[eDebate] Stopping the Snowball

michael hester uwgdebate
Fri Aug 15 13:15:43 CDT 2008

<if i was more computer-savvy, and could find the icon for a mooning smiley
face, i would be clicking it profusely right now>


On Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 1:52 PM, Darren Surch <darren.surch at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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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