[eDebate] Troubling debate behaviors

Alfred Snider alfred.snider
Thu Apr 6 09:15:06 CDT 2006

This is a very good point, Eric.

I often take younger debaters as my 4th or 5th team to CEDA Nats so they 
can see how it is done.

This year I had a novice debater tell me that he received a critique 
that was so harsh and so personal that it really made him want to quit 
the activity and the tournament and go back to the hotel. He did not 
because he described himself as very determined to debate and will not 
let anyone stop him. That is not appropriate or necessary. I am not 
going to confront that judge because I can anticipate a shouting match 
and more personal insults. I would expect any judge to give criticism 
(and we want that, students want that, especially younger debaters) that 
is given in such a way that it can be internalized properly and shows 
respect. Such a judge would not tolerate debaters speaking to them in 
that way, but feel it is appropriate for them to do so.

In CEDA East we established a protocol for this at our meeting. All 
coaches request that if they or any of their judges offend or discourage 
a debater during a critique it needs to be communicated immediately so 
that it can be dealt with. At times the judge does not even know he or 
she is doing it, but just gets carried away. Like many disads, 
perception is key.

Only 69 schools at CEDA nats this year. Can we afford to keep driving 
people away?


PS: Congrats on a great year, Eric. Who would have known that a simple 
name change would do so much. ;-)

