Disclosure & Nationals
William E Newnam
Thu Mar 12 10:45:14 CST 1998
I am also concerned about a variety of practices about disclosure that
have developed over the years. But before I address these concerns, I
would like to offer that as far as I know no such practices that Scott
discussed below were by the Emory team. If I am incorrect or if he has
information to the contrary, I would appreciate a backchannel to clarify
any such misconceptions or so that I may speak to my students and speak to
them and hopefully teach the value of openness and collegiality. But the
way this was discussed in an open forum without specific references which
should be disclosed in private leaves me wondering--did my students do
something like this and if so, I would like to know about it. These are
the youngest of college students and we sometimes have to temper the
competitive drives of those who have yet to feel comfortable in this
collegiate debate setting. I feel like a good portion of the coaches role
is to help to teach the students to respect each other, treat each other
as colleagues, and enjoy the competition without letting it overwhelm you.
As for particulars:
On Wed, 11 Mar 1998, SCOTT HARRIS wrote:
> This year at Nov Nats there are signs that we might be heading into
> disasters at the NDT. There were a couple of schools whose disclosure
> policies trouble me greatle. One team claimed that they were running a
> "new" case when they ran a case which had been run by their top team at
> another tournament. It is my understanding that in a subsequent round at
> Nov Nats they called the same case "new" even though they had previosly
> run it at the tournament. My debaters tell me that they were told that
> the school had had a squad meeting and had decided this was a legitimate
> use of the term "new."
***I sure hope this wasn't us. I know for a fact that our first years
wrote new versions of deforestation themselves before this tournament
including changing to specific countries, so it could have been. if so,
please backchannel me. I can assure you they had no meeting that I was
aware of, we can barely agree to meet for dinner.
Another team refused to show their plan to the
> opposition when making minor wording changes to the plan (taking out the
> words "as per the recommendations of..." in one debate, and adding the
> words "or any means necessary" in another.
What is odd is that this team showed us that change before another debate.
This stood in stark contrast
> to Wake Forest who showed the plan after making a substantive change
> (limiting the applicability of the demining effort in Vietnam to a
> specific province). That same team was very assertive in demanding to see
> the other teams plan in elims quickly (before other rounds were even
Actually, in one our semis debates one of the wake forest teams changed
their plan from going to the government to going to an NGO and did not
show us the plan. I had no problem with that. They told us the plan
remained essentially the same, but they were obviously trying to get out
of the China debate. Fortunately, the team they were debating figured
out that there was a topicality problem and won because it did not go to
one of the Southeast Asian NATIONS. Frankly, the fact that the debaters
had to figure that out on their own was a good test of their skills and
presented them with a challenge which they rose to. I think it was good
for their confidence as well.
Here, I think, Scott hits the nail on the head. The inconsistency of
disclosure practices has always concerned me. It seems as though what one
person find excessive another person finds too restrained. I do not know
that the solution is, but I agree that the inconsistency about it is going
to generate tension.
The first time, several years ago, when a coach from another team walked
into a room in which I was talking with my debaters and essentially,
demanded to see the plan, I was shocked. I had never seen that before and
I was unsure how to handle it. AFter a pregnant pause, we offered the
plan, but it did not seem right to me. It seemed as though if the
debaters wanted to see the written material before the debate that would
be okay since they would be seeing it during the debate. But I was very
hesitant, myself, to look at the opposing teams plan until last year when
the practice became so commonplace. It seems as though there is a very
slim difference between that and reading the text of the 1ac. already it
became common for people to ask what they claim. I witness cross-exs that
occur before the debate begins. What does this mean? Does this plank
mean you do that?, etc. etc.
What concerns me about this level of disclosure is that it takes the
debate out of the students hands and places it more in control of the
coaches. Will timeouts be next?
Even when I debated in the dark ages I remember watching a coach from
another school coach a team during prep time of our debate when I went to
get water. This year I had a debater complain that he saw a coach doing
the same thing during a major elimination debate.
I have seen coaches bring in briefs during a debate to distribute to his
team and no one said a word. Were these written while the 1ac was
speaking. Did the negative sneak extra preptime into the debate this way?
Was their another participant in the debate? Was the coach a silent
These kinds of questions are all open to discussion, I believe.
Fundamentally, while I enjoy coaching argumenta and helping my teams
prepare for debates, I think that at some point is the student's
activity. This is not basketball or football and i really don't think
debate should be viewed that way. Coaches are teachers not participants
and I think Scott raises a very important issue which we as a community
Where is the activity a student activity and where is it a coaches
What level of disclosure is appropriate will depend in large measure on
the answer to that question.
Then we can talk about disclosure.
How long do we hold up the tournament for coaching?
What do we about coaching during debates?
Can students get evidence from elsewhere once the debate begins?
All of these and many more are question posed by Scott's concerns and I
think that these stem from a fundamental question about the role of
coaching more than about the competitiveness of first year students at
their national championships.
> Given the inconsistencies in disclosure practice in which "new" means
> different things to different people I don't know what to do. Perhaps I'm
> just too open in showing people our plans when we make minor wording
> changes to spike out a specific argument. If people don't want to allow
> another teams coaches to coach I have no problem with those like S.
> Carolina who adopt a consistent don't ask don't tell policy, or those who
> are willing to take the risks of running a truly new case. I have serious
> problems if disclosure becomes a tool of gamesmanship in which we play
> Clintonesque word games like "I did not break the laws of my country"
> (because I was at Oxford when I didn't inhale) in response to the question
> did you smoke mj. I have serious reservations about the kinds of lessons
> we teach our students for the future. Those who become lawyers may learn
> how to manipulate pretrial disclosure in their predebate disclosure
> I am very disheartened about being in an activity that plays these kind of
> games. If anything can drive me out of an activity I love deeply this is
> the kind of thing that can.
> #####TROUBLED IN LAWRENCE#####
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