[eDebate] thoughts and AT: Matt, Bryan, Veronica-- 'Roe' and What I am NOT trying to do. . .

Veronica Barreto veronica_m_barreto
Thu Apr 13 11:28:06 CDT 2006

  I sympathize and even share some of your concerns. I'm a very hybridized debater, coach, critic. I've had very diverse experiences in debate. I've seen 12 topics come and go now. I've participated in those topics in different capacities and from different political and ideological perspectives. 
  First, why do you assume that "safety" was the feeling I ever got in rounds as a debater.  I spent my first 12-14 rounds of college debate vomitting in the bathroom.  When I was in high school, I almost vomitted ON Jamie McKown, then another year almost ON JP Lacy. I don't know that it's possible to characterize debates as safe regardless of the topic wording.  
  It's better when you're a critic, but that's not to say that I haven't been put on a panel with two uber debate minds and sat there the entire time thinking "please be a 3-0, please be a 3-0" and some times I do sit. I love Brenda and Luis, they're great people and debaters and watching them debate is an experience, especially if you saw them debate from the beginning of their careers. I wouldn't call the experience judging Brenda & Luis as inspiring a feeling of safety.  When they look at me and say, how many Latinos/as do you know in this activity?...well, after I get through the Miami squad, and my husband, some visible folks like Dick Pineda, then I start with names people may not even remember anymore like John Jester and Issac Castillo, neither of whose original program still exists.  I can't classify that as a warm and fuzzy feeling -- not when I'm brought to tears mid 2AC.  That certainly doesn't mean that their argument isn't worthwhile, advanced well, and that
 the issued shouldn't be discussed because it's hard to talk about.  
  Debate isn't supposed to be comfortable -- and not because it's inherently hyper maculinist -- but because it's an opposing dialectic. I'm not sure what makes pornography a safer topic?  That debate still revolves around the territorialization of the female subject. What about the woman who makes an argument about limiting pornography because they feel objectified by it and has to deal with a team joking, making lewd comments, perhaps even joking with a male critic.  Reading lame issues of "Penthouse" in the van isn't hostile work environment, it's just "reeeesearch."  The propensity for making an impact on women debaters is worse because its pedestrian, part of our daily lives, something we joke about. At least Roe is identified as a highly politicized and polarized subject so that people enter that debate with great care. The fundamental problem with a pornography decision is that I can't think of a Supreme Court ruling.  From what I remember, Larry Flint's claim in
 front of the Court was a procedural offshoot of an Ohio ruling and the Supreme Court decided that decision on Equal Protection grounds. Otherwise, I think it's a fine suggestion, but I don't see its inclusion as a warrant to censor a debate on Roe.
  At the end of the day, really fucked up things happen in debates that disarm all walks of people -- those range from off the cuff remarks, to arguments like Malthus and Wipeout to outright racist, ethnocentric, sexist and heterosexist remarks.  We can't protect anyone from discourse in debates of any type.  But directors, critics and peers can do what you describe in the classroom -- provide trauma support, mediate the ethic of communication, create a forum for post round discussion and resolution.
  Your calculations about debate about competition, ego and simulation are targetted and specific, but not to any particular topic of discussion.
  I understand your instinct to protect.  Some times I forget that I'm my debaters' coach and not their mother. The things that happen to them affect me more deeply than anything that has happened to me during my time in debate. When a debater sat during my debater's 1AR and openly made masturbatory gestures behind her while she spoke -- I went ballistic, I openly threatend violence, there are people I still don't speak to as a result and some I can barely look in the eye. The critic did nothing (not even a reduction of speaker points for a behavior that was pointed out), my two female debaters even took a loss in that debate in a decision that frankly didn't make sense to me as an outsider listening absent the lewd behavior that occurred.  I even think that part of the decision mentioned that their discussion of the incident skewed their time allocation so that they didn't get to the defense in the debate. This happened while negating on an Iraq debate, but it could have
 happened during any debate, on any topic.  There was nothing I could do to protect them.  The topic vote wouldn't have changed that.  
  We coach adults and adults are put into adult situations and part of their growth comes from facing those situations.   I was there to provide support; I was there to coach them the next day in elims against the same team; but there was no way that I could have been there to prevent it. It sucked. I not only wanted to turn back time, I didn't even want to be at the tournament anymore. I didn't want to see any of the people involved, but how could I have coached our team? How could I encourage them to finish the tournament if I couldn't? I knew my coaching staff wouldn't have bolted on me.  On occasion Dave and I disagree, but he's the Steiny and he supported me always, even when I was wrong. So that's what we do as coaches. We don't prevent the cuts and scrapes and falls, because we can't. Instead we stand with them and support them, even through the ugly decisions and the nasty situations and the intense debates, even when it rocks our own core. It sucks, but there's a
 reason why they pay us so well...heh.

Veronica M. Guevara
Weber State University
Dept. of Communications
1605 University Circle
Ogden, UT 84408

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