The 2018 Lafayette Debates U.S. National Championship 

Over four hundred U.S. college students participated in the 2017-2018  Lafayette Debates which featured a series of five competitions: The University of Rhode Island (February 17-18), the U.S. Universities Debate Eastern Championships (February 24-25), the Claremont Colleges (March 3), the U.S. Universities Debate Western Championships at Pacific Lutheran University (March 23-24) and the 2018 Lafayette Debates U.S. National Championship (April 7th-8th).

U.S. National Champions

University of Miami

General Lafayette Debates Champions

United States Naval Academy


Ecole de Guerre


Sous les paves la plage

Topic Statement

In May 1968, protesting French students refused orders to disperse, ripped up cobblestones to hurl at police, and discovered underneath the cobblestones a thin layer of sand. The moment spawned the famous French protest slogan “Sous les paves la plage” (“under the paving stones, the beach”) and sparked massive general strikes and demonstrations widely regarded to have been the closest a Western democracy has ever come to political revolution.

Organized on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1968 French Revolt & General Strike and using the student protests of May 1968 as a case study, the 2018 Lafayette Debates challenge debaters to scrutinize the ethical questions raised by destructive, violent civil disobedience. Affirmative teams are asked to defend the slogan, “sous les paves, la plage” by arguing that the protesting French students of May 10-11, 1968, were justified in defending their assembly by tearing up and hurling cobblestones at police. Negative teams are asked to rebut this proposition.

To assist teams in their preparations a statement of facts contextualizing the May 1968 protests will be provided to debaters before the tournament. The topic touches on a robust body of literature relating to, among other things, civil disobedience, just war theory, and social protest. Students are encouraged to conduct additional, independent research beyond the statement of facts.    

Timeline of the Protests

1967 Students at the Nanterre campus of the University of Paris protest prohibitions on dormitory visits aimed at preventing male and female students from sleeping together. (Nanterre had been built in the early 1960s as an extension of the Sorbonne, a college of the University of Paris in the heart of Paris’s Latin Quarter.)

January – March 1968 Protests escalate in intensity and scope.

Early May 1968  Nanterre dean shuts down campus.

May 3 1968  Students move their protest to the Sorbonne in Paris's Latin Quarter.

May 3 1968 Rector of the Sorbonne requests police clear the university’s courtyard of ~300 protesting students.  Violence erupts. Students are arrested en masse.

May 4-9 1968 Student leaders organize a march and rally demanding the reopening of the Sorbonne, the release of the arrested students, and an end to a police presence in the Latin Quarter the students claim to be intimidating and oppressive. Sporadic violence and protests continue. 

May 10-11 1968 - The Night of the Barricades - Nearly 40,000 students show up on March 10th for the march and rally.  Police block the march and order the students to disperse. Students refuse and begin prying up cobblestones to use as weapons and erecting barricades for protection.

May 11 1968 ~2:00 am   The order is given to clear the streets. Police advance on protesters.  Violence erupts and continues until dawn. Nearly 500 students are arrested. Hundreds are hospitalized including more than 250 police officers. Major property damage to the Latin Quarter.

Participating Universities

American University

Bard College

Belmont Abbey College

Brandeis University

City University of New York

Claremont McKenna College

College of William and Mary

Cornell University

Duke University

Duquesne University

Ecole de Guerre

France Convergence Team

George Washington University

Georgia State University

Harvey Mudd College

Hobart and William Smith College

Kansas State University

King's College

Lake Forest University

Liberty University

Loyola Marymount University

Middle Tennessee State University

Middlebury University

Morehouse College

Patrick Henry College

Pitzer Colleges

Pomona College

Scrips College

St. John's University

Tufts University

United States Military Academy

United States Naval Academy

University of Georgia

University of Mary Washington

University of Miami

University of Michigan

University of Mississippi

University of Notre Dame

University of Oregon

University of Pittsburgh

University of Rhode Island

University of Rochester

University of Southern California

University of Vermont

University of Virginia

Vassar College

Virginia Commonwealth University