Memorandum of Understanding

Memorandum of Understanding between CUSID and APDA

North American University Debate Championships Creation

  1. By agreement between the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate (“CUSID”) and the American Parliamentary Debate Association (“APDA,” collectively, ‘The Organizations’) there is hereby created the North American University Debate Championships (“the Championships”).


  1. The purpose of the Championships shall be to promote and foster debate between North American post-secondary academic institutions.


  1. All members in good standing of CUSID and APDA are eligible to send at least two teams to the Championships. The host of the Championships shall confirm the eligibility of all such teams with the Presidents of CUSID and APDA respectively.
  2. Institutions other than those covered in section 3 are eligible to send two teams to the Championships upon receiving the approval of the Presidents of CUSID and APDA.
  3. The host of the Championships shall have the power to allow institutions covered in sections 3 and 4 to send more than two teams to the Championships, provided the means whereby such additional teams are admitted is approved by the Presidents of CUSID and APDA.


  1. The location of the Championships for any given year shall be established not later than October 31 of the previous year.
  2. In every second year the host shall be as selected by vote of the APDA membership. In every alternate second year the host shall be as selected at the CUSID AGM by a vote of the CUSID general membership. If in any year the Organization responsible for the selection is unable to provide a host, the other Organization shall have the opportunity to do so.


  1. The Championships shall be held between January 1 and March 30 of each year. The precise date shall be established, by agreement of the Presidents of APDA and CUSID, not later than October 31 of the previous year.


  1. The style of debate at the Championships shall be the North American style as outlined in Schedule A of this Memorandum. Further, the systems of pairings and tabulations shall be decided by the host, approved by the Presidents of CUSID and APDA, and distributed at least one month before the Championships begins.
  2. The hosts of the tournament shall select a Chief Adjudicator for the Championships. The Organization not hosting the Championships in a given year shall select a Deputy Chief Adjudicator. The Chief Adjudicator and Deputy Chief Adjudicator shall implement Schedule A of this Memorandum, and they retain discretion to make minor changes in order to facilitate debate at that year’s Championships.


  1. All teams competing at the Championships shall be composed of debaters representing the same institution. No hybrid teams composed of debaters representing different institutions are allowed to partake at the Championships. Individuals wishing to debate who are not enrolled at an institution are not eligible to compete. All eligibility questions shall be settled by joint agreement of the APDA and CUSID Presidents.


  1. The host shall set the registration fee for the Championships, to be approved by the Presidents of APDA and CUSID, and in so doing shall provide for a reduced fee based on distance from the location of the Championships.


  1. The permanent trophy for the Championships, which shall be held be the winner during the subsequent year, shall be purchased and maintained with CUSID and APDA funds, apportioned equally.


  1. Any matters not covered by this memorandum of understanding are left to the discretion of the hosts of the Championships, subject to any directions and guidance jointly given by the Presidents of CUSID and APDA.


  1. This memorandum of understanding can be amended by written agreement between the Presidents of APDA and CUSID. It is recommended that any such amendments be ratified by the membership of APDA and of CUSID.


  1. This memorandum of understanding was agreed to on or about March 20, 1991, by Mike Galvin, APDA President, and Stephen Pitel, CUSID President. It was amended on March 3, 2009 by Adam Coombs, CUSID President, and Andrew Rohrbach, APDA President.


Originally drafted by Michael Saposnik, Kevin Massie, and Jay Cox at the 2004 Queen’s University North American Debating Championships

Updated with modest revisions by Joshua Bone and Jason Rogers for the 2009 Amherst College North American Debating Championships


This style guide has been created for the 2004 North American Debating Championships at Queen’s University by a bi-national team of highly qualified CUSID and APDA debaters. It outlines the key points of ‘North American’ style debating, a hybrid of APDA and CUSID styles, incorporating what are perceived to be the strong points of each. There is nothing revolutionary in this guide; it is for the most part a delineation of stylistic compromises established informally at past tournaments as a response to perceived inequities (on both sides of the border).

This style guide was developed to serve two purposes. Primarily, it is meant to help level the playing field between CUSID and APDA teams at this year’s tournament by laying out a clear set of expectations. It is being released well before the tournament so that judges and debaters attending the tournament have time to review the style and incorporate it into their practice rounds, in order to avoid surprises once the competition begins. Secondly, it is meant to serve as an example to future hosts of the North American Debating Championships, in an attempt to elevate the stature of the tournament by institutionalizing the format and lending the tournament continuity. It will fall to future hosts of the North American Championships, and the constituencies they serve, to judge our success or failure.


