[eDebate] my Richmond updated judge philosophy -- please read

Asha Cherian asha.cherian
Thu Oct 11 22:13:40 CDT 2007

To provoke something-approaching-dialogue, I'm posting this here.  Please post
or backchannel me.

A slightly less detailed version of this has been accessible via the
Richmond judge phil bk all week.  My apologies for posting this here so many
hours after prefs have been active.

NYC Debate
fordhampolicydebate at gmail.com

I'm on the Fordham payroll, but I coach for Fordham, NYU, Columbia, New
School & CUNY (all the NY Coalition universities).


I'm limp.

>From supporting the Richmond Tournament by attending every year for the last
5 years (with the exception of that one time, the year of the
year-long-hangover of the former Fordham coach who no one in NY wants to
remember) only to have the judging pool reject our
not-at-all-politically-or-philosophically-radical and more-radical K teams
alike (all rounds except 2 over all those years had alts other than

>From NYC Varsity teams opting out of attending Richmond year after year
because of the hostile judging pool (we're taking 0 this year).

>From feeling forced to accept these biases as just another debate convention
to tolerate.

We support all our regional tournaments (CEDA East). But there are only so
many. And our novice & JV debaters need out of region experience to prepare
for Nov/ JV Nats. So we frequent nearby D7 tournaments. Richmond and other
neighboring D7 tournaments ( e.g. Navy) have always been fair with us. But
limiting fairness to extending open invitations to all CEDA member schools
so we patronize your tournaments is anything but. For us attending your
tournaments, Richmond and Navy, has always meant throwing away time,
positive competitive momentum and a bit of our humanity on at least 5 out of
8 fruitless rounds where "straight up policy teams" won't even attempt
engaging us because the 3 K-friendly judges at the tournament happen to be
in the backs of *other* rooms (and the teams who hit us know the judge will
on face reject K-focused aff and neg strats in the 2nr & 2ar anyway, even if
we have an ADA-required alt). Why is the accepted norm that some CEDA
regions are inclusive of traditional and nontraditional forms of debate
while others, just a bordering state or two away, aren't? Why does teaching
our debaters judge adaptability mean going to a tournament knowing we'll
come home physically empty handed and spiritually defeated?

Philosophy after philosophy in the Richmond judge phil bk indicates that
running a K or an alty aff will not be a strategic choice in the
overwhelming majority of Richmond rounds. Reasons cited range from the
brazen (people who first claim they like Ks then a few sentences down claim
that all Ks are poor attempts at philosophy & only certain K authors are
cool) to the even more brazen (I'm just not comfortable with Ks, k?).

Generally I enjoy nothing more in a debate round than hearing a damn good T
debate, especially in the 2NR & 2AR (as my phil from last year indicates).
But I wonder what would happen if I judged as though I wasn't comfortable
with T... Make that T and disads and CPs and case debate. I'd like to find

Unless the Richmond judging pool's institutionally accepted aversion for
critical debate changes (in the form of amended judge philosophies &/ or a
productive listserv conversation), at Richmond my judge philosophy is to
vote on Ks and alternative forms of debate. And that's it. No, I won't vote
on any K/ performance argument; I'll vote on philosophically sound,
theoretically defensible, topically intriguing Ks and alt forms of debate.
And though I neither support this rule nor the implications of having such
rules mandated by tournament-governing debate associations, fine, the Ks
should have alternatives (ADA). If you want do some case work, negs, okay.
But if neither team goes for a K or performance arg (even if K/ performance
-friendly args were run), all 4 of the debaters in the room can count on
receiving their hi-lo lows from me. If neither team acknowledges this
judging philosophy, I'll flow the round fastidiously, flip a coin to decide
the winner, give everyone a 25 and sign the ballot accordingly.

This is less a pat on the back for CEDA East than it is a request for
reflection on why so much of regional debate has remained insular and
resistant to new forms of thinking while national tournament judging pools
extend the potential for success to both traditional and nontraditional
debaters. Regional debate is the only debate accessible to most novice and
JV debaters, debaters who so many members of this activity have claimed are
the at the core of this activity and its continued existence. And it's the
only prep/ practice site for JV and Open teams transitioning onto the
national circuit. How disappointing would it be if the only reflections
offered on these questions were silent ones, nonreflection reflections, in
the form of strikes... This is a disappointment I'm ready to accept, but I
ask that you not take this out on my debaters.

