[eDebate] 7 rounds, outrounds in hotel, etc.
Tue Mar 7 22:14:15 CST 2006
I was under the impression that we were still discussing location as
opposed to laying claim to it, so I'm a bit confused as to whether or
not Neil's email serves as a proposal to the community or a set-in-stone
commitment. Nevertheless, I have a few comments I'd like to make about
this weekend's tournament, the outstanding effort and organization put
in by the WVU debaters, and some issues I feel are important to address.
First, kudos are definitely in order for the WVU squad and Neil for
running a well organized and well attended tournament. One of the
things I found to be excellent this weekend was the level of
communication between ballot runners, hospitality staff and the tab
room. Nearly every person I talked to had answers to questions, was
well aware of when and where debates would be and were eager and willing
to help in any way possible. This level of communication between staff
and tab should be modeled. Staff often gave accurate estimates of when
pairings would be out, when events would take place, etc. Meals were
served promptly and in centralized and logical locations. Most of all,
the WVU squad seemed eager to please and happy to host. Many rounds of
applause and pats on the back should be conveyed upon you all :-) . The
final perk of an entry cost of $0.00 was also quite nice and served to
make it feasible for many squads to attend.
The concerns outlined below are not a reflection of a lack of effort,
well intentioned thinking or community appreciation and respect on the
part of our generous and
gracious hosts this past weekend. However, I think that if we are to
continue to think of this tournament as a national tournament and not a
regional tournament there are a few issues that should be considered to
best achieve those goals.
I think it is a fair assumption that those of us in the community who
are committed to novice and JV debate seek to increase number of
attending squads at the national JV and novice tournament. Having a
convenient, affordable, and well located tournament can enhance our
ability to increase the attendance of not only the squads that currently
attend, but the squads on the opposite poles of the have/have not binary
often addressed in our discussion of resource distribution. Squads with
abundant resources traditionally focused on national varsity competition
may find it reasonable to promote the development of a few walk-on teams
to compete in the national novice tournament. Simultaneously, those
squads that are resource challenged and that make strategic decisions on
which national tournament(s) to attend (and in some cases, if ANY
national tournaments), are more likely to attend JV/Novice Nats if it is
affordable to travel to, attend, and "live" at for three days. There
are a few key issues that we need to address that I think fall in line
with increasing attendance:
A. Distance, Geographic Location and Affordability of Travel. As
beautiful and historic as Morgantown is, it is not he most convenient
city to travel to. Our drive from Marist was roughly nine hours across
northeast winter weather. With rounds beginning on Friday afternoon the
only logical choice for our team was to arrive at the hotel at 3 AM
Friday, paying for rooms for Thursday. Squads from the north have long
drives (with the longest likely being Vermont, which Google maps puts at
roughly 13 hours). Ironically enough, these are also the squads that do
the largest promotion of JV and novice debate. Those teams flying may
also find traveling into Morgantown difficult as it is not the largest
airport. Other mid-atlantic cities like Baltimore provide better travel
options and serve as a better central meeting ground for those of us
already on the east coast. A quick check on Orbitz indicates several
affordable options for flying into the Baltimore region in comparison to
flying to Morgantown (and in fact, when checking for flights like Denver
to Morgantown none are available from the major cheap-ticket-outlets.
Baltimore on the other hand yields round-trip flights under $200. This
is, by the way, my totally sly way of suggesting that some cool D9 teams
come east. Matt Stannard... are you listening?).
Additionally, location dictates quality of tournament life in many
ways. Larger urban areas provide more options for meals, often have
establishments that are open later for those late finishing nights (of
which there were two in Morgantown), and more options for lodging.
While the tournament hotel this weekend was affordable and pleasant,
economic and well maintained lodging is not a factor unique to
Morgantown. A more urban setting also affords those squads with a
multitude of lifestyles represented to better meet the needs of their
debaters. It is quite frustrating for vegetarians to have to default to
the Taco Bell option for dinner each night because it is the only
vegetarian option open beyond 11:00 PM.
