Debate for the Spicer Debate Forum!


The Spicer Forum at Missouri State University competes in two formats of college debate: NDT/CEDA debate and NFA-LD debate.

We have a detailed recruiting brochure for future debate prospects.

If you are a prospective Missouri State student, read below. If you are a CURRENT Missouri State student, please scroll to the bottom.

FAQ Section

In which formats does the Spicer Debate Forum compete?

Historically, the program has competed in NDT or CEDA debate. These organizations merged with a single topic in 1996. In 2014, the Spicer Forum began to compete in NFA-LD, which also uses evidence and a year-long policy topic.

Which format would I prefer, NDTCEDA or NFA-LD?

NDTCEDA requires a rigorous commitment, with workweek, work weekends, and longer weekly practice sessions. It is a 2-person format with a yearlong topic. It is a wide open format, where traditional plan-based teams interact with each other as well as kritik & performative style opponents. The judging is highly specialized, and the speeches are much faster than typical conversation. A typical NDTCEDA debater will attend 4-5 tournaments a semester, and could miss significant class time unless they take most classes on a T/Th schedule. Given the time commitment, the typical scholarship amounts for this format are higher than for NFA-LD.

The NFA-LD format uses a policy topic but LD speech times, and is designed for a more general audience. It has far lower entry barriers, and would thus be more accessible to students without CX Policy high school experience (and particularly camp experience) than NDTCEDA debate. Some students might use NFA-LD as a springboard into NDTCEDA debate, but students who aspire to qualify to the NDT are encouraged to begin in that format as well. Some NDTCEDA debaters will also choose to compete in NFA-LD. Our commitment to NFA-LD is roughly 2 tournaments per semester.

Is there a debate class?

COM 321 is the debate class. It is offered each fall and spring for all students seeking to participate in debate. Students traveling with Missouri State are expected to take this class during their first two semesters of travel, and may choose to take in up to 4 times. After completing it twice, a student is eligible to travel in future semester as well. Students taking COM 321 may choose NDTCEDA, NFA-LD debate, both, or may select a track with high school judging in order to complete the course. Changing one's mind about college debate is not a barrier to a successful experience in COM 321.

How Much Attention Does Each Debater Receive?

With a student to coach ratio of 4 to 1, each debater receives ample attention from the coaching staff. At tournaments, each team is coached before and after every round. Coaches are also available on campus for individual coaching, and happy to host students in their homes as well.

What experience is required to join the team?

None. While most team members have 3-4 years of policy debate experience in high school, we will also train and travel novices. Some Missouri debaters with exclusively LD or Public Forum experience have made the transition to college debate with considerable success.

How Long is the Debate Season?

NDTCEDA debaters are expected to return to campus one week before classes begin in August to prepare for the season. Tournaments begin in mid- September and continue through the National Debate Tournament (NDT), which usually occurs in the first weekend of April. Debaters are encouraged to attend tournaments over the semester break and Spring break, but it is not always required.

NFA-LD debaters may benefit from starting to work when the topic is released on July 1, but could also wait until the first week of classes (and the 1st meeting of COM 321). NFA-LD tournaments are offered twice a semester, plus the national tournament (qualification is required) in late April.

How Many Tournaments are there?

There are tournaments nearly every weekend from September to March (with a gap from mid-November to late December), but not every team attends every tournament. Teams may choose the tournaments that best fit their needs (in consultation with the coaching staff), and are encouraged to attend between 5 and 7 tournaments a semester. Missouri State debaters usually attend a mixture of national and regional tournaments. For a list of tournaments Missouri State students are preparing for this travel season, can look at the Travel Opportunities page. You can also browse the debate results website to see entries & results for basically all college policy tournaments.

NFA-LD is limited to 2 tournaments a semester, at present.

I've heard high school debate is different from high school, and I'm a bit concerned. How is it different?

There are several differences, and high school debate itself is different based upon which tournaments you attend, your coach's philosophy, and your geographic location. Among the differences: the judges are extensively trained flow judges, the tournaments are all overnight (we cover expenses), the debaters are quite committed, the coaches become very familiar with the topic, and the tournaments are longer (typically 3 days with 7-8 prelims). We recommend that you contact us to discuss the possibilities; you can learn a lot from an email exchange or a phone call.

Debaters who competed in front of lay judges will find NFA-LD much closer to their high school experience than NDTCEDA. Here are a few recent video samples: NDT, NDT, NDT-JV, NDT-JV, NFA-LD, NFA-LD.

How do I know if college policy debate is a good choice for me?

Given the time involved, college debate is a more specialized activity than high school debate. Those who do well are not always the debaters with the most wins in high school, or the ones most inclined toward "progressive" debate, but often those who enjoy researching, reading, and thinking about a wide range of arguments. Most college debate judges have a minimalist attitude toward regulating content, so you'll be exposed to a wide range of policy, critical, and performative arguments. Your coaches and other debaters will help you navigate the waters. Contact us - we'll talk to you about what you enjoy about debate and try to help you make a good decision.

How Much Research Will I Need to Do?

