[eDebate] Recent 'pie' controversy

Gordon Stables stables
Wed Mar 19 19:43:42 CDT 2008


David,

Thanks for your note. It is important that we speak carefully on this matter and I am happy to clarify my remarks.

I think you and Andy both misstate my position as some form of 'community silence.' That appears to be an unfair reading of comments. I acknowledged, like several others who spoke about the issue, that my own lack of 
familiarity with the circumstances makes me hesitant to make blanket statements about what did or did not happen. I engaged Justin's call for a general assessment of the types of practices referenced. I encouraged students 
and coaches alike to carefully consider their actions and I fully agreed with the general call for respecting one's opponents, as stated in the CEDA constitution.

I contend it is unfair and misleading to read my comments as anything other than a strong rebuke to the idea of physically confronting any student in any debate.

I did include a call for careful, and yes in some cases circumspect use, of this forum. This is not a call that I have made about only this issue. Those with too much free time can google previous remarks bemoaning the 
weaknesses of this free speech site that intentionally avoids regulation because it needs to do so to avoid liability. As much as this environment provides space for discussion, it also suffers from ab ability for crude and hurtful 
remarks, often made behind anonymous names. This is not a classroom or even a debate office. 

Both you and Andy have, to a degree, idealized the conversation on this issue over the last few days. A big motivation of my remarks was to appeal for a reasoned dialogue. I am not seeking community silence, but it is important 
to discourage voices who served to belittle this situation. One only needs to review the archives from the past few days to review the 'tone' of this conversation. For every email like Meagan's that spoke to the event in question 
there were several more from folks who 'enjoyed' adding sarcasm and adolescent humor to the forum.

I believe I specifically cautioned the reliance on this forum because, as much as we like to pretend otherwise, this forum is not a formal site of deliberation. This site is not governed, managed or regulated by any debate 
organization. Over its long history, the extremes of many destructive conversations have instead often driven the most eloquent voices away. It was only weeks ago that a former debater made a powerful appeal for others to be 
careful in how their 'legacy' is preserved on this forum. I know many other folks could speak to the litigation, and threats of litigation, that have emanated from this forum. Several years ago, I specifically set up a list for 
professional communication among debate coaches because I am so deeply worried that this site becomes, in any way, seen as 'official.' I wish I could offer powerful testimony to the way that edebate provides the best of our 
community, but all too often it is quite the opposite.

Today I tried to outline a general position that acknowledged my limited understanding of the individual event, but more broadly to the types of principles that coaches and students should promote. It may not be as emotionally 
satisfying as some inflammatory comments, but I believe it is appropriate in this setting at this time. As an elected CEDA official I can assure you that this issue is not only 'taking place' on this list. We do everyone a disservice 
when we measure the state of debate based solely or largely on edebate. 

I encourage anyone who has read this far to seriously consider both the issues raised by these comments and the most appropriate means of having that conversation. 
Gordon


Gordon Stables, Ph.D.
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication
University of Southern California
Office: 213 740 2759
Fax: 213 740 3913
www.usctrojandebate.com

----- Original Message -----
From: David Glass <gacggc at gmail.com>
Date: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 4:41 pm
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Recent 'pie' controversy
To: Gordon Stables <stables at usc.edu>
Cc: edebate <edebate at ndtceda.com>

