[eDebate] And the Elephant In the Corner Is...

Michael Eber eber
Mon Apr 17 17:20:26 CDT 2006


 

.the outrageous cost of modern tournament travel. These costs are shared by
everyone---big and small school, public and private---and they have gone way
up in recent years due to more centralized travel schedules, post-9/11
airline price hikes, gas costs, and our addiction to expensive hotels. I
agree here with Omar's sentiment: let's stop acting like programs are dying
primarily because of speed/style/topics and face the real issue of
Economics. The simple fact is that if NDT/CEDA policy debate were cheaper,
the cost per student would be more reasonable to administrators, overall
participation levels could be higher, and the temptation to leave for Parli
would be reduced.

 

Let's restart the discussion about how the community can best deal with the
budget crunch that we ALL face. Here are some practical suggestions I
mentioned in an email long ignored from December 2004 about some
Non-Competitive Counterplans
(http://www.ndtceda.com/archives/200412/0036.html)

 

1) KICK OUR COLLECTIVE HABIT OF USING EXPENSIVE MEGA-HOTELS. This is the
single greatest thing we could do as a community to save money. Some of the
places we travel might be inevitably pricey (I'm thinking Los Angeles around
New Years, for example). But most of them have plenty of hotels in the
$50-$70 per night range rather than the present $70-100 per night standard.
We CHOOSE to stay at the expensive places because we are spoiled - we could
easily choose the Red Roof Inn as a tournament hotel over the Marriott if we
genuinely wanted to minimize collective expense. It may be true that we
would need multiple tournament hotels to execute this strategy (especially
at the larger tournaments like Wake) but the benefits are worth it. Program
directors know just how great a percentage of their budget goes to hotel
room nights. If we could trim that cost by 20% we are literally talking
about tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings over the course of
a season for our community as a whole. Some might argue that we would have
to sacrifice the community bonding and social aspects associated with all
staying in a single hotel. I doubt this is true in the extreme; social
events will inevitably spring up to accommodate people's desire to hang out.
Eliminating centralized mega-parties may also be good - it has the add-on
advantage of helping to control some of the extreme drinking habits that are
socialized in our community. Lastly, it may have been true in the past that
bigger hotels were more accommodating with our research needs, but these
days some of the mid-range hotels have been the most aggressive in upgrading
to high-speed internet access. 

2) HOLD ELIM ROUNDS ON CAMPUS. Having elim rounds off campus is the big
reason for hotel consolidation. I will try to address the primary
justifications. First, it is hard to secure access to on campus rooms on
Mondays. This is true to an extent, but I think that most campuses have some
type of Student Union with conference rooms available. Second, it would cost
money to get rooms on campus during the week. This is probably true,
although not unique because most schools pay for the hotel rooms they are
using on Monday anyway. Maybe some of the rooms are comp'ed but the added
cost can't be that much. On campus rooms may even be cheaper. And even if
they are not, the cost will be small relative to the number of teams at the
tournament. A full double requires 16 rooms. If those average even $100 per
day more on campus, that is $1600, but this amount would be distributed in
entry fees amongst the schools in attendance. For a tournament with enough
schools to have a double, the cost per school would be small and FAR
outweighed by the cost savings of a cheaper hotel for everyone. Third,
parking would be harder to secure. This may also be true, but is a small
price to pay. 

3) USE OUR COLLECTIVE BUYING HABITS TO NEGOTIATE DISCOUNTS. I have no idea
if this has been tried before, but with the amount of money that our
community spends on rental cars, hotels, and even particular airline
companies, it seems at least possible for us to negotiate discount contracts
with some of the major companies that we already use anyway. Michigan State,
for example, has a contract with National Rental Car, and we get 10% off
plus some free insurance. Why couldn't a representative of the National
Debate Tournament negotiate collective discounts for its members? If we
brought an estimate of the annual community-wide expenses in some of these
categories to the appropriate people, I wouldn't be surprised if a few
companies we may be already even using didn't jump at the chance to get more
business from us. Although these discounts by themselves will not exactly
save an under-supported budget, they can help us stretch our resources and
would add up over time to significant amounts. Even if we couldn't create
new discounts, it would be useful CEDA or NDT to simply create a forum for
directors to share discounts and travel tips they already use with one
another. 

These are just some initial ideas. I am sure that some collective
brainstorming could yield plenty of innovative ideas for cutting costs
across the board. Making travel more affordable for everyone enhances
overall participation and would make it more palatable to adjust our travel
schedules to costlier areas for the sake of equity. 

 

Thanks,

Mike

 

 

  _____  

From: edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com [mailto:edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com] On
Behalf Of Omar G Guevara
Sent: Monday, April 17, 2006 5:43 PM
To: edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Reconnecting debate to the academy-the case of UMKC

 

So, um, I have been spending time away from debate in an effort to balance
my perspective on coaching, teaching, advising, and scholarship.  I have not
been reading too many edebate posts, not even the ones on Roe v. Wade
(1973), which normally would get me all worked up.

 

But the post from Malcom is devastating (as was the news from Alabama and
Oregon). I mean really, really, REALLY devastating. I never knew Linda while
I debated, but I had gotten to know her as a colleague when I began
directing. Aside from the wonderful NDT she hosted for us, she was always
there when I needed to give her ring. She always had time for debate; and
her debaters always had time for success :). 

 

I fear the future, and it angers me: NDT will continue to shrink to less
that 50 institutions ( mostly private, wealthy, and East-coast) while the
public, financially strapped, and non-East-coast school will be expected to
participate in parli, IEs, or nothing at all. Increasingly, I suspect that
there is no longer a seat at the table for state universities in the NDT,
despite the couple of really good counter-examples that come to mind.

 

Now of course there will be a litany of folks with funny pen names who will
tell you that there really is a pulse underneath the corpse cover, but those
are folks at the top of the hierarchy who live in a world of elite round
robin competition, fancy hotels, and ubber budgets.  They are out of touch
with the central tendency* and drift* of what is left of the "great middle"
of the NDT.  In fact it may be the worst type of trained incapacity* for the
elites to judge the viability of our community based the success of their
unattainable organizational model.  Their voice should be considered, but it
should not be allowed to drown out the conversation.

 

So while our activity burns down, we continue to turn the fire hoses on each
other: Endless discussion about identity politics, pointless
clash-of-civilization divisions, and national organizations that are
sabotaged by the same cancer eating away at constantly shrinking number of
participants.  Everyone gets so worked up about a topic about debate, but
what is the point of debating a deceased historical oddity?

 

There is only major political issue on the table folks: What are we going to
do to survive?  Everything else is secondary.  We need a structural approach
to our crisis that levels the playing field, genuinely includes and awards
the participation of lesser funded programs, encourages transparecny in
recruiting, and reaffirms our intellectual and academic identity.  Given the
backlash from even the mildest of reforms adopted by the NDT committee,
maybe it is even time to think beyond the NDT...(although I will say that
there are some folks on the Committee who understand the crisis is boiling
over, but it is naive to believe that they alone can speak truth to power.)

 

Good luck UMKC, Oregon, and Alabama.  I know from personal experience how
painful it is to watch a debate team die. I hope that a last minute
administrative miracle will extend the lives of your debate program.

 

All my best,

 

Omar

 

*Thank you Dr. Bernard Brock for teaching me the concepts of "central
tendency," "drift," "trained incapacity." I miss you already.

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