Debating and Instruction

Q: Why choose Samford?

A: The Samford University Debate Institute specializes in helping debaters build the skills they need to become champion debaters. Low student to faculty ratios mean you won’t be lost in a crowded lab and give ample opportunities for individualized instruction. Because the camp is skills focused, debaters spend more time debating and practicing and less time in the library. Each debater is guaranteed at least 15 debates in the two-week sessions.

Debaters learn from experienced, professional faculty who love debate! In many cases, these are the same lab leaders you will find at more expensive camps, but Samford offers you the chance to work with them in smaller groups at a lower price.

Samford has a strong track record working with debaters early in their careers and helping them achieve success. Successful debaters like Alex Lamballe, Tripp Rebrovick, Lee Quinn, Evan McCarty, Gabrielle Tandet and many others have gotten early debate experience at Samford and have gone on to win major national tournaments in high school and college debate.

Q: Do you accept rising middle schoolers?

A: Yes! Each year, our camp has several rising middle schoolers in attendance. Several of our staff members have experience teaching and coaching middle school debaters and are attuned to their needs.

Middle school students who choose to stay in the dorms will have opportunities for activities with their peers, but should be mature enough to spend 1 or 2 weeks away from home.

Q: I am new to debate. Which program should I sign up for?

A: We love working with new debaters and welcome that into all three formats. When you sign up, select the “Novice” experience level so that we can assign you to a program with other students who are new to debate. If you know what school you will be attending next year, checking with the debate teacher or coach at the school can help you select a program that fits your school’s competitive offerings. If you are still unsure, all 3 programs build important debate skills and will be beneficial.

We offer three different formats that you can choose from:

Cross Examination Debate (2 weeks)- This debate format features teams of 2 debaters who debate a policy proposal. This format keeps the same topic for the entire year, so students get an in-depth perspective of both sides of the issue. This format has the greatest emphasis on research skills.

Lincoln- Douglas (2 weeks)- In LD debate, students compete individually. Debates focus on questions of values and philosophy rather than the desirability of a specific policy. Topics change every other month.

Public Forum (1 week)- PF debate includes teams of 2 debaters and places the greatest emphasis on speaking skills. Topics change every month and focus on current events. Topics may address questions of either value or policy and students are exposed to a broad range of issues.

Q: What is a typical day like?

A: Sessions begin at 9:00 AM and run until 9:00 PM each day, with breaks for lunch and dinner. A typical weekday at camp is full of activities! Most mornings will begin with a lecture and discussion of a core debate concept which will then be followed up with a small group/lab session where students will apply that concept and put it into action with practice speeches. Afternoons include a mixture of lectures, lab sessions, mini-debates, and skill building activities. Most evening sessions will include a practice round.

While this schedule may seem intense, there are also opportunities to relax and socialize. Students have 90 minute lunch and dinner breaks each day and shorter breaks between sessions. On Saturday evening, we hold a game night, and on Sunday mornings, debaters are given a break to attend religious services, sleep in, or relax. We also hold a 4th of July Celebration that is a lot of fun!

A complete schedule will be provided at check in.

Q: Do you offer financial aid?

A: Our camp offers limited financial aid. We also work to keep our camp costs as low as possible while providing the best camp experience for all students. If you have financial need, please contact Dr. Galloway at to discuss this possibility.

Dorms and Accommodations

Q: Should my child be a resident or a commuter?

A: There is no right answer for local students as to whether they should stay on campus or commute. Staying in the dorms offers benefits such as opportunities for socialization and comradery with other campers, a taste of college dorm living, and avoiding commuting hassles. Other students may prefer to avoid the added expense of staying in a dorm or enjoy spending evenings with their family.

Q: What are the dorms like?

A: Students are housed in semi-private, suite style dorm rooms on the Samford campus. Typically, 2-3 students share a dorm room and 2 rooms share a bathroom. All rooms are air conditioned and have twin size beds. Dorm buildings also have common living spaces, kitchens, and laundry facilities. Students will need to bring their own linens.

