[eDebate] [CEDA-L] Accusations of Illegal Debating

Sherry Hall shahall
Thu Nov 1 22:16:10 CDT 2007


I have to agree with Neil.  There is no way for anyone to add constructive comments or opinions about this issue when they have no idea what you are talking about.  Whether you want to debate the merits of the claim or not, some brief explanation of what the issues are -- what is your argument?  what is the nature of the accusation of illegality?  -- is necessary.  Surely, if someone threatens to kill someone else in a debate round, that is not protected speech just because it occurred in the setting of a debate round.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Shawn T Whalen 
  Cc: Shawn T Whalen ; eDebate at ndtceda.com ; ceda-l at ndtceda.com 
  Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2007 9:20 PM
  Subject: Re: [CEDA-L] [eDebate] Accusations of Illegal Debating

  Hi Neil,

  My goal is not to debate the merits of the sexual harassment claim advanced against my debaters performance but rather to suggest that any claim of illegality is inappropriate in debates and that should legal claims need to be made there are other venues better designed to accomodate those claims.


  -----"NEIL BERCH" <berchnorto at msn.com> wrote: -----

    To: <eDebate at ndtceda.com>, <ceda-l at ndtceda.com>, "Shawn T Whalen" <swhalen at sfsu.edu>
    From: "NEIL BERCH" <berchnorto at msn.com>
    Date: 11/01/2007 06:09PM
    Subject: Re: [eDebate] Accusations of Illegal Debating

    Hi, Shawn!  In order for that open discussion to take place (and you've now initiated it in multiple wide-ranging forums), it might be useful if those of us on these lists who haven't seen your teams this year could know what you're talking about. 
    --Neil Berch 
    West Virginia University 
      ----- Original Message ----- 
      From: Shawn T Whalen 
      To: ncfa at lists.uop.edu ; eDebate at ndtceda.com ; ceda-l at ndtceda.com 
      Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2007 9:46 PM 
      Subject: [eDebate] Accusations of Illegal Debating 

      Dear Colleagues, 

      Last weekend, San Francisco State University debaters were accused of behaving illegally.   It is the first time in my 31 years of experience in scholastic debate, that such an accusation has been levied based entirely on the content and performance of an argument made during a debate. 

      Our students have employed the same basic argument since the start of the year, and I think it is unfortunate that none of my colleagues sought to raise concerns that they might have had about our arguments with me.   I have been centrally involved in my students' argument and performative choices this season and I invite those of you with concerns about them to discuss those concerns with me directly.   

      While I completely respect and promote the rights of each individual to assert and defend all of their rights under the law, I want to suggest that debate rounds might not be the most appropriate place to make those assertions.   Debate judges and debate tournament officials are rarely qualified to adjudicate these claims and debaters themselves are rarely qualified to address the full complexity of legal accusations.   These types of accusations put judges and tournament officials in a very awkward position and potentially connect them to the legal claims being made in compromising ways. 

      Our students encourage and invite a discussion of style, taste, and aesthetics but ethical and legal accusations are designed to enjoin us from inviting that discussion.   By their very nature they chill that discussion immediately given the contemporary protocols for managing these accusations in the debate community.   Legal accusations, in particular, go much further in their potential to chill these discussions. These accusations have forced us to seek the support of university administrators who do not fully appreciate the debate tournament context and who could act as censors.   We are gratified that our administrators have chosen to support our academic work, but we recognize that not every administrator would see the risk/reward calculus in the same way. 

      My students and I feel strongly that these accusations are a grave threat to our academic freedom and unless and until we are legally enjoined from doing so we will proceed making our arguments as we see fit.   I remain distressed and saddened by the lack of support that seemed to exist among my colleagues last weekend for my students' rights to free speech and academic freedom.   I hope that as educators and colleagues we can make time for a discussion about how these types of conflicts might be better managed. 


      Shawn Whalen 
      Director of Forensics 
      San Francisco State University 

      eDebate mailing list 
      eDebate at www.ndtceda.com 


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