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

Morris, Eric R EricMorris
Mon Apr 17 18:16:43 CDT 2006

I strongly agree with Eber. This year, we stayed at the Clarion across the street instead of CEDA's Westin. This was due to a reservations glitch, but the difference in room rate (about $20 a night) saved us nearly $1000 during the tournament. Even if entry fees went up a bit due to using other facilities for elims, a cheaper hotel could save a LOT of money. The hotel we use for our tournament allows us to host elims in the hotel, but keeps a room rate around $62 per room. It isn't in the Starwood chain, but it functions just fine.
Speaking of entry fees.....
My wife believes I live a double life in a financial sense. During the week, we scrimp and save. On weekends, I eat out with the team, sometimes at nice places. Prices occasionally have a nails-on-chalkboard effect on me. Nowhere is this greater than during banquets. Prices vary, but $35-$50 per plate is not uncommon. I could provide my team a much nicer meal for 1/3 of that price. I would really like to see tournaments move away from banquets as a practice. 
Of course, many of the tournaments with expensive banquets are essential if one's program is to be competitive. Thus, the banquets are functionally a forced expense. It does not have to be that way.
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 Michael Eber
Sent: Mon 4/17/06 5:20 PM
To: 'Omar G Guevara'; edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: [eDebate] And the Elephant In the Corner Is...


...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. 







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,




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

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