I've retained my phil from last year to extend some clarity on how I
typically judge, starring what is relevant to Richmond (specifically what I
mean by more preferable Ks & alternative approaches to debate).

I welcome your questions on how I will judge this weekend.

JUDGE PHIL '06-'07:

I'll preface my judge philosophy by saying I have no qualms with the
admission that I'm incapable of stepping outside of my subjectivity to
adjudicate within some idealistic objective space.
1) This does not mean that I think I assume some sort of role of privilege
whenever I'm handed a ballot.
2) It does mean that I believe critics only obfuscate whenever we speak and
act as though we exist peripheral to the agency through which we necessarily
render decisions.
3) It does not mean that I will vote on positions exterior to the 2NR & 2AR
4) It does mean judges are always "intervening" when making decisions. But I
want to do this as little as possible. And you can help me do so by giving
me as much direct, context-specific clash as possible and enumerating each
position in the debate hierarchically.

****I'm a former NYC Coalition debater. I majored in Philosophy, Political
Science and Women's Studies in undergrad. This is tangentially relevant to
you, as debaters whom I will see. Really, I was and continue to identify as
a sometimes student of philosophy/ political theory and a sometimes student
of my own as well as others' fiction writing. Because of this I might be
predisposed toward imagining the fantastical, imaginative world of the K. As
an aside I'd prefer this world was more like Pynchon's and less like
Baudrillard's (no, this does not mean I won't listen to your Baudrillard
cards, ugh.). Good Ks have clearly articulated net benefits and analysis on
how/ if the K turns case, etc.

I used to be a part of the coaching team at West Point/ USMA. Now I find
myself a part of the NYC Coalition once again, this time in a coaching
capacity, as the coach of Fordham U.

All in all, because of my academic and debate backgrounds, I'm K-friendly.
In this respect I'm a quintessential CEDA Easter. But my judging record also
indicates that I vote just as often, if not more often, on T/ procedurals,
even the ever-abhored Specs. That is those with clearly defined, in-round
ground/ education abuse stories (see below for more on this).

I like T and think it's an opportunity for a lot of smart argumentation.
This doesn't mean I will vote for you just because you run it. It means I
love listening to 5:30 of line-by-line T in the 2NR (preceded by a :30
overview) or --even better-- just under 15 mins of T between a block speech
& the 2NR. So maybe don't go for your T=RVI or T=genocidal args in front of
me. Unless you have a counter-interp that CPs/ disads/ Ks are better for
debate & an impact for the counter-interp.

****I also really like hearing new, smart forms of alternative debate. If
you're a policy bad kinda team, pref me highly. I really enjoy hearing these
debates and contemplating these questions. And a lot of the best rounds I've
judged this year have been policy v. something else rounds. Any debate strat
that questions and attempts to locate problematic bases for debate norms are
good. An on face plea to reject a form of debate without clear analysis of
*what* is wrong & *how* my ballot begins to change that 'what' is bad. Don't
just give me a vague 'reject it b/c it's wrong.' Think about the nuances
here when you tell me how my ballot functions. This doesn't necessarily have
to be 'explicit' (e.g. every time I saw Bard's Ravenna & Nathan last year,
they did a good job of showing me a level of absurdity in debate w/o having
to even momentarily abandon their absurdist approach ? this worked fine.)

BUT if you're a team facing one of these policy bad teams and your strat is
in line with straight up policy good stuff, this isn't a huge cause for
concern. Yes, my judging record does indicate that this year, more than ever
before, I've been more partial to the policy bad strats. But this is only
because I think the policy good teams that lost those debates failed to make
the more round specific, clashing policy good args. Like I said before I
love T debate, something that's unique to policy debate. So I'm definitely
not biased against debaters who choose to defend the value of policy debate
as an activity. You should also feel free to make policymaker good arguments
in front of me, a la roleplaying good -- I have no conscious bias on this
one way or the other. If your strat includes either of these two, maybe give
better analysis/ go for args other than the wrong forum & fast debate
improves memory args. Unless better memory power solves for race-based
poverty. That would be powerful shit. Or powerfully offensive shit. You tell
me! So, yes, remember to impact these framework arguments. And engage what
the policy bad kids are saying, even if only to prove that their strat is

****Unless you specifically request that I do otherwise -- and maybe even in
spite of your request that I do otherwise -- I will flow tags, cards,
lyrics, episodes of divine intervention, and anything else that may occur
during our almost-2 hours in the same room together.

