[eDebate] Quick reaction on two tub experiment

Paul Johnson paulj567
Tue Jul 22 11:18:57 CDT 2008

Funny this comes up now, it was the topic of conversation between the Miami staff for an hour long drive to a Reds game. In other news, the Miami staff is extremely lame.

BUT I think the tub crunch issue is a helpful spot at which to articulate the collision that is occurring in contemporary debate- one that finds the arc of ultra-competitiveness clashing with the arc of financial and institutional concerns. We have never before been able to produce so much evidence because of the "digital turn" in debate. However, travel costs are skyrocketing as never before with no end in sight (airlines are poorly run, oil prices are high, we don't have the necessary travel infrastructure developed for reasonable alternatives, like regional rail). 

Simply put, cost overruns with new baggage policies and rising ticket prices will prove disastrous. This is also not an issue that only affects small schools- bigger squads have bigger costs, and when the economy contracts everyone's funding is, by and large, less secure. The real different in effect is geographic- schools that can drive to more tournaments, by and large, feel this squeeze less than a squad that has to fly everywhere.

Could the digital revolution provide the answer? Numbers need to be crunched. Specifically, how much in terms of printer, paper, and computer costs does a team incur going almost digital? Are the savings radical? When you consider each team travels with probable a minimum of 3 tubs in the status quo, with escalating costs for each, will printing expenses for a squad of three teams exceed the costs of luggage? American for example charges a total of 40 dollars for two bags- if this squad has two teams, one with say, 3 tubs and one with 4, you're looking at an additional 135 dollars. 

A whole ream of paper costs what, 30 bucks? Pick up a standard brother printer and assume since you're going totally digital you'll need several cartridges. thats prolly about 135 there, with cartridges and paper together. Right now, thats kind of a wash. 

Also carts- will we still need those? One idea is to just have everyone toss into a general fund for the schools that host tournaments to just purchase carts. If you figure out room moves and have a competent tournament staff on site carting could get it done.

I'm more confident office supply prices will remain steady while luggage prices and fees will rapidly escalate as the airlines feel the burn. Going completely digital doesn't necessarily provide the answer even then though, because you know what files you HAVE to have. So people will still bring some tubs, and pay for some luggage. I would love for someone with more hands on experience procuring supplies and doing the numbers on printers etc. to come up with some more exact numbers. 

Whats the real solution? I agree with Will's "more prep" suggestion (indeed, its one we also brainstormed the other day independently). I think the counterbalance is fewer rounds that last longer, completely necessary when you consider how four rounds already usually takes us well into the evening. This is one area in which the clash between competition and economics is revealed- no one wants fewer debates because they provide a worse measure of how good a team is and introduce more statistical variance and luck into the equation.

In general the community privileges competition and the resulting argument quality that develops as a result of debate. This is no surprise. People enjoy winning. People like to be pushed. Suggestions for measures to make debate a little less competitive fall prey to several arguments

A) A hobbesian dilemma- if everyone else is working all the time, you too must also, otherwise your elim day stay will be nasty, poor, brutish and short

B) The digital genie is out of the analog bottle- now that we can research all the time anywhere, its going to happen. Debate now has much more and quality on site work than it did in the past. 

The ethos of competitiveness that underlines are community can be seen in the travel schedules- many teams privilege large national tournaments with the best competition and center their season around those tournaments, round robins, first round opportunities etc. Combine the thirst for victory with easily available Internet Tubes for extensive research opportunities and we have, in some senses, a perfect storm in our community pushing us ever closer to professionalization. 

Therefore we don't want to do ANYTHING that cuts down on our argument quality and our chance of success. We invest our entire days and college careers and professional careers into this activity. Fewer tubs, more printers, less rounds, fewer national tournaments all DIRECTLY threaten to water down the competititiveness which we have recently obtained at an unprecedented level. There is a reason it was so good to be Aff back in the day- a dumb aff could not as easily be immediately destroyed with one competent researcher and a WiFi connection. I've made comments to people in the past about how I think debate isn't quite social enough but I'm willing to admit: it won't ever be as social as it was, and thats ok! But we still have to do something to make travel more affordable.

If we dont want to cut down on our argument quality, I think there is one solution. Make divisions. Bring back a sense of pride and community and belonging at a more local level to refuse the Prisoner's Dilemma that makes most regional touraments less competitive. All it takes is one team deciding that the regional that weekend is less appealing than another tournament farther away to evacuate that regional tournament. We could on any given weekend have 3 or 4 highly competitive good tournaments instead of one really good one.

So here's an admittedly immodest proposal, but one that, at first blush, I think holds a lot of appeal:

Cut down on major national tournaments. Maybe only two in the first semester instead of the 4 we have now? 

Turn other major national tournaments into "super regionals" and get together various consortiums, or divisions that will agree to all travel to the same tournaments.

