The Communication Arts and Advocacy Program (CAAP) is an extracurricular program within the Department of Communication Studies that offers students the chance to volunteer around Los Angeles, learn about social justice topics and compete in debate tournaments around the world.

According to the program’s page, “the goal of the CAAP is to provide all LMU students with the opportunity to engage in public discourse, academic deliberation social justice advocacy, and artistic expression.”

The program focuses their efforts on the cultivation of three major practices: competition, civic engagement/social justice and service, according to Thomas Dowd, a clinical assistant professor of communication studies and director of debate at LMU. For competition, CAAP participates in global debate championships. For civic engagement/social justice, CAAP discusses political and social issues. And for service, CAAP volunteers at various organizations in Los Angeles.

In 2019, the debate team within CAAP traveled to Cape Town, South Africa for the World Universities Debating Championship, and in 2018, the team competed in the Hart House Championship at the University of Toronto in Canada. The team has also gone to Washington D.C., Vancouver and Mexico City.

But the team isn't only focused on the competition side of CAAP. Cady Abe, a senior CAAP member and Asian and Pacific Studies major, said, “We don't just focus on debate tournaments, or winning … Our team is really focused on bringing in tougher discussions about social justice. We really want to have conversations about advocacy and doing good in the community.”

In 2019, CAAP hosted a conjoint social justice, service and debate event at LMU. "We actually served food at [the] LA mission with a bunch of different universities around the nation,” Abe shared. “We came back to LMU’s campus and then had a debate and discussion about food insecurity.”

Other events CAAP has participated in include the North American Women’s and Gender Minorities Debating Championships (2017), Debaters Without Borders (2018), a visit to Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace and more.

Oliver Gill, senior CAAP member and information systems and business analytics major, added that CAAP is “an active member of the Social Justice Debates circuit, hosted by Morehouse College and George Washington University.” The Social Justice Debates are “the only intercollegiate debate series in the world dedicated to social justice topics,” giving particular attention to “issues of justice in relation to the distribution of wealth, opportunity, and privilege in U.S. society," according to their website.

Abe believes that her involvement in CAAP will be “really helpful for the future," as the program has given her the opportunity to have “difficult conversations” and develop healthy habits that keep her civically engaged.

While the initial programming for CAAP began in 2018, LMU Debate was formally renamed to CAAP in 2019. Gill said that the program was “trying to change the tone of debate to one that better addresses the complex and divisive world we live in.”

Gill also praised CAAP’s “Venn debate format." The format was intended for LMU’s Saint Ignatius Dialogues held in 2019. “It’s an experimental format wherein three teams—normally it's two sides in traditional debate—representing three interpretations of the topic, carry out an hour-plus-long dialogue with the end goal of achieving consensus and mutual understanding," Gill said. The Venn debate format also specifies the time allotted for cross-examinations, speeches and moderator feedback.

CAAP is hoping to host a tournament, The Lafayette Debates, this coming spring.

To get involved in CAAP, email thomas.dowd@lmu.edu.

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