From October 22nd to the 23rd, Boston College and Northeastern University’s student-run competitive debate organizations co-hosted the American Parliamentary Debate Association’s (APDA) “inaugural BIPOC tournament.” The online intercollegiate tournament—which hosted teams from a variety of universities, including the University of Chicago—was only open to those who identified as BIPOC (black, indigenous, or “people of color”), meaning white students were ineligible to compete.
The goal of the tournament was “to promote affinity among non-white APDA debaters and cultivate racial diversity on the league,” according to an email sent to members of the University of Chicago Debate Society. Topics of the debate “relat[ed] to race and social justice.”
While white students were ineligible to compete, they could try to become tournament judges, but event coordinators noted they would be “selected with lower priority.”
Questions arise as to whether The Chicago Debate Society, a Registered Student Organization that receives funding from students’ tuition, is in violation of University policy by participating in and supporting the event. Per the University of Chicago’s Center for Leadership and Involvement, Recognized Student Organizations “may not discriminate against any potential members on the basis of race [or] color.” Additionally, the University of Chicago Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct “prohibits discrimination and discriminatory harassment on the basis of a person’s race,” labeling such activity as “unlawful.”
Founded in 1981, APDA is the oldest intercollegiate parliamentary debating association in America. Universities across the nation frequently host debate tournaments sponsored by APDA, where teams from a variety of universities compete.
This is not the first time that APDA has endorsed a discriminatory tournament. Notably, a 2019 APDA tournament hosted by the George Washington University Parliamentary Debate Society prohibited biological males from competing.
Neither the tournament director nor Northeastern University’s Office for University Equity and Compliance responded to the Chicago Thinker’s request for comment.
Daniel Schmidt is a University of Chicago freshman interested in studying Economics and History. Originally from Tennessee, he hopes to combat the contempt for Middle America that is common at elite universities.