[eDebate] MPJ - the root of all ...

Gary Larson Gary.N.Larson
Wed Aug 6 12:23:21 CDT 2008

I typically hesitate to enter any edebate discussions when the temperature rises but since one of the sub-texts of the discussion at least for some participants is that none of this would have happened were it not for MPJ, I'll try to offer a couple of perspectives based on my 22-year involvement with the tab room at CEDA Nats ( in that time observing tab room preference, judge ratings, pure random assignment, 5% strikes, 10% strikes, 20% strikes, 4-category pref, 9-category pref and now ordinal pref). 

While there are a number of topics with respect MPJ that deserve discussion, let me focus on the question most germane to the current argument - the propriety of making an in-round argument based on a strike card.  In the specific case, my quick take is that it was, in fact, justifiable given the advocacy of both teams in the round and the fact that the strike card is already a uniquely "public" act given that unlike the underlying pref sheet, both teams can presumably figure out who the other struck (except in cases where a team strikes no one or both teams strike the same person - scenarios that can be easily confirmed by the tab room).

But before I advocate opening Pandora's Box, let me change the scenario slightly and ask whether we would still consider the argument to be germane.  Let's imagine that the Fort had not, in fact, struck Shanara.  Knowing the positions that they were going to take in the round, they chose to not strike anybody.  Now it's the tab room policy that would drive the choice.  Just so everyone knows, the tab room has a specific policy as to how that choice would be made.  Two principles would be in operation.  The first is that the computer assigns each of the five judges to the strike card in a specific order where the first judge assigned is the one who is "most preferred - most mutual" and so on.  Given that fact, the tab room avoids ambiguity or argument by taking the last judge assigned off of the panel if the strike cards would result in a four-person panel.  But there's one exception that would be relevant here - if the last person listed is a woman or minority, the tab room would not unilaterally take them off the panel in order to be consistent with the tournament invite's stated goal of promoting diversity.

But let's change it slightly.  Let's imagine that the tab room did not have the final caveat about not taking women or minority judges off of the panel.  And let's imagine that Shanara was the 5th person listed (I have no idea where she was on the card).  In that case, we could imagine that in addition to critiquing tab room policy, the argument MIGHT have been that Shanara was listed last only because the Fort hadn't preferred her as highly as Towson so that the Fort was tacitly striking her by virtue of filling out the pref sheet in some particular way in the first place.  Would the content of their original pref sheet be germane, particularly since its content is not readily discoverable like the strike card would be?

Or let's go the next step.  Let's imagine that Shanara didn't even appear on the card (and that she wasn't assigned to another quarters debate).  Can Towson make the argument that the Fort is complicit in the fact that no African-Americans were on their panel since they could have filled out their pref sheet in such a way that they would have appeared.  And if that's germane to the argument, can we demand disclosure of the underlying pref sheet to attempt to resolve the argument.  Or, alternatively, can we make the tab room disclose the judges that appeared on all of the other cards to verify that she wasn't struck from some other debate.

What do we do with this Pandora's Box?


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