2020 University of Michigan Debate Camp Update

The 2020 University of Michigan Debate Camps will be hosted online this summer because of the coronavirus. At this time, it doesn’t appear that any debate camps will be able to offer in-person instruction on college campuses this summer.

The camp has run every summer since 1985 and we’ve been publicly committed to providing an opportunity for high school students to debate for the last month.

Michigan will continue to provide the same level of excellence and commitment in this new online platform. The camp has a proven track record of success that speaks for itself: 13 of the last 14 winners of  the Tournament of Champions and 12 of the last 14 Top Speakers at the TOC are alums of the Michigan Debate Camp.  In 2019-2020, alums won 43 TOC Bid Tournaments and were Top or 2nd Speaker this year at 44 TOC Bid Tournaments. Alums of the Michigan Debate Camp received 254 bids to the TOC this season.

We’ve been diligently preparing to host the #1 policy debate camp in the country in an online format with a reduced tuition cost and are happy to share these efforts with you.

 I. Online Technology Platforms, Innovation, and Customer Service

Director of Technology and Live Technical Support – Joseph Carver, who currently serves as the Director of Technology at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, Florida. Joe was formerly the Director of Debate at Carrollton and Assistant Director of Debate at Whitman College. He has coached teams into the deep elimination rounds of all major national tournaments including the National Debate Tournament and Tournament of Champions. In a technological capacity, Joe and his team built a virtual PreK-12 virtual school for one of the nation’s premiere independent schools. He is also the technology host of the International Heads Conference for the Network of Sacred Heart Schools, hosting an annual virtual conference with school directors across the world.

Joe has presented at a number of conferences around the country on topics ranging from Professional Development Strategies for IT Employees to Digital Literacy in the 21st Century. He recently presented on Systems Management  at the FETC conference in January as part of the ATLIS consortium. Joe is also a member of the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools Planning Committee, CDWG Advisory Board, the Sacred Heart Network Planning Committee, an alum of the Technology Directors Cohort (ECATD) and a committee member on the OESIS Digital Literacy Pathway project, developing a mastery diploma program for technological expertise. There is simply nobody else in the country with the unique combination of debate and technological backgrounds that could execute a seamless transition to an online platform.

Access to UM Digital Tools:

UM Debate Camp students have unlimited access to digital tools that will help facilitate an effortless transition to an online platform.

  • MCommunity Sponsorship – Every fully enrolled student immediately receives their University of Michigan ID number, uniqname, and password, which grants Standard Computing Services Access.
  • Zoom Video Web Conferencing – Very recently, the UM Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer announced the University officially added Zoom, a feature-rich service that includes options for online meetings, chat rooms, webinars, and mobile collaboration. Zoom will be used for lectures, online practice debates, virtual lab and breakout sessions, research seminars, speeches, rebuttal redos, etc. Zoom will help facilitate a lot of innovation in an online camp setting. This includes: full video recordings of practice debates, virtual elective sessions in breakout rooms with non-primary lab leaders, self-paced and interactive activities, live streaming of demonstration debates, etc.
  • Canvas – The world’s fastest-growing learning management platform, designed to help students access an effective and efficient online experience. The University of Michigan uses this for all of its online learning courses and has received a great reception and feedback to date. The 2020 University of Michigan Debate Camp is already set up as a UM online course and accessible at https://umich.instructure.com/courses/398017. All fully enrolled students can log in with their UM uniqname and password to view the course. The camp eight-hour daily schedule that accounts for multiple time zones, evidence “starter pack,” 2020 lectures,  and practice demonstration debates can be accessed through this platform.

 II. Technology for Online Debates

The Michigan Debate Team has spent the last month testing such technology so you don’t have to. Through a series of practice debates and meetings, we’ve evaluated a variety of different web cameras, headphones, microphones, and internet capabilities. Our most important finding is that a reliable Ethernet connection is essential to get the most out of an online debate experience. While some laptops no longer have Ethernet ports, you can get an inexpensive adapter very easily. Having a hardwired Ethernet connection into your home router is most preferred and this can be aided by an extra long cord. If this isn’t possible, we recommend various Ethernet range extenders or a mesh network.  Most home internet data packages will be sufficient for online debate and several internet providers are lifting data caps during the coronavirus outbreak. Numerous different types of Gamer headsets are ideal for listening and speaking. AirPods and other earbuds that are designed for phone calls are not recommended. If you have to use them, we suggest using the microphone on your laptop. External microphones are not great, as they pick up too much noise around you and requires perfect positioning. Most laptops already have webcams, so it’s not necessary to buy an external version. If you happen to be in the market for one, we suggest these two models.

While debating online, you can use an external computer monitor to have Verbatim, Zoom, Dropbox, and your flows all up simultaneously. Given the major global shift to video conferencing because of the coronavirus, there is a run on these recommended supplies and Amazon has restricted the shipping of non-essential goods for the time being. If you need these items, it would be a good idea to order them well in advance of camp so you can properly test them.

Michigan debaters and coaches have participated in beta-testing for online debates during the last month via Zoom and you are free to view the results of these efforts. Additionally, several Michigan Debate coaches and debaters will be working with high school teams during the upcoming 49th annual Tournament of Champions, which will be taking place online for the first in history of the event.

