[eDebate] posted for Derek Buescher - being proactive with pr and assesment

Peter Campbell odell.campbell
Fri Aug 15 15:05:38 CDT 2008


Derek asked me to post this for him -

Encased within the comments from Paul Johnson, David Steinberg, Jim Hanson,
and, even Hester, is the call for debate communities to think about how to
proactively present information about itself and its member programs that
best benefit those programs, their relationships with their host
institutions, the coaches/faculty involved in those programs, and,
ultimately, the debaters (present, past, and future) who comprise those
programs. Because the good or bad choices of single individuals may enhance
or undermine the future viability of a program I think it is necessary to
think about how we may best enhance rather than undermine.
Paul and Dave have several excellent points--from professionalism to alumni
success and learning the language of the institution and departmental
mission statements. I would like to encourage another step--an assessment
model tailored to providing feedback and review of individual debate
programs. Before I explain that, a couple of points about the status quo.

1. Currently, I think, we use awards (individual team success and
squad/sweepstake success) as the benchmark of a successful program. Many
programs actively take these accolades to their institution (as would an
athletic team) as proof of things going right. I think this model is likely
broken as it depends on debate continuing an analogy of athletics rather
than academics. Our future viability rests in the continuing ability to
prove the academic merits of our programs (covering academic success,
admission and recruitment, future success of students who become alumni
etc). This doesn't necessarily mean ending the sweepstakes model, but at the
least creating an alternative assessment tool more in line with academic
assessment. And, I know this is a hated word given how it is conducted but
I'll try to outline something workable in a moment.

2. Both Paul and David encourage the future production of PhDs. I too would
like to encourage this (especially since...and this is admittedly
anecdotal...PhDs in Forensics education and debate are seemingly a thing of
the past). And, the placement of PhDs into debate positions is dwindling
rapidly. I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again. Last year at the
WSCA EC meeting I asked those present (the "leadership of WSCA") how many of
their programs had a funded debate program with a tenure line faculty
position 10 years ago and nearly every hand in the room went up. I asked
them how many have a funded program and tenure line position today and every
hand but one went down. And, that one was at Illinois State (thanks Joe!)
which really isn't even part of WSCA. Now, perhaps this is a sign of the
leadership of WSCA or the west coast in general and not indicative of
national trends. However, I tend to think it is indicative. Debate positions
are decreasingly faculty positions which means coaching and administration
(again not universally) are being deprofessionalized within our
institutions. Another impact of this is why would anyone who wants to coach
a debate team get a PhD to do so, maybe a PhD in something else, maybe an MA
grad position, but getting a PhD is becoming less likely to get one a
debate/comm studies job (not unlikely, but less likely).

So, rather than require the individual program leader or program who to
rationalize its existence to the University--a model that depends almost
entirely on the single person not only justifying their current position but
the future of their position and the program--let's create a
body/committee/whatever for the explicit person of programmatic review. Some
bullets:

1. Make it cross-organizational-AFA/NDT/CEDA/NPDA/NPTE/NFA-LD/NIET etc
2. Make its charge to assess those programs asking for assessment and
standardize the process within the goals, missions, etc of the host
institution, the budget, the student body, scholarships, coaching staff and
administrative support.
3. Considering such assessment is an arduous task provide support from
member dues for buy outs or overages.
4. Make it proactive--provide tenure letters of assessment and support;
provide support for budget increase proposals; for new lines; for
maintaining a line when a faculty member retires; for professionalizing
debate within the institution.
5. Make is proactive with helping new faculty gain support from their
institution, rework tenure review documents to create clear and workable
standards for tenure.
6. Make it honest--a body of this nature fails if it only provides positive
reviews. If a program needs direction changes in goals, in funding, in
leadership, the review should indicate as much (always taking into
consideration what the approved documents of the program and standards of
review indicate).

Derek Buescher
University of Puget Sound
reply to:dbuescher at ups dot edu
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