Student Congress

This event is a simulation of the real United States legislature. A group of 12-25 students, called a Chamber, competes in a legislative session. A series of bills and resolutions are written in advance by students. Each student will be selected in turn by a presiding officer — a student elected to conduct the business of the round following Robert’s Rules of Order — to give speeches both advocating for and encouraging the defeat of the legislation in front of them. Following speeches, competitors will ask questions of the speaker. Once debate is exhausted on a particular item, the chamber will vote either to pass or fail the legislation and debate moves on to the next item.

The Congress topics for the next WACFL tournament, legislation templates and formatting requirements can be found here. The topic listing will be updated 10 days before each tournament. Schools must submit one piece of legislation for every two students registered.

At the beginning of the session, the students will elect a presiding officer, otherwise known as the PO. The PO's job is to select speakers to give speeches, select questioners, maintain decorum in the chamber, and facilitate a fast and smooth debate for all. Legislation is written in advance by the students. Legislation comes in two types - a bill or a resolution. A bill is a plan of action, detailing how a particular policy proposal will be implemented. A resolution, meanwhile, is a statement expressing the opinion of the chamber. The student legislation is available to coaches on in advance of the tournament so that competitors may prepare.

A session of Student Congress lasts about 90 minutes. During that time, students give speeches 3 minutes in length. The first speech on a piece of legislation is known as the authorship or sponsorship speech. After that, the PO chooses a student to deliver the first negative or opposing speech. These speeches are followed by 2 minutes of cross examination. After the first two speeches, each additional speaker is subject to one minute of cross examination by the chamber. The PO selects the members of the chamber to ask the questions of the speaker.

Students are allowed to use the internet and electronic devices to flow the debate, prepare questions and speeches, and confirm sources. No outside communications with other competitors or anyone outside the chamber is allowed.

Summary of Judging Criteria

Each session will have two judges and one parliamentarian who will evaluate student competitors. When each student speaks, judges will write comments in At the end of the session, judges will give the top 8 speakers a rank of 1-8, with one being the best. After the 8 best speakers are ranked, all other competitors receive a 9. The Presiding Officer should be considered in your ranking. Judges should not evaluate speakers on their use of parliamentary procedure in scoring.

When ranking speakers, consider the following elements and comment accordingly

  • Delivery: Speaks extemporaneously vs. reading a manuscript, seriousness of purpose, style and poise.
  • Originality of thought: Extent to which speech advances debate or merely repeats previously stated ideas; whether speaker refutes opposing arguments.
  • Organization and Unity: While speeches that respond to other arguments advanced in the session are often spontaneous and extemporaneous, the speaker should attempt cohesiveness.
  • Evidence and Logic: Cites credible sources and warrants claims accordingly.
  • Overall impression: What overall impact does the speech leave on the audience?