Each debater usually takes between 1 and 3 assignments a week depending upon the argument's urgency, past research on the argument, and other things occurring in the debater's life that week. Each assignment should be well researched on both sides of the issue, including cites obtained from other squads, and ready for distribution by late Thursday evening. More then one debater is usually assigned to each assignment so that newer students may work with older students on the proper method to complete assignments. Missouri State tries to have one assignment that a debater keeps all year as an area of expertise such as Politics or Inflation and rotates the other assignments.

NFA-LD students will have occasional research assignment related to COM 321, and will be expected to put in additional time in starting two weeks before attending a tournament.

How Much Access Will I Have to Research Facilities?

Missouri State debaters are fortunate to have spacious research facilities available to them on campus. The debate offices have numerous computers that are all hooked up to the school's LAN and provide access to Lexis/Nexis and the Internet. The squad room work area is also equipped with a wireless router so that students with their own laptops may access the internet as well. The Missouri State library has extensive collections of both books and periodicals, and the library staff is happy to inter- library loan any materials that are not available on campus. It is usually not necessary to travel to other libraries, however, debaters sometimes research at UMKC and KU's law libraries as well as Missouri State's Meyer Library.

How Much Will it Cost to be on the Team?

Missouri State debate is fortunate to be funded by the University. Students do not have to pay for any debate expenses. There are also numerous scholarship opportunities available for students to help in funding their college careers (see scholarships page).

How Close are the Members of the Team?

The Missouri State debate team is a close knit group that spends time together both inside and outside the debate arena. The team consists of 16-30 students, so everyone is able to get to know one another well. There are many activities that students participate in with other members of the team including intramural sports, ice cream socials, card games, concerts and parties.

How are partner pairings determined?

The coaching staff makes final decisions about partner pairings, after extensive consultation with debaters. We consider a wide range of variables, including experience, commitment, talent, speaker position preferences, argument preferences, and the "global effect" on the rest of the team. Although proven pairings from the past season sometimes stay intact, we generally pair debaters after the workweek.

What Classes Should I Take?

There is no specific major that is required for members of the team, although many of our students major in Communication or Political Science (including International Relations). Students are encouraged to take classes that interest them. However, since the team usually leaves for tournaments on Friday morning and returns on Monday evening, students are STRONGLY encouraged to try and schedule as many of their classes as possible on Tuesdays & Thursdays. There is also a debate class (COM 321) which provides academic credit for the academic work involved in everyday debating. This 3 hour course can be repeated to 12 total hours of credit, and is required traveling debaters (unless they already have 6 hours of credit from COM 321).

Current MSU Students

Why should I join the Holt V. Spicer Debate Forum?

The Spicer Forum is one of the more impressive programs on the MSU campus. We are as old as the University itself, and three campus buildings (Craig, Ellis, and Strong) are related to former coaches & debaters. We regularly compete against top ranked schools such as Harvard, Northwestern, Emory, Cornell, and Dartmouth - and we do so well. We've qualified for the national tournament in most years, and have reached the final four in 1973 and 2008. There is literally no other program on campus with a comparable national record.

Even if top tier success isn't your primary goal, you will learn a LOT. Debate is a transformational activity because of how it teaches students to think, listen, and research. You will become more conversant on public affairs questions - not just the actual debate topic, but also any number of things with a tangential relationship to the topic. Many former debaters say that their experience in college debate - even if just for a semester or two - was one of the most important things they did in their college years. Why not look into whether it could be the same for you?

If you do either of our debate formats (NDT and NFA-LD), you will get a lot more speaking opportunities than nearly any student at MSU. Even if you don't decide to attend tournaments, you can work with our many programs - including our MSU Talks! public affairs program, our Middle School Debate program, our high school invitational tournament, or the MSHSAA State Championship tournament. Each of our service activities is a fun way to complete service hours if required for your scholarship or your campus organization!

But I don't have any debate experience!

We will teach you! All debaters enroll in COM 321 for their first two semesters of competition. Any MSU student can enroll, and you don't actually have to compete at tournaments to earn an "A" in the class - you can also judge at tournaments on or near campus. In April 2016, we qualified 16 debaters to NFA-LD Nationals. Two of those debaters had NO debate experience in high school.

What format should I choose - NDT or NFA-LD?

It depends on your experience. If you didn't debate in high school at all, or your primary experience was PF or L/D, you should consider starting in NFA-LD. This is a policy debate format with evidence and a year-long topic, but it has a low entry barrier and is a great place to learn. NDT can be daunting for students without high school experience in CX Policy Debate (or even with it), but you are welcome to try it when you start (or down the road).

How time consuming is this?

NDT debate is very time consuming - many of our most dedicated debaters approach it the way they might approach a full time job. However, there is a novice division in NDT for those with (nearly) no high school experience, and it is far less time demanding.

Similarly, the workload to do NFA-LD isn't really more than any 300-level class, and COM 321 also provides you 300-level credit. If you are a COM major or minor, it will certainly help you complete your degree.

I've heard there may be scholarships - are those limited to incoming freshmen?

Although most of our scholarships are awarded to incoming recruits, we always hold back a couple of NFA-LD scholarships (worth $1000 in spring) for current MSU students or walk-ons who attend tournaments and apply themselves. All scholarships are competitive, but you have a decent chance of earning one if you try.

Also, some of our service programs have scholarship support for people with major roles (such as MSU Talks). Reach out to us for more information.