Disclosure & Nationals
Adrienne F. Brovero
Fri Mar 13 07:49:01 CST 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 am writing as the person who judged this aff the "first time" it was "new". I have no comment on the "second" time it might have been "new." - I witnessed the post round discussion the KU debaters had with the other team, and thought part of the situation needs to be clarified:
I may be out of it, because I missed the pre-round discussion of whether it was "new" or not - I had heard a rumor before i showed up to judge the round that the aff would be new. In fact, I initiated the discussion after the debate, by saying, "Hey, this isn't new - your top team ran this version of X against us or someone else at the Y tournament." To which the debaters responded, "We said it was new to US, and we had a team meeting in which we decided that was a legit definition of new." (Which meets the criteria Parcher mentions in his response, I think). [Note - this discussion happened at the end of the round the FIRST time that school had been aff in the tournament - while perhaps not intentional, Scott's above post could be read to imply that the "team vote" had sanctioned calling it "new" for a SECOND time in the tournament, which is not what the debaters said about the team policy in front of me - they said the team had said it was okay to say "new to US," in response to my question, which was asked & answered in the context of the FIRST time they ran it] [Although, it is entirely going to let you have a second-shot at coming up with a one-time wonder counterplan. If however, we were eliminating a major solvency mechanism from the plan, that radically altered the 1AC, we would tell you. On the other hand, other teams on the Wake squad would sometimes let you see the plan, even post changes. It varied. That has also been my experience with other Wake teams we've debated this year. Generally speaking, I think individual pairs/teams have fairly consistent policies, but I don't think all squads have a monolithically *implemented* policy for all their teams. I know of some squads, for example, whose policies within the team vary depending on the teams' abilities - the top team will show you their plan text, the youngest, least experienced team will show you the text, but only if they can see the CP text. I agree it would be easier if everyone on a squad had AND implemented the exact policy, but that seems unlikely in the near term.
As for those "few word" plan changes, I get the impression that Scott thinks those plans should be disclosed, and I am wondering why. In one of our debates this weekend (though I don't think Scott's example above was referencing us), we in fact did give the other team a copy of the most recent plan we had read prior to our meeting, and said that it might be different. It was different by two words (not the same changes as the examples above), in an effort to make the counterplan we anticipated them running (we had met another team from their school earlier) not competitive. I am not sure why we should have shown them the changed plan, giving them more time to make the "Djibouti buys the plan's SA from the US" counterplan competitive. Maybe it didn't matter, given that they ran a different counterplan that was arguably not even competitive with the plan text we DID show them (the plan change we made did not affect the competitiveness of the CP they chose to run). I guess ultimately, while I have an inherent bias toward the neg, I don't think affs need to be complicit in neg's efforts to run a one-shot wonder textually competitive counterplan. I am not saying I or any of the teams I have coached have never placed their hopes on a strategy which depends on the plan's wording. It happens. And teams have changed their plans, and we have lost. It is unrealistic to expect the plan to remain the same between rounds. My lesson from that has been to avoid pinning all my hopes on the plan's wording, since if I could think of a counterplan that was competitive with the current text, they probably could too, and they may have changed it before we get a chance to debate them. The same is true of disad links, etc. I am not criticizing anyone's strategizing, I am just saying there are pitfalls to relying on the plan text staying the same, and I don't think the aff should feel obligated to show a plan they haven't read before.
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.
I am not sure what to do about the varying definitions of new either- I have been burned by it in the past. It is nice of you to show the plan when you have spiked out an argument. I did that myself sometimes, with individual teams who have reciprocated. However, I do not think the aff is obligated to be an "enabler" of the negative's strategy which pinned all its hopes on the wording of the plan. Like I said above, that is the pitfall of planning strategy around the notion of an unchanging plan - it is unrealistic to assume that the aff won't change the plan.
I think perhaps the responsibility falls on the negative team to ask questions about the definition of new, in order to avoid confusion. There are two words which seem to cause the most miscommunication in the pre-round "new" discussion - "us" and "new." The negative may think "us" means the squad, while the aff meant "us" as themselves, the two debaters. "New" has problems as well, as noted in Scott's post. I talked about this with Judd a bunch last night, and we thought of the following questions which might help:
Begin the discussion by defining "you"/"us" as the two affs debaters.
1) Is it something you haven't run that you don't think anyone else in the country has run? (obviously this gets touchy, since the merger has dramatically increased the number of tournaments on the other side of the country that you'll never attend, it is possible to just not know this has already been run, but it is worth a shot asking - a "yes" answer would at least probably rule out affs run at tourneys both teams have attended)
2) Is it something you haven't run that you think someone has run something similar to already?
3) Is it something you haven't run that you think has been run already?
4) Is it something you haven't run that may have been run by your squad already?
5) Is it something you haven't run but is related to one of your old affs?
6) If it is related to one of your old affs, does it aid the same country/countries?
7) If it is a plan change, will you tell us the area of the plan (like Parcher said - Georgetown will try to tell you the area of the plan that changes, like funding, or solvency mech, or agent, etc.)? (In some cases, like when we added two words to avoid a conterplan, I am not sure how I would describe that, but even maybe saying something in the first half of the plan will change, might be useful).