North American Parliamentary Debating style involves two teams of two debaters. The affirmative side of the debate will be represented by the Government team with a Prime Minister and a Government Member. The Opposition team will be represented by 1st and 2nd Opposition Members. It is the responsibility of the Government team to provide a good debate by proposing and defending a contentious case, and to prove their case on a balance of probabilities. It is the responsibility of the Opposition team to offer substantive argumentation to counter the Government proposal, and to defeat it on a balance of probabilities.

Speaking Times

The speaking times of each debater run as follows:

Prime Minister  6 or 7 minutes


1st Opposition Member  7 minutes

Government Member  7 minutes

2nd Opposition Member  7 + 3 minutes

Prime Minister  3 or 4 minutes

PMRE and Split Rebuttal

The Government team must notify the judge before the round if they will be selecting the Prime Minister’s Rebuttal Extension. This option allows the government team to take one minute off of the Prime Minister’s constructive speech and add an extra minute to the Prime Minister’s rebuttal. Using this option would divide the PM’s speaking time into a 6 minute speech and a 4 minute speech rather than a 7 and 3 split. The Government team must clearly indicate to the Speaker of the House prior to the start of the round if they will be selecting this option. After the Government has made this choice, the Opposition team will then be asked if they wish to use the Split Rebuttal option.

The opposition team has the option of splitting the 2nd Opposition Member’s speech into separate constructive and rebuttal speeches. A split rebuttal requires the 2nd Opposition Member to give the final 7 minute speech for the Opposition, to be immediately followed by the 1st Opposition Member’s 3 minute rebuttal. The Opposition team must indicate their choice of rebuttal structure before the round commences. During all rebuttal time, including the Prime Minister’s rebuttal, no new information may be raised other than in direct refutation. (NB: The Government team will always be the first to select.)

Speaker Roles

While no formula exists for the correct fulfillment of a particular speaker’s role, there are some guidelines that should be followed in each speech.

Prime Minister ‘“ The Prime Minister has the task of opening the debate by defining the motion and laying out the groundwork of the Government team’s contention. The Prime Minister should clearly indicate near the beginning of their speech in a one or two sentence statement exactly what the subject for the debate is to be. The Prime Minister should also set out the bulk of the argumentation on Government benches in support of the motion.

1st Opposition Member ‘“ As the first speaker for the Opposition team, the 1st Opposition Member’s job is to outline the case for the Opposition. Ideally they should present a few lines of original constructive argumentation in addition to refuting the arguments brought forth by the Prime Minister. The 1st Opposition Member is not obliged to address each government argument individually. They may lump arguments together, or deal with themes or principles that undermine the government’s arguments. However, this is not a blanket license to ignore arguments; if a Government team spends a substantial amount of time developing an argument and explaining why it is important, it should be addressed in some way. Essentially, it is okay to ignore silly minor arguments, but opposition teams ought to address significant arguments. It is unacceptable for an opposition team not to engage the government’s case, but engaging the government’s case ds not have to take the form of responding to each of the government’s points following the same structure with which they were introduced. It will ultimately fall to each judge to assess how important individual arguments were to the round when considering the debate as a whole.

Government Member ‘“ As the second speaker for the Government the Government Member has 3 main tasks. In no specific order, they are to refute the argumentation brought to the round by the 1st Opposition Member, and they are to reconstruct the arguments of the Prime Minister. They may if they wish add new constructive argumentation to the round, but they are not specifically required to do so. The new constructive argumentation should add something new to the round, but should not substantially shift the focus or the meaning of the case. The Government Member is not permitted to intentionally ignore arguments from the 1st Opposition Member in order to allow the Prime Minister to respond to it in rebuttal without the chance for the Opposition to rebuild its argument.

2nd Opposition Member ‘“ The 2nd Opposition Member has a number of tasks and can accomplish them in a number of ways. In no specific order, they may introduce new constructive arguments to the round (there is no requirement that all the constructive material be raised in the 1st Opposition Member’s address), refute the arguments brought to the round by both Government speakers, and re-construct the arguments raised by the 1st Opposition Member. While the 2nd Opposition speaker may bring substantial new argumentation to the round, the majority of the Opposition’s constructive analysis should be introduced in the 1st Opposition Speaker’s address. Opposition teams should be penalized if they do in fact save the majority of their analysis for the 2nd Opposition speech. It should also be noted that the philosophy of the Opposition team (i.e. the stance that they take on the issue) ought to remain consistent throughout both speakers. For example, in a round about abortion, the first speaker cannot say that a fetus is a person and should not be harmed, only to have their partner stand up and concede that first and second trimester abortions are fine but that third trimester abortions should be banned.

