Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication (MA)

Degree Level





Stephen A. Smith

Committee Member

Kasey L. Walker

Second Committee Member

Mary L. Veden


Communication and the arts, Education, Arkansas debate, Collective memory, Forensics, History of debate, Intercollegiate debate


As one of the most successful organizations on campus for nearly a century, the University of Arkansas debate team created many memories and stories from their time in competition. According to the framework of collective memory, the production and dissemination of these stories is what connects the past, present, and future of a debate team together.

I first reconstruct the history of debate at universities, beginning with development of debate at the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford. I then detail the history of debate and argumentation at American universities, including the first intercollegiate debate in 1881. I then turn to the expansion of debate into the University of Arkansas and its rapid growth from 1896 to the early parts of the 20th century. After a period of "doldrums," I then examine the successful tenures of Dr. Jack Gregory and Mary Ingalls. After the termination of the team in 1986, I outline how the team came back in 1999 with the creation of the Arkansas Union Society (AUS). The AUS and its intercollegiate debate team experienced great success until the team's termination in 2009. I finish the historical reconstruction by articulating how I helped restart the team in 2011.

Next I provide a review of the literature that examines the way in which students, professors, administrators, and the campus community benefit from a debate team's existence. Additionally, I provide a narrative perspective from a bevy of Arkansas debate alumni who attest to the wide range of academic and professional benefits they gained from participating with the team.

I then turn to the main argument by examining the role of the Arkansas debate team in the context of the collective memory framework. In analyzing the role of the debate team at the

University of Arkansas, I argue that the fragmentation of these stories from the multiple cancellations of the team irreparably harms the University as a whole.

I conclude by asserting that the Arkansas debate team should move beyond the nostalgia of the past and seek to create new stories and memories for the future.