[eDebate] 7 rounds, outrounds in hotel, etc.

Jim Maritato james.maritato
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 
debaters.
  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?

Jim Maritato
Director of Debate
Marist College

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 
> issues).
>  
> 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 
> outrounds.
>  
> 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
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