual community and as in important social contexts. The list of CSD outreach is ever-evolving, but some past initiatives have included:
- Public debates on community-relevant topics (past guests have included Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, representatives from PETA, the British National Debate Team,, and cadets from the U.S. Military Academy)
- Debate training and education for people in prison
- Debate training and education for older adults
- Debate partnerships with schools and organizations all over the world
For many of our members, this is not only a debate and speech organization but also a close-knit family. Regardless of whether you are new or old to Cornell, or simply looking around, we invite you to learn more about our program. Our program is open to all Cornell students regardless of previous experience or course of study.
Feel free to contact any of the coaching staff or members of the student leadership should you have any questions. The entire CSD program has weekly meetings during academic fall and spring semesters - email a coach or eboard member to inquire about the most current meeting time.
The Speech and Debate program at Cornell University is a co-curricular program boasting world-class faculty and staff with combined teaching and coaching experience of 60+ years. Along with graduate assistants (GAs) who serve as assistant coaches and enrolled in the ILR School graduate program, the Speech and Debate staff hold national and global achievements, and provide top-notch argumentation, debate, and persuasive communication instruction.
- Senior Lecturer, ILR School
- Director, Speech & Debate Programs
Sam Nelson is the Director of Speech & Debate and ILR school senior lecturer at Cornell University.
- Assistant Director, Speech and Debate Programs
- Director, Policy Debate
- Director, Cornell International Summer Debate Camp
- Assistant Director, Speech & Debate Programs
- Director, Speech
As a competitor on the most successful Speech Team in history at Bradley University.
23 September 2020
The Cornell Speech and Debate Society expresses our continued solidarity in the effort to challenge the structures and institutions that continue to exclude, harm, and brutalize people of color. Some of the most recent outcries from the black community has offered our organization the opportunity to reflect on how we may contribute to systems of oppression and how we will actively identify and correct them.
Our society offers this statement as a recommitment to solidarity and support for those engaged in vital advocacy and civic engagement. As an organization, we will promote and offer a culture where all students are heard and validated.
It is important for all of us to recognize that this matter is not a debate, and the goal of these conversations is not to win, but be educated. A central part of the CSDS experience is listening, and cultivating this culture helps us to learn how to best serve others. We embrace our duty in recognizing that what may be fun and trivial “debate or speech topics” for one, may actually be the lived experience of another. While our members practice dialogue, we teach them how to be respectful of all views even if they disagree. As we strive to be ethical advocates it is our responsibility to utilize our talents to bring awareness to injustice, and have the courage to lead conversations in our communities.
CSDS will be a place where every individual can feel unequivocally welcome, seen, celebrated and equal. Our entire organization is dedicated to listening, learning and creating more spaces where every student feels welcome.
In this vein, we are working towards creating new equity guidelines and practices for CSDS. These guidelines will outline the standards of behavior and values that all members of our community will adhere to, and have made provisions for redress or support when guidelines are broken. We are also seeking to secure greater diversity training for our team captains and our e-board, so our team leaders can be active participants in transforming the culture of CSDS. Our diversity director will be holding office hours throughout the semester, so that our members can contribute to and collaborate in these changes as well. In this light, we welcome additional suggestions to our leadership team at firstname.lastname@example.org as to how we can make the team more inclusive. We recognize that this will be an ongoing process, and commit ourselves to the self-reflection needed to confront our past and collectively shape a new future.
Your e-board, captains and team are here for you. Please reach out to us.
With all our love and solidarity,