Who We Are

The Columbia Debate Team is at once a competitive and a social organization, dedicated to bringing together like-minded individuals with a passion for logic, rhetoric, and argumentation. The team is composed of dozens of students across all four Columbia schools. Each has a unique background, each brings something special to the table, and all share a love of learning and thinking expressed through debate.

The team has a long history of excellence, producing some of the best debaters in the country. Many have gone on to become famous lawyers, politicians, and philosophers; all agree that the team was a transformative experience. The team today is composed of people with the same mindset and ambitions, with its most recent alums going on to prestigious institutions such as Harvard Law School, or beginning their careers at firms like McKinsey.

But we are not all work-focused all the time. The team dynamic becomes an active part of the social lives of its members – somewhere between traditions such as Amigo’s Tuesdays, weekly Butler ‘study’ sessions,  and post-novice practice JJ’s, individual team members form close bonds that last for a lifetime (often finding future roommates and suite-mates who don’t mind constant arguing in the process).

What We Do

The team is a member of the American Parliamentary Debate Association. At its weekly meetings and at weekend tournaments, the team debates in two different styles of debate: American Parliamentary, and British Parliamentary. Both styles of debate are impromptu (the topic is given before the round starts), with teams of two people competing in front of a judge or panel of judges, arguing for or against a policy or idea. The style of debate is extremely flexible in nature, with topics ranging from the extremely topical – “Greece should pull out of the Eurozone” – to the philosophical – “A religion with equally powerful light and dark sides is better than a religion with just a light side” – to the silly and fun – “The Gotham City Police Department should not put arrest warrants on Batman”.

American Parliamentary is a debate between two teams of two. Often, the Government/Affirming team will bring the topic to the table, though this is not always the case. By comparison, British Parliamentary a debate between two teams  of four, each composed of an additional two teams of two. In British Parliamentary, the topics are provided by the tournament. British Parliamentary is also the debate style used at the Worlds Debate Tournament, an international tournament held in various countries each year. Both debate styles have different judging metrics and criteria for victory.

Both college debate styles differ heavily from high school debate. Teams are expected to avoid highly technical claims based on specific studies or statistics, preferring instead to ground their arguments in threads of logic and mechanisms of comparison. All judges are either current or past debaters who have a good understanding of the rules of debate and the metrics used to adjudicate. There is a general standard of reasonability, compounded with a general dislike of debate strategies like rapid speaking and meta-debate arguments. The result is a debate of ideas that tends to be more informal and more educational.

Students can attend an APDA or a BP tournament each weekend. Tournaments generally go from Friday to Saturday.

What Else We Do

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, these  middle school kids are absolutely the best part of my life at Columbia.” – Tanner Terry, ’17

The debate team has a strong sense of respect for the broader community that it inhabits. Over the years, various team members and the executive board have developed initiatives to allow the team to give back by spreading our passion for debate. The team happily volunteers to coach middle school debate teams, participates in public debates with other clubs and schools, and, most recently, took part in a program that taught debate to inmates at Rikers Island. The team is as committed to its volunteer work as it is to the actual competition, and believes that community building and debate go hand in hand.

Meet the Team

Executive Board

    • VP Public Affairs
      Claire Liebmann is a Barnard junior double majoring in Political Science and History with a minor in coffee consumption.

    • VP Public Relations
      Thomas Startz is a junior in Columbia College. He is majoring in financial economics and enjoys debating topics on religion.

    • Secretary
      Aaron Schaffer-Neitz is a Sophomore at Columbia College. He is doing a double major in Philosophy and Poor Life Choices.

    • El presidente.

    • Deputy Treasurer
      Cameron Davis is a sophomore in Columbia College majoring in Economics and Political Science, minoring in Philosophy. He is excited to sell out after college.

    • Deputy High School Director
      Ravi Maddali is a sophomore in Columbia College studying Economics-Political Science. He says he’s studying Philosophy to sound fancy.

    • Equity Officer
      Yerv Melkonyan is a sophomore in Columbia College. He is majoring in Financial Economics and can often be seen at JJ’s.

    • Taro: I like dogs ok

    • Seb

    • Maggie


      • Danny Haidar

      • Amol Kapoor
      • Adrian Ivashkiv
      • Abrar Nadroo
      • Claudia Polgar
      • Sara Sakowitz
      • Mohit Bhalodkar
      • Danny Li
      • Josh Zweig
      • Anthony Cruz
      • Jenny Li
      • Arnold
      • John Mellow
      • Dave Mendelson
      • Raghav Bansal
      • Nasser Douge
      • Will Ruff
      • James Towne
      • Charnis
      • Larissa Mark
      • Simona Sarafinovska
      • Pusic
      • Kunal Shah
      • Nikhil Dominic
      • Iris Franguo
      • Maud Ventura
      • Aranya Ram
      • Ethan Grant
      • Morgan Apostle
      • Charlie Kang
      • Soraya Beheshti
      • Ademali Sengali
      • Zoha Qamar
      • Elsa Dodds
      • Carter Salis
      • Robin Shillock
      • Katie Bogomolova


    • Dan Driscoll
    • Hannah Healy
    • Hilary Song
    • Niv Skidan
    • Ryan Eppolito
    • Grace Panetta
    • Lucy Kirichenko
    • Chiara Caraccio
    • Anna Lu
    • Lauren Yagoda
    • Tomas Esteve
    • Ezra Lerner
    • Nathan Lam
    • Mia Nicenko
    • Lali Devadas
    • Liza Bukingolts