Tournament Information and Rules


The 2019 Lafayette Debates will be held on April 19th, and 20th at the George Washington University, and Embassy of France to the United States in Washington D.C.

Fees for the 2019 Lafayette Debates Championships are $60/person and include for everyone breakfast on Saturday morning and the Saturday evening reception at La Maison Francais, as well as lunch on Saturday at the Embassy for the teams and coaches advancing to elimination rounds. Please contact us to request a full or partial waiver if fees are an economic hardship for your program and/or debaters. 

On Friday the 19th, check-in is at 4:00 PM, judge orientation at 5:00 PM, round one at 5:30 PM, and round two at 7:00 PM, all at George Washington University.

On Saturday the 20th, check-in is at 8:00 AM, round three at 8:30 AM, and round four, at 10:30 AM, all of which will be at George Washington University. Quarterfinals are at 1:00 PM, semifinals at 3:00 PM, and finals at 5:30 PM, with the awards ceremony and reception immediately following at 7:00 PM, all of which will be at the Maison Francaise at the French Embassy to the United States in Washington D.C.

All participants are asked to attend the final round and awards ceremony on Saturday. This is important to our host and students must attend to be eligible for the study tour. Please note that you must have a government issued ID to enter the French Embassy. 

Friday dress is business casual. Saturday dress is business formal.


The 2019 Lafayette debates consists of four preliminary rounds to take place Friday evening, and Saturday morning, and quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds to take place Saturday afternoon and evening.

Each round will last about an hour and will involve two competing teams of two debaters each. Debaters in preliminary rounds will be responsible for keeping their own time, and attending to the order of their speeches. In out-rounds each round will have a time-keeper.

Speech times are as follows:

1st Affirmative Speaker:  6 minutes

Cross examination by 2nd Negative Speaker:  4 minutes

1st Negative Speaker: 6 minutes

Cross examination by 1st Affirmative Speaker:  4 minutes

2nd Affirmative Speaker:  6 minutes

Cross examination by 1st Negative Speaker:  4 minutes

2nd Negative Speaker: 6 minutes

Cross examination by 2nd Affirmative speaker:  4 minutes

Preparation time: 2 minutes

Affirmative Rebuttal: 6 minutes

Preparation time: 2 minutes

Negative Rebuttal: 6 minutes


Cross examination is an essential element of the debate format for the 2019 Lafayette Debates US National Championship. It is also an element that requires debaters to cooperate in good faith with their opponents to some extent, which may be a complicated proposition in a competitive debate.

Cross examination can be an invaluable tool for moving debates “forward” by establishing undisputed facts, clarifying areas of agreement, isolating areas of dispute, and allowing rigorous examination of opposing arguments. Cross examinations may be far less productive, however, if debaters waste cross examination time so as to avoid having their arguments clarified and scrutinized by answering questions that haven’t been asked, filibustering, and otherwise failing to directly and succinctly answer questions to the extent possible. In such cases, debates may even become hostile as cross examiners may be forced to talk over their opponent to prevent their opponent from dominating the cross examination period.

For these reasons, when determining the winning team and assigning speaker points judges will favor debaters who respond to questions directly and succinctly to the extent possible and disfavor debaters who consistently fail to do so. “To the extent possible” is an essential qualifier to this requirement. Debaters should be allowed reasonable time to answer “open” questions or any other questions that cannot be answered in succinct fashion.

Cross examination for the 2019 Lafayette debates is closed, meaning that only the team member who is assigned to be asking or answering questions during a particular time slot may do so.

Rebuttal Speeches

The round will conclude with two six minute speeches. (There are no cross examinations after these last two speeches.) During these last two speeches debaters are encouraged to explain to judges why the primary arguments they have presented in their earlier speeches are collectively more persuasive than those of their opponents as regards the core question raised by the topic.

Debaters should not present new primary arguments for or against the topic in either of the last two speeches, although they may respond to arguments presented by their opponents.

During preliminary rounds each team member must give two of the rebuttals along with their opening speech.

Responsible Advocacy

Students should be responsible advocates. This includes confirming the “facts” they intend to present and correctly framing and introducing any evidence on which they are relying. Teams and debaters that present false statements of facts and/or misframe evidence should be marked down substantially and this may be a reason to vote against a team in an otherwise close debate. There is a difference between a debater misstating a point and a debater advancing a fact supporting their argument that is demonstrably false or citing evidence in a highly misleading manner. Students found to be consistently misrepresenting facts, or presenting false statements may forfeit their ability to receive the study tour.

Civic Debate Background and Judging Information

Civic debate is not a particular debate format but rather a collection of best practices identified by the National Civic Debate Conference for civic debate events. For the Lafayette Debates the relevant civic debate best practices include:

  • Beginning with a “call” from an external partner (i.e., a call originating outside of the various debate circuits) to engage a particular topic area
  • Organizing a cross-disciplinary topic committee tasked with generating a topic with input from debate professionals.
  • Organizing civic panels for at least some portion of elimination rounds so that the most successful debaters have an opportunity to orally publish their arguments to judges drawn from outside the active debate communities.
  • Asking “debate professionals” judging prelims to judge rounds in a manner that prepares debaters to excel before the civic panels.
  • Circulating a Judge Handbook (which will be provided to the civic panels/judges) to the debate coaches attending the tournament for feedback and revision.
  • Organizing events in a manner that maximizes opportunities to promote debate and debate programs outside of the various debate communities while minimizing impositions on students in terms of missed classes, etc.

For this competition, our partner is the Embassy of France to the United States and our topic focuses on Democratic Peace Theory

The civic panels (or “civic assemblies”) organized for quarterfinals and beyond on Sunday will include historians, philosophers, sociologists, social justice activists, experts on European affairs, and communications professionals (diplomats) drawn from outside of the various debate circuits.

The Saturday judging pool will include a mix of former winners and civic judges, but we will also rely heavily on attending debate coaches / professionals; i.e., you. No one should have to judge more than two rounds and if you let us know your preferences we will organize the schedule to suit your needs as possible (e.g., “I’d really like to judge any rounds in the morning so I have the afternoon off.”)

As a judge on Saturday your primary responsibility is preparing debaters to excel before the civic panels on Sunday should they advance to quarterfinals. This includes judging rounds in a manner that reflects the guidance to be provided to the civic panels in the Judge Handbook, as well as assisting debaters in shedding circuit debate practices unlikely to be effective before non-circuit audiences.

The format for the Lafayette Debates has been developed over the last six years with significant input from judges drawn from outside of the community. This format is outlined below.

As with all civic debate events the Lafayette Debates is conceptualized as a cooperative academic community with a shared and focused educational mission. Please help us make the event a success.

If you would like to use this event to promote your program, we are happy to help out, for example, by assisting you in securing letters of commendation from the Embassy to your administrators, organizing debates on your campus that will be covered by the Embassy social media, etc.