Statement on the Inclusion of Women in Debate

Statement by the Women’s Debate Institute Board of Directors

December 18, 2013

Last week the Dartmouth Forensic Union, Dartmouth College’s policy debate organization, announced the seven teams it is inviting to participate in the 2014 Dartmouth Round Robin. The Dartmouth Round Robin has long been seen as one of the college policy debate community’s most prestigious events.

We at the Women’s Debate Institute are saddened to see that the list of 14 competitive participants included no women. Our point is not to blame Dartmouth for its selections. Instead, we wish to call attention to the exclusion of women at this event as an example of the ways in which women continue to be under-represented in debate, particularly at the highest levels of competition.

While we are pleased that members of underrepresented identity groups have been invited to this year’s round robin, we are also confident that our community can do better. Though we are disappointed that women were not invited to participate as competitors, we are cheered to see many teams that are coached by women, including Sherry Hall of Harvard University, Adrienne Brovero of the University of Mary Washington, Kate Ortiz of Rutgers University, and Toya Green and Leah Moczulski of Wake Forest University. There are many ways for women to participate in debate; even as we express concern for the activity’s continued lack of inclusion, we celebrate the accomplishments of these women.

Exclusion from the round robin is a problem. We have learned from research on organizational equality and pay equity that the problem is not just that qualified women are not recognized, but also that women are not given the chance to engage in the activities that make them recognized. Organizational structures tend to reward men for their potential and tend to underestimate women’s actual skill, thus never giving women the perks, such as invitations to participate in prestigious events like this one, that open up opportunities for advancement.

Exclusion from college debate continues to be a problem. The seven colleges and universities invited to Dartmouth this year have student bodies averaging 54 percent female students. Dartmouth’s own student body is half female. The problem is not just representation at a single event, but representation on the whole in college policy debate, which has never, to our knowledge, even begun to approach parity. We continue to call for proportional representation in college debate as well as in individual debate teams.  We strongly urge all invitational debate activities to scrutinize their invitations and consider the advantage of inviting a diverse and successful group of attendees.


The Board of Directors
The Women’s Debate Institute

J. Leah Castella, Esq.
Cat Duffy
Sarah Glaser, Ph.D
Beth Mendenhall
Catherine H. Palczewski, Ph.D.
Aleava Sayre, Esq.
Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre, Ph.D
Kate Shuster, Ph.D
Christi Siver, Ph.D
Carly Watson
Brittany Williams