On Wednesday, September 24th, the University of Rhode Island Debate Union called to order its inaugural debate in Davis Hall, the site of URI’s first debate club meeting in 1904. Students debated the motion: “This House believes that a university education should be free.” Over half the participants were brand new to debate. The team from the opening government prevailed, with the closing opposition coming a close second.
The URI Debate Union is retaking its historic role providing space for students to engage with the issues that shape their lives. To this end, it meets every Wednesday at 7:00 pm in 009 Davis Hall for recreational debate open to all URI students. Beyond weekly debates, the Union offers students opportunities to engage in public debate, public service and intercollegiate competition facilitated by Director of Debate Cate Morrison.
“Debate benefits students academically, professionally and socially,” said Dr. Morrison. “Academically, studies show that participation in debate significantly improves reading, writing, research, critical thinking and speaking skills . . . Professionally, debaters are able to forge both skills and connections in debate . . . Socially, debate provides a home for students who want to think and talk.”
The reintroduction of the debate team to URI marks the first extracurricular club that unites all majors of the Harrington School. “Debate is able to spur comprehensive improvement across different types of academic skills because it takes the passive reception of knowledge and turns it into an active game,” says Dr. Morrison. “Debaters excel academically not only because they are practicing skills that also apply to their classes, but because they form strong bonds with other students who also excel.” Former URI Debate coach, Dr. Stephen Wood, agrees: “Debate is the very essence of critical thinking.”
A historical archive of debate activities at URI has been launched in conjunction with the reopening of student debate, and contains yearbook and newspaper material stretching back to the 1890s. You can view the archive and browse the collection, or search by decade or year, at http://uridebatehistory.tumblr.com. Alumni wishing to add items or memories to the evolving archive are encouraged to contact Dr. Cate Morrison, Department of Communication Studies, Harrington School of Communication and Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.