> Hi Gordon,
> 
> With respect, it seems this forum is a unique tool that allows the 
> entirecommunity to reach out to Megan and Diante and let them know 
> what happened
> is not acceptable.
> 
> The specifics as reported further emphasize the need for the line 
> that Tuna
> & I have been discussing - and they do so in a particularly 
> dramatic way,
> since of course the history of racism is that its critics, and most
> particularly its targets, have been silenced by violence and 
> intimidation.
> The pie and the laughter is an example of that.
> 
> So even if one takes an extreme position and says the details as 
> reportednever happened, or did not happen as reported, the 
> narative is still useful
> in that it illustrates the way such physical acts cause chilling and
> silencing.
> 
> Therefore...  yes...   it does seem important to reach out 
> publicly to Megan
> and Diante and let them know such actions can't be tolerated; 
> these types of
> actions in debate rounds  should not be viewed as tolerable or 
> legitimateapproaches, and rules should be adopted to ban such 
> actions and guarantee
> that debate rounds are safe for freedom of  VERBAL expression; 
> while there
> are laws to prevent assault and battery, an explicit stand should 
> be taken
> by debate's governing bodies on this point.
> 
> In light of Megan's email, it seems that community silence at this 
> pointmight imply indifference; that would be bad.
> 
> David
> 
> On 3/19/08, Gordon Stables <stables at usc.edu> wrote:
> >
> >  I will apologize for the brevity of these comments, but I 
> scheduled to
> > leave for CEDA shortly.
> >
> >
> >
> > From the accounts so far made available, it does appear as 
> though an
> > incident last weekend has created hard feelings and left many of 
> us looking
> > for more information. Justin has provided some information and I 
> echo Tuna's
> > call for additional details before folks provide public 
> judgments on the
> > individuals and the specific activity.
> >
> >
> >
> > The numerous sarcastic postings of the last few days do little 
> to help
> > this situation and ignore the human beings involved. Megan's 
> email should
> > remind everyone that careless comments or actions can be very 
> hurtful. I
> > commend those who have taken the higher road in discussing the 
> matter with a
> > needed respect for all involved.
> >
> >
> >
> > I would caution those involved in a more extensive discussion of 
> this, or
> > any serious matter, to minimize using this forum, especially as 
> the primary
> > means of consideration. The nature of this space tends to generally
> > encourage those who are least familiar with the details and most 
> interested> in inflammatory commentary.
> >
> >
> >
> > Justin provided an important frame for the event when he first 
> posted. He
> > asked questions about the nature and acceptability of such satirical
> > practices. David engaged in a line of conversation that I 
> believe Tuna and
> > others reinforced ??? satire is an element of political commentary 
> that has
> > plenty of value  in specific settings, but physical conduct in a 
> debate> setting appears unnecessary and harmful.
> >
> >
> >
> > The question that Justin opened with, and seems relevant today, 
> is the
> > nature of satire that crosses into the physical and demeaning 
> conduct of an
> > opponent. The references to the CEDA constitution speak to the 
> importance of
> > providing an environment where competitors respect each other.
> >
> >
> >
> > It is undeniable that when debaters engage questions of class and
> > privilege that debaters will feel a great deal of personal 
> accountability in
> > those debates. Indeed I would imagine that coaches supporting these
> > arguments seek to have a conversation about these issues. We 
> should all be
> > aware of the significance and complexity of these matters as we 
> discuss this
> > issue. It is not easy to confront an opponent that contends you 
> are in some
> > way involved in class or structural bias, especially if you also 
> feel> aggrieved.
> >
> >
> >
> > This should not, however,  encourage students to cross the line into
> > physical conduct against other students. I have tried to learn 
> more about
> > this incident, but I also acknowledge my very limited grasp of 
> the details.
> >
> >
> >
> > At this point I would just encourage students and coaches alike to
> > seriously consider the problems of such approaches. A variety of 
> personal> and professional ethical norms should cause great 
> caution when encouraging a
> > student to physically confront another in any form.
> >
> >
> >
> > I know some have already made claims that this line between 
> speech and
> > conduct isn't very meaningful. It is hard to dispute that some 
> forms of
> > language can, and does, create such harm to others. None of 
> this, however,
> > should be read as a rationale to simply ignore the question of 
> dissuading> individuals from engaging in physical forms of conduct.
> >
> >
> >
> > The basic unit of our activity is the ability to provide a 
> political space
> > for students to engage each other. We are passionate in the ways 
> that we
> > feel that space should be evaluated. We must remember, however, 
> that without
> > a common willingness to share that space we don't have much of 
> community.>
> >
> >
> > Many of our community understand this fragile trust and work to 
> protect> it. This conversation stems from a single, yet important, 
> debate and ideally
> > the reflection posed by this conversation allows folks to look 
> at it as a
> > means of appreciating the boundaries of our activity.
> >
> >
> >
> > It is not to dismiss or belittle to issue to say that the individual
> > incident should be further discussed and also that coaches and 
> students> consider these boundaries in their arguments and 
> performances.  I am very
> > eager to continue this discussion both with folks at CEDA and 
> those who are
> > not attending. Just please heed the call of the many voices in this
> > conversation who encourage everyone to see the real people 
> involved in this
> > matter.
> >
> >
> >
> > Travel safely to Wichita.
> >
> > Gordon
> >
> >
> >
> > Gordon Stables, Ph.D.
> > Director of Debate and Forensics
> > Annenberg School for Communication
> > University of Southern California
> > Office: 213 740 2759               Fax: 213 740 3913
> > http://usctrojandebate.com
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > eDebate mailing list
> > eDebate at www.ndtceda.com
> > http://www.ndtceda.com/mailman/listinfo/edebate
> >
> 



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