Morris, Eric R wrote:
> I agree 100% with almost everything you've said here. The limited 
> exception is the talking to debaters. I agree that talking should not 
> disrupt prep time, and would add that it should not be done in a way 
> that gives one team an impression of judge favoritism.
> That said, high school debates in this area have an expectation of 
> formality that is stifling and intimidating. Many of my debaters find 
> they prefer the tone and style of college debates. I think some of the 
> banter is community building and some is not. Judges need to 
> understand the difference and act accordingly.
> I would add that judges should be very cautious about taking a harsh 
> tone at the debaters in post round discussions, unless the debater 
> initiates the tone. I would also add that the losing team should be 
> treated in a way consistent with their disappointment. I had a round a 
> few years ago where a well respected judge that had voted against us 
> proceded to play to an audience (largely members of a large elite 
> university) by mocking our case and arguments. It was quite 
> dehumanizing, even for someone with several years experience in this 
> game. We rank that judge low (and see him only rarely, thank 
> goodness), even though he's probably a good judge as far as decisions 
> go, because we don't really want to have another experience.
> A good frame of reference is this: judges should assume that debaters 
> are committed, but have hesitations about their participation because 
> of the time and workload. That said, while making the fairest decision 
> possible, a judge should never act in a way that is likely to drive a 
> debater away. It doesn't happen often, but it HAS happened in the 
> past. Once is too much.
> Dr. Eric Morris
> Asst Prof of Communication
> Director of Forensics
> Craig Hall 363A
> Missouri State University
> Springfield, MO 65897
> (O) 417-836-7636
> (H) 417-865-6866
> (C) 417-496-7141
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *From:* edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com on behalf of Alfred Snider
> *Sent:* Thu 4/6/06 8:44 AM
> *To:* edebate at ndtceda.com
> *Subject:* [eDebate] Troubling debate behaviors
> >From my blog at http://web.mac.com/doctortuna/
> Having just returned from CEDA nationals in Dallas I had a chance to
> observe many debaters and judges in interactions, and I wanted to talk
> about some behaviors that bother me. These are not new, but observations
> of these behaviors again this last weekend made me want to talk about
> these to highlight some important concerns and to get feedback from 
> people.
> Judges have a serious obligation to the debaters to do the best job they
> can, assess the debate performances accurately and to assist the
> debaters in holding a fair and rewarding contest. Likewise, the debaters
> need to stick to their roles -- making arguments and trying to put on
> the best performances they can as well as assisting the judges in making
> a fair decision.
> Here are some issues I wish to raise.
> First, the seemingly gratuitous awarding of perfect scores. Given a 30
> point scale for debater ratings, it is not often that debaters receive
> the perfect score of 30. It seems as if at the end of the year nears
> judges trend to give more and more perfect scores. This may be done for
> a variety of reasons, but to me most all of them seem to be bad reasons.
> At times it is done to recognize the career of certain known debaters.
> At other times it is done because the judge wants to avoid a difficult
> decision and tries to ease the difficult decision they may not be able
> to articulate effectively by saying that everyone got a 30. At other
> times the losing team may have a chance to reach the elimination rounds
> because they have received 30s.
> All of these reasons may seem compelling at the time, but they are all
> fairly bad rationalizations. They may make it easier for the judge and
> might make the debaters feel better, but it is not appropriate. It is
> not a real recognition of performance, but an easy way out of a
> situation. It compromises the role of the judge to accurately judge and
> evaluate the performance of the debaters. It is not that much different
> from giving higher points to a friend. It ism also profoundly unfair to
> all the other debaters in the tournament. They are doing their best are
> are, hopefully, being evaluated fairly, while others are being given
> unjust . I have seen tournaments where results, qualifying teams and
> speaker awards have been adversely impacted by these sorts of behaviors.
> The judges involved simply do not consider how unfair their actions are
> and how it will impact others.
> Second, inappropriate comments by debaters. The win-loss record of teams
> is important for whether they will quality or not. The judge is there to
> judge the debate that takes place, not the debate in the context of the
> rest of the tournament. Every round is important but. of course, judges
> and debaters focus more and try harder in rounds that they perceive as
> ?break? rounds, to determine whether a team reaches the elims or not. I
> understand this, and while judges should exert the same effort no matter
> what round they are judging, to focus more is not necessarily a problem.
> The problem that I see is when a judge is not aware of the relative win
> status of the teams. There are times when I have seen debaters inform
> the judge inappropriately of the wins that each team has. This is not a
> problem when they both have the same number of wins, but it can be a
> problem in a mispaired round. For example, if one team is 4-3 and
> another 3-4 and it takes a 5-3 record to advance, it would be highly
> inappropriate for one of the debaters to mention these records to the
> judge. This makes it easier to vote for the 4-3 team, knowing that it
> will allow them to qualify, while voting or the 3-4 team will not help
> them. Certainly judges of high integrity would not be influenced by such
> a comment, but at times judges want an easy way out and this would
> certainly be one. If I were in this situation and a debater made an
> obvious comment like this I would be insulted and upset that a debater
> would try to manipulate me like this. Perhaps the debater did not have
> this intent, but nevertheless it is highly inappropriate. Keep your
> mouth shut and let the debate happen. I observed this at CEDA nationals,
> and while I do not accuse anyone of anything, it underlines the need to
> be aware of such situations and to realize the situation.
> Third, judges need to create and sustain the kind of environment that
> will facilitate the debate. The judge has a lot of power over what takes
> place in the room. The debaters defer to the judge for obvious reasons.
> If the judge does something inappropriate, the debaters are not likely
> to call the judge on it, because the judge has the power of the ballot.
> Now, I am not talking about some of the more egregious incidents where
> judges have told debaters that if they tell jokes they will get more
> points, if they sing a song they are more likely to win, etc. These are
> obvious abuses that I think we can all condemn. However, there are some
> judges who do something far less incorrect but nevertheless a problem. I
> have seen several judges who carry on a conversation unrelated to the
> debate during the debate and especially during preparation time.
> Obviously, a speaker?s preparation time is important, but the
> preparation time of the other team is an important resource as well, to
> be used to prepare. As I have indicated previously, the judge is in a
> power position, and a judge talking about their love of a particular
> sports team or a particular kind of restaurant is not likely to be
> interrupted as a debater says, ?Could you please keep quiet so I can
> prepare?? The debate round is not a social zone, but a forum for serious
> competition. Judges should remain reserved and quiet -- let the debate
> happen.
> Policy debate is a very difficult and challenging activity. The debaters
> and judges need to keep that in mind and think about how they influence
> the situation and their responsibilities not just to the people in the
> room but to everyone in the competition.
> Just some thoughts.
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