[eDebate] NDT COMMITTEE ACTION ITEMS IN EVANSTON

Morris, Eric R EricMorris
Fri Apr 7 10:18:10 CDT 2006


I've reacted to Mancuso's post line by line. Some people don't read long posts, so a few highlights:
1. The rule passed in an under-democratic manner. While the original proposal was shared with the general debate public, the new rule was shared only with committee members (and whomever they consulted). The people most affected (3rd coaches from major programs) were the least notified and the least invited to speak their minds.  
2. This rule passed, at least in part, on procedural grounds. Many on the committee expressed support for the Lupo rule relative to this rule. One voted for the rule, while purportedly opposing it, in order to stop procedural roadblocks to the Lupo rule. I have been told that any member who voted for it can now reverse their position and ask for its reconsideration. That would appear the only way to stop it for the 2007 NDT unless there is a super-majority for reversal. I hope any NDT committee members with second thoughts will take this action.
3. The rule dramatically changes the focus from earlier rules. The new rule penalizes mid-sized, mid-budget programs relative to larger one who can afford the undergraduate contingent to offset the loss of coaching support. This rule is less about who wins the NDT and more about who get to lose to the eventual winner in doubles or octos.
 
Here's the more extended discussion:
 
SM: A couple of clarifications about the new rule. First it has been alleged that this rule "will allow a school like Northwestern to bring an unlimited number of undergraduate researchers to the tournament."  The rule limits undergraduate workers to those who are academically eligible, attend the school for which they are working, and have debated 15 rounds that year.  Even large programs like Emory, Harvard, Northwestern etc. have a relatively small number of undergraduates who meet these standards, especially once you subtract out the debates who qualify for the tournament.   Further, large squads typically are "larger" than others because of younger debaters - exactly the kind whose research will have relatively less impact on winning debates at the NDT.  Finally, if a debate program trains a large number of undergraduates (4-5?) to be able to accomplish round-winning research at the NDT that should be celebrated.

EM: The new rule certainly allows larger squads to bring many more people than smaller squads. Furthermore, mid-sized programs with more than 2 actively researching coaches are forced to either bring more undergraduates (at $200 a person in entry fees) to compensate or they lose ground, relative to larger schools, due to this rule. I will agree that this rule narrows the gap between small (fewer than 3 coaches at the NDT) and mid sized programs, but it does so by increasing the gap between mid and large sized programs. Perhaps I should not complain, since we brought exactly 4 undergrads to the NDT this year. We promptly donated two to the scouting pool. The Mancuso rule could hardly have been better designed to kill the scouting system. The Lupo rule will offset that effect, I hope. 

SM: The rule was redesigned over the past year to prioritize undergraduate
research over non-undergraduate research deliberately in response to the feedback
members of the committee received from most of you that a "worker rule" should
not unduly limit the educational experience of the NDT for undergraduates, and
also that it should not discourage the team-mate-style bonding of
undergraduates.  Presumably these values are less important for their teachers - certainly
the AFA code of ethics implies that.

EM: This is NOT a "re-design" - it is a new rule. Oddly, while the original rule was well publicized, the new rule was poorly publicized. The old rule had a lot of momentum, but lost that momentum based on extended discussion. Such discussion was, of course, quite limited for the new rule. The side attempting to have it both ways on the AFA issue is clearly the side proposing this rule and codifying the now widespread research efforts of coaches while simultaneously invoking the AFA mantra on the 3rd coach from every school.

SM: It has also been stated that directors will have to tell their GTA's that
they "aren't allowed to coach at the NDT." 
This was probably just a slip in language, but indicates a point worth
making.  The rule does not prevent anyone from coaching at the NDT, as generally
thought of.  It regulates research and the writing of arguments.  A school could
still bring 10 coaches who scout, brainstorm, think of arguments, and pass
those arguments along verbally to debaters.  Schools with huge coaching staffs
will still have their, apparently obligatory, advantage over schools who don't

EM: I used that sort of language, and it was NOT a slip of the tongue. As with many who coach, I consider working with arguments to be part of my job. The "thou shalt not communicate using a written form" rule is likely to raise more problems than it solves. If the rule is confusing to people now, it will become more confusing on implementation. I wrote Mancuso with a list of 10 scenarios to better understand his intentions for this rule. While I found his answers to be internally consistent, he also clarified that the interpretations were just his, and that the NDT Committee would have the final say. To me, that translates as "do as you will to comply, and we reserve the right to call you unethical after the fact if you work around the rule in ways suggested by its author". I hope the committee will do so before the next NDT instead of waiting until cases arise. Changing the normal functioning of a squad so dramatically implies an obligation for greatly clarity than we've had thus far. I also expect that I'll be constantly bumping into the censor-in-my-head that expects me to comply with this rule. I'm quite concerned that I'll accidentally start writing a CP text or a T argument, as I might at any other tournament. I expect to spend time frustrated with the committee before each round of the NDT. I lost several productive hours Thursday before the NDT fuming about the rule, but was able to put it out of my head somehow once the tournament started. I better not do that next year....

