2021 University of Michigan Debate Camp

June, 2021 Update

As of June, 2021 all overnight in-person activities, events and programs involving minors at the University of Michigan will be conducted virtually/online until further notice. This remains in effect until otherwise directed by the University of Michigan leadership and public health officials.

The camp has run every summer since 1985 and we will of course continue to provide the best opportunities for high school students to learn and debate no matter what the environment.

The camp has a proven track record of success that speaks for itself: 15 of the last 16 winners of  the Tournament of Champions and 14 of the last 16 Top Speakers at the TOC are alums of the Michigan Debate Camp.  In 2020-2021, alums won 40 TOC Bid Tournaments and were Top or 2nd Speaker this year at 41 TOC Bid Tournaments. Alums of the Michigan Debate Camp received 285 bids to the TOC this season to date.

Our 2020 inaugural online debate camp experienced great success- https://news.umich.edu/u-m-summer-debate-camp-transitions-smoothly-to-virtual/

Many of the 2020 debate camp lectures and practice debates can be found here- https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=michigan+debate

 I. Online Technology Platforms, Innovation, and Customer Service

Director of Technology and Live Technical Support

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 receives their University of Michigan ID number, uniqname, and password, which grants Standard Computing Services Access.
  • Zoom Video Web Conferencing – 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 2021 University of Michigan Debate Camp is already set up as a UM online course and accessible to fully enrolled students at https://umich.instructure.com/courses/454448.All fully enrolled students can log in with their UM uniqname and password to view the course. The camp daily schedule that accounts for multiple time zones, evidence “starter pack,” lectures,  and practice demonstration debates can be accessed through this platform.

 II. Technology for Online Debates

The Michigan Debate Team has spent nearly a year 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.

The following are some examples of online debates involving UM debaters and coaches via Zoom. You are free to view the results of these efforts.

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 the spring if they wish to get a head start on topic research and access to the digital collection of assembled electronic books and journals. A virtual library orientation session and tutorial with high school debate topic specific examples and templates will be offered to the students.

 IV. Online Debate Lecture Content

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 experience will be delivering dozens of 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 via our version of “Debate on Demand.” Some examples of previous camp guest expert lecturers are:

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

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

Christopher Fettweis, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University

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

Alex Karakatsanis, Founder & Executive Director of Civil Rights Corps

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

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

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

V. University of Michigan Class of 2026 Online Content

Each year, over 100 high school seniors that previously attended our camp applied to the University of Michigan. The following online presentations are available via Zoom during camp, followed by a live Q&A session:

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

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 Michigan Debate Camp produces tens of thousands of high-quality evidence via Microsoft Word documents. Our faculty distributes assignments, reviews the work of students, provides feedback, and uploads all completed work. These files will be stored and available to fully enrolled students via Canvas.

Every year the camp releases a “starter packet” of evidence to all students that can be used for early practice debates and speeches. The 2021 initial teaser version of this will be available in the spring so interested students can get a jumpstart on the 2021-2022 topic. An outline of the 2020 criminal justice reform starter pack follows.

Affirmatives/Case Negatives:

  • Asian Carp Aff./Neg. (produced by Faculty Member Kurt Fifelski)
  • Dams Aff./Neg. (produced by Faculty Member Jason Peterson)
  • Marine Protected Areas Aff./Neg. (produced by Faculty Member Kevin Hirn)
  • Water Infrastructure Funding Aff./Neg. (produced by Faculty Member Stephen Pipkin)


  • States CP (produced by Faculty Member Alyssa Corrigan)


  • Barges DA (produced by Faculty Member Kurt Fifelski)
  • Infrastructure DA (produced by Faculty Member Brett Bricker)


  • Heidegger Kritik (produced by Faculty Member Dustin Meyers-Levy)
  • Water Colonialism Kritik (produced by Faculty Member Brett Bricker)
  • Capitalism Kritik (produced by Faculty Member Gabe Jankovsky)

As always, we are committed to working together and providing the best structured educational experience for high school debaters each summer.



Aaron Kall

Director of Debate

University of Michigan