[eDebate] Additional Program Development Thought

Ede Warner ewarner
Fri Apr 21 13:03:22 CDT 2006


The repeated argument I've heard is that men's basketball and football
are the cash cows and create resources from which the others are funded.
 Since Title IX, the argument has been you must create an equal amount
of women's opportunities.  So generally schools reduce their total
number of men's sports if they don't generate a lot of revenue in the
"main two".  If they do, like Louisville, they maintain all of the
non-revenue generating male sports and simply offer more women's sports.
 Their ability to protect still comes from the generation of revenue.

The ability of speech and debate activities to exist outside of
departments and not be funded like smaller student run clubs will come
down to the ability to generate revenue for most schools (run like a
business).  I don' t know how to do that outside of what is sucessfully
done at Michigan and other places:  institutes, handbooks, etc.  

We are going in the other direction.  One of the things we are doing is
trying to institutionalize debate as curricular instead of
extra-curricular.  Create another classes to offer forensics as part of
a minor, or a certificate, or a degree program, then speech and debate
can compete for academic resources.  In particular, our school is
pushing online distance education.  Students pay 30% above normal
tuition to take these courses and departments are given a
stipend/refund/kickback for each student that takes the course.  The
debate team is teaching 3 of these courses a semester, and is moving
towards creation of our own program, "Urban Communication" of which
debate will be a centerpiece.

Debate will have to find ways to generate revenue to survive, whether
it's accessing tuition dollars or external funding.  Jake's framing
below was, is, and will be ineffective if the financial piece is not
also addressed.  I think this analogy fails without the comparable
revenue piece of the major sports.  But perhaps I'm wrong.  

Jake:  "I throw this out there cause it does seem like there would be
benefits to framing the value of debate in the athletics context:
recruitment of exceptional students, development of an excellent alumni
base, broad and focused publicity for the school. And frankly, unlike
Parli or speech, success in policy debate requires a time commitment
similar to that of a collegiate athlete."

Ede:  What if debate alumni created a "National Debate Endowment" for
example?  And there were certain conditions attached to how
participating schools would benefit from it?  One thing that
administrators LOVE is matching. "If we can get something from an
external source, we'll throw in the other half."  When administrators
feel their resources are stretched by new money into an institution,
they seem to respond well.  Instead of only making arguments asking for
resources, debate needs to generate something if administrators are
going to take seriously requests for additional funding.  Debate needs
to think about itself as a business if that is the model education is
going to.  Just my thoughts, based on my experiences.

>>> "Jacob Weigler" <j_weigler at hotmail.com> 4/21/2006 1:08:11 PM >>>


I've been reading the back and forth with some interest and decided
that it was worth throwing one additional point into the mix.
As has been discussed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to
convince school administrators to spend thousands of dollars per student
to support the activity. I won't rehash the debate about causes, but
what has interested me is that universities have no trouble ponying up
such sums for athletics - indeed it is pretty much assumed that these
activities will require such funding with equipment requirements,
facilities, travel, coaching staff and such. 
There are other obvious parallels such as the recruitment of top-tier
high school debaters to the top-tier college programs, scholarship
disparities, and a coaching staff allowed to devote a
primary/substantial focus to debate that also suggest many things in
common with the perennial debate powerhouses and college athletics. 
The relevance of this, to me, is the ability of college athletics to
retain all of these resource commitments when schools as a whole are
streamlining and becoming more focused on a business model for
education. Obvious answers like "Football, Basketball, etc. make money
for schools," don't explain the continued support of dozens of other
sports like volleyball, tennis, water polo, etc. that are much more
equivalent to debate in terms of creating visibility for schools and
drawing down alumni support. The answer, I would suspect is the
economies of scale that allow for an athletics department with the
administrative clout to protect budgets, create a vehicle pool, recruit
staff and incoming students, etc.  I tried to create a similar
architecture when I started the nyu program (reaching out to parli, mock
trial, ballroom dance, quiz bowl and other activities that traveled like
we do) with mixed results largely due to the student-led nature of most
of them, but it is something that perhaps others have/could explore.
I throw this out there cause it does seem like there would be benefits
to framing the value of debate in the athletics context: recruitment of
exceptional students, development of an excellent alumni base, broad and
focused publicity for the school. And frankly, unlike Parli or speech,
success in policy debate requires a time commitment similar to that of a
collegiate athlete.
The larger question, of shifting debate out of departments to a more
explicit "activity/competition" focus, is a more difficult one. It seems
to me to be the flip side of the discussion that has been happening
about the disconnect with the academy. Implicity it seems to already be
happening at several programs across the country. There are some obvious
downsides, the chief in my mind being that it puts coaches in a
difficult position. No one expects a basketball coach to get tenure or
write papers (though it seems like at an increasing number of schools
the same goes for the debate coach).
Regardless of whether such a dramatic shift is adviseable,  taking
proactive steps to forge, share and refine these alternate models is
something positive we can do rather than watching the pool of resources
at programs continue to decline as we mutter about needing to "just try
harder."
So, this is all fascinating Jake, but so what? Not sure I have all the
answers, but it does seem that the economies of scale advantage of
athletics is something we should take seriously. There have been
numerous efforts at the national level on the CEDA & NDT side to compare
notes and share strategies, but my suggestion would be to
institutionalize this - relying on the good will and extra effort of our
officers or committee members is simply asking too much over the long
term.
Hope this contributes to the conversation. 
j.
 
 
 
  


 






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