[eDebate] 2nd VP Statement

Jason Russell jasonlrussell1
Tue Nov 25 16:06:47 CST 2008

Debate is a big tent. At a time when threats from within and without are
challenging the mission of cross-examination debate, our leadership should
support debate as a whole rather than giving in to the suggestion from
outside of our community that we've lost our heads and abandoned valuable
tradition. While this diversity can make bringing debaters together
difficult, heterogeneity offers great potential for generating creative
approaches to the challenges facing debate and debaters today. My experience
with teams of all shapes and sizes, with debaters from high school novices
to NDT and CEDA final round participants and champions, with individuals
from a variety of social locations, demonstrates my qualification to speak
to diversity in debate