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?


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…


Claremont Colleges