[eDebate] On reforming the CEDA All American Awards

Samnelson4 at aol.com Samnelson4
Wed May 31 08:39:47 CDT 2006

My understanding is that the issue of reforming the Academic All American 
(Scholastic) Award and the All American Award will be discussed at the CEDA 
summer meeting. I have served on many committees charged with giving these awards 
(including last year's) and have a historical perspective I want to share as 
well as some thoughts about how to move to the future.

First the history: In the 80s and 90s, when someone was nominated for All 
American or Academic All American status they pretty much got it. The committee 
would meet at CEDA Nationals (we usually got a round off from judging) and the 
CEDA Second VP would pass everyone a folder with the letters for each 
category. We would take a few minutes looking it over and approve the nominees. This 
was not difficult because we usually had less than or slightly more than 30 
nominees in each category. If some school got greedy and nominated more than one 
person to each category and we had to make a cut we would usually take one of 
their nominees off the list. The idea behind the whole thing was that this was 
something to give (usually to seniors) to let them know that they were 
appreciated. It was also used by coaches (like me) to make a big deal to the 
administration and alums that we got an "All American." I also know of more than one 
person who got a job because they had CEDA debate All American on their 
resume. The idea was that it was "nurturing" act. It was nurturing for the debater, 
for the up and coming debate program, director in need of some positive spin, 
etc. One thing that separated the NDT from CEDA, back in the day, was that 
CEDA did a lot more of this kind of nurturing thing whereas the NDT just ran an 
ultracompetitive tournament with ultracompetitive awards (Copeland, etc.)

    I have been disappointed with the way the awards have went down these 
past few years. As a result of the good works of the likes of Will Baker and Dave 
Steinberg applicants are way up for each award. One is no longer assured of 
getting the award just by being nominated. Also, the committee no longer meets 
face to face to discuss individual cases that may be falling through the 
cracks. They just vote after reading the letters online. As a committee member I 
did not know who made the cut until after the awards ceremony. I have seen 
students that started out as true novices as first year college students working 
their way up to qualifying for the NDT as seniors and carrying a 3.9 GPA not get 
selected for Scholastic All American. At the same time some schools are 
getting three Academic All Americans even though their GPA is significantly lower. 
I know of one student that literally saved her program from extinction that 
missed out on the award for who knows what reason. I think we need to reevaluate 
the process and instill the nurturing back in it.

My recommendations:

1) Move up the deadline for submission of nominees: It was a rush this past 
year to read all the excellent letters.

2) Reestablish the face to face meeting of the committee at CEDA Nationals to 
stop individuals from falling through the cracks and embrace the worthy 
concepts of discussion and deliberation.

3) Clarify the criteria for each award with "the spirit of nurturing" as a 
guiding principle. I reject the idea that we should have different "classes or 
divisions" for the award. I think an All American is an All American. These are 
not awards that recognize competitive success only. Whitman has plenty of 
those. I am hoping that the novice debater that starts his or her program as a 
student club can be recognized as an All American in the same way as someone who 
wins CEDA Nationals. This requires a more wholistic view of what All American 

4) Limit the number of nominees for each award to one per school. Why get 
greedy? Lets spread the wealth and good karma.


Sam Nelson,
Cornell University

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