The Willamette University Debate Union, established in 1856 as the Philomathean Society, is the oldest in the Western United States. The Debate Union, a co-curricular program of the College of Liberal Arts, provides opportunities for students to improve their skills in argumentation, advocacy, and public performance.
The Debate Union is designed to serve a variety of students: those who want to make debate a central part of their college experience and those who want it to be one aspect of a varied college education. Both groups can find a home in the Willamette University Debate Union. All Debate Union participants are expected to maintain good grades and to make regular progress toward their degrees. Any full-time student of the College who meets the minimum grade-point requirements is eligible to be a member of the Debate Union. The Willamette University Debate Union includes of some of the university's best and brightest students—students who maintain high grades while being active in debate, and other extracurricular and co-curricular activities.
Debate Union students participate in debate and individual speaking events. Debaters can choose to participate in American or British-style parliamentary debate. The Debate Union also offers opportunities for participation in International Debate and Public Debate activities.