[eDebate] Shanara Reid and judging qualifications

Peter Campbell odell.campbell
Fri Aug 15 11:04:24 CDT 2008

As a caveat, I certainly haven't read all of the back and forth on edebate
on this issue, but one thing I haven't seen much of is a discussion of what
a "qualified" judge is in terms of how much experience/skill (at things like
flowing) and judging philosophy matter relative to one another.

When I debated we (my partners and I) tended to be pretty lazy about
evidence production and to rely, for some reason, on rather big stick policy
affs and generic Ks, which left us with very little to say against non
policy affirmatives than framework.  This naturally made for an interesting
time filling out pref sheets - a lot of the judges that are supposed to like
voting for the framework are not supposed to like voting for the security K,
and we needed to have judges that would hypothetically be willing to vote
for both.  Even so, my senior year, I decided to start filling out the pref
sheet with less of an eye toward judging philosophy and more of an eye
toward skill - I wanted to believe in, and also to test, the theory that
judges who are skilled in the evaluation of arguments will tend to vote for
teams that win regardless of their philosophy.  Because of this, we started
to get judges in the back of the room in situations that many would have
found sub-optimal.

That year at Wake we had Shanara Reid on our pref sheet for the first time -
as with all judges who I hadn't personally heard of (and this was always a
lot of judges), I had two resources - the written judging philosophy and
Sean Harris.  They both told me pretty much the same thing - very good
debater, stated willingness to vote on different types of arguments, didn't
seem like she'd been around much recently but should be very skilled.  So,
we preffed her and got her on the negative against fullerton with only T
USFG/framework to say.  So, we had the debate, and enjoyed it, and I think
the Fullerton team did too - I think they're always a fun team to debate -
and Shanara voted for us because she thought we'd won the arguments in the
round.  In her RFD, however, she took the time to explain why she largely
agreed with Fullerton's arguments about the debate community and exclusion,
and did not agree with most of our responses.   When I judge now, I often
think back to this round and Shanara's approach to judging it as a model
that I try to emulate.

In subsequent random discussions about judges, I would hear people refer to
Shanara as someone who they would never pref, as she would clearly always
vote for a K team and never on the framework.  These were NOT comments on
Shanara's ability, for example, to flow fast elim debates (I'm thinking here
of Hester's statement in his RFD, which I have no comment on either way, as
the debate I'm talking about wasn't very fast) but rather comments on her
supposed inability to vote for arguments she disagreed with.  And not just
Shanara - other "K" judges that we preferred that year who, whether or not
they voted for us, I always felt gave us a fair shake on our framework and
other procedural arguments.

What I'm trying to say here is that a. we should take this incident as an
opportunity to have a more in depth discussion of judging qualifications,
and that b. we as a community should perhaps move to promoting judges who
approach debate rounds like Shanara did in this instance - who do not treat
every round as a blank slate, which is clearly impossible and I would say
not desireable - but who view debate rounds both as competitions that need
to conscientiously (and I would add, knowing that this is also a point of
disagreement, skillfully) evaluated using their (the judges') own particular
skills, knowledge and experience.

As a debater hoping to become a graduate student in rhetoric, I was happy to
have a judge who was not only expertly trained in NDT/CEDA debate, but also
expertly trained in rhetoric and various critical theories to evaluate a
framework debate, which among other things is, and should be, a discussion
of rhetorical theory, critical theory and activism that runs parallel to
arguments and conflicts in rhetoric, critical theory, and activisim within
Communication Studies and English.  We need more judges like this in the
community - and we need more judges that are both able and willing to listen
fairly (and by fairly I do not, again, intend to call upon something like a
'clean slate' - I mean fairly more in terms of 'conscientiously') to a wide
variety of argumentative and persuasive *styles*.  The pref sheet should be
a vehicle that allows teams with different approaches to debate to interact
with one another without one team always feeling that they were cheated by
the decision.  There are a few judges in the community that operate within
such a model, and we need more.

Peter Campbell
Graduate Assistant
Department of Communication
Coach, Illinois Policy Debate
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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