I also think that reevaluating where we hold this tournament is
important on the level of community goals and intercommunity
interaction. I have talked to several UDL representatives this year who
have been interested in bringing high school debaters to our tournaments
to help educate their students through observation of higher levels of
debate. Holding a tournament that we wish to have importance for
debaters (and for incoming students who are in UDLs and high school
debate leagues who may become college debaters) means that we have to
build that importance. We have to reach out to the communities at large
and get them involved in our tournaments, interested in our
tournaments. I judge a lot of rounds that call for transformative
change in the world through debate, where we are talking about how
engagement in debate can help our communities. Why aren't we reaching
out to communities - and in particular communities of up and coming
debaters who can help to facilitate change in their communities through
the skills debate teaches - when we construct our view of what the
national tournament should be? Do we want to construct yet another
tournament that does not interact with the various debate organizations
in the host city, or where there is no opportunity for community
cross-connect to occur? Why are we also not hosting the JV and Novice
national debate tournament in a city where there are neighboring
colleges? I think it would be a strategically beneficial idea to host
JV and novice nationals in a city where there are many schools - not
only so that the schools that do have programs in those cities can
attend, but also so that schools that DON'T have programs can attend.
There are kids all over the country who leave high school/UDL programs
and who end up at a college where there is no opportunity for debate.
It is likely that for many of these students, the first place they will
engage college debate is at the JV or novice level. So why aren't we
using our national tournament as an opportunity for those students to
experience what debate is like?
B. Centrality of Tournament Events
While hosting a tournament of this size is never easy to keep
centralized and a plethora of buildings are often used, I think that the
WVU campus presents challenges that other campuses in the area do not.
I empathize with the folks who spilled tubs of evidence on flights of
stairs in or outside of buildings this weekend. I also empathize with
students who found elevators inoperable and buildings difficult to
locate. These seem like small issues, but they contribute to a larger
problem: keeping the tournament on time. Round 3 on Friday night for
some debaters began as late as 8:45 for a planned 8:00 start time. In
large part, this was due to consolidation of buildings as Friday night
went on, wherein some debaters and coaches needed to move from one end
of campus to another, across busy friday night traffic, up and down
multiple flights of stairs. I spoke with several coaches this weekend
who expressed frustration on Friday and Saturday with having to race
from one side of campus to another to reach all of their teams (granted,
I was not all that adversely affected by this issue with my two teams,
but I expect to bring more next year and believe this is an issue larger
than a personal gripe) while being urged to start rounds on time.
Campuses that are not easy to traverse require that we either allot more
time into the schedule or that we consider centralizing building usage
better. Again, I would argue that there are other campuses that provide
easier access and easier terrain to travel.
C. Tournament Hospitality/Quality of Life
While I commend the WVU debate team on their ability to provide a
hospitable and enjoyable tournament, I do think there are a few things
that could have been a little better. I believe that debate teaches a
variety of lifestyles and that the people who make up our community come
embrace a plethora of those lifestyles and mindsets. It is only
appropriate that tournament directors (and in particular, national
tournament directors entertaining groups coming diverse sets of regions
and lifestyles, both urban and rural) prepare adequately to meet the
needs of everyone. This means providing healthy options for meals for
everyone. If we are to be inclusive and hope to make debate an
enjoyable activity for the novice and JV debaters who attend, it means
we also have to think about the vegetarians attending. It means we
should recognize that a slice of cheese on a six-inch Subway sandwich is
not an adequate source of protein for most debaters. It means
rethinking the mixing of vegetables and chicken together and advising
students who do not wish to eat silken tofu that they should eat white
rice and pick the vegetables from a meal that contradicts their ethics
(and for many of us will likely make us sick due to the fact that we are
not used to breaking down animal protein). Flour, water, yeast and
vegetables for 2-3 days is not a healthy way to feed our debaters -
whether it is in the form of a sandwich or a "vegan pizza."
