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Debate Team

Speech and Debate Team thrives

by Meghan Perri

The students on Binghamton University's Speech and Debate Team not only win national tournaments, but also give back to the community.

The team, ranked second in the nation, has started a debate program at Binghamton High School where students will start traveling and competing next semester. Binghamton University students coach the high school students, teaching them the rules of debate and competition.

"Winning tournaments is not the only marker of success," said Joe Leeson-Schatz, director of the team. "This year, we have opened up our mission and made it more about serving the greater goals of the university and promoting education."

The team is also promoting education on campus by continuing to host public debates of issues each semester. In April, the team will take debating global by hosting a World Online Debate Tournament from the university's website.

"Students all over the world will be able to submit speeches on a topic we will decide for judges to review online," Leeson-Schatz said. "We've never done this before, but since other schools have, we know there is an interest in this. If successful, we hope to do it every year."

By expanding its goals, the Speech and Debate Team has seen an increase in student participation this year. In all of last year, only 32 students traveled to competitions, and in this semester alone, 49 have.

The educational benefits of the program have also attracted more students to join, Leeson-Schatz said.

"Students learn to be better speakers, research better, and learn effective time-management skills because they have only a certain amount of time to speak during debates," he said. "These skills are helpful when you have to present to peers or engage in the real world and express yourself coherently."

Binghamton University's Speech and Debate Team has been consistently ranked in the Top 10 national debate teams. Trevor Reddick, the team's captain, attributes this winning streak to the dedication of students, who put in 15-20 hours of meeting time a week in addition to time spent researching for debates.

"What makes us unique is our ability to work as a team," Reddick, a junior double majoring in English and philosophy, said. "Everyone from the freshman to the senior members have a lot of responsibilities, and everyone puts their best foot forward."

In October, Binghamton University's Speech and Debate Team was ranked first in the nation, but it has since fallen in the ranks due to funding issues.

The University's Speech and Debate Program has a smaller budget than schools with more established programs and is in the bottom 25 percent in terms of funding. The team may have to cut out three tournaments in the spring semester because they cannot afford to compete, Leeson-Schatz said.

"We got off to a very strong start at the beginning of the semester, but things began to change when we weren't able to get to tournaments that other schools got to compete at because we could not afford to travel," he said. "We are now ranked second in the nation and are on the cusp of being number one again, but that could easily change based on our funding."

To contribute to the team, visit and make a gift to the Speech and Debate Team Endowment Fund, #203749501.

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Last Updated: 11/14/16