College Debates Program

A Partnership Between

What is the College Debates Program?

College leaders are applauding the dynamic partnership that ACTA has forged with Braver Angels and the student group BridgeUSA to launch a civil debates program for students on college campuses nationwide. We are convinced that properly conducted debates can have a depolarizing and transformational effect on students – teaching them to engage respectfully with each other on divisive social and political issues.

Each partner organization brings key strengths to the initiative:

  • Braver Angels provides a proven debate methodology, programs, and workshops that teach students to engage with empathy and civility.
  • ACTA brings myriad connections to college leadership and faculty, along with publicity and media expertise.
  • BridgeUSA has a wide network of chapters on college campuses, led by students dedicated to civic engagement.

When the program launched in 2018, student debates were held in-person on college campuses. After the onset of the pandemic, the program shifted online with great success. In 2020, more than 800 students participated in debates and events, along with faculty and college administrators.

  • Student debates are configured in the following formats:
  • Intra-classroom (organized for one classroom, often built into an instruction plan)
  • Intra-college (organized within one student community)
  • Inter-college (across multiple institutions)
  • National (students and faculty joining on their own from anywhere)

Check out photos from past events

Campus communities that have staged debates include:

  • American University (on site) – Topic: Is Health Care a Human Right?
  • Eastern Tennessee State University (on site) – Topic: Gun Carrying Rights
  • University of California-Berkeley (on site) – Topic: The Future of People’s Park
  • Christopher Newport University (on site) – Topic: Banning Assault Weapons
  • Arizona State University (on site) – Topic: Building the Southern Border Wall
  • Mississippi State University (on site): Topic: Confederate References and Paraphernalia
  • Linn-Benton Community College, Oregon (online) – Topic: Free College Tuition
  • National Intercollegiate Debate (online) – Topic: Defunding Police Departments
  • North Carolina State University (online) – Topic: Reforming Greek Life
  • Yale Political Union (monthly online national debates began on September 8)
  • Texas Wesleyan University (online) – Topic: Removing Confederate Monuments
  • The George Washington University – Topic: Term Limits for the Supreme Court
  • Southwestern University (online) – Topic: Voting Rights/Electoral Process

Contact Us

April Lawson
Director of Debates and Public Discourse, Braver Angels
Doug Sprei
Director of Multimedia and Campus Partnerships, ACTA
Manu Meel
CEO, BridgeUSA


College Debates With Braver Angels and ACTA (December, 2020)


The Transformative Power of Braver Angels College Debates

April Lawson: Leading Better Angels Debates to Depolarize America

David Blankenhorn: Depolarizing America with Better Angels

Participant Testimonials

Braver Angels Support