Opposition Rebuttal ‘“ In the final three minute speech, or in the final three minutes of the 2nd Opposition Member’s 10 minute speech, the speaker is to summarize the debate in terms of general principles or themes. Essentially, the question that underlines this speech is ‘what is this round really about, and why have we made our case better than the Government?’ No new arguments may be introduced at this time. An argument is considered to be new if it is an independent line of argumentation previously unstated during the round. New information that is used to specifically refute a Government argument, or new examples to illustrate an argument raised previously, are perfectly acceptable in this speech. Most of the responses to specific arguments raised by the Government should occur before the rebuttal, so that the Government team is allowed sufficient time to attempt to rebuild its case.

Government Rebuttal ‘“ This is the Prime Minister’s final address to the house. It is a three or 4 minute speech, depending if the PMRE is used, which should answer the same question that the Leader of Opposition raised in their last address: ‘what is this round really about, and why have we made our case better than the Opposition?’ This speech is subject to the same constraints regarding new information as the Opposition Rebuttal. Extensive responses to specific arguments raised in the 2nd Opposition speech is encouraged; responses to specific arguments raised in the 1st Opposition speech and ignored by the Government Member are discouraged.

Points of Information

Debaters are encouraged to stand and offer Points of Information (POIs) to the opposing team during the round. Upon standing to offer a POI, a debater may speak briefly (to say something like ‘Sir/Madam,’ ‘on that point,’ or ‘clarification’), however they are not to heckle or attempt to make their point before being accepted. The debater holding the floor may reject the point simply by waving it down; a verbal denial is not required for every point rejected. Points are to be offered in 15 seconds or less, during which the clock ds not stop. Judges will consider the quality and quantity of POIs offered and the skill with which POIs are answered when assigning speaker scores to each debater. There are no firm guidelines regarding how many POIs to accept during each speech, as the context of the round will be the determining factor in making this decision, however a good rule of thumb is to accept two POIs per speech.

Points of Order and Personal Privilege

In some styles of debate, these are points that debaters will rise on when they feel that a rule of the house has been broken (i.e. the speaker has gone over time, introduced a totally new argument in the rebuttal period, or personally attacked another debater). Judges are expected to recognize these infractions as clearly as the debaters themselves and take them into consideration without prompting. (NOTE: again, breaking the rules ds not imply a loss, only a penalty. Judges are to use discretion in deciding the significance of the rule infraction and its impact on the round, and assess the appropriate degree of penalty). To that end, Points of Order and Points of Personal Privilege will not be entertained. If a debater rises on such a point, they will be ruled out of order by the Speaker of the House and the debate will continue.


The motions at this tournament will be tight-link, which means that each motion will embody a spirit or a direction that the Government’s case must take. The case can be run perfectly straight (i.e. exactly as the motion reads, verbatim), or the motion can also be used as the foundation of a specific plan of action that the government wishes to support. The motion can also be narrowed or expanded in the definition, but the spirit of the motion must be maintained. As an example, if the motion reads ‘This house supports the use of International Agencies to prosecute war criminals’ the following government cases would be acceptable (among others):

  • 1) ‘This house supports the use of International Agencies to prosecute war criminals’


2) ‘This House believes that Saddam Hussein should be tried in the Hague’

3) ‘This house ds not believe that U.S. citizens should be exempt from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court’

Any case that ds not specifically address war crimes, war criminals, and International Agencies would not be permissible.


Debaters are responsible for timing themselves. The Speaker of the House will bang the table once at the 1 minute mark of each speech to indicate that the floor is open to POIs, and once again at the start of the last minute mark to indicate that the speaker is once again in protected time. The Speaker of the House will bang twice on the table to indicate that the speech time has elapsed and that the debater has 15 seconds to finish speaking. If the debater exceeds the 15 second grace period the Speaker of the House is to bang the table continuously to indicate that the debater’s time has elapsed, and all comments made after this time are to be completely disregarded by the judge(s).


Each Government team is required to put forward a case which has a case statement ‘“ a one to two sentence statement outlining the Government’s proposition (for example, ‘NASA should abandon manned space flight,’ or ‘Saddam Hussein should be tried before the International Criminal Court’). It is vital to any round of debate that there is a clear and concise case statement very early in the Prime Minister’s speech so that everybody in the room is clear on the topic for debate.

