The mission of the NYU Debate team is excellence at every level with a focus on the Novice National, JV National, and the CEDA National Championships. CEDA Debate teaches you problem solving, critical thinking, research skills and information filtering. You can use it to become more persuasive through rebuttals, more insightful through cross-ex and more reflective through evaluating evidence.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN In the mid-1990s, Jacob Weigler was a first-year student who had debated policy in high school and wished to continue in college. When Jake came to NYU, there was no team. Pamela Stepp, then director at Cornell University, directed him to someone who could help start one, a former nationally-ranked debater of hers who worked for a UN NGO, Will Baker. Baker agreed to serve as the team’s first coach and they joined together to form the NYU debate team. Jake wrote a constitution and established a budget. He recruited new novices (Vik Keenan and Justine Daniels being the first) to serve as officers and travel.
In its infancy, NYU was part of a consortium of urban college debate programs that included Fordham, Rockland CC, Columbia, NYU and the CUNY called the NY Coalition. Will served as the director. Since these emerging programs had zero budgets, Baker attracted other former debaters working in NYC in other capacities to volunteer as coaches (a tradition that continues today). These volunteers had the freedom to coach and set their schedules without the usual burdens of administrative responsibilities. This novel approach engaged their love of debate and the desire to stay connected causing many to work extra hours well beyond their initial commitment.
The program functioned as a subgroup of the IMPACT Coalition, a nonprofit designed to extend debate skills to members of traditionally disenfranchised communities including women, the poor, people of color and first generation Americans using debate as an organizational model. This revolutionary partnership was honored with the National CEDA Community Service Award as the first example of debate as a social entrepreneurship strategy.
MAKING HISTORY The NY Coalition leveraged the limited resources of each member school into something much greater. For its part, NYU became the first Northeast team to win a national intercollegiate CEDA Championship in 2003 before Harvard or Dartmouth. Baker became the first African American policy director to secure a national championship since Melvin B. Tolson of Wiley College in 1935. NYU is consistently listed among the best colleges in the nation to pursue policy debate. For the last nine years in a row, NYU has placed in the top 20 schools in the nation.