[eDebate] AFA and CEDA Professionalism Standards

Jason Russell jasonlrussell1
Thu Nov 13 22:11:22 CST 2008

After extensive conversations with individuals on the inside of this
process, I'd like to provide the general membership of the list with some
things to think about.
The urge to act is strong. Many feel like the organizations' inaction in the
face of the incident involving Bill at CEDA nationals must be remedied by
new standards for conduct. In the absence of a strong case against any
action, these deeply flawed rules will likely be enacted or at least
proposed to us, warts and all. Some members of the organization are hungry
for alternative solutions. I have proposed several to those I've spoken to,
such as better PR (perhaps a full-time professional) rather than new
standards, guidelines for professionalism rather than standards,
non-punitive standards rather than punitive standards, etc. I'm frankly not
sure that we do need to "do something". 80 years of competitive debate and
one mooning is probably a pretty good track record. Maybe the exception
disproves the need for the rule. I bet moonings are more prevalent in
regular university environments than they are in debate (a PR person would
find this info out for sure and publicize it). Regardless, the organization
needs to hear both of these things -- why we shouldn't act and how else we
could. Let them know. Otherwise, this is what we'll get.

Some of the leadership is frustrated that some of us don't want them to act.
I've been told that this is a head in the sand strategy, that change is
coming, that money is drying up, etc. I haven't really seen any information
directly tying programs other than Fort Hayes to professionalism, but I'm
told it's there. I know that the Fort Hayes president is making waves with
debatable degrees of success in his area. Will rules help? I don't know. I
doubt it. I know the Fort dude wanted us to do something, but what? Do we
have a rule that works here? Can we even make one that would deal with this
situation? Does the new rule deal with it? I think this is entirely
speculative. Can't we make a rule that's more specific and less categorical,
less subjective? Is the "community standard for educational health" -- the
"i'll know it when I see it" porn standard -- the best we've got? We need to
ask very specific questions about why we think these rules will fix

We don't have to believe that the status quo is perfect to believe that the
disadvantages of a bad rule outweigh it's advantages. We're going to be
pitched a "try or die" scenario -- I think we really need to resist this
packaging of the issue. I've been told that debate is "out of control"; I
dont see it. A debate coach made an admittedly regrettable decision in an
emotional outburst. But debate, overall, is as civil as we'd be happy with
it being, given its nature. We could make some suggestions for future hard
cases, but should not rush to establish a broad new rule that has enormous
consequences for peoples' futures.

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