[eDebate] Plea for Random Judging

Terry West West
Mon Sep 30 16:11:28 CDT 2002

Well, I just got a backchannel from a friend asking me when I was going
to jump in and say "I told you so."  Hey, it's hard to type when I've
still got holes in my hands from being publicly crucified on this list
for making these same arguments about mutual preference judging in the
past :-)

I have watched with some consternation as younger, "cooler," more
"insider" coaches and judges have come to repeat most of the arguments I
gave when I seemed to be the de facto leader of the anti-mpj group.  So
all I'm going to ask is that people read this post without hatred, and
nobody needs to strike me or not "prefer" me just because I happen to
differ with some on mpj.


1)  I don't call it "mutual preference."  It is seldom truly mutual and
forcing a number of choices is not my idea of "preference."  So I call
it "forced choice judging."  May be a minor issue, but nobody (including
me) is against "mutual preference" defined as "a perfect system where
every debater gets the judge of her/his dreams."  That's how proponents
presented it.

2)  Watch your backs, folks.  Maybe I only took it on the chin because
I tend to be a bit more blunt than some, but I was publicly castigated
on this listserve, discriminated against by a CEDA President who
attempted to have me removed from the finals panel although I was
elected as Regional Rep (the conflict was saved when Emory closed
finals, although Emory usually picks me in mpj), was the subject of a
secret meeting in a living room where at least one CEDA officer
collected cronies to devise a "new frontier" of policy debate that would
"get rid of people like Terry West," was accused of opposing mpj because
my students never win (empirically disproven), and was accused of being
"against 'the' students"  (never true; equally concerned about students
hurt by the system).  Ok, sorry, I just had to get that off my chest. 
But I hope none of the people who are having second thoughts about mpj
get grouped into the "people like Terry West" category that we have to
get rid of.

3)  I have never opposed strikes.  I do not, and have never, believed
that "all judges are the same," "any judge is ok," "good teams can win
in front of anybody," or that purely random judging is a good thing.  A
reasonable percentage of strikes is a good idea.  We all know that there
are judges with biases that are unacceptable to us.  We all know there
are conflicts of interest that don't get "coded out."  We all know there
are some judges who just aren't very good.  But I think the percentage
of strikes in a large tournament could be fairly high.  When I attend
tournaments with forced A and B pools amounting to 75% of the pool, I'm
told that essentally this means C downward are "strikes."  I'm told the
system we use at CEDA nats effectively allows us to exclude the bottom
third (although I have found this system very irregular in my own
experience).  I'm comfortable with strikes up to a third of the pool.  I
think if we decide more than a third of the debate judging pool is
either incompetent or unacceptably biased, we have problems too big to
solve and should cancel the tournament.

Some things that have happened as a result of mpj:

1)  Loss of membership (partially).  I initially thought that we would
lose huge numbers of schools in direct protest of mpj.  I was wrong
about that, but the reasons I was wrong don't help much.  When we took
paper ballot votes on mpj as it was first proposed, the membership of
CEDA opposed it by a 2 to 1 margin.  By the time we changed voting
procedures to do it on what was then ceda-l, it passed.  This coincided
with a steep decline in CEDA membership.  This decline was due to lots
of things:  directors leaving, schools cutting costs, dissatisfaction
with several CEDA moves to become "real-live-boys" such as year long
policy topics and earlier release dates, etc.  Parli became an
alternative for many (I think Parli has much educational potential and I
fully support it as a forensics activity, but I don't see it as an
"alternative" to CEDA or NDT).  Whatever the reasons, it is clear that
membership loss correlated to schools that weren't voting for mpj.  

2)  Discrimination.  I thought the primary discrimination would be
against those with pedagogy-based views toward intercollegiate debate. 
Again, I was wrong; and, again, the reasons I was wrong don't help much.
 We discovered that the system discriminated against women and people of
color.  Thus, affirmative action became a part of CEDA nats.  How

3)  Polarization.  As previous posters have pointed out, the issue of
exclusionary judging continues to polarize the community.

4)  Bad education.  We "justify" forensics based on education when we
need money, then adopt a system that works to disallow some in our
community from hearing debates against teams their school must
participate against, and in some cases disallows them from hearing
debates at all.  

Anyway, I'm ruefully happy to hear that some of our best scholars
(Smith, Parcher, et. al.) are now re-thinking mpj.  I still think it's a
good idea, but it's Platonically good.  Doesn't seem reachable in the
world.  Hopefully, some compromise can be achieved without people taking
shots at Jeff or Ross as was done to me a few years back.


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