(these are just preliminary ideas - there are probably other degrees of the questions which would be useful, as well as alternative wordings)
Obviously, at any point, the aff could clam up and refuse to say anymore. I don't think refusal to answer at any stage necessarily reveals anything strategically by the aff. Even if the aff refuses to answer anything past the first question,
the negative at least has a range of possibility to think about. The problems seem to arise, in a lot of instances, when the neg makes assumptions about the range of possibilities, without making more of an effort to flesh out that range with the aff team. If the aff answers "yes" to #1, you have probably eliminated the possibility that it is an aff run by their squad, and maybe even affs run at tournaments both teams have attended.
It also seems to me, that it might be useful to try to have these discussions with all the relevant participants involved (at least all four debaters, and if possible the coaches). I know my frosh who hit 2 new affs did not ask all the questions I wished they had asked. I started asking them similar questions about what they were told, and they were clueless. Obviously, when the pairings come out, and one neg debater finds one aff debater, who just says it will be "new" the neg debater usually has at least a mild panic attack, and then scurries off to tell the partner and coach those evil aff kids are running something new. (It would probably also help if neg teams didn't automatically get irked when they hear it is new - yeah it sucks they aren't running the aff you prepped for, but deal - think of it as a sign of respect for your negative abilities, or remind yourself that it is ridiculous to get mad at the exercise of their right to run something new - whatever it takes to make you stop thinking that the aff is making a concerted effort to ruin your NDT) (for example, I had enormous respect for McCaffity & Terry who behaved with the utmost civility and professionalism throughout the year, despite the fact that they debated about 20 new affs in the second semester of their junior year) It might be useful if squads/individual teams come up with an action plan for dealing with this event - such as asking the aff team if they can meet in the room briefly (probably before the tub-hauling begins, to prevent tension from rising. If not, it should at least happen ASAP, and before the aff possibly vanishes into an anonymous room to finish writing the 1AC) if possible, with a coach from both teams present (this is an effort to avoid miscommunication between debaters and their coaches about what was said in the discussion, and hopefully an effort to maintain civility). Hopefully, such a conversation will go a long way toward making sure everyone is on the same page. Obviously, this doesn't change the fact the Harris wasn't there for the post-round discussion I initiated, but maybe a more coherent pre-round discussion would have obviated the need for the discussion we had post-round.
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 think this argument is problematic for a few reasons -
1) It is unwise to pin all hopes on a strategy that assumes they won't change the plan (above)
2) The likelihood of all squads having a 100% consistent policy is unlikely. I think even a lot of teams which have basically uniform policies are unlikely to implement them identically. By this I mean, most squads probably have a baseline minimum they will disclose to you, but some individual teams may disclose more. I don't think other (typically younger or less experienced) teams on the squad should feel obligated to give away their new plan changes just because the top team felt confident enough to do so. Sometimes one team on a squad may give more information because they have received reciprocal treatment from the particular team they are debating. Or, maybe they are the only team on their squad running a certain aff, so disclosure doesn't have much of an effect on the other teams on the squad. Obviously, this may be an argument *for* consistency, but I still think that it is really hard to ensure it is implemented identically by everyone on the squad. I also think to some degree novice nationals might be a somewhat unique situation in that there are a bunch of frosh debating, making them less experienced with a squad's disclosure policy. Not saying they are incompetent, but I would be careful not to make assumptions about a school's disclosure policy based on their frosh's disclosure stances at an all-frosh tournament.
3) I am curious about the "truly new case" arg - It would seem to me, that in most of my experience, plan changes frequently happen ad hoc - rarely have teams had practice rounds on them, or thought them out terribly extensively. I know some do happen in a planned fashion,but I would gamble most plan changes happen in the context of the neg's strategies at THAT tournament. In light of that, many aff teams who run new wordings are also taking a strategic risk in that the plan they are reading is an untested version of the plan- they have no rounds on it, no idea if it may backfire, no idea if the team has better disad links to the changes.
4) A new plan doesn't take the opponents' coach out of the round completely. The opponents' coach did not leave the room when we showed them the old plan. He still had plenty of coaching to do, since our advantages were still the same, so was our solvency, etc. "New to us" doesn't even remove the coach from the round - obviously it may make it harder, but you can still have strong candidates for what it might be (starting with that squad's other affs). Only "no disclosure" or "new" come close to (but don't completely) eliminating the coach from the equation - I don't understand why those would be preferable from a coaching standpoint.
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
Given the T history at Kansas, I have to admit this argument strikes me as ironic. *grin* While I understand Scott's reservations, I think 2 things:
1) Debate doesn't have procedural mechanisms to turn to when teams manipulate disclosure. I know some of those may be imperfect in the law arena, but there are some. Beyond that, I don't think the debate community can come to 100% consensus on such "procedural safeguards." (as explained above)
2) We live in an imperfect world, and even with those procedural mechanisms, people in the legal arena may manipulate them - shouldn't we also prepare debaters for that reality? (i.e. Scott seems concerned the aff will learn how to manipulate the system, given that I think that is inevitable, shouldn't we teach the neg to anticipate that/not place their bets on the assumption that the aff won't manipulate the system) ?
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.
I really hope it doesn't.
u of m
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