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Debate in the Community

The Union is not just an academic center for competitive speech and debate. It also serves as a catalyst for constructive public dialogue outside the walls of the university. In this spirit, WPDU members convene public debates and pursue outreach projects designed to engage traditionally underserved students. 

Public Debate

The Union frequently convenes public debates on salient and pressing topics facing local, regional and national communities. These debates typically feature a mix of student and expert advocates, audience participation periods, and formats tailored specifically for each debate. Recent topics include best practices for expanding toward trans-inclusive healthcare, approaches to community policing, and the future of Pittsburgh. In 2000, the Cross Examination Debate Association recognized the Union’s public debate efforts with the National Public Debate Award. 

Pitt’s Public Debate Society is a part of the William Pitt Debating Union, continuing Robert Newman's stated goals for debate: "(1) to train students in the techniques of research, analysis, reasoning, evaluation of evidence, case construction, and public address, and (2) to motivate them to inquire into controversial and significant public issues." Students have opportunities to initiate, plan, participate in, and evaluate public debates.  

Debate Outreach

Since 1995, the Union has reached thousands of elementary and secondary school students through its outreach initiatives, including the College in High School Argument program and the Middle School Public Debate Program. 


For more information, inquiries or suggestions for topics on Public Debate, please contact Dr. Alvin Primack