[eDebate] The 2AR: Vik Keenan's 2nd VP Candidate Statement

V I Keenan vikeenan
Fri Dec 12 18:45:35 CST 2008

Candidate Statement ? 2VP (Edebate/CEDA-L version)

[Note: The only candidate who demonstrates knowledge of debate 101 ? it's
advantageous to have the last word.]

Clearly, we need more puppies in CEDA.  If elected, Northeast region, I
promise you puppies at Regionals/Districts this year.  I promise all other
Directors a general commitment to serve our community and try to improve our
organization.  If all you want is the attack-ads, skip to the bottom.

The 2ndVP position is an opportunity to commit to steering the direction of
CEDA over the next 5 years on the Executive Committee (2VP, 1VP, Pres, and
two years as past President). Despite debate being an amazing experience and
a unique educational opportunity with immeasurable benefits to its
participants, our numbers are shrinking, our PR is limited, and our
responsiveness is sometimes slow to the needs of our members.  We need to
change this.  Our "institution" is what can improve.  I am running for 2ndVP
because I think I can contribute to improving how our organization serves
the member institutions that we are here to support.  There are a number of
us doing exciting things with our programs related to social justice, public
debate, education, etc, but we don't coordinate that knowledge.  This means
that much of that work is done alone, making it harder, and that much of
that knowledge is lost.  Finding ways to communicate, institutionalize, and
expand what we are doing that works WITHOUT asking for excessive extra
burdens on an already heavy workload would be one of my priorities as 2ndVP.

I think there is a great deal of overlap in the field of nominees in what we
are running for: program development, diversity in debate, a great national
tournament, improving membership, expanding student and employment
opportunities, and our general love of the activity.  As it has been noted,
it then becomes more important in this case to start discussing HOW we would
approach the goals we want to achieve when so many of our objectives are in

First, there are the simple implementations ? we lose good initiatives and
good ideas all the time to simple forgetfulness or other prioritization.  This
is why we need to follow-through on the recently discussed ideas of creating
an actual national position of Secretary and an official PR position with
real support.  I envision the Secretary position as giving us a more formal
way to ensure that the ideas we discuss become the ideas we implement.  It
would create a regular mechanism of accountability as ideas are not simply
brought-up and forgotten, but instead timelines and commitments are recorded
in a way for public accountability.  I envision the "Press" position as not
simply being reactive, but being proactive in communicating our
accomplishments and making us at the forefront of forensic leadership, and I
recognize that this might require more "professional" assistance than we
currently have.  We don't need to apologize for who we are, but we do need
to be able to articulate why what we are doing is good ? this is part of the
fight.  At most, these positions would require amending our governing
documents, a process with which I have specific experience, and a record of
follow-through, even when it is not necessarily my initiative.  I would also
seek to "update" past initiatives that I am aware of, such as simple alum
networking using the database project from 2005, that have somehow been lost
along the way.

Second, program development and retention is already a priority for me.  I
have spent my entire career in debate in the process of creating new
programs, first as a debater in a student created program, next as a
volunteer in the first year of the NYUDL (and for 7 more years giving me
ACTUAL experience on both working with diversity initiatives and why the
UDLs should not be a tool of college debate), also as a coach at new high
school in NYC, and currently as the Director at CUNY.  I continue to coach
in the N Y Coalition because of our specific commitment to new programs and
new debaters, and have been excited by the debuts of Monmouth and Rutgers in
the Northeast this semester.  I applaud Mike's efforts on the Program
Development Committee.  I think he has identified several key steps on a
national level that make the process of program development easier.  However;
I think that a great deal of the work actually occurs on the local level,
and I think we need to re-envision the role of our local debate communities
to assist in fostering new debate programs.  I think on a national level
CEDA needs to serve as a coordinator of these efforts.  As we continue the
current "redistricting" conversation, I think it is important to ask how our
local representatives can bring back assistance to the programs that they
are probably the most familiar with.  I also think we need to begin
targeting new program initiatives to create more local debate opportunities
for programs like Scott's, who are geographically isolated.  Our current
program development relies on students or faculty creating a new program at
their own instigation.  Tied to the evolution of our PR efforts, we should
ask how we can target specific institutions to support debate to both
increase new programs and create more local debate opportunities for
existing ones.