SM: [As a sidenote, the NCAA explicitly regulates the number of coaches that a
school can have in every sport, from fencing to football, all year long.   The
way we organize debate is a distinct anomaly.]

EM: The NCAA analogy argued more for the old rule than the new one. Also, the role of the coach is totally different. I organize a lot of mundane activities that I might pass on to someone who didn't count as a coach under the NCAA system.

SM: The juxtaposition of the arguments: (1) this rule is unmatched biopower,
reaching into the director's bedroom; and (2) the AFA code of ethics, to which we
are bound, goes further and prohibits all coach research, is certainly
interesting.  The second clearly answers the first.

EM: I didn't make these arguments, precisely, so I will leave them to others. I think the question is whether we SHOULD regulate arguments, and whether such regulation just penalizes the compliant over the non-compliant, instead of whether we may.

SM: Would people advancing these two arguments have any points left to make if
the rule had instead stipulated zero non-undergraduate workers instead of 2?  I
know there are several people on the NDT committee - directors of large
programs - who would support zero for pedagogical purposes.

EM: Ah, triangulation. That rule would have the benefit of consistency, at least. More important, it would have the benefit of lacking adequate support to pass.

SM: [The rule never did really regulate what directors/coaches can do in their
rooms.  It basically regulated what research and arguments teams can use in the
tournament.  A non-designated coach can sit in her/his room and cut cards and
write arguments all night, the debaters just can't use them.  This is
parallel, for instance, to the NDT rule that prohibits fabricated evidence.  Does that
rule also reach into the director's bedroom at night, preventing her/him from
fabricating evidence?  Well, no, it just says the team can't use it in an
actual round.  The NDT committee is certainly authorized to neutrally regulate
evidence/arguments used in a debate round at the NDT.]

EM: Again, this is not my argument. I would point out, though, that there are probably very few coaches who choose to sustain this activity (despite the immense sacrifices involved) so that they can sit around and fabricate evidence. The stupid rule hits a bit closer to the bone. Keep in mind that coaches doing research has been fairly common practice for a VERY long long. That means that anyone making a decision to consider coaching has been operating under that definition of coaching in making their career decisions. 

SM: Overall -- we need to keep some perspective on this rule. 

EM: I agree that perspective is a good antidote to this rule.

SM: It does not threaten the advantages (inequities) that accumulate all year
that benefit schools with big coaching staffs and squads in being able to amass
larger files going in to the NDT compared to their smaller counterparts. 

EM: In fact, it benefits them by disarming schools that compensate on the spot while trying to engage them. Compensatory strategies, such as ignoring the policy realm in favor of writing a few new K's for the NDT, are clearly encouraged.

SM: It does not threaten the advantatges (inequities) that accumulate all year
that benefit schools with big budgets for travel, scholarships, and supplies.

EM: In fact, it magnifies those advantages by disarming the compensatory potential that a few good researchers from a mid-sized school might make.

SM: It does not threaten the advantages (inequities) that accumulate all year
that benefit schools with large coaching staffs that can judge more practice
debates, hear more speech re-works, review more debater research, and have more
meetings with debaters.

EM: And, it magnifies those advantages too - schools most hurt by this rule are the schools with 3-5 coaches who also have lots of responsibilities on the home front (teaching classes, conducting research, etc.). There are lots of weeks when such people have no chance to even START cutting cards until they arrive at the tournament. The new rule locks in the benefits of having hired gun card cutters with no other job during the week before the tournament. 

SM: Schools that are endowed with large coaching staffs and budgets throughout
the year still bring these massive advantages with them to the NDT.

EM: And, the problem is magnified since they can bring many more undergraduates, while the coaches for the mid sized programs are rendered unable to write.

SM: What this rule does do is tell a relatively small group of people that for
three or four days (out of 365) they can't research or write arguments. 

EM: Given that the rule, by admission of its own creator, does little to address the problems that motivated action, one should ask again why we passed it. 

SM: In the larger scheme of things it represents a relatively small step to make
the NDT fairer for everyone, and that was its purpose.

EM: Oh, that's right. I must have gotten all caught up in the details of what it actually DOES and how it came to BE.


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


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