There is also a resource problem that stems from this approach to
feeding everyone - many of the directors I spoke with this weekend
talked of having to take teams to "second dinner." This also interacts
with the location of the tournament. The lack of late night vegetarian
options leaves directors hard pressed to feed their debaters and
debaters feeling lousy and lethargic. For us, the drive from
Poughkeepsie across rural Pennsylvania contributes to this problem as
there are not necessarily solid vegetarian options until we get home -
at which point it is too late for me to feed my very hungry and tired
You can also cross apply my arguments above about campus
layout/building centrality here - the more terrain there is to traverse
and the longer it takes to traverse it, the less chance some debaters
will have to access food. I am aware that my debaters and the debaters
of several other squads did not have an opportunity to eat before round
3 on Friday night due to room changes and long distances between them.
I know, I sound like a whiny patriarchal parent, but if there's one
thing my long-haired predecessor taught me it's, "Don't mess around with
the lives of other people's kids." The plan to retain the same
"provision(ing) of most or all meals" is inadequate - especially if we
are paying fees.
These quality of life issues are important because they contribute
to the environment of the activity. If we hope to retain novice
debaters we must provide a fun and welcoming environment, but we must
also provide an environment that is not physically and emotionally
draining to the best of our abilities. As directors, we have to
remember that these "debaters" turn back into "students" on Monday
morning. The condition they are in to learn on Monday morning in their
8:00 AM class and their physical ability to accomplish that learning is
in many ways reliant upon how hospitable the tournament is and how well
it is run. When debate starts affecting a novice debater's overall
ability to function as a student or as a well-adjusted person they are
likely to move away from it. When this does not occur, we often get
people like Andy Ellis who we love, but have to remind to cut down on
being crazy about debate because they're slowly killing you.
OK, enough facetious humor, I hope that I have made my arguments
heard. The point that I hope to make here is that if the tournament is
in West Virginia, we will come and we will be happy to be there. We
like Neil and his squad and think they did a bang-up job! But I do not
necessarily think that another year in West Virginia is the BEST option
for us as a community and believe that if we are to treat Neil's
announcement as a proposal we should think about some of the larger
context issues in evaluating it. If this e-mail serves as a commitment,
then these are questions that should be addressed in the planning of the
tournament. Any thoughts?
Director of Debate
NEIL BERCH wrote:
> Hi, everyone! Thanks to all for your feedback. I was somewhat
> surprised to find this morning that Morgantown does have a hotel with
> just about enough conference space to hold octas in two divisions (we
> may have to use a couple of sleeping rooms for the first octa--like
> Kentucky does; I'll be examining the space tomorrow for soundproofing
> Thus, we will offer a JV/Novice Nationals on March 3-5, 2007
> (Saturday-Monday), with 4 rounds on Saturday, 3 rounds on Sunday,
> followed by doubles--all on campus (and I should have room for up to
> 160 teams). Monday's elimination rounds will be at the hotel (cost is
> slightly higher than this year--around $85 per night).
> We will deal with the other important issues that people raised with a
> package of changes:
> 1. We will charge fees, probably similar to those charged by
> Georgetown last year.
> 2. In order to count toward your commitment, a critic must have
> judged at least 12 rounds during the year. Rare exceptions will be
> made if circumstances dictate.
> 3. Schools may reduce their entry fees by $35 per extra round of
> qualified judging provided. This will increase the quality of the
> judging pool tremendously; it will also allow a school bring two teams
> and two judges to trade judging for free entry.
> 4. We will use some of the revenues to improve the quality of awards.
> 5. We will use a modified version of MPJ (using 4 to 6 categories);
> together with the critic requirement and the generous buy-out
> provision, people should get both better and more evenly distributed
> preferences. We will supplement that with strike cards for late
> Things that will stay the same:
> 1. Provision of most or all meals.
> 2. Mountaineer hospitality!
> I thank Ken Johnson, Sarah Snider, and Jackie Massey for their concern
> about the opportunity for WVU debaters to compete. I will talk that
> over with my squad, but my first inclination is to say that we will
> give our novices the chance to compete for a national championship at
> ADA Nationals, and we will give our JV debaters a chance to compete
> for a national championship at Johnson County.
> I still welcome other feedback on how we can do this better next year.
> --Neil Berch
> West Virginia University
> eDebate mailing list
> eDebate at ndtceda.com
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