So instead of the GSU and Gonzaga sort of split along with UNI on the first couple weeks of the season, you could do maybe 4 tournaments:

One out West
One at GSU
One in the Midwest
One on the upper east coast. 

Figuring out where to site these tournaments to maximize drivability would seem imperative.

So then maybe a couple weekends later you have the first national tournament. The regional tournaments were places for teams to get a feel, get some debates in. 

A couple weekends later do another regional.

Then finish the semester up with another national.

If its financially doable to keep our current travel schedule, I'm for it. I think its great. There are opportunities for regional travel that some teams take advantage of, and more should. But if the current nationally focused travel schedule becomes a financial burden for too many squads, we should think about a national scale down and an emphasis on regionalism to cut costs. The competitive expense will, I think, be less than everyone anticipates. Look at the D3 tournament every year- that thing is savage. Imagine a few larger scale tournaments like that that included first round candidates. Northeast tournaments with Towson, Dartmouth, Harvard, Mary Washington, Richmond, NY schools, Rochester, Vermont and many other teams from those districts. Midwest tournaments with throwdowns between Iowa, MSU, Kansas, NU, UNI, Conc, Minny, Auggie, Kstate, Emporia, and many more. Great Western competitiions between Gonzaga, Berkeley, Chico, Fullerton, UNLV, ASU,
 USC etc. 

What does everyone think?


--- On Tue, 7/22/08, William J Repko <repkowil at msu.edu> wrote:

> From: William J Repko <repkowil at msu.edu>
> Subject: [eDebate] Quick reaction on two tub experiment
> To: edebate at ndtceda.com
> Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 9:46 AM
> ...busy at debate camp, but wanted to quickly chime-in . 
> 1. Kudos to Ryan -- airline developments are going to hit
> our debate 
> community like a ton of bricks. We tend to "steal good
> ideas" from one 
> another in a very ad-hoc, slow way. 
> If there's a silver bullet that can cut-down costs,
> please share. 
> ... if this discussion helps formulate one, then it's
> more-than worth it. 
> 2. Not to place a sour note on Ryan's post (it's
> important and I am a fan), 
> but I wanted to react to the portion of his email that
> spoke to an episode 
> involving the MSU team. Specifically, I caution folks
> against citing MSU as 
> a model of "a team that did just fine without
> tubs". 
> Background: 
> a) Were all 29 of MSU's tubs temporarily lost in
> transit to Austin ?.. 
>    Yes 
> b) Was MSU able to "get by" ?... 
>    ...umm...sorta... 
> c) Why doesn't this provide concrete proof that the
> community could operate 
> w/o tubs or solely with electronic resources ?... 
> First -- It's taxing in many little ways. 
> printers only go so fast; printers enjoy jamming and
> breaking; the office 
> supply center opens at 8am (not 7am when cartridge # 5 runs
> out); opponents 
> can only disclose so much (in the status quo); teams worry
> about many 
> contingencies -- so too much pre-round time is spent
> printing instead of 
> coaching /prepping. 
> I would go so far as to say that the first day of UT-A --
> while enjoyably 
> challenging in a sick sort of way -- would be a very bad
> blueprint for 
> professional sanity. It may have been the most trying day
> of my debate life 
> and I am positive the other MSU coaches and students would
> echo that 
> sentiment. Needing to print or "produce" a file
> before everyone would drive 
> a lot of either towards hyper-generics or from the activity
> altogether. 
> Second -- I'm not sure we could have done it all on Day
> two or three. 
> 4 *pre-sets* made things feasible.... When things are not
> pre-set, then 
> every debate without tubs becomes that way you feel when
> you dashing to 
> print off that preposterous request right before an elim
> round. 
> Third-- Having a larger team was an asset -- more teammates
> to borrow 
> from... more people to aid with printing ,etc. 
> Truth be told, I don't think it's a very workable
> adjustment under the 
> current set of norms. 
> *If* the community is forced by the market to go
> "tubless", then we may need 
> to consider adding the following items to the discussion: 
> a) Do we need to add considerably more prep time into the
> debate itself ?.. 
> This might be used for printing ev, jumping ev to the
> opponent, finding the 
> paper file that stored in the "common ev room",
> etc. 
> This could have the positive externality of allowing
> debaters (not coaches) 
> to research wildly-untrue arguments during the debate --
> tempering the 
> concern that many have about new Affs, silly
> hyper-generics, etc. 
> b) In an era of Aff bias, should we re-visit the norm of
> neg disclosure ?.. 
> This would be a huge adjustment -- fraught with problems.
> But, it would 
> hedge against team A trying to manipulate the fact that
> Team B is "unlikely 
> to have a paper copy of X".... 
> ... More generally, I encourage people to view the
> "tub-crunch" as an 
> opportunity -- not just a burden. It could constitute an
> opportunity to 
> improve certain things about the activity -- but only to
> the extent that the 
> community can agree on what our activity should look like,
> which we often 
> cannot. 
> Back to cap-and-trade, 
>  Will 
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