There are a few types of cases that bear specific consideration:

Status Quo Cases ‘“ Status quo cases are often frowned upon as they support an idea that is currently accepted by society. An opposition team will often call a case status quo and then offer this as a reason for the judge to side with Opposition benches. This is a loathsome tactic, as it is basically debaters telling judges how to judge; it should be ignored. There is nothing wrong with a case that is status quo, so long as it is contentious. The case ‘this house believes that Canada is a member of NAFTA’ is unfair not because it is status quo, but because it is factually correct. The case ‘this house believes that prisoners should have the right to vote in Canada’ is status quo because the Supreme Court of Canada said they can, but it is still a contentious issue. A decision to run a case should not be made based on whether or not a case is status quo, but rather on whether or not the topic has reasonable and contentious grounds for debate. If an issue is sufficiently contentious to make for a good debate then it is acceptable, regardless of the status quo.

Time Place Sets ‘“ Time place sets (or time space sets) are cases where the Government sets the debate in a specific time or place, and may give the Speaker of the House a role in the debate. For example, the case ‘Mr. Speaker, you are President Kennedy, you’re making a turn around a corner in Dallas and you see a penny on the floor, we propose that you bend down to pick it up’ is a time place set. Time place sets are not allowed. However, there are two caveats to the previous statement. First, it is perfectly fine to run a historical case, and second, it is acceptable to offer argumentation that caters to a particular interest. The difference between an historical case and a time place set is the time in which the debate is placed. The case ‘this house believes that President Kennedy should have pulled U.S. troops out of Vietnam upon entering office’ is acceptable because it is argued in the present, while the case ‘Mr. Speaker, you are President Kennedy and you have just entered office, pull your troops out of Vietnam’ is a time place set and is not allowed. Similarly, ‘Mr. Speaker, you are Kim Jong Il, build more nuclear bombs’ is a time place set and is not allowed, while running the case ‘this house believes that the North Korean government should expand its nuclear arsenal’ and offering arguments that cater to the interests of the North Korean government is acceptable.

Truisms ‘“ Truisms are perhaps the most painful kind of case imaginable. A Government team is proposing a truism if the motion is factually true or accepted by general convention. For example, ‘this house believes that Humans are carbon based life forms,’ or ‘this house believes that Hitler was an evil man.’ If there is no room for an Opposition team to debate the issue, the case is unfair and the debate will suffer as a result. Judges are to punish government teams severely for this kind of case. (NOTE: this is not an automatic loss’¦ it is highly probable that the Government team will lose the round so long as the Opposition fills their time and speaks English, but there is no such thing as an automatic loss.)

Debaters often ask how to deal with truisms, and there is no easy answer. Very few truisms have no grounds for debate; there is usually some way to oppose the motion. In that scenario, the 1st Opposition Member should spend a maximum of 30 seconds pointing out that they feel the case is a truism and establishing why they think that is the case. Then they should get on with the debate and play ball with the motion. Whining and complaining about the case only takes a bad debate and turns it into an awful debate. If there is literally NO room for debate, then an Opposition team should redefine the case as little as possible so as to make a debate out of it, then play ball.

Tautologies ‘“ Tautologies are slightly more difficult to catch than truisms as they are statements which find truth in their own definitions. The motion ‘this house believes that terrorism is unjustified’ is a fair case, because there are many arguments in support of using of terrorism as a political tool. However, if the Government gs on to define terrorism as the unjustified use of force by non-state actors, then the case is transformed into ‘this house believes that something that is unjustified is unjustified.’ At this point the case has turned into something that is true by definition, following a circular logic. These are hard to spot, so be careful. Judges and debaters should treat tautologies and truisms similarly.

Tight Cases ‘“ A tight case is a case that isn’t quite true by definition, but has no real room for substantive opposition. If the Opposition really has no grounds on which to oppose the idea, then the case is tight. Unfortunately, calling a case ‘tight’ is one of the most popular defenses put forward by bad Opposition teams; if they don’t know what to say, they call a case tight. In the final analysis, it remains up to the judge(s) to determine whether or not a case really is tight.

In every round the Government team sets up two burdens: the burden of proof on themselves and the burden of disproof on the Opposition team. The Government can choose either a very difficult burden of proof or a very easy burden of proof for themselves. It is up to the judge(s) to recognize the burden that the Government has taken on and score them accordingly. If they choose a very easy burden and do a good job, they may prove their point, but the Opposition team may do a better job faced with a more difficult burden. This should be taken into consideration by judges when deciding the round. The opposite is also true. For example, running the case ‘this house would support child labour in the 3rd world’ sets a fairly high onus on the Government team. The Opposition has a relatively easy job to do in showing why child labour is undesirable. It is likely that on the balance of arguments a judge will believe or be persuaded by the arguments of the Opposition team. If, however, the Government team has done an excellent job wrestling with a huge burden, and they have debated better even though they may not have convinced the judge(s) to change their views on child labour, they should be awarded the win.