Dorm Directors and Resident Advisors are available to assist students with any challenges they face in dorm life. Keys are required to access dorm buildings and rooms. The campus itself has 24-hour emergency response and limited afterhours access to promote student safety.

Q: What may I do during my free time?

A: Samford has a beautiful campus with plenty of room for recreational activities. Students tend to enjoy ultimate Frisbee and soccer especially. The camp also plans social and recreational events, including a game night and Fourth of July Celebration so that students get some time to rest and relax.

Q: May I attend religious services during the camp?

A: We do our best to accommodate all requests regarding matters of faith. If you wish to attend services, see Dr. Galloway and he will help with your request.

Q: What is the food like?

A: All students staying in the dorms and commuters who have included a meal plan option will take meals in the Samford Caf, the main dining hall on campus. This facility has a wide range of offerings including a salad bar, deli bar, healthy options station, a grill station, and a pizza station. Vegetarian and vegan options are offered and labeled. If you have additional dietary concerns, please speak to the camp staff about them so that we can accommodate your needs. 

While Samford food services does a good job, many students each year choose to order out or purchase occasional meals from one of the other food vendors on campus at some point during the camp. Those options are not included in the meal plan and students will need to bring extra money if they choose to do this.

Q: What is the weather like?

A: Samford is located in Birmingham, Alabama and during the summer it gets quite hot! It is also common to get an afternoon thunderstorm. Fortunately, Samford classrooms and dorm rooms are all air conditioned.

Q: Should I bring dress clothes?

A: This is entirely up to you! We do hold a camp tournament at the end of each session, but the judges at our tournament will not penalize you if you debate in casual clothing.

Q: Should I bring a laptop?

A laptop is highly suggested for policy debaters and encouraged for debaters in other formats. There is wireless on campus, and you will be supplied an internet code upon registration. If you bring a laptop please be careful! Although we have had no unfortunate instances in the past, it is your responsibility to take care of your computer. The policy debate labs will be using computers extensively and it is nice to be able to work with your own materials. In the past, students who have used Chromebook style laptops without access to the following software have struggled.

  • Microsoft Word - You may be able to get a free copy of word using your school email.
  • Verbatim - this is a free add on to Microsoft word. Students should either have this installed OR have the ability to download and install software on their laptop during the camp.

Q: I noticed that a friend from my school is also there—may I switch roommates once I get on the campus?

Due to safety and coordination reasons, we cannot accommodate roommate changes after the institute begins. We ask before the institute that people fill out mutual preference forms for roommates. If you would like to arrange for a specific roommate, please give us at least one week's notice before the institute begins.

Q: Why do you have a lights out policy?

Debate institute is a very engaging time, and it is possible to burn out if students stay up all night. It is important to learn to pace yourself, and because of this, the staff has constructed a schedule to ensure students are healthy and driven throughout the institute. The second reason is that we have a policy of total supervision. That means that we have specific staff members who are responsible for you. If you were to stay up all night, these staff members would have to stay up all night - we do not think that this is tenable.

Q: May I see my parents during the institute?

Yes. However, you must be sure that Mr. Galloway received a written note saying when you are leaving and when you plan to return. It needs to be signed by your guardian. Try not to miss lectures or lab time. Sunday morning is the best time to visit with family.

Q: What about my laundry?

We encourage you to do everything that you can to maintain good hygiene. The dormitories are fitted with clothes washers and dryers. However, you must think hard about when you will have time to do your laundry—since you spend a lot of time in class and only have limited time in the dorm. It can be done—it just requires some forethought.

Q: What about early check-out?

Except under very specific pre-approved circumstances, we do not allow early checkout. On Friday night we take your keys, inspect your room and conclude the institute. Some people choose to go home after they have done this, however, we are not usually finished until after 10:30 (since people have to actually check-out and inspect your room). Most students depart on Saturday morning.