[eDebate] discussion: judge commitments at tournaments

Sue Peterson bk2nocal
Tue Nov 21 11:09:18 CST 2006

Okay - I am certainly not deadset on being either pro MPJ or anti MPJ at
this point.  But, I see two major problems that have developed in our
community, and I don't think either Chief's idea or Jim's idea gets to the
heart of them.

First, MPJ is not only about teams - it is also about judges.  And judges
have felt more and more comfortable becoming less and less open-minded with
the shield of MPJ as a justification.  I can honestly say that I am somewhat
more openminded in novice/jv rounds than open rounds because I know they
didn't CHOOSE to have me in the back of the room.  I do try to make that
adjustment, especially when a team is willing to meet me halfway (that whole
idea of adaptation that has gone the way of the dinosaurs at the open
level).  Unfortunately, judges and teams are often NOT that accommodating.
So, judges are forced to judge rounds they don't want to hear and teams are
forced to have judges in the back of the room they don't want to see and
everyone has a generally horrible experience- which then translates into
those judges being ranked low in the future as those teams reach open level
debate.  It seems that Chief's idea for aff action creates this mix without
really solving the bias that exists - and in fact may actually increase that
bias (since I'm more likely to judge rounds where teams are FORCED to have
me in the back of the room, they may find me even MORE incompetent when I
vote against them - I know, I know I'm opening the whole aff action bag of
worms here - but in this instance, it just replicates the resentment that is
fomenting on the novice/jv levels right now).

Then, there is Jim's idea to force people to judge extra rounds who are
highly preffed (for pay, but I understand it to be withhout a choice).  I
have two problems with this - first, there are some out there who embrace
the "bad" judging identity to get out of rounds.  They often get rewarded
for not caring or for not being responsible judges.  Then there is a
population of judges who do care and who are responsible but maybe don't
have the "name" that other "good" judges do - which under Jim's system means
they judge less rounds, giving them less access to establishing themselves
as "good" judges, and leaving them out of the financial benefits that Jim
offers for extra rounds.  Finally, there are the "good" judges who now get
punished for being responsible, caring critics by having to judge more than
their fair share of rounds at tournaments (for pay, but some don't care
about the money).  It seems to me that this system causes harm in all areas
of the judging pool.

I think the primary thing that makes a judge a "good" judge is experience
judging good, competitive-level rounds.  Some are able to get alot of that
during their college careers by traveling with high school teams and judging
"big rounds" at high school tournaments.  Some might get that experience
during their first year because they either (1) debated for the right
college, or (2) are coaching at the right college.  Others get relegated to
novice/jv until some school who has a novice/jv team has them in the back of
the room for a round and thinks, "this person is pretty good, we should give
them a shot in open."  How often does that really happen though?  I also
think that there needs to be levels of adaptation encouraged for both judges
and teams - we should care about our audience and we should care about our
debaters - and it should be able to occur without sacrificing one or the

I don't know what the solution is, but we need to have some way of
encouraging teams to give judges a chance in the back of the room without
forcing it on them at a level that produces discomfort for both the judge
and the teams.  I can't say I think that either of these solutions fulfills
that.  I guess I don't have a solution, but as one of the individuals who
may be effected by Chief's affirmative action and Jim's tournament change in
required rounds (as a director), I can't say I can fully embrace either.

Other ideas?

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