Kritik Lab

July 7th- August 6th, 2024

The University of Michigan Kritik lab teaches students to analyze, understand, and deploy arguments from a diverse and challenging array of scholarly subject areas. Students are exposed to challenging, thought-provoking literature, given in-depth lectures on core precepts of critical debate and innovations in critical arguments, offered hundreds of one-on-one opportunities to engage instructors, and assigned dozens of practice rounds and other exercises to translate their new knowledge into practice.

The Kritik Lab is only offered in-person in 2024. Fees for the 2024 Kritik Lab are $5,450 and a $65 application fee. Applications are due by June 1st.

2023 Kritik Lab Instructors:

Marquis Bell-Ard

Marquis Bell-Ard is a Doctoral Student in African American Studies at Northwestern University. He is a former debater for the University of West Georgia and the University of Oklahoma. During his debate career, Marquis earned multiple first-round at-large bids and top 10 speaker awards at the National Debate Tournament. Marquis was also named the top speaker at the CEDA National Championship in 2015. Marquis has coached University of California Berkeley, Georgetown University and the University of Michigan – culminating in numerous Copeland rankings and twice having coached the Top Speaker of the National Debate Tournament. Marquis has also created symposiums at universities across the country centered on debate and black studies with leading academics from Frank Wilderson, Anna Agathangelou, Marquis Bey and many others.

Joshua Harrington

Joshua Harrington is a graduating senior and honors student at the University of Michigan. He is also an assistant debate coach at Niles North High School. Josh was the runner-up at the 2022 Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship and reached the elimination rounds at the 2022 National Debate Tournament. This season, he’s reached the elimination rounds at college debate tournaments such as Northwestern University, the University of Kentucky, Gonzaga University, and Wake Forest University. This will be Joshua’s second year working in the Kritik Lab. He also worked at the 2022 Michigan National Debate Institute.

Devane Murphy

Devane Murphy is the Associate Director of Debate at The University of Kentucky. He coached the 2021 and 2022 National Debate Tournament Champions from Dartmouth College. During his debate career, Devane earned multiple first round at-large bids and top speaker awards, including the Ross K. Smith top speaker award at the 2017 National Debate Tournament. In 2017, he and his partner were the second team in American Collegiate Debate history to win both the National Debate Tournament (NDT) and the Cross Examination Debate Association National Championship (CEDA) in the same season while debating at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey.

Dr. Sydney Pasquinelli

Dr. Sydney Pasquinelli is the Director of Debate at Wayne State University and the Director of the Detroit Urban Debate League. She has also been a Policy and LD Coach for Edgemont High School since 2015. Sydney has also coached policy debate for: Groves High School, Wake Forest University, University of Pittsburgh, Oklahoma University, and Stanford University. She has helped coach several teams into elimination rounds at the TOC, CEDA, and the NDT.

What former students say about the University of Michigan Kritik Lab:

“Attending the K Lab at UMich over the 2022 summer has been one of the most intense debate experiences I’ve ever had, while also being some of the best ones. My time at camp forced me to constantly engage in debate, whether it be in lab, talking to people in my dorm, or even getting food, I was always surrounded by debate no matter where I was. This brought me to be a better debater than I could have imagined. Working with the lab leaders such as Q or Josh brought new perspectives and knowledge that I would have never experienced if it weren’t for this camp. Creating, discussing, and debating critiques for a month allowed for the greatest intellectual prosperity any student could hope for. I strongly recommend the UMich Debate Camp, especially the K Lab, to any aspiring debaters who want to reach the next level in their debate career.”

