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Speech & Debate

Apply for the Hayman/Schweibert Debate Scholarship

About The Howling ‘Yotes

Speech and Debate at The College of Idaho has a long history, stretching back at least to 1912, when the First President of the College, Dr. William Boone mentioned debate team victories in his journals. This tradition of excellence continues into the present day, where the College of Idaho regularly finds itself racking up victories and final round appearances. Notably, the team has been ranked in the Top 20 nationally every year since 2013 and took home a 5th place individual finish in 2016.

The Howling ‘Yotes (as the Speech and Debate team is called) is housed in the Department of Theatre and Speech Arts, where competitors have the opportunity to participate in both regional and national debate tournaments, testing their intellectual mettle against the toughest competitors in the United States (and, occasionally, the world).

The Howling ‘Yotes participate in National Parliamentary Debate, International Public Debate, British Parliamentary Debate, and Individual Events in the Northwest Forensics Conference, as well as nationally. We view Speech and Debate as a valuable tool to gain real-world experience in speaking, conflict management, research, and writing skills, as well as cultivating productive group interactions. As a team, we value Community, Diversity, and Professionalism—and work to provide competitors with an opportunity to develop these skills in a collegial environment in locales across the United States.

The Speech and Debate team welcomes students from all majors and minors, as well as those in any year of their College careers. We do offer scholarships for incoming students—based on competitive merit and competitive potential.

What We Do

  • British Parliamentary Debate: Despite the name, there’s nothing especially British about British Parliamentary debate, though its origins can be traced to the British university system. The defining characteristics of the style are as follows: 1/ 15 minutes prior to each round a “motion” is announced. Motions are drawn from a wide range of topic areas, including domestic and foreign policy, philosophy, political theory, and so on. 2/ Four teams compete in each round, two on each side. Each team in the round has a dual burden: to rebut any arguments made by the two teams on the other side of the motion, and to do a better job of defending (or opposing) the motion than the other team on its own side. 3/ Each of the four teams in a BP-style debate round comprises two members, each of whom gives one speech, usually with an upper time limit of seven minutes. 4/ After all eight speakers have made their case, the debaters leave the room, and the judges deliberate until they agree on a ranking of the teams from 1 (best) to 4 (worst). If no agreement can be reached, a majority vote is held after the time allotted for adjudication has elapsed. 5/ Judges (ideally) rely primarily on considerations of persuasiveness in reaching their decision, though style, resolutionality, and a few other factors are also sometimes considered.
  • Civic Debate Formats: Treating debate as an opportunity to participate in democratic dialogue, the Howling ‘Yotes will often participate in other formats of debate, in order to support the community, or to explore specific, interesting questions. Debate with an educational purpose transcends any specific format—which the CofI debate team embraces wholeheartedly. When it comes to which format of debate is “the best,” we will remain thoroughly agnostic.
  • Intra-Campus Debate Tournament: The Howling ‘Yotes Debate team works in conjunction with the Department of Theatre and Communication arts, in order to host two tournaments on campus, for current College of Idaho students. Participation in these tournaments is drawn from students taking our COM-100 course, and the judges primarily consist of students enrolled in COM-250. Members of the Speech and Debate team help administer the tournament, fill in any last-minute gaps that occur, and help provide constructive feedback and commentary to competitors and judges.

Why Join Speech and Debate?

Speech and Debate is a high impact learning opportunity that asks you to hone your rhetorical skills by putting them into practice. With the Howling ‘Yotes, you have the opportunity to put your speaking skills to the test by engaging in praxis, the application of theory to the practical concerns of actually structuring and delivering a speech. Additionally, competition in Speech and Debate offers skills beyond the obvious, including:

  • Communication
    • Practice audience adaptation by applying your knowledge to real-world problems.
    • Develop confidence in your speaking abilities through practice and application.
    • Receive feedback on your speeches from a wide and diverse judging pool.
    • Observe speakers from around the country, as they develop ideas and concepts on their feet.
  • Research & Writing Skills
    • Develop and support sound claims, as they are tested by others, developing your critical reasoning skills.
    • Engage in preparation that allows you to hone your arguments and ideas into a concise form.
    • Practice researching controversies and wicked problems with a focus on making the world a better place.
    • Use research in combination with your general bank of knowledge, as you learn to apply knowledge “on your feet.”
  • Organizational Skills
    • Learn to organize and create large research databases, which will allow you to prepare information and then quickly retrieve it for use.
    • Opportunities to judge at tournaments provide real-world organizational training.
    • Participating in speech and debate provides on the ground application of organizational skills, as you learn to manage your obligations, and make it to a variety of different appointments on time.
  • Conflict Management
    • Learn to how to use conflict over ideas as a spur to improvement, rather than a zero-sum game of winning/losing.
    • Be able to defend and explore your ideas in an adversarial framework—which provides real-world preparation for careers in which your ideas will be tested by those you work with.
  • Productive Group Interactions
    • Develop close advising relationships with coaches and colleagues.
    • Travel and develop relationships with students at other Colleges and Universities around the nation.
    • Fosters a sense of camaraderie among teammates that is rare in many college settings.
    • Engage in peer coaching to learn how to take, and offer constructive criticism.


The College of Idaho offers competitive scholarships to incoming students, based on either previous experience in debate, or potential to excel. The Hayman/Schwiebert Debate scholarship is offered to motivated, self-directed learners who are excited to participate in an educationally supportive community. Award amounts vary depending on the experiences, achievement, and potential of the applicant—but students with all experience levels are encouraged to apply (including those with experiences in events like FFA, FBLA, IB programs, Mock Court, Model UN, and other public speaking or political engagements).

To complete a scholarship application, please visit:

Any additional materials that you would like to submit like letters of recommendation from coaches or camp leaders, can be submitted digitally, directly to Dr. Kyle Cheesewright, Associate Professor of Speech and Debate.