March 2010


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Alfred C Snider <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
USA Debating in the WUDC Format <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 Mar 2010 12:12:07 -0400
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Let me tackle some of these. The op[inions I am about to express also 
may reflect opn our bid for USU 2011.

1. Titles:

    * Convener - run the logistics of the tournament. If it is on his or
      her campus they are ultimately responsible for the tournament.
    * CA - coordinate motion writing, plan and implement judge and
      debater training, tabulate judge feedback. Guidelines for motion
      writing should be made available.
    * DCA - assist in these efforts of the CA
    * Tab - record ballots, input judge rankings from CA/DCA based on
      training test and feedback form, allow computer to pair the round.
    * Equity officer - hear complaints from any participant. Need not be
      a woman. Convene investigation and offer informal suggestion of a
      resolution of a problem to the convener, who should then be
      involved because it is probably his or her institution that is
      hosting. Such decisions need to be made in concert with host
      institution. Hosts should gain guidance from university legal
      offices before the tournament and have a representative of that
      office on call. John is right, this needs to be stated publ;icly
      in advance.

2. Manual changes to the pairings: should not be done except in extreme
circumstances. The judge ratings are put into the machine, and the
machine assigns judges. Changes may be made when:

    * Judge needs to be replaced for reason of illness, etc.
    * Judge informs tab of a serious conflict that should have been
      reported earlier
    * Extreme situation, judge and one of the debaters hooked up last
      night and would rather not now judge
    * Bizarre and highly unusual situation I cannot imagine at this time
    * NEVER in an effort to make a "better" or "more balanced" panel.
      There is too much potential for abuse.

3. Transparency: have the tab area in an open and available space
depending on room availability. For example, I would not have USU tab in
the room where everyone is hanging out because of noise, but it should
be in an open identified space so people can drop in for the purposes
John suggests. Frankly, if we have 120+ teams at USU 2011 there is no
room that can house both debaters and judges in the same spot.

4. I believe in open adjudication for all rounds. As convener I will try
and persuade others helping me run the event that this should be so. In
all of our regional events we have had open adjudication and none of us
have been able to see any negative effects.

5. Judge training. I think that documents about judging should be made
available before the tournament, I believe there should be an online
judge test before the tournament (to allow timely examination of the
results). I would look at the way the decision is explained as much if
not more than the decision that is reached. There should also be format
information made available to participants beforehand. I do believe in
using feedback forms, because I think debaters deserve to have a say.
Someone may make a good decision but give lousy feedback, and I want
debaters to be able to comment on this because their learning is at
stake. If there is a hilarious contradiction, as John suggests, I would
like to be told the punchline.

Thanks to John for raising these issues, and I think all of them are
good ones. I know that John believes we should not form an organization
(USUDA) but then that would be one way to put standards to work. On the
other hand, those bidding can be public about things so voters can know
what they are choosing.

So, I need to get to work to make these things true of our bid for USU 2011.