Anirv Ayyala, James Logan High School (CA), 10/18/22
“The seven weeks that I spent at the UM debate camp this past summer were the most rewarding experience of my debate career. The combination of incredibly knowledgeable lab leaders who consistently made themselves available to me (even despite the online nature of the camp), and my labmates who were genuinely interested in growing together was invaluable. It created a supportive environment where I wasn’t afraid to ask a question or be wrong. I would recommend the seven week program to any debater looking to develop their skill at the game while also making friendships with talented debaters from all over the country. The preparation I received in the form of lectures, drills and practice debates left me feeling confident and prepared for the challenges the new season would bring.”
Sheima Ben-Abdallah, Leon M. Goldstein High School (NY), 10/14/2021

“As a senior in my final season of high school debate, I can confidently say to any debater looking to apply that there is no lab like the Kritik lab. Attending both the online and in-person programs, I learned that the staff at the K lab are some of the best at what they do. Regardless of if you’re a one trick or completely new to critical argumentation; you will leave camp with a deeper understanding of kritiks and how to deploy them strategically. The students at the K lab are also deeply invested in one another’s success, and this community of bright young scholars remains with you long after you leave the camp. In short, there is no better way to prepare for the upcoming season than with the resources provided to you at the Michigan Kritik Lab.”

Sheima Ben-Abdallah, Leon M. Goldstein High School (NY), 10/17/22

“The UMich K Lab enabled me to progress my debate career in a way I wouldn’t have been able to without my time at Michigan. The lab leaders were knowledgeable, passionate, and funny, and each one specialized in teaching arguments I was genuinely interested in learning about. I gained an in-depth understanding of critical theory through reading primary sources and engaging in group lectures and discussions about material that paid huge dividends in my ability to plan, write, and execute my own arguments during the season.”

Rema Bhat, Ronald Reagan High School (TX), 2020 Tournament of Champions Qualifier, 12/31/2019

“The Kritik Lab was one of the most educational, entertaining, and enjoyable experiences of my life. It taught me how to research and execute original arguments in a manner that is both novel and strategic and shaped my understanding of the content and value of debate arguments. Even online, I was able to form personal connections with many of the best debate minds in the country, and form lasting friendships. The lab leaders all made an effort to get to know me personally and work on my individual growth. The experience left me with memories, relationships, and skills that will last a lifetime.”

Eugene Bressler, Calvert Hall College High School (MD), 2021 Tournament of Champions Qualifier, 11/25/2020
“This past year at the University of Michigan K Lab was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Not only was I able to receive daily lectures on critical argumentation, but I was also able to gain exposure to a variety of literature bases and work with some of the smartest minds in debate on a daily basis. What is especially unique about the K lab was the diversity of expertise in the lab leaders- no matter what inquiry you had, there was always a lab leader there with a nuanced understanding of the argument. The lab leaders also strived to give us a fun and unique experience and instilled in us the confidence to innovate throughout the season. In addition, the challenging practice debates allow you to debate some of the best competition from around the country. I left this camp a better debater and fully prepared for the season with unique strategies and views on debate that I still employ today.”
Pranay Ippagunta, Northview High School (GA), 2021 Tournament of Champions Qualifier, 11/25/2020

“Attending the Michigan 7 Week Lab for the second year in a row, I can wholeheartedly say that it’s been a transformative experience for my debate career. Michigan’s combination of in-depth camp-wide lectures and argument breakdowns in lab provide necessary topic education and argument development necessary to be successful during the season. The experience of the lab leaders at the Michigan camp is unparalleled, and each and every one only has the goal of helping the students improve, shown by how lectures in lab were based on students’ feedback and there were extensive question and answer sessions. The practice debates at the 7 week lab are also very challenging and fun, pushing me to innovate and revise strategy every time. My time at the Michigan camp have increased my growth as a debater exponentially and I highly recommend it to all debaters.”

Pranay Ippagunta, Northview High School (GA), 10/18/2021

“Participating in the Kritik Lab over the summer at the University of Michigan was a one of a kind experience. Working with some of the great minds in the debate community as well as receiving daily lectures that expanded my knowledge in critical literature was only the start — I was able to not only improve my knowledge in how critical arguments interact with traditional arguments in contest round competition, but I was able to formulate my own arguments, affirmative cases, negative strategies, and more. This lab gave me the ability to truly take my debate talents to the next level.”

