[eDebate] Punishing Speaker Points and Final Thoughts on Consult CP's

Andrew D. Barnes barnesad
Thu Oct 11 13:57:12 CDT 2007

I realize this is a long email so I will give you a brief summary; I 
have rescinded my position on punishing speakers points, I still think 
the community needs a more detailed discussion about when punishing 
speaker points might be necessary when competitive equity is threatened, 
I provide a few arguments as to why consultation counterplans are bad 
that have not been advanced to my knowledge and finally, I had to 
re-work my judge philosophy because of my previous changes (with some 
new caveats).

After discussing this debate with my wife she made the argument that 
punishing speaker points while possibly creating adjustment at the 
communal level (however unlikely) would disproportionaly effect novice 
and junior varisty debate. As we probably recognize arguments either 
trickle up with high school debaters as they enter college debate or 
they trickle down from varsity debaters and coaches. Therefore it is not 
unreasonable to assume that JV and novice debaters are running arguments 
because that is either the only strategy that they have (sometimes the 
case with consultation counterplans) or because their coaches told them 
to. It seems unfair to punish novice and JV debaters speaker points in 
these situations . Additionally, I found Cyrus's defense of consultation 
counterplans to be unpersuasive except for the claim that some debaters 
simply love these arguments and that it would be unwise for any judge to 
punish a student for running arguments that they truely love. We 
certainly seem to have a problem with program retention as of late and I 
wouldn't want to be singled out as causing any debater to quit. Finally, 
as a result of this discussion, it has become clear that many people do 
not consider consultation to be as dangerous to competitive equity as I 
do. Remember, I initially found the idea of punishing speaker points 
appealing because I thought there was an overwhelming community 
consensus on this question and that the community could/should 
discourage arguments that were overwhelmingly deemed to be illegitimate.

I also want to answer the charge that has been levied many times during 
this discussion; that singling out any argument is reactionary and 
inappropriate because debaters should use their skills to persuade us as 
judges on a round per round basis whether arguments are good or bad. I 
agree that it is dangerous to be reactionary and that debate is a 
pedagogical tool that should protect and test all ideas. I find new 
arguments and ways of thinking to be exciting but only if they can be 
adopted within the confines of competitive fairness. What seems to be 
missing from this discussion is an understanding of how judges have two 
roles; to abide by tournament procedures and to adjudicate the debate as 
best they can. As judges we have a timeframe for making decisions, we 
must chose one winner and one loser but we are also responsible for 
enforcing speech time, prep time and cross examination time. We are to 
do these things, and we willingly do so to preserve competitive equity. 
When one speaker or team choses to skew competitive equity should we as 
judges punish their speaker points? Certainly people intentionally or 
unintentionally deploy racists/sexist language in debates. This 
destabilizes competitive equity by inducing psychological trauma in 
their opponents. Should we not punish their speaker points? What about 
violence? And how is that so much different than other arguments that 
are inherently destabilizing to competitive equity? Why should I not 
punish their speaker points if they destabilized competitive equity 
intentionally? Ultimately, I think that competitive equity is a 
prerequisite to ascertaining all of the benefits that debate can provide 
and should therefore be a paramount concern for all judges. I also think 
that punishing speaker points could be a way to enforce competitive 
equity although I could be persuaded otherwise. To this point, most 
discussion has focused on excluding specific arguments and not specific 
practices. I also think that most judges "punish"/don't reward speakers 
in the status quo due to the content of the debate they just don't 
publicly announce that they will. Afterall, there are many reasons that 
people don't earn 28's and I do think that we as judges should be more 
clear about how we will assign speaker points. That being said, I will 
conclude with a discussion of why I think consultation counterplans are 