****To elaborate on framework, framework analysis is often important so,
when necessary, I want to hear it as early as possible. I don't care whether
it's in the 1AC underview or on a seperate framework flow (and probably
won't buy neg. block args that the F/W cards should have been in the 1AC).

Impact analysis is, of course, always important, too. This is still true
with T, in which case give me a net benefit to your interpretation & impact
it. But be aware that I'll only vote on potential for abuse if you're giving
me impacts that matter. But this doesn't mean I'll enjoy watching you read 6
no-linking disads to prove the abuse on the topic specific education good
debate. I often find it unsettling to vote on potential for abuse because I
can't reconcile the following: without a corpus of precedent -- similar to
what we have in the US legal/ justice system -- according to which critics
may base their decisions, each round is adjudicated on its own terms,
meaning present abuse does not necessarily perpetuate future abuse. Our
privileging of extreme-case- hypotheticals in disad debates doesn't justify
accepting the same standard for discussions of what debate could be on T.
When we hold T to this standard, one that I buy has educational value in
disad/ case debates, we sell ourselves short on potentially meaningful in
round considerations of what's best for/ how to improve the activity. You
might not believe your agent CPs good for education args but maybe I will by
the end of the round.

****In most rounds, I'll want you to point to specific in-round abuse that's
occurred. So name a couple cases that fit your interpretation or give
analysis on how the aff writing norms on this topic are bad for some
interpretation of ground/ fairness/ education, etc.

****In novice & maybe even JV rounds, I tend to give nonverbal cues -- e.g.
nods that indicate i'm jiving with you that the PIC bites the K; faces of
confusion that indicate you're not explaining the warrants to your "on fire"
piece of evidence you spend 2 minutes explaining in the 2NR without having
actually said anything substantive; bewildered faces that indicate my
awareness of the 2AR lie that the extra T standard was, in fact, covered by
the 1AR. So it's to your advantage to look at me during your 2AC/ block
speeches, as doing so may help you formulate/ amend your 2AR/ 2NR strategy

****Despite all of this I think I'll listen to any argument. No I'm not just
saying that. Entirely new types of arguments/ ways to approach arguments may
arise. And I can't know what I can think of something if that something has
yet to be thought, can I? But, to give you an idea of the extent of my
flexibility, I'm even comfortable with arguments disguised as non sequiturs
(you know, the ones that sound like non sequiturs -- and are assumed to be
just stupid -- but are functionally performative non sequiturs, meaning
they're objects for demonstrating some end -- and therefore strategic). As
long as their role as such is clear.

The only debates I'm *less* comfortable hearing are really deeply developed
disad debates; I've never had one myself -- what, I'm a product of NYC
debate. But this doesn't mean I don't like disads. And this doesn't mean I
haven't before voted on a disad as the sole NB to the CP. If you slow down a
bit to talk to me about the story and the specific scenarios that end up, by
the end of the round, being integral to the position, feel free to go for
your disads in front of me. Or, just don't pref me highly.

****If you're losing the debate on a key issue, by all means feel free to
embrace ballsy damage control measures mid-round. Have fun with your
concessions and remember that as long as we have time to speak, we have time
to explore creative strategic alternatives. I'm tired of hearing about it
and itching to witness a round in which someone justifiably kicks their plan
text in the block and competently defends the theory of doing so.

****Highest speaks go to those with the most clarity, organization, wit and
quality pop culture references. By this, no, I don't mean talk to me about
the latest Paris Hilton trash news. If you integrate references to Joss
Whedon or his characters into your speeches, I just might have to give you a
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