Ryan James, McDonogh School (MD), Winner and Second Speaker at the 2017 Tournament of Champions, 11/30/2016

“The UMich K Lab was both my first time doing kritik-centered research and attending a camp in real life. After taking part in the lab, I can attest that it was a transformative experience. Nowhere else did I feel as surrounded by people who think in similar terms about arguments which helped lift the massive burden that was COVID burnout. From lab leaders who would help us out past hours to lab-bonding activities, I never felt isolated, which was originally a huge worry for me. Everyone from both my lab and others were some of the nicest, most collaborative and helpful people I’ve ever met, and it cultivated a lot of my friendships this year. The program’s dedication to lectures and practice debates allowed me to consistently improve both my argumentation and speaking ability. I would absolutely recommend the K Lab, if not the Michigan camp in its entirety for any debater looking to not only significantly improve in their debating, but finding a community within the activity.”

Eshkar Kaidar-Heafetz, Chattahoochee High School (GA), 10/18/22

“I’m so grateful to have been part of the K Lab during the summer before my senior year and cannot recommend it enough. The lab leaders were incredibly supportive and engaging, and the debaters I learned from and with were inspiringly talented and creative. I think what made the Michigan K Lab truly unique, though, was its heavy emphasis on deep engagement with the literature and critical understandings of various arguments–both of which not only set me up for success in debate, but also piqued my interest in social theory and led to many of my intellectual explorations beyond debate. Throughout the summer, we were challenged to think critically about debate as a communicative activity and make decisions about the ways we want to engage it and the values we want to espouse within it, which was an extremely valuable practice that helped organize a lot of the arguments we learned about into a broader perspectival framework. All in all, it was a certainly rewarding experience, both competitively and personally.”

Cayla Lee, Interlake High School (WA) and Harvard University, 1/8/2020

“Going to the UMich K Lab was an incredible and fun learning experience where the lab leaders really cared about improving my argumentation. It provided the perfect balance between intense research sessions and fun social activities that made the experience enjoyable. The K-Lab focus on lectures covering different literature bases and practice debates against other labs were instrumental for preparing me for the upcoming season. The best part of the K-Lab was learning from other debaters and making new friends across camp that made the entire summer worth it!”

Shaunak Lokre, Barstow School (MO), 2019 Tournament of Champions Qualifier, 12/31/2019

“The Michigan Kritik Lab was undoubtedly the camp experience that propelled my career the furthest, putting me in contact with some of the sharpest debate minds. What I found most helpful was the diverse intellectual backgrounds of the lab leaders – I could inquire about pretty much any angle of kritikal argumentation and there was someone incredibly knowledgeable there to answer questions. Even just surrounding myself with incredibly driven kritikal debaters from all around the country helped me get a great feel for all the different styles and techniques utilized in K debate. I would definitely recommend the Michigan Kritik Lab to anyone who wants to expand their arsenal to include diverse argumentation from a variety of intellectual canons. What I gained most from my experience in the lab was literacy in many different schools of thought, and I believe that to be a unique result of the staff who run the lab. Still to this day I go for arguments and strategies I first encountered in my summer at Michigan.”

Nishad Neelakandan, McDonogh School (MD), Winner of the 2017 Tournament of Champions and University of California and Berkeley Debater, 1/2/2020

“The Seven Week UM debate camp was among the most challenging, yet transformative experiences I have had in debate. I will always be incredibly grateful to my lab leaders for their constant willingness to listen to one more redo or judge one more practice debate — to help me strengthen my technical skills and argumentative style in order for me to achieve my highest aspirations. The deep and varied knowledge of my lab leaders was instrumental in expanding the scope of my proficiency and exposing me to a multitude of perspectives on debate as an activity, and their commitment to providing excellent instruction and aiding the personal growth of each and every debater was unparalleled. The content we received, in the form of daily lectures from lab leaders and academic scholars, the scholarly resources available to us, as well as the amount of intense practice and qualified feedback were all monumental to my development as a debater — I entered my season feeling well prepared by the quality of education I received this summer. As such I would highly recommend attending UM debate camp to any debater looking to spend seven weeks of their summer in rigorous and rewarding preparation for a successful career.”

