How We Debate

Are you interested in attending a Joint Senate meeting, but are intimidated by our parliamentary style? No worries! Guests are welcome to speak in all debates, and this page is here to help guide you through the process!

Debate programs are selected through a committee structure under executive guidance of the critic. Typical debate topics include foreign policy, national concerns, philosophical questions, and the occasional lighthearted topic, such as “Resolved: The national bird should be the middle finger.”

Each night, after initial announcements, the Societies take a preliminary straw-poll vote on the resolution in question, in which all those present are welcome to participate. Afterwards, the debate begins with a presentation of the resolution by the Critic, followed by an hour of debate that alternates between affirmative and negative speakers.

Slated Speaking: The Societies select four senators as slated speakers in advance to prepare speeches on the week’s program. These speakers frame the topic and set the overall tone for the rest of the debate. Only senators can be slated speakers, which are delegated between primary and secondary speakers for the affirmative and negation. Primary speakers are allotted 7 minutes for speaking and 2 minutes for queries from the floor, while secondary speakers are given 5 minutes for speaking and 2 minutes for queries.

Floor Speaking: After the slated speakers finish, the program will move into speeches from the floor. At this point in the debate, anyone present is welcome to speak in the debate. The Joint Senate President will call for affirmative or negative speakers, and those who wish to speak will raise their hands. The President will select the next speaker with no particular discretion from those whose hands are raised. It is not expected that those speaking from the floor have a prepared speech, but floor speakers are more than welcome to prepare in advance if they so wish.  Speakers from the floor are allotted at most 3 minutes for speaking without time for queries. Speakers may yield the floor at any time if they finish their points before their allotted time has passed.

At the end of the night’s debate, two counts of opinion are taken — one straw poll, where all people in the chamber may voice their opinion, and one official, wherein only active senators may vote. The final vote determines the societies’ official stance.