I am not as extreme as many in our community who argue that they will 
not listen to a particular argument UNLESS I have been convinced that it 
creates such a structural disparity as to debase the entirety of the 
debate. I do feel that way about consult counterplans. First, the fiated 
action is not reciprocal. The affirmative does not retain the right to 
condition whether the plan gets done based on a third actor. I'm sure 
that consultation between the state department, the department of 
defense and whatever agency contributes to landmine removal would be 
useful. Reading advantages about their cooperation as a result of the 
consultation would be educational and predictable by all negative 
justifications. This does not however make it fair for the negative. Nor 
do I think debate should travel down the road of allowing the 
affirmative to consult different agencies and then say the plan doesn't 
get done but you should still vote aff because consultation is good and 
and incrementally better than the status quo. Second, the affirmative 
has to treat the counterplan as passing and not passing the plan 
simultaneously. I think this is problematic because it requires the 
affirmative to answer contradictory counterplan planks. In an 
offense/defense paradigm the offense that is read to answer one plank 
might contradict offense on the other plank at worst (a double turn) or 
link to the affirmative (a unilateralism good disad still links to the 
plan because of CE). The negative simply has to concede both, kick out 
of the CP because these things are rarely unconditional and the 
affirmative is screwed. Additionally, can you imagine a world in which 
contradictory plan planks were legitimate? We'll clarify in the 1AR 
based on your answers in the block. Ridiculous! Third, these 
counterplans are not uniquely educational or competitive to this topic 
because the action of the affirmative is constructive engagement. I 
doubt that I'm the only coach who has cut definitions about how 
constructive engagement typically entails quiet diplomacy i.e. 
consultation and I agree with what most people have said in that there 
isn't any literature that supports "genuine" consultation on the plan. 
Therefore, if anything, I think the affirmative should be claiming 
consultation advantages. Finally, the counterplan tests the wrong parts 
of the resolution and does not test the desireability of the plan at 
all. Consultation counterplans test the word resolved in the resolution 
because the counterplan fiats that other nations decide whether or not 
we do the plan. The only basis for the affirmative to justify why we 
should be resolved to do the plan comes from their ability to justify 
that the plan is a good idea. This means the affirmative can't use their 
1AC to make distinctions between the plan and the counterplan because 
the counterplan does the entirey of the plan and this is simply unfair. 
Changing the rules of the game in such a drastic way as to moot the 
entire speech (a very precious commodity) of either side of the debate 
seems to be a practice that should be rejected. So, I think consultation 
counterplans are disastrous for debate because they create ridiculous 
standards for reciprocity, fundamentally impair the affirmatives ability 
to generate offense, moot entire affirmative speeches and don't test 
whether the plan is desirable because the negative does the plan (they 
say yes). That being said, I recognize that letting judges decide which 
arguments to allow or discard is a very slippery slope given that we all 
have different ideas about what is fair or even whether or not we should 
evaluate fairness. So, let me be crystal clear. I do not like 
Consultation counterplans as my mini-manifesto indicates BUT if you 
happen to share the same demented love for consultation counterplans as 
Cyrus and those are the sole reason that you debate I should not 
encourage you to quit by not allowing you to run the argument. 
Therefore, I have rethought my previous support for speaker point 
punishment and I will not punish you for running these arguments but you 
should realize that it won't be hard for the affirmative to convince me 
to vote against them.

Finally, here is my re-writeen judge philosophy:


I think the topic is important. I think affirming a topic action is 
important (does not necessarily require a plan). I think critiques of 
the status quo as a justification to vote affirmative are sweet. I think 
critiques of the affirmative are sweet. Disads, PIC's and especially 
case arguments are equally sweet.

Additionally, I want to make it clear that I think ANY argument can be 
educational or interesting but it does not necessarily follow that that 
particular argument has a rightful place in competitive debate. In 
general, I think theory is about debating what communal practices effect 
are on competitive equity and ability as judges and students to learn 
and develop new skills as a result of our participation in this 
activity. So, have an interpretation for debate, demonstrate why that 
interpretation is best for fair competition and if necessary discuss the 
benefits of this interpretation in terms of critical thinking, ability 
to compare policy, breadth or depth of education, etc. Much like any 
other judge, there is a direct relationship between your speed and 
translation of theory arguments to my flow so you would be wise to slow 
down a bit. Finally, I still think that topicality is a voting issue, I 
lean towards constructive engagement meaning quid pro quo (I was at the 
topic meeting) and I still strongly dislike specification arguments. 
Much as Ross Smith thinks that theory is not a reason to vote against 
the negative, I do not think that specification or other procedural 
arguments are a reason to vote against the affirmative. Quite simply if 
the affirmative won't defend anything, I am likely to be persuaded that 
the affirmative solves anything. I also think that it is the negatives 
burden to demonstrate that their counterplan is competitive. Thus, it is 
the negative's burden to demonstrate that normal means = Congress if 
they want to run an Executive Order counterplan. I lean towards 
logically limited conditionality when discussing status of the 
counterplan, typically don't like performative contradictions and 
usually find independent voters to be undeveloped and therefore 