Nikita Raman, Presentation High School (CA), 11/4/2021

“The UMich K Lab is a phenomenal experience for anyone interested in learning and debating the K. The structure allows you to gain robust knowledge of critical theory in many fields while maintaining a high technical proficiency that can be utilized to win debates. My love for the K Lab stems from this balance because it allows me to engage the theory I love while learning to win the debates I love to be in. For those students with goals to go above and beyond, the K Lab will reward and enable your hard work so that only the sky is the limit. Each lab leader wants the best out of each student and is willing to push you to any goal you set. The lab leaders are all great teachers, fantastically smart, and will make sure they can help you work through the toughest articles, ideas, and debates. The atmosphere is unmatched. The fellow attendees are some of the hardest-working, smartest and nicest people I’ve ever met. Each person always seemed ready to work and ready to cooperate to help the lab move forward. Even when being online can make it hard to interact with other people, I had one of the most fun experiences of my life. I would whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone considering attending.”

Townes Schultz, Westside High School (TX), 2021 Tournament of Champions Qualifier, 12/28/2020

“The UMICH Kritik Lab was exceptionally helpful for me- I was able to work with undoubtedly some of the brightest minds in debate. The diverse perspectives and experiences of the Kritik Lab leaders provided a priceless experience that shaped my success as not just a debater, but an ethical person. From the loving encouragement I got from Quaram Robinson and our practice debate together where I got to be her 1N, to spending time with fun lab leader in Giorgio Rabbini. I also found Marquis Ard’s lectures to be extremely insightful and full of encouragement, as well as Brian Rubaie’s kindness and expertise to reflect his intelligence and ability to help me learn. Practice debates, research labs, K Lab community and friendship, and shared thoughts all helped me learn to collaborate and extended far beyond what I previously thought myself capable of. I can honestly say that this past camp experience was priceless, and I’ll remember the times I spent last summer for many years to come.”

Antonio Souchet, Berkeley Prep School (FL), 11/23/2021
“I had always felt like an outsider in the debate community. I didn’t always know the names people would constantly repeat to me, I didn’t know the absolute peak of high school debaters, and I barely even knew what bid tournaments were. But my time at Michigan has changed that, I went from someone who had relatively little exposure to high-level debating to someone who could place very well at a bid tournament despite my lack of resources. More importantly, I managed to make so many connections with those from different backgrounds. Debate is very stressful and whenever I feel the weight of the activity on me, I can always lean back on the strong community and the friends I made at the Kritik Lab. Not only had I made friends with my peers, but I also made strong connections with my lab leaders and other coaches all around the nation. I give my strongest recommendations to Michigan for those who feel like they might have hit their ceiling in debate or want a rigorous and entertaining camp experience.” “My experience with the Kritik Lab was unforgettable and absolutely enlightening. The instructors, who were by all means phenomenal, not only taught us the gist of numerous philosophies, they also made sure that we could communicate those complex concepts in simple, concrete forms (i.e. examples and performances) that judges can digest, weigh, and understand. Through this emphasis on communication as such, it was unveiled to me that knowing things is good, but sharing and transmitting that knowledge to someone else effectively is the mark of excellence. I came away not only with new knowledge about Baudrillard, Bataille, Deleuze, and Race Theory, but additionally, with a comprehensive understanding of how meta-level arguments truly operate in relation to debate as an activity, which has enhanced the specificity, detail, and magnitude of the arguments I now choose to read.”

Amanti Washington, Kenwood Academy (IL), 10/3/2023

Elan Wilson, Hendrickson High School and Baylor University (TX), 11/29/2016

“My time at the 7 week Michigan debate camp created the backbone for how I have debated throughout my debate career. My time at the Michigan Debate Camp was filled with positive experiences; weather it was one-on-one time with lab leaders, camp wide lectures, or the early reading sessions, Michigan provided education on every one of my interests. Although there are many questions surrounding the new online debate camp experience, I can attest to the efficacy of the program to provide a well-structured and hyper-informative environment for all levels of debaters. Overall, Michigan undoubtedly provided a learning environment that cultivated my skills as a debater weather it was through re-dos from practice debates, pre-dos in front of your lab leader, or content questions about critical theory, the 7-week camp provided a friendly and educational atmosphere for any debater looking to improve their skills.”

