Lundberg, Matheson & Balthrop Featured in “The Daily Tar Heel”

UNC professor, graduate student coach Harvard debate team

By Sarah Headley | The Daily Tar Heel

UNC has been without a debate team since the 1990s — but a UNC professor and graduate student are staying engaged with debate through a team at Harvard University.

Christian Lundberg, a professor in UNC’s communication studies department, is an argument consultant for Harvard this year, coaching the team via email, phone an d occassional visits.

“Some people take their spare time on the weekends to build things or golf,” he said. “I take my spare time to help people win debate tournaments.”

Lundberg previously coached at Liberty University, Emory University and Northwestern University.

Calum Mathes200_calummathesonson, a graduate student in communication studies, also consults with Harvard’s team.

“It doesn’t take a rich, private school to have a successful debate team,” he said. “But to have a debate team — although it would great here, and there are advantages — it’s expensive to run.”

Bill Balthrop, a communication studies professor who coached UNC’s last debate team for 14 years, said the team had to compete on a local and regional level due to the cost.

“(Students) couldn’t develop and grow,” he said. “They wouldn’t be facing as difficult and experienced competition.”

Balthrop said the team’s funding came from student government, the college and the provost’s office, but it wasn’t enough to sustain a competitive team.

Jarrod Atchison, the director of debate at Wake Forest University, said UNC’s reputation attracts top-tier students and faculty that would excel in debate.

“UNC-Chapel Hill could have a successful debate program almost overnight,” he said. “The quality of the staff that is already on campus rivals all of the top debate programs in the country.”

Though there isn’t a competitive debate team at UNC, the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, or DiPhi, still meets weekly. DiPhi, a debate and literary organization, was originally established as two separate societies in 1795 and 1796.

“We fall into a weird niche. We’re almost more historical than we are competitive,” said Chester Bissell, president of DiPhi.

Until they merged, the two groups had a fierce rivalry and regularly debated each other.

The DiPhi tradition runs deep throughout UNC’s history and gives students a local outlet for debate, Lundberg said.

“It would just be really great to have a debate team to demonstrate on a national stage that we have some of the best and brightest undergraduates in the country,” he said. “Debate is a magnet for hardworking, talented folk.”