It seems very rare that a debate occurs anymore where there is not 
either a counterplan or some sort of critical alternative that attempts 
to solve the entirety of the case. I find this to be disappointing 
because often times, affirmatives have tremendous weaknesses or just 
seem like really bad ideas and therefore would not be difficult to win 
on the negative if the negative took a bit of time to do some specific 
research. I find this to be especially true this year, even with 
Afghanistan cases. The plethora of evidence for any United States policy 
in the middle east demonstrates that there is no reason for the negative 
to not clash with the affirmative by challenging some part of the case. 
Teams that engage in detailed case debates will receive higher speaker 
points than those teams that chose to adopt the generic agent 
counterplan, artificial net benefit approach. While I have probably made 
it clear that I find the latter to be boring I do vote for them all the 
time. And for what it?s worth, it doesn?t seem like a risky strategy 
given that affirmative teams rarely seem able to adequately debate the 
theoretical legitimacy of different counterplans. I tend to not find 
justifications for the legitimacy of consultation counterplans to be 
persuasive. Other than that, I don?t have a predisposition one way or 
the other towards criticisms and disadvantages and I feel like I 
adjudicate these debates well. Performance is entirely different type of 
argumentation that I am not familiar with nor do I have a lot of 
experience judging those types of debates so, you?ll probably want to 
think twice before putting me in the back of the room. Regardless of 
your strategy choices (critical or policy) remember that impact 
assessment is often underrated so spend time there in the debate.

Also, cross examination is very important. I flow cross examination. 
Arguments made during the cross examination can be cross applied during 
speeches. Inability to answer cross examination questions will give your 
opponents tremendous leeway in the debate. In general I thoroughly enjoy 
this part of the debate so take it seriously.

I have made several public claims that judges need to clearly articulate 
how speaker points are assigned in a debate. So, here goes. Ethos, logos 
and pathos are the three components to peruasiveness and therefore each 
factor into my assignment of speaker points. Ethos; you will receive 
high points if you are confident, prepared, clear in your articulation 
and generally nice to your opponents. Logos; you will receive high 
points if you have a great strategy, clash with your opponents on many 
different levels, have good line by line and know when you should be 
reading cards and when to be making analytic arguments. Pathos; less 
important than the first two (just the nature of our activity) but still 
important. You will receive high points if you are able to relate your 
arguments to me and this typically occurs with your ability to do a 
solid impact calculus and if you have passion for your arguments. These 
are the general guidelines for speaker points. Additionally, I tend to 
agree with Tim O'Donnell's assignment of speaker points. He notes that:

30 = The ?best? debater that I expect to hear in a given year in a 
particular division (Similar to the A+ in my classes ? rare, but not 
impossible. Such a speaker would make me say ?WOW!?)
29.5 = The ?best? debater that I expect to hear at a given tournament in 
a particular division ? complete in all phases of the game.
29 = A very good debater who I expect to be among the top 10% in the 
field in a particular division (typically means high ?insights per 
minute ratio? and crystal clear delivery which makes flowing them easy.
28.5 = A very good debater whose ?insights per minute? put them in the 
top 25% of the field in a particular division at a particular tournament.
28 = A debater that I think has a shot of clearing at that particular 
tournament in that particular division (typically top 40% of a division).
27.5 = A technically sound debater with some strategic vision (likely to 
miss the cut on points) in that particular division.
27 = A technically sound debater, but one who lacks strategic vision 
relative to others in that particular division.
26.5 = A debater who needs work on the basics.
26 = A debater who is debating one (or more) divisions above where they 
ought to be.

Finally, be nice and respect not just your opponents but their arguments 
as well and feel free to ask questions anytime, at least before the 
debate starts ;-) .

- Andrew

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