[eDebate] Judging Philosophy

Kris Willis kristopherwillis
Fri Oct 12 07:51:24 CDT 2007

I have long struggled with this question: Do I disclose preferences or be open for any debate the debaters want to have in front of me. For years, I have said I was an open critic and receptive to all forms of debate. The problem for me personally, was I found myself in the back of debates I felt I shouldn't be; whether because I didn't understand the argument, or I had a VERY different read on said social theorist being quoted during the debate. As a result, when I voted I tended to get a little criticism for saying I was an open critic (when in fact in these situations) I was not. Hence the change in my philosophy. While I use the "rather pull my teeth" quote to emphasize I don't want to hear certain forms of criticisms, I still very much enjoy critical arguments as I say in my disclosure. I just prefer specific criticisms that center around policy calculations. This is also because I am a political activist and policy analyst. Please don't read I don't think you should read critical arguments, I just would prefer you pass on me if it is not centered on policy calculations etc. 
I have voted for the affirmative, because why not, I have voted on arguments mocking debate etc. and I will continue to do so if the team running them argues them better in front of me than the other team.
I just wanted to disclose this here, in case there is clarity needed for my personal philosophy as it has changed.

Kris Willis


From: berchnorto at msn.com
To: edebate at www.ndtceda.com; asha.cherian at gmail.com
Date: Fri, 12 Oct 2007 08:18:06 -0400
Subject: Re: [eDebate] my Richmond updated judge philosophy -- please read

Three quick points:
1.  Richmond is not responsible for the judging pool at its 
tournament, except to the extent that Kevin has gone the extra mile to provide a 
broadened perspective by bringing in folks from across the country.  Other 
than that, the judging pool really is just a reflection of geography.
2.  As someone who just filled out a pref sheet for Richmond, I read a 
lot of those judging philosophies (and should note that there are at least a 
dozen people in the pool who don't have a philosophy on the Bruschke 
page).  I was indeed struck by the number of philosophies that basically 
said the judge wouldn't hear a particular argument.  I'm not suggesting 
that everyone pretend they are open to everything, but there's an awful lot of 
"don't run that in front of me".
3.  To the extent that there is a kritik/policy divide, the 
overwhelming majority of the "don't run that in front of me or else" rhetoric 
comes from the policy side.  The irony of the debate that has gone on over 
the past week over Mr. Hardy's post on consultation counterplans is that using 
points as a punishment mechanism for running particular arguments goes on all 
the time in the status quo.  What made Mr. Hardy's proposed philosophy more 
controversial was that it was over a controversy largely WITHIN the policy side 
of the divide.  Nobody has raised much of a ruckus over philosophies that 
a)  If you claim that T is a reverse voter, you will lose 
b)  If you go for a K in front of me, you will lose points.
c)  I'm hostile to kritiks, don't understand them, and don't have to 
due to MPJ.
d)  If you make "policy" arguments you will get a minimum of...
e)  I will never vote on X.
I see "kritikal" people vote on (and give high points to) policy arguments 
all the time.  I recall at the height of the controversy over Louisville's 
argumentation seeing Ede Warner vote on straight-up status quo policy issues 
(and give them good points), all while people were putting in their philosophies 
that they will not even listen to Louisville-style debate.
Imagine the uproar if someone promised a minimum of X number of points to 
teams that ran "kritikal" arguments, or limited the number of points for teams 
that ran "policy" arguments.  Oh, wait.  I don't have to imagine 
that.  Asha demonstrated it.
Goose/gander, etc.
--Neil Berch
West Virginia University

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Asha 
  To: edebate at www.ndtceda.com 
  Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2007 11:13 
  Subject: [eDebate] my Richmond updated 
  judge philosophy -- please read
To provoke 
  something-approaching-dialogue, I'm posting this here.  Please 
  post or backchannel me.

  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 


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 'reject'). 

>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?). 

  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 out. 

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). 

  welcome your questions on how I will judge this weekend. 


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 decisions. 
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 

****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 

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.) 

  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 bad. 

****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 decisions. 

****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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