I also think we need to focus more than we have on the flip side of the
issue - program retention.  We need to reexamine if the growing fiscal
stability of CEDA as an organization would allow us to provide other kinds
of support to programs in jeopardy.  We need to identify the conditions at
institutions that allow a program to survive past transitions in leadership.
We need to coordinate our press efforts to incentivize supporting programs
within academic institutions.  We need to explore how we can overcome the
trend of stagnant budgets in a world of increasing costs either by
identifying ways to reduce costs, assisting in efforts to increase budgets,
actively seeking out alternative models to stretch resources, or all of the
above.  I recognize that the issue of program development and retention does
not have one single solution, and we need to be better at sharing the
solutions we've come up with independently to assist each other.

The issue of professional "standards" is also one facing our community.  The
current amendment for CEDA will be decided before any of us as candidates
officially becomes 2VP.  This could mean that we have no such governing
document; it could mean we are charged with interpreting it as it stands
[i.e.: In 2011 appointing members of the PRB].  If it does not pass, the
result cannot be a choice to then ignore the conversation.  First, our
affiliate status with the AFA will tie us into their choices over the next
year.  We can take this opportunity to examine our relationship with the
AFA, we can choose to be LEADERS in this effort, but we cannot pretend it
will go away.  It became very clear at NCA this year that this is a
conversation occurring not about just us, but about all related forensics
organizations.  Secondly, we cannot hope to become an organization that
better supports our coaches and colleagues as "professionals" without
deciding what that means for us.  And it has been clearly articulated that
one of the factors at many institutions for program development or retention
is providing the "professional" justification for those positions.

This is also why I think a conversation about curriculum is good, but should
not necessarily be a requirement.  I do not think the role of our national
body is to decide what debate is or should be ? that is not our mission as
an association, nor our history (unlike the ADA, which takes further steps
to identify the parameters of argument for its sanctioned
tournaments).  However;
for individuals trying to begin or justify programs, having a place to start
a "curriculum" conversation is useful.  For coaches attempting demonstrate
what debate can offer, and what specifically our kind of debate can offer,
curriculum is the language of the department.  I understand the pitfalls of
curriculum guidelines that over-restrict approaches and content ? it was my
greatest frustration as a high school teacher for eight years.  But is just
as frustrating to have nothing to start from, or no common language to
convey why what you do is pedagogically beneficial.  My hope is that in
creating documents that are resources for coaches and instructors we do not
limit what it means to "teach" debate, but instead finally articulate to
amazing diversity of ideas we are able to explore through our activity.  One
of the "lost" initiatives of the past was documents to assist new coaches ?
I envision "curriculum" being one such resource.

Part of this support also means creating professional opportunities for our
community ? building and keeping coaching positions; aligning expectations
of instructor workloads; networking, researching, and publication
opportunities for graduate students.  While we have made some progress in
the last few years about "announcing" opportunities, we still may not have
made the transition to have all of these opportunities available to be
viewed in the same place.  More importantly, it has been noted that there is
a decrease in submissions to our key academic journals, and there was
discussion at NCA this year about "debate" and other graduate work as being
seen in opposition to each other.  How can we make opportunities for
research more viable for this key demographic of our community, and how can
we make debate a professional stepping stone rather than simply a way to
waive tuition?  This is why we need some form of curriculum documentation,
more proactive press, and clearly articulated concepts of professionalism.  If
we as an organization do not sponsor and encourage the research which
justifies what we do, how can we get more resources to expand what we do to
more students, or at a minimum preserve it at institutions feeling the
tightening of their budgets?

These professional efforts do not mean that debate is not for the debaters ?
it is simply a recognition that for the debaters to have debate they need
support.  I would also seek as 2VP to increase the student leadership role
in CEDA, both by clarifying the Student Representative positions, and by
exploring other ways to encourage student input in both our legislative and
topic processes.  For the past year the role of student representation has
been one of my priorities, and as a Regional Rep I have held myself
accountable for ensuring that our Student Rep position has taken advantage
of that opportunity when possible [Business Meeting votes or proxy, Regional
networking (electronic), Regional networking (competitive prep), etc].  If
we want debate to be for the debaters, then its leadership should be too.

Most people who know me know that I am primarily drawn to debate because it
is an educational activity.  But I was also initially drawn to its unique
sense of community.  You cannot have a debate without another side ? we need
each other.  Therefore, we need to support each other.  I do not think the
proposal to "sever" from the NDT necessarily serves this purpose in a time
when cross-examination program numbers are shrinking across the country.  [I'm
not even going into the logistics ? but let's just assume the "membership"
vote wouldn't pass it either].  I think instead we need to examine the
conversation that Gordon Stables has dubbed "Merger 2.0" ? looking at how
ALL of the national associations affect each other (because the ADA schedule
has an impact on this as well).   This is not about NDT versus CEDA versus
ADA ? this is about active participation in leadership to help debate
thrive.  It is the basis of the conference this summer at Wake.  We need to
reengage the NDT on conversations about national scheduling and district
qualification that affect program development and viable travel schedules.  If
the NDT passes the proposal for a new "tournament hosting committee", we
need to be involved in the conversation, not ignoring it.  Many of us are
members of both, if not all three, institutions, and it is ridiculous that
the only official cross-organization conversation that exists in the status
quo is the Topic Meeting.  I think I have demonstrated over the last 5 years
not only a willingness to engage in that kind of cross-conversation (at ADA
tournaments, at NDT committee meetings, and CEDA meetings, and at the topic
meeting), but a dedication to being an active participant in trying to make
change when our institutions have policies that are odds with each other.  I
would continue that kind of participation if elected to the 2nd VP position.

