[eDebate] Stopping the Snowball

Darren Surch darren.surch
Fri Aug 15 12:52:12 CDT 2008

Damage control:

Save the rest of the programs and ban the folks involved from CEDA
sanctioned tournaments for 2 years, sending a message that this is
unacceptable and not a usual thing.  At least you show your administration
that the activity does not tolerate this sort of thing.

On Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 11:29 PM, Anjali Vats <anj36 at hotmail.com> wrote:

> I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but as someone that is trying very hard,
> on a high school and college level, to start new programs, fight against
> budget cuts, and generate positive publicity for this activity in a state
> that already has a number of very serious barriers to creating successful
> debate programs, I don't really want to contemplate how much harder my job,
> and the jobs of administrators everywhere, have gotten.  It is not
> furthering any cause, even that of combating racism in the activity, to
> bring negative attention to the community.  Instead, it's placing coaches
> in a position, as several people have already observed, where they must
> explain to parents of high school students and college administrators why
> this is a worthwhile activity.  And, for those of you that have coached
> high school students, it goes without saying that attracting and retaining
> students is difficult, and getting more difficult, given the dramatic drop
> in the  number of existing programs in many states and the not so awesome
> economy.  It doesn't help that the norms of college debate simply don't
> translate to a high school level and ignoring the impact of our actions
> hurts the ability of coaches to recruit high school debaters, draw students
> to at the debate camps that fund our much-loved college teams, and present
> this activity in a positive light.  Whether you agree or disagree with
> their decisions, the fact of the matter is that parents don't want to send
> their students to camps with professors and college kids that engage in bad
> behavior and can't be positive role models.
> I think it's important to recognize that this isn't just a one-time,
> limited issue and it's not just about "misunderstandings" or "clearing up"
> misperceptions about one incident.  Bad publicity is unfortunately often
> endemic to this activity, albeit on a smaller scale, and it threatens the
> funding of more than just one school.  In my opinion, it's very important
> that the debate community as a whole consider its conduct and the manner in
> which the activity is being portrayed to the outside world (that's not to
> suggest that it is just the publicity surrounding the conduct, and not the
> conduct itself that is problematic in many instances).  Public exposure is
> something very new to this activity and while there have been many positive
> uses of that new publicity, it's important to remain conscious of how we
> act.  And of course, in typical media fashion, it's most likely that those
> individuals that engage in outrageous or illegal behavior, as Scott so aptly
> pointed out, or fall outside the norms even for debate will end up on video.
> Debate is an activity that is fairly unique in the sense that many young
> students are permitted to voice their opinions and hold positions of extreme
> responsibility.  It's even more unique in that young students and coaches
> are permitted to speak to the media about important issues.  Some of those
> students may not be ready for that responsibility.  I'm not professing to
> judge who is and is not acting appropriately but I do suggest that if you
> haven't thought out the implications of your actions on others in the
> activity and the community as a whole, that you not act as a spokesperson
> for the activity.  I would also note that many organizations regulate who
> is and is not permitted to interact with the media generally, a practice
> that I'm willing to bet, few teams follow.  The bottom line is we really
> don't need images of chain smokers, professors yelling at each other in an
> undignified manner, students posting videos that may or may not be
> appropriate for public forums, and countless other less than savory sides of
> our community eclipsing the benefits of this activity.  The jobs of
> directors are already difficult enough as Paul, David, Jim, Ed, and several
> others have already pointed out.
> There are doubtlessly some people who find the YouTube video funny,
> probably others who think airing their grievances in a very public forum is
> necessary to advance their cause, and some who disagree that considering the
> impact of their actions on administrations or the community at large is
> important at all.  All I can say is negative publicity threatens the
> entire debate community.  So, if you're going to talk about driving on less
> than enough sleep or take your pants off, think about the message that you
> are sending to the world and recognize that if there's a camera around, in
> that moment, you are speaking for the entire debate community and not just
> yourself.
> - anjali
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