III. UM Online Library Resources

The University of Michigan Library ranks as the fourth largest research library in the United States. UM Senior Associate Librarian for Student Success and Community Engagement Alexandra Rivera is UM Debate’s liaison for our online effort. Fully enrolled camp students receive remote access to the UM Library by April 21st if they wish to get a head start on criminal justice reform topic research and access to the digital collection of assembled electronic books and journals. Beginning last summer, campers received a virtual library orientation session and tutorial with high school debate topic specific examples and templates. The feedback was very positive and this will be offered by the UM Library again this summer.

 IV. Online Debate Lecture Content

In a digital environment, 24-7 access to important debate content is essential. Our 40-plus debate faculty comprised mostly of high school and college teachers with significant online teaching experience will be delivering 85 lectures related to the high school topic, theory, and best practices. Lectures will be delivered via Zoom with plenty of time for audience questions and interactions. The library of all lectures presented during the camp will be available to all enrolled students anytime through Canvas–our version of “Debate on Demand.” The following is a list of 28 guest lecturers that will be presenting at this summer’s camp:

Anna Agathangelou, Professor in the Department of Politics at York University

Ellis Allen, Investment Associate at Gates Capital Management, Inc. and two-time NDT finalist

Bear Braumoeller, Professor in Department of Political Science at Ohio State University

Jonathan Blanks, Research Associate in the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice

Ed Chung, Vice President for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress

Kyle Deming, Transmission Policy Analyst at National Grid and NDT Octafinalist

Christopher Fettweis, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University

Jacob Goldschlag, University of San Diego School of Law and NDT Semifinalist

Jarius Grove, Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii

Howard Henderson, Founding Director of the Center for Justice Research and professor of justice administration in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs

Michael Horowitz, Professor of political science, Director of Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania, and National Debate Tournament winner

Alex Karakatsanis, Founder & Executive Director of Civil Rights Corps

Dylan Keenan, Data Scientist at Novetta and National Debate Tournament Semifinalist

Joe Krakoff, New York University School of Law and National Debate Tournament Semifinalist

Walter Russell Mead, James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College

John Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago

Jeffrey Morenoff, Professor in the University of Michigan Department of Sociology and Research Professor in the Population Studies Center and Survey Research Center

Alexander Pappas, Georgetown University Law Center and two-time NDT finalist

Eve Primus, Yale Kamisar Collegiate Professor of Law at the University of Michigan

Pierre Schlag, Byron R. White Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School

William Smelko, Of Counsel at Procopio LLP and National Debate Tournament Finalist

Sonja Starr, Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law and Co-director of the Empirical Legal Studies Center at University of Michigan Law School

Corey Stoughton, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice Special Litigation Unit at the Legal Aid Society

Kimberly Thomas, Clinical Professor of Law at the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School

Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard

Alexander Weheliye, Professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University

Frank Wilderson, Professor of Drama, Claire Trevor School of the Arts, and African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine

Edmond Zagorin, Founder at Bid Ops Inc. and National Debate Tournament Semifinalist

V. University of Michigan Class of 2025 Online Content

This year, over 100 high school seniors that previously attended our camp applied to the University of Michigan. We realize summer camp is an integral part of this experience, so the following online presentations are available via Zoom during camp:

Frances Acevedo-Mariani, Recruiting and Outreach Coordinator – Undergraduate Education – Office of the Dean, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Greta Adornetto, Assistant Director of Recruitment Initiatives at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Henry Dyson, Director, Office of National Scholarships/Fellowships and LSA Honors Program

Bryan Enochs, Director of Recruitment and Admissions at University of Michigan College of Engineering

Daniel Santos, Program Coordinator for Strategic Outreach and the UM Office of Undergraduate Admissions

Beth Soboleski, Associate Director of Student and Academic Services at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

VI. Online Debate Evidence and Research

The 2019 Michigan Debate Camp produced a total of 30,000 pages of high-quality evidence via Microsoft Word documents. In a new digital world, our faculty will continue to distribute assignments, review the work of students, provide feedback, and upload all completed work for immediate consumption. These files will be stored and available to fully enrolled students via Canvas anytime.

Every year the camp releases a “starter packet” of evidence to all students that can be used for early practice debates and speeches. The initial teaser version of this was released on March 20th so interested students can get a jumpstart on the 2020-2021 topic. The final version of the “starter packet” will be available on Canvas by May 4th. A preview and outline of this follows.

Affirmatives/Case Negatives:

  • Reform DNA Collection Aff./Neg. (produced by Faculty Member Val McIntosh)
  • Marijuana Decriminalization Aff./Neg. (produced by Faculty Member Kevin Hirn)
  • Policing Reform Aff./Neg. (produced by Faculty Members Alyssa and Abe Corrigan)


  • States CP (produced by Faculty Member Kurt Fifelski)
  • Constitutional Convention CP (produced by Faculty Member Caitlin Walrath)
  • Congress CP (produced by Faculty Member Caitlin Walrath)


  • 2020 Elections DA (produced by Faculty Member Brett Bricker)
  • Court Clog DA (produced by Faculty Member Caitlin Walrath)


  • Foucault Kritik (produced by Faculty Members Alyssa and Abe Corrigan)
  • Abolition Kritik (produced by Faculty Member Dustin Meyers-Levy)

As we navigate these unprecedented challenges before us, we are committed to working together and providing the best structured educational experience for high school debaters this summer.



Aaron Kall

Director of Debate

University of Michigan