The Rutgers University Debate Union (RUDU) competes in the American parliamentary style as conducted on the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) circuit, the elite league of intercollegiate parliamentary debate in the United States.

Two teams of two individuals each compete in American parliamentary debate. One will be designated as Government (Gov) and the other as Opposition (Opp). The Gov is responsible for presenting a case that advocates a change in position, policy, or action. It must be fair to both sides of the debate and involve information that is widely accessible and comprehensible to the average well-informed college student. The Opp is then responsible for opposing the proposal or presenting a counter-case.

The Gov speakers are known as the Prime Minister (PM) and Member of the Government (MG). The Opp speakers are the Leader of the Opposition (LO) and Member of the Opposition (MO).

Each round of debate consists of six speeches:
Prime Minister Constructive (PMC): 7 minutes
Leader of Opposition Constructive (LOC): 8 minutes
Member of Government Constructive (MGC): 8 minutes
Member of Opposition Constructive (MOC): 8 minutes
Leader of Opposition Rebuttal (LOR): 4 minutes
Prime Minister Rebuttal (PMR): 5 minutes

Each speech carries an additional 30-second grace period for speakers to conclude their remarks. During Constructives, new material may be presented, but it is disallowed in the Rebuttals (with the exception of new responses in PMR to new points raised in the MOC, as Gov has not yet had a chance to respond to such arguments). During Constructives, Points of Information (PoI’s), or questions, may be raised by the team not speaking after the first minute and before the last minute of each speech. They may be accepted or rejected at will by the speaker, though they are expected to be taken at least once or twice per speech.

Each competitive round is judged by at least one person, known as “Mr. Speaker” or “Madam Speaker” for the purposes of parliamentary address. Each tournament consists of five (or more) preliminary rounds of debate, during which time each team will be Gov thrice and Opp twice or vice versa. The best performing teams, as determined by wins and then speaker points, will advance to elimination rounds, usually an eight-team quarterfinal that resolves in single-elimination to a Grand Final that determines the Tournament Champion. National rankings comprise the tournament results of all tournaments, building to the National Championship at the conclusion of each academic year. Competitors in the Championship must qualify by earning a certain number of points across the year’s tournaments.

Cases presented by Gov teams may be about any topic that is fair and accessible, including politics, law, economics, history, religion, philosophy, pop culture, sports, or personal decisions. Cases may be “opp-choice”, presenting two possible sides to be argued and allowing the Opp to choose which side they prefer to defend. These cases are strongly encouraged on RUDU, for both their peerless fairness and the strategic advantage of preparing both sides of a debate topic to anticipate all possible counter-arguments. Cases may also be “time-space”, placing the judge in the role of particular actor in present day or historical times and making all arguments as though to that given individual. These cases rely heavily on the perspective of said actor and can be some of the most fun and immersive in parliamentary debate.

For more information, visit apdaweb.org, the official website of the American Parliamentary Debate Association.