Club Spotlight: Debate Society

by The Cowl Editor on April 6, 2017


Photo courtesy of

by Sarah Gianni ’18

News Staff

Small but mighty. This phrase is fitting for the Providence College Debate Society (PCDS), an organization of about 20 students who travel to compete against teams from a variety of colleges and universities.

The team is led by President Jillian O’Melia ’17, Vice President Mackenzie Tor ’17, Treasurer John Whitney ’19, Secretary Annie Butler ’19, and Membership Director Carly Martino ’19.

“I joined debate my freshman year because I’ve always liked discussing topics and seeing different arguments for a position, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the skills of debating and argumentation,” said member Patrick Reynolds ’18.

The team meets in Ruane 206 every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. to practice for upcoming tournaments and “run rounds.”

“Each round consists of six speeches of varying lengths from four minutes to eight minutes,” said member Kate Mechem ’17. “The two sides are referred to as the ‘Government’ team and the ‘Opposition’ team, with the Government team deciding on the debate topic and the Opposition team left to think on their feet,” she said.

Strict rules regulate the way in which arguments can be made or refuted as teams are not allowed to bring any knowledge to the debate that would not be available to the opposing team.

“This year PCDS has been able to compete in tournaments in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Berkley, California, and have competed against schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton,” said Reynolds.

In addition, PCDS recently hosted a tournament that included teams from Brandeis, Yale, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Stanford, Boston University, and other colleges.

“Each tournament has a theme chosen by the host school, so we spent our weekend wearing pink in honor of our Mean Girls theme, and decorated Moore Hall accordingly,” said Mechem. “The Debate Society is a welcoming, accepting, diverse group of students who are never shy to treat a newcomer like they’ve been on the team for years.”

Those who are interested can attend any of the club’s meetings, and no prior debate experience is required.