[eDebate] Failure of Conferences Proposal--a redux

Darren Elliott delliott
Mon Jul 21 03:18:38 CDT 2008

To paraphrase Robert Fulghum, ?All I really need to know about computer
mediated communication, I learned on edebate?.

I wanted to take a moment (between umpiring softball tournaments, having
a family vacation, and researching the HS and College Topic) to take a
second shot at posting my thoughts on conferences, the failed proposal,
and the organizational leadership.

Since my post the other day, responding to Malcolm, 2 people I consider
friends and highly respect helped me view my email through their eyes. 
Edebate is indeed a horrible medium at times, and all computer mediated
communication comes with risks of misinterpretation.  Am I frustrated
that the conference proposal failed?  Obviously.  But the two emails I
received made me realize that my frustration is just as much aimed at
where we can be more effective leaders as it is at the failure of the
amendment.    I wont publicly name these 2 friends here.  They chose
private communication and I respect that.  One I have known since my
first college tournament and if they are anything, it's passionate about
this activity.  But I want to thank them for helping me hopefully
remember to see things through different eyes.  If we, I, can be
anything, I hope it's reflexive.

So let me answer some concerns the tenor of my email may have raised:

First, my opinion about the conference proposal was not meant to
chastise either those who voted no or those choosing not to vote.  It's
primary focus was to share frustration.  As much as I want to disagree
with Jeff about some not caring about the business of the organization?I
want to think everyone cares as deeply as I do?I do have to admit that
when 35% do not vote at all, they perhaps see no value in voting. 
Perhaps part of our organizational mission should be to provide more
value.  Part of our job should be to encourage voting.  I will try and
embrace that.  As for those who voted no, I will admit I was initially
against conferences.  But I heard the debate play out for an hour at NCA
in Chicago.  I came away convinced it was a good idea.  There was very
little opposition, more devil's advocate playing.  Then the proposal
failed.  We re-hashed the ideas.  Upon the encouragement of myself and
Gordon Stables, the proposal was resubmitted this summer.  This time, no
real debate at the business meeting.  Some who claimed initial
opposition came forward in support.  Again it failed.  Part of my
frustration was what Malcolm conveyed.  We are so talkative, yet so few
counter arguments were made.  It was thought by many of us leaving
Dallas, it would pass this time.  But when it didn't, frustration
mounted.  But now, one of my good friends helped illuminate some
opposing reasons.  Some of them had not been conveyed before.  I
certainly understand why those in opposition choose not to use edebate,
ceda-l, etc.  But I hope through honest, back-channel means if
necessary, we can come to an understanding.  The reasons elucidated were
enlightening to me.  It gives us common ground to start from.  It
changes how I see the proposal and how the organization should operate. 
Without this person taking the time and having the courage to email me,
in their own admission with trepidation, we may have no common starting

Second, I hope the joking reference to ?JED? was not seen as a
Presidential Seal in code, uncovering the ?elite? or ?out? members of
the ?cabal?.  If you know my relationship with Jarman, we worked
together, he served as a mentor for me, and I think he is one of the
best coaches in the country.  But we often disagree on issues.  A lot. 
In the end we both work hard, I think, to make the organization better. 
But we disagree a lot.  If you are familiar with the archives, you can
see where Mike Davis and I have butted heads in the past.  Mike has
quickly become one of my favorite people in the activity.  But he too
will often quip at business meetings, that if him and I agree, it is
scary.  So my references to them agreeing with me,?out? the Knights Templar.  But to put some humor in an otherwise
frustrated post.  It really was shocking the 3 of us would agree and yet
it could not get a super majority to agree as well.  But it was
definitely meant in a joking manner.

Third, my statement about agreeing with Jeff that many may not care
about the business of the organization, was not intended to suggest that
those voting ?no? did not care.  It was a saddened admittance on my part
that Jeff may be right and some folks don't care and choose not to vote.
 Again, perhaps we need to give them more to vote for.  But as one of my
friends pointed out, those voting ?no? probably care deeply and have
valuable reasons they chose to vote no.  Those reasons give me starting
points again for common ground between the belief of some of the
leadership that the system is broken, business meetings fail to make
quorums, and we get stalled, and those who voted no who believe the
system would become worse, that the SQ serves their needs, that we
failed in the proposal by putting too much burden on the membership,
that it was too punitive in nature, etc.  We now have a place to work
from.  I sincerely hope that others who voted no can share their
concerns with someone in the leadership.  

Fourth, I agree that checks and balances are a good thing.  I believe
that we should not be able to move too quickly when revamping
constitutions.  I would like to have seen this proposal go forward.  It
failed.  Now we have to work with what we have.  And I do believe that
everyone who voted no, did so for a reason and probably one that
directly impacted them, their institution, or their Region.  I have no
reason to think otherwise.  So yea, I believe they cared about the
running of the organization.  Please do not misinterpret my feelings
that when meetings are under-represented, that I think all those not in
attendance do not care.  There are plenty of reasons not to attend the
meetings.  Families, finances, travel fatigue, etc.  But I am smart
enough to know a lot of those folks still care.  I guess that is why it
is our job to figure out how to make things better, and perhaps more
accessible.  Again, we have a place to work from.

Finally, I indicated in my email that we would begin working with the
Executive Secretary to use his authority under the Constitution to
present proposals aimed at revamping the Regional structure.  I honestly
believe that for the purpose of effectively running business meetings,
that there does need to be some work done here.  However, I do not think
this is a decision that should be left solely to the Exec Secretary or
the Executive Council.  While you did elect us, our roles in this matter
should be formative.  In the end, suggestions, movement, and final
decisions should have the consultation of those directly effected.  It
would be irresponsible for us to assume to know what is in the best
interest of every program.  For some schools, perhaps being in a huge
Region is what helps them justify funding.  For others, perhaps a
smaller Region is best.  We need to find out.  And in the meantime we
need to do our job and figure out how to make meetings effectively run
with what we have, and perhaps go even farther in increasing

In conclusion, I hope that people can begin to feel more comfortable in
sharing their thoughts with the leadership, even if in private if
understandably fearing the nature of computer mediated communication. 
But edebate and ceda-l serve valuable purposes too.  They demand of
leadership a clarity of purpose, a willingness to be open about our
intentions, and the wisdom to know that in the most frustrating moments,
there will be common ground from which we can start to do a better job. 

Sometimes we just need our friends to remind us!


Darren Elliott
Director of Debate and Forensics?KCKCC
CEDA President

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