Judging and Scoring

Judges will judge speeches based on holistic criteria. They will consider the strength and persuasiveness of arguments presented, including their depth, relevance, and how well they are developed throughout the round. They will consider manner insofar as it adds or detracts from the persuasiveness of arguments presented. If a debater says brilliant things but ds so in a terrible way, they should not receive full credit for the strength of their arguments. Similarly, if a debater speaks brilliantly but says nothing at all relevant to the round, they should not receive more than an average score.


At every North American tournament that we can remember, a few common discrepancies between Canadian and American style are always problematic. The following is an outline of the tournament’s policies on a few of these issues.


Judges are not to penalize or reward a debater for ‘flowing’ a round of debate. If a debater chooses to respond to each argument made by the opposite team in order and by title, that is perfectly acceptable. If they do a good job of it, they may very well win the round. Alternatively, if a debater wishes to attack the principle on which the arguments are made while ignoring the specific arguments, that is also acceptable should they do a good job. If a debater wants to address certain arguments that they feel are important and ignore what they feel are insignificant issues, that is fine provided they do a good job of it. No judge should penalize a debater for ignoring an inconsequential argument. Conversely, if the judge feels that the argument that is ignored is a good argument, then they should by all means penalize the debater who ignored it. Since ignored or ‘dropped’ arguments are not automatically and not always held against the team that ignored those arguments, debaters who believe that one or more of their core arguments has not received a sufficient response should explain why that argument was important to the main issues of the round and why it should be a factor in the decision. Judges may choose to consider an ignored argument even if a debater ds not point out that it has been ignored, but judges should give special consideration to such arguments if the debaters explicitly ask that they be taken as outcome-consequential. Of course, judges retain discretion to weigh them as they see fit, taking into account their own assessment of the importance of the argument. At the end of the day, each judge is to decide where they feel that the main contention lay in the round and then award the debate to the team which best supported that contention. It is up to each debater to decide how to structure their speech so that they are as persuasive as possible.


We expect that debaters will rise quite often on POIs. A debater rising every 20-30 seconds is not unacceptable so long as they do it politely. If a debater rises quietly and says nothing or says simply ‘information’ or ‘on that point’ the judge should not penalize them. If the debater rises every 5-10 seconds or makes excessive noise when they rise on a POI then they are barracking the speaker and should be penalized. Likewise, if a debater rises on a POI with an interrogative statement (essentially delivering their POI without being given the floor) in a way that lowers the tone of the debate, they should be penalized.

Specific Knowledge

The standard for specific knowledge at this tournament is simple. A case is fair if the judge could reasonably expect a university level debater who keeps abreast of international affairs to be aware of the issue. We suggest that cases about general principles are a good idea as they do not require the judges to make this very subjective decision. Given that this tournament is employing tight-link motions, debaters should not find the need to engage in overly technical arguments on the subjects given. They should focus rather on logical analysis, common sense, and general principle arguments. Overly technical arguments are not only unfair to the other team, but they usually miss the larger ideas within the debate itself. Again, it will ultimately fall to each judge to decide what is specific knowledge and what is not. Judges should note that the use of specific knowledge by Opposition teams is permissible. Judges should also note that the use of specific knowledge is not in and of itself a voting issue. Do not award a win or loss based solely on the use of specific knowledge. Instead, analyze what the use of specific knowledge added or took away from the debate and how relevant it was to the clash in the round and make your decision accordingly.

Opp Choice Cases

Not allowed in the tournament.

Counter Cases

Counter Cases are allowed at the tournament. They are never required, but they are permitted. A countercase is valid if it is competitive with the government plan, that is, the countercase is relevant to and consistent with opposing the motion and there are plausible arguments for preferring the countercase to the government plan and plausible arguments for preferring the government plan to the countercase.

Place Sets

There is no official restriction on the ability of government teams to place set. However, an opposition team may challenge the fairness of a place set. After challenging the fairness of the place set, the opposition team should continue to debate the round as usual. The judge will then evaluate whether the place set is fair to all teams in the round, just as he or she would evaluate tightness or any similar technical objection.

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