The University Debating Club is a purely administrative body which arranges and conducts the University and class debates and exercises general supervision over all debating at Harvard. It is composed of members of University teams and second teams and the presidents of the class clubs.
This club has existed for but four years. Up to 1898 the debating interests of Harvard were divided between two rival organizations and were practically without an administrative head. The Harvard Union had been organized in 1880, with W. R. Thayer '81 as its first president, and was originally intended to form the nucleus of a University club like the Unions of Oxford and Cambridge. In 1881 the club divided into two independent organizations, the new Harvard Union and the Wendell Phillips Club. The former soon adopted the old name, the Harvard Union, and the Wendell Phillips Club changed its name to the Harvard Forum. On March 23, 1898, these two clubs united as the Harvard University Delating Club, its membership being open to all students in the University except Sophomores and Freshmen.
But the use of class debating clubs and the large attendance in the various College courses connected with debating soon made it evident that there was not room for an actual debating club open to the different classes. If was then that the University Debating Club took on the purely administrative character which it has since had, and adopted the narrower restrictions at present governing its membership.