Like many others, I have been in CEDA for as long as I have been in debate.
I began debating the year before the "merger", and I graduated the year
after.  I started debating in college, which is why the development of
novice debaters has always been an issue of great personal importance.  This
probably means I have the least "debate" experience of all of the candidates
(it also means I get to call them all old, because Russell wanted humor AND
mudslinging), but I think that my breadth of experiences in debate is a more
important criteria.  I have helped start a student based team on a campus; I
have helped establish an administration started team across a University of
multiple campuses.  I have worked with universities with students with every
academic advantage but no resources for debate, and I have worked to get
fairly substantial resources available to students whose other academic
resources are their only obstacle to success.  I am currently the Regional
Representative for the largest region (in terms of membership) in CEDA, and
I have experience not only in coordinating different needs from different
programs, but also in trying to bring together disparate points of view into
civil discussion.  My "coaching" job involves three different university
systems, and my "day job" is in University administration, giving me
familiarity with the very group we are often trying to persuade to increase
resources.  I have been able to observe what being not only 2ndVP, but
1stVP, and President means fairly closely over the last few years, and
to learn
from that process the benefits and limitations of those positions.  At CEDA
Nationals M L Sandoz asked if we were interested in building bridges, and I
think my past participation in this community demonstrates not only that I
am, but that I think it is necessary for us to survive.  In the end, I think
what distinguishes CEDA as an organization is not simply that it promotes
debate, but that it recognizes there are multiple ways to give students the
debate experience, and I am committed to listening to needs across debate
demographics to best support our activity.

I was asked at NCA why those of us who are not necessarily "academics" would
want this position.  It's a great deal of work, a large commitment, and it
does not have the same "resume" benefits as it would to people who work for
institutions of higher ed.  The answer is simple: we love this activity.  We
think we can do better as an institution.  We think we can help.  My
commitment to CEDA extends beyond this election, which I think is true of
all of the candidates.  I think the questions before those of you voting are
straightforward:  what do you what from this organization over the next 5
years, whose proposals will make the organization actively better, and who
will be able to follow through on implementing their initiatives?  My
current position in my University would give me the flexibility to focus on
such proposals and to see them through if you agree with my vision not only
of what our organization is capable of, but of what debate is capable of.

[Yes, I know this was long (more a block than a rebuttal) and there's a more
condensed version for the newsletter, but I've thought a lot about what I
would like for this organization, and you deserve to know the direction I
plan to pursue if elected whether you vote for me or not.  At least I'm
aware of my faults.]


Oh, and a few words about my opponents:

I will admit the following things:  Scott Elliott writes better topic papers
than me, Mike Davis is a better bowler than me, Andy Ellis is a better
revolutionary than me, and Jason Russell is probably funnier than me.  That
said, I'm not sure those are things that would make them a better 2VP than

However; I will also add that Andy actually IS Sarah Palin, despite his
Facebook assurances, and Mike Davis at least has the low-rent version of
Jason Russell's barber.  And true to the Louisiana educational system he
represents, Scott can't spell (seriously, dude, my name has 3 letters and
you got 1/3 of them wrong).

Finally, I am not some kind of terrorist.  I am simply a benevolent
logistics dictator in a federation of institutions who, by clearly creating
a model for the Balkans, turns the impact.  Plus, you should reject Russell
on his discourse, because it leads to a self-fulfilling-prophecy.
[Disclaimer:  Any accidental or intentional injury to soon-to-be-Dr. Russell
is NOT the fault of said self-fulfilling-prophecy.]  A ballot for me is a
ballot to reject terror talk, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, and bowling as
criteria for leadership skills.  A ballot for me is a ballot for more
puppies in debate ? and who doesn't like a puppy?

Vik Keenan
Director - Baruch Debate, CUNY
Assoc. Director - New York Coalition of Colleges
212/992-9641 or 347/683-6894
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