Please disable your Ad Blocker to better interact with this website.

Colleges Are Embracing “Alternative-Style” Debates…But Why?

University diversity


The above video comes to us courtesy of Grabien. If you’re wondering what exactly it is, don’t worry–you’re not alone. The Atlantic posted a fascinating piece recently about something called “alternative-style” debates, in which minority groups are attempting to “take back” the concept of debating–that is, take it back from supposedly privileged whites. And they’re doing it by basically challenging the very terms of the debate itself.

What is an “alternative debate”? The best way to describe it is to think about a traditional college debate team. Now think of the exact opposite.

That’s right; you won’t find any khaki pants, bow ties, or blazers at these debates. But you’re likely to see what essentially amounts to hip-hop performances and slam poetry. The above video clip is just a short segment intended to give you a flavor of what can happen at these things, but believe it or not, the girl who is featured–named Ameena Ruffin–continued that breathless performance for over 9 MINUTES STRAIGHT. If you can’t get enough of it, the complete debate video is archived here, but something tells me you won’t be spending four hours of your life watching it (Miss Ruffin’s bizarre performance begins around 1 hour, 6 minutes into the thing).

Ameena’s team went on to win that night, in a debate which was actually a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP held by the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) at Indiana University. That means the video you’re seeing above features one of the supposed best debaters in the country!

More from The Atlantic:

In the final round, Ruffin and Johnson squared off against Rashid Campbell and George Lee from the University of Oklahoma, two highly accomplished African-American debaters with distinctive dreadlocks and dashikis. Over four hours, the two teams engaged in a heated discussion of concepts like “nigga authenticity” and performed hip-hop and spoken-word poetry in the traditional timed format. At one point during Lee’s rebuttal, the clock ran out but he refused to yield the floor. “Fuck the time!” he yelled. His partner Campbell, who won the top speaker award at the National Debate Tournament two weeks later, had been unfairly targeted by the police at the debate venue just days before, and cited this personal trauma as evidence for his case against the government’s treatment of poor African-Americans.


So, what do you think? Are “alternative debates” good for America? Or have they lowered the bar so much that they’ve made a mockery out of university competitions? Debate purists are already calling for “policy only” spaces, so that traditional rules can be enforced. They argue that decorum and civility is being thrown out of the window, all in the name of diversity. Reports of profanity-laced tirades and screaming matches during this new breed of debates would seem to back that up.

Sound off with your thoughts in the comments section below.


Matt Fox

Senior Editor

Fox has history in broadcasting that spans two decades. From his early days as an FM host and club DJ in the mid-90′s to his later experiences in political talk radio, he has always had a knack for combining topical news with his love for popular culture. Those experiences culminated in his position as executive producer for several radio shows featured in the TALKERS Heavy 100. Originally from New York, Fox has made the great pilgrimage down to sunny south Florida.

Posting Policy

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse. Read more.

Facebook Comments





Disqus Comments


Trending Now on Daily Surge

Send this to friend