Peter Zinober, Berkeley Prep School (FL), 11/29/2021

What We Do at the University of Michigan K Lab

When the “K Lab” was founded in the summer of 2016, it was the first lab of its kind: an entire class, housed at the nation’s most prestigious debate camp, dedicated to teaching advanced high school students critical theory and its multifarious applications in debate. In each of the summers since, the K Lab has re-convened in Ann Arbor to continue teaching and training the next generation of critique debaters. 

Over the course of a summer in the K Lab, students can expect to gain familiarity not only with the latest trends in academic scholarship and debate, but also with the foundational texts and theorists that form the scaffolding on which trends grow. In the K Lab, we believe that innovation and experimentation in debate requires an extremely thorough and refined foundational theoretical knowledge base. Given this, at the K Lab we aim to teach in such a way as to produce the most capacious students; debaters leave our lab able to speak comfortably in and around a wide variety of critical genres. 

The K Lab is a demanding but extremely rewarding summer educational experience. The Lab’s past success speaks for itself; however, in addition to this, students who attend the K Lab gain an early aptitude for what it means to succeed in college courses. We teach our lab at a collegiate level, which seems daunting at first, but given the flexibility and time investment of our faculty has, in our experience, resulted in increased student buy-in to the K Lab project and enthusiasm for high level critical inquiry. Furthermore, after the introductory period of the K Lab, students are given an opportunity to work together and shape the K Lab curriculum going forward, expressing interests in emerging or long-standing fields and designing research agendas to explore those with the assistance of our faculty. 

At the K Lab we pride ourselves on doing the most rigorous theoretical work in the country, and we have an exceptionally qualified faculty that facilitates said work. However, the K Lab experience is irreducible to the lectures we give, the files we produce or the debates we have. Upon completion of a summer with us, K Lab students become K Lab Scholars, entitled to special returning student privileges such as leading a research group or giving a lecture. To become a K Lab Scholar is to become part of an elite group of alumni, a network of bright young people stretching all across the upper echelons of high school and college policy debate. 

The K Lab is both a challenge and an opportunity. One of our goals is to meet each student where they are at and to help them get where they want to go. 

We aim to produce students who take joy in learning, take risks in thinking and take pleasure in competing at the highest levels of policy debate. 

“Those who stay will be champions.”

University of Michigan K Lab Curriculum:

Theories

Afropessimism

Black Feminist Scholarship

Cybernetics/New Media Philosophy, including Black Cybernetics

Gender & Women’s Studies

19th and 20th century German Philosophy (Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Adorno, Benjamin, Heidegger)

20th century French Philosophy (Bataille, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Virilio)

20th century Italian Philosophy (Agamben, Berardi, Lazzarato, Negri, Vattimo)

Marxism & Post-Marxism incl. Semiocapitalism

Settler Colonialism

Political Theology/Secularism Studies

Postcolonial Theory

Psychoanalysis

Queerness & Performance Studies

Skills-

Answering Framework

Critical Affirmation & Critical Negation

Critical File Creation and Preparation

Critical Research Skills

Cross Examination Skills

Demo Debates

Film Analysis (of debates and documentaries)

Final Rebuttals a Guide

Intralab and Interlab Debates

Judge Adaptation & Preferences

Performance Strategies

Speech Redo’s and Speaking Drills

Topic Specific Education-

Critical Topic Lecture

Critical Responses to Policy Lectures

Historical Survey Lecture

Topic Examples Lecture

Previous Guest Speakers-

Harney, Stefano

Moten, Fred

Traisnel, Antoine

Weheliye, Alexander

Wilderson, Frank

For Returning K Lab Scholars-

Alumni Demo Debates

Alumni Requested Lectures

Alumni Small Workshops

Research Group Leadership