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CEDA News, November 2015

Two quick items.

1. The CEDA business meeting is scheduled for Friday, November 20. The meeting will be at 6:00pm in Greenspan 5163 on the UNLV campus. If you have questions or an item for the agenda, please contact Mike Davis at

2. There is one amendment pending for consideration through the alternate procedure (submitted by Jackie Poapst). The amendment addresses JV eligibility. The text and justification are below. If there is sufficient support, the amendment will go to the membership for a vote before the end of the year. There is time to suggest changes or make other clarifications before it goes to a final vote.


Replaces the current language with the following:
A debater is eligible to compete in junior varsity if they have less than two years of collegiate policy debate experience at the varsity or junior varsity level or until they meet two of the following conditions, whichever occurs first:
1) Advances to finals of three college policy debate tournaments in junior varsity, varsity, or open that clears to at least a full quarterfinals in the division.
2) Has over 100 rounds of collegiate policy debate
3) Qualified to the Tournament of Champions in policy debate
Once a debater has qualified for the National Debate Tournament, they are no longer eligible for Junior Varsity debate. The previous conditions do not apply for Junior Varsity National Tournaments of the year that a debater is forced to progress, unless said condition is stipulated in the eligibility of the Junior Varsity National Tournament.

I initially wrote this long, eloquently worded, justification for my rule change proposal. But, then I thought about it, and realized I wanted to be more upfront. The initial rule was proposed in order to force up competitive JV debaters so that the pool quality allowed other debaters to succeed in JV. I think this rationale is a poor choice, and only makes a decline in debate more likely. JV debate is dying. The tournaments that have the largest numbers of JV debaters are largely composed of debaters who began as a novice the year prior. This rule punishes novice debaters, and only has a risk of putting up a novice debater after minimal experience in junior varsity into open before they are ready. Having an incremental move from novice to junior varsity can provide the building blocks necessary to make varsity success possible. I can name countless names of debaters from the past eight years who were provided the opportunity to debate in novice and junior varsity for a year and then went on to do very well in varsity. There are also many examples of debaters who had this opportunity who then qualified for the NDT.
Forcing a debater up before they are ready in order to provide fodder to the bottom of the varsity pool is the definition of elitism. Let these debaters learn with others who have the same amount of experience as they do. Yes, some will be better than others (but not to the extent of skills gap that a second year debater who started as a novice will have to a debater in their fourth or fifth year of debate who also debated four years in high school). Forcing a second year debater who started as a novice up because they have done “well” in JV makes no sense. Of course they have done well in JV - that is where they belong. That also begs the question of what well means, because clearing at a regional tournament in junior varsity and winning the first elim does not seem to mean being ready for varsity (especially since the current rule counts walking over a team from your school as winning an elimination round). The proposed rule rectifies this problem by extending the elimination requirement to finals (as it used to be), but only requiring that the tournament be a full quarterfinals division (instead of 20 teams, like the former rule was). This only extends the rule by one elimination round, as it only requires a team to win a semifinals round.
Most directors or coaches would probably agree that the first couple years of college debate are the make or break years in terms of a debater’s retention in the activity. Forcing a debater up in their second year of debate to then never win again in the hopes that “trial by fire” will teach them is poor pedagogy. We do not take children in school who do well in fifth grade and have them move on to high school, because that will make them a “better student.” Why are we applying that logic to debate then, if we do not do it in academia? As much as we may like to compare debate to a sport, it is an intellectual activity. Trial by fire in football may make sense, but learning is incremental – and removing a debater from the division that focuses on continuing to learn the fundamentals to prepare for varsity is a poor choice.
The current rule is drastically reducing Junior Varsity participation at tournaments, along with overall tournament participation. While the argument has been made that those debaters are simply going to move up to varsity debate – making those divisions larger – the worry is that this will not be the case. The intent of this rule was to make it so that less competitive debaters would not be forced up after two years. The effect, however, could be to force up debaters who are not ready for varsity debate (even if they were competitive in Junior Varsity). The way the current rule is written, a debater who has 100 rounds of debate in HIGH SCHOOL, along with three tournaments of winning one elimination round, must move up to varsity. To allow a rule that potentially forces a debater who had one to two years of high school experience to move up to varsity after their third tournament seems a little ridiculous. This is especially relevant given that the 100 rounds requirement does not specify a win percentage – meaning that debaters who have a 20% win percentage in high school may be forced to move up after their first three college tournaments. The proposed rule provides a TOC specification that alleviates the concern of high school “ringers” being put in Junior Varsity for points, allowing debaters who competed on the regional high school level to get the experience they would need from Junior Varsity debate to become competitive varsity debaters.