The Democratic candidates’ debate on Dec. 19, 2019, at Loyola Marymount University, comes to a campus with a rich tradition of forensics. Although the Democratic National Committee’s format is different, and the audience vastly larger, LMU’s debate teams have made the Los Angeles campus a home for robust academic debate, including recently hosting a Civic Debate Conference, and by debating the topic “Democracy Is the Best Hope for Peace” at the prestigious Lafayette Debates last spring.
LMU has hosted high-profile candidate debates before: The top five contenders in 2013 for mayor of Los Angeles faced questions from students a month before the city’s primary election. In 2014, Los Angeles County Sheriff candidates met in a debate facilitated by LMU’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles.
Debate at LMU goes back at least to the 1920s, and in recent the years LMU debaters have participated in international championships, providing LMU students with the opportunity to compete against the best debaters in the world. LMU students have attended the World Universities Debate Championships in Cape Town, South Africa (2019), Mexico City (2018), Hague, Netherlands (2017) and Thessaloniki, Greece (2016). LMU teams have competed in intercollegiate competitions placing first or finalist in more than 200 invitational tournaments in policy, value, parliamentary and Lincoln-Douglas debate, including the North American Debate Championship, Oxford, Cambridge, Pan America, Pan Pacific, and Hart House tournaments, as well as national competitions including the USU, NPDA, and NDT National Championships, the HWS/IDEA Round Robin, Yale, Western Regionals, Air Force Academy, and U.S. Open, to name a few.
The LMU debate team is a part of the Communication Arts and Advocacy Program which is supported by the Communication Studies Department and the LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts. The goal of the Arts and Advocacy program is to provide critical and creative opportunities for students of all backgrounds and experiences to interact with topics and communities that include stakeholders and experts from outside the academic debate community. For example, LMU students will participate in the annual Social Justice Debates, which culminate with a national tournament at Morehouse College on Martin Luther King Day. Along with robust discussion of prison reform (2017), university speech regulations (2018), and reparations for slavery (2019), LMU students have the opportunity to tour Dr. King’s childhood home and explore the Civil Rights Museum. The Arts and Advocacy program supports the Social Justice Debates, Civic Debate Conferences, the North American Women’s Debate Championship, English as a Second Language tournaments, and the Lafayette Debates, among others.
This past October LMU held the inaugural St. Ignatius Dialogue and Jesuit Cup tournaments on campus. Working with other Jesuit debate programs and the Civic Debate Conference, students from across the country came to LMU to discuss the intersections of hunger, homelessness, and Homeboy Industries. The dialogues began with the more than 30 participants volunteering for four hours at the Los Angeles Mission, followed by a tour of Homegirl Cafe. After returning to LMU, three rounds of discussion ensued as teams of three deliberated to debate specific issues related to the topic area. Students from George Washington University were declared the winner, with LMU’s team finishing as runner-up. The following day, the Jesuit Cup required students to work with debaters from other schools as they examined the question of how to best eradicate hunger and homelessness in our lifetime.
Last April, a contingent of Arts and Advocacy team members traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in the annual National Lafayette Debate Championship, a highly competitive series that culminates in the final round at the Embassy of France, in honor of the bonds between the two countries forged by President George Washington and General Marquis de Lafayette and his son, George Washington Lafayette. Each year the top two teams and top six speakers win a week long study trip to Paris to study at the French War College. The 2019 tournament featured 28 schools from 14 states, Washington, D.C., and France debating whether democracy is the best hope for peace. After two days of competition, LMU ultimately finished outside of the top ten. LMU students earned participation in the Paris tour in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
The Arts and Advocacy program and LMU debate team exist to further the university’s mission toward the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person, the service of faith and the promotion of justice. All students are welcome to engage in intelligent, ethical, critical discussion with individuals of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives in a context of creative performance, collaboration, and competition. LMU attends approximately 10 events each year with between 10 and 20 LMU students participating on debate teams and Arts and Advocacy programming each semester