What we're all about

Welcome home! We're glad you made it!

Many of you have experience with public speaking: giving formal or informal presentations in classes, teaching in schools, or maybe even participating in a speaking competition. Debate will let you use and develop those skills, but it will also help you to develop other skills--close reading, interpretation, critical reasoning, argumentation, rhetorical invention--and all in front of a live audience!

"This house believes" that debate will be an exciting and enriching addition to your university experience. So sign on, jump in, "reach higher," and Speak Up!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

We have lift off!

The CHSS Debate Society was launched on Wednesday, February 11 in the Cinema Room of MQ80 on the women's campus of United Arab Emirates University.

The launch was attended by Dean Don Baker and several faculty representatives of the departments in our college (and one from Business!), around 80 students from the colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences and Business, and, of course, our partners from Gulf News: Messieurs Bala Krishnan and Sanjay Malik.

Dr. Baker spoke passionately about the potential of debate not only to enhance student experience and training, but also its potential to make substantial civic contributions: to advance discussion about matters that are important for you, your communities, your nation, and the region.

Bala and Sanjay introduced their ideas for a series of initiatives they've collected under the umbrella venture "QUEST: Newspapers in Education." They are starting, of course, with debate under the moniker "Listen Up!", and our "Speak Up!" is a proud first society in what we hope will be a network of college societies that come together to debate important issues. Stay tuned for more on the coming initiatives: there's something for everyone!

(Above: Mr. Bala Krishnan encourages debate as an essential component of social and intellectual progress. Below: Mr. Sanjay Malik introduces several other initiatives that will be rolled out in the coming months.)

Free Newspapers! Wallah!

We remind you that, in addition to their philosophical support, the good folks at Gulf News have generously gone "halfsies" with the College on a subscription of roughly 150 copies of their newspaper, which will be circulated to us at various points on campus on a daily basis for the next several months. Please feel free to read them on the spot or back in the hostels, and share them around. 

You can also access their online platform via the button on this page (top left), and should feel free to consult other news sources as well. We've provided links and headlines at various places in this blog.


You need to stay informed, whether you wish to debate or not! Know what's going on in your world and the world beyond it. Get interested! Think critically about events, information, reporting, perspective, consequence, and your place in all of it!

Of course, debaters need to stay informed so that their arguments are informed as well: you'll need to link your ideas to real events as much as possible. And one of the core rules of competitive debate, especially in a multidisciplinary setting like a university, is that the information we draw on be generally available, produced for a general audience. Newspapers, online news sources, and television news are a primary source of that kind of information.

A Caution

Of course, we must always engage critically with the news, however carefully and objectively it is reported. Journalists and editors are human: they have perspectives, they have purposes, and they work under certain pressures, just as we do in the university. So as we turn to them to shape our knowledge and understanding of the world, to give us access to events or facts we might not get ourselves, we must also remain a little skeptical: ask questions, compare versions, and always, always think!

Text of the Launch

Speak Up!

A partnership between UAEU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Gulf News’ “Newspapers in Education” initiative

Where to find us (and more)


What is “debate”?

Well? What is it?





From The Debaters: “Debate is combat, but your weapons are words.”

In action

Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the hot seat. . . 

And closer to home. . . the Doha Debates, journalist v. guest. 

Formal Debate
British Parliamentary style

An engagement in language between two or more persons or teams over an issue of shared interest and importance wherein each side

  • presents a specific claim, called a motion,
  • supports or opposes that motion by offering a chain of reasons based in evidence and critical thought,
  • seeks to discredit their opponent’s position, 
  • and therefore move the discussion forward.

How is it done?

First, we must establish the motion, something like

  • “This House believes that immigrants to the UAE should be taxed.”
  • “This House supports the establishment of post-secondary co-education.”

For? or Against?

Next, we establish who will speak for the motion, and who will speak against it.

  • Those who speak for constitute the proposition.
  • Those who speak against constitute the opposition.

Who goes first?

  1. The proposition begins, outlining its basic position, and offering several fundamental reasons.
  2. The opposition follows, responding to the proposition, and establishing its own position.
  3. Each responds to the other in the same order, both undermining their opponents’ arguments, and strengthening or clarifying their own.
  4. Finally, each side summarizes the strengths of its position, and points out the weaknesses in their opponents’ arguments.

Sound easy?

Let’s try it!

Motion of the proposition

“This House would require all students to participate in formal debates because. . .”


“This side of the House would not require all students to participate in formal debates because. . .”

What can debate do for you?

Debate reinforces skills already taught at the university:

Close reading



Critical reasoning 


Rhetorical invention


Public speaking

What can you do for the Debate Society?

Cheer us on, keep us honest! 

Support communications and promotions

Help with the organization and administration

Contribute research, perspective, and constructive criticism

Debate! (Speak Up!)

Like what you see?

Sign up tonight!

Need some more time? Want to know more?

“Speak Up!” (uaeudebate.blogspot.com) is a great place to start!

Stay informed!

Next meeting (first training):

Wednesday, February 18

Cinema Room


Check our blog for details and updates.

Pictured above (l-r) rear: Dr. Ray Percival (Philosophy), Dr. Manfred Malzhan, Dr. Abdullah al Dabbagh, Dr. Jonathon Penny (English Literature), CHSS Dean Dr. Don Baker, Mr. Sanjay Malik (Gulf News), Dr. Duane Lacey (Philosophy); fore: Dr. Raja Bahlul (Philosophy), Mr. Bala Krishnan (Gulf News), Dr. Mohammed Tabishat (Sociology), Dr. Leon Holtzhausen (Social Work), Dr. Jamil Browson (Geography)

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