Meany, John wrote:
> *Regarding USU Procedure
> *
> There are a number of conventional practices associated with BP
> debating. Like those associated with most debate formats, they appear
> to be based on the Goldilocks Principle – only some of them, about
> one-third, are ‘just right.’ The USU debating championship is an
> opportunity to serve as an exception, an outstanding model for
> tournament administration and debating. I will offer some
> recommendations here, hoping for some serious discussion, as well as
> the integration of some of these recommendations as elements of future
> hosting bids.
> *Specified and public role for administrators
> *
> There are a number of titles given to individuals at BP tournaments
> but it is generally unclear which particular tasks are assigned to
> individuals assuming those roles, as well as the limits of their
> authority during a tournament. What will the CA do? The DCAs? The Tab
> Director? The Equity Officer? These tasks often vary by tournament.
> What will one get from these people at any USU? I recognize that there
> are some unspecified and popular traditional roles for some of these
> officials. For example, the traditional role of the equity officer
> (paradox spoiler alert!) is to have an assigned role to a woman to
> create the impression of gender equity in tournament administration.
> But the appropriate response is outing, not emulation.
> Generally, I prefer a tournament to be managed by machine. I do not
> support the idea of personal manipulation of tab results by one or
> more members of a tab room staff (by manipulation, I mean the
> reassignment of teams or judges or the repositioning of teams, e.g., a
> move from opening prop to closing opp, after computer assignment).
> This happens all too often in international debating – it is
> frequently the reason that there is a long delay from the submission
> of the last ballot to the announcement of the next debate.
> If the tournament is managed by a tab director operating the
> tabulation software, there is much less need for what it is that CAs
> and DCAs traditionally do at tournaments. If the only tasks remaining
> happen to be topic writing and/or selection, there should be matching
> titles and job responsibilities for the individual or group (topic
> author, topic committee). And if it is the case the CA is literally a
> topic author, the ‘CA’ should note, prior to an event, her or his
> standards for construction and selection of topics, as well as
> previous examples of work.
> Equity Officer? If this person manages harassment issues, it is almost
> surely a violation of federal and state law, as well as college and
> university harassment policies. I recommend speaking with appropriate
> parties regarding law, policy, and procedure. Deference to debate
> tournament sub-administrators on civil rights matters is unlikely to
> be codified in any jurisdiction in the US or elsewhere or serve as a
> sufficient defense for one’s actions. If the equity officer makes
> case-by-case decisions about other issues than harassment (e.g.,
> “judge does not know the rules”), there should be a posted procedure,
> prior to the tournament, as to how the tournament will accept and deal
> with complaints. Quite frankly, this is too often a de facto and
> privately privileged system for judge strikes and mutually preferred
> judging. Tournaments would be advised to manage this in an open and
> fair manner well in advance of a tournament rather than using the
> conventional ad hoc approach.
> Much contemporary economic ‘downsizing’ is unfortunate but eliminating
> the stuffy bureaucracy and Pentagon-like titling of tournament
> administration would be welcome and efficient. If people need titles,
> I am happy to provide much better ones than CA, DCA, or Equity
> Officer. Modest fee! And who wouldn’t want to be the next Forest Bog
> Czarina? Bad Boy of the Beaumond? America’s Top Carny?
> *Transparency
> *
> I appreciate when tabulation is transparent – the tab director should
> be located in the central room for announcing the topic and should be
> available (when convenient) to help guests learn about tournament
> tabulation. This should be a staple of USU events.
> For tournaments with subsequent personal manipulation of the computer
> tab results, any changes should be recorded and made public as part of
> the tab results. This is only reasonable, after all – it is the way
> the tournament is tabulated. If the computer has not generated the
> results, the attendees should know who produced the pairings and how
> (perhaps why) changes were made. (This is more relevant to tournaments
> other than USU).
> There should be open adjudication for ALL debates. Open adjudication
> provides instructional information to debaters and a measure of
> accountability for judges. I know the various reasons for secrecy (I
> have debated these issues about other debate formats for decades) –
> they are hardly compelling. In fact, some of them are downright
> embarrassing (I get it! I get it! – You can’t get anyone to pay
> attention to you unless you are the person possessing the secret
> information regarding the qualifying teams for elimination rounds. But
> one’s social insecurity or lack of charisma is NOT a reason to keep
> adults in the dark about their performances).
> *Debate Feedback Forms
> *
> There is so much wrong with this idea that I am reluctant to even
> write about it. This is email, after all; this note shouldn’t be the
> length of a novella. Let me simply summarize the most egregious
> problems – (1) it contradicts judge training (the CAs/DCAs using both
> conventional tournament training and judge feedback form don’t get it
> but don’t let them in on the contradiction just yet, it is simply too
> hilarious); (2) there is no content-based rubric for judge assessment
> – it is meaningless; and (3) it reinforces established prejudices – it
> rigs the results. ‘Nuff said.
> More later…
> Best,
> John
> Claremont Colleges

Alfred C. Snider aka Tuna
Edwin Lawrence Professor of Forensics
University of Vermont
Huber House, 475 Main Street, UVM, Burlington, VT 05405 USA
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