The Arizona Board of Regents is committed to protecting freedom of expression at Arizona's public universities. It is this commitment that led to the creation of the Regents' Cup, a celebration of free speech, civil discourse and democratic engagement at Arizona's public universities.
"Our universities are places where freedom of expression is encouraged as students develop critical thinking skills through exposure to opposing points of view. The Regents' Cup embodies and celebrates civil discourse, as well as a historic tradition of debate on college campuses," said Regent Karrin Taylor Robson, who envisioned the competition.
The inaugural Regents' Cup takes place Saturday on the University of Arizona campus. Team members will participate in rounds of civil dialogue, solutions, persuasive storytelling and Oxford-style debate, sharing true stories from personal experiences.
Ted McLoof, a senior lecturer in the University of Arizona Department of English and faculty advisor in the Regents' Cup, says the event is a tremendous opportunity to showcase the importance of nuance and preparation in all exchanges of ideas, whether it's a formal debate or an informal conversation.
"Our focus has been less about aggression versus politeness and geared more toward nuance versus flatly one-dimensional arguments," McLoof said. "We look at this as an opportunity to show ways in which people can think more deeply to craft an argument, while taking into account your audience and your goals.
Participants will adhere to a standard code of conduct, as defined by national benchmark standards. Judges will score teams and declare first-, second-, third- and fourth-place winners. Each team will receive a portion of a scholarship purse.
Semifinal and final rounds are open to the general public during the afternoon. This competition features student team members from the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University engaging in debate and speech events that honor participants for articulating different points of view in an environment where competitors remain civil and respectful.
"Our students have excellent chemistry with one another," McLoof said. "They have been able to adapt to any situation and roll with anything thrown their way."
Each university is sending 12 students to compete in the Regents' Cup. The six two-person teams will compete in events that touch on free speech issues. The events include:
- Civil Dialogue: Teams find out the topic 30 minutes before the start of the event and take part in a formatted, yet spontaneous form of face-to-face debate developed at ASU. Judges evaluate teams on the effective use of listening and the use of non-argumentative language.
- Persuasive storytelling: One student from each team will tell a 10-minute personal story about the role of social media in free speech. The storyteller will be judged on content, emotion and persuasion.
- Solutions: Teams argue whether to support or refute a potential solution regarding defamation and social media. Judges evaluate each team's ability to effectively support their positions.
- Oxford-style debate (two rounds): The four teams with the highest scores in the previous rounds will move on to engage in a competitive debate format with an opening statement, cross examination and closing argument. This session is open to the public. Judges scores are paired with an audience vote, where audience members will be asked about their positions on the issue before and after the debate. The team that persuades the most audience members to change their minds will receive the higher audience score.
Anthony Rusk, a Flinn Scholar at the University of Arizona and a student regent, will serve as one of the Regents' Cup judges for the Solutions and Civil Dialogue contests. He views this contest as an opportunity for students and community members to engage with a variety of thoughts and perspectives.
"Having to research facts for both sides forces us to view situations from the other side, which tears down our biases," Rusk said.
A reception for sponsors and judges will be held Friday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Competition begins Saturday with an on-site orientation for judges at 7:30 a.m. and a kick-off breakfast at 8:30 a.m. The rest of the day's schedule is as follows:
- 8:50 a.m. – Welcome
- 9:30 a.m. – Civil Dialogue
- 10:45 a.m. – Persuasive Storytelling
- 11:30 a.m. – Solutions
- 12:30 – Lunch
- 3 p.m. – Semifinal Oxford round
- 4:45 p.m. – Final Oxford round
- 5:45 p.m. – Reception
- 6:15 p.m. – Awards Presentation
For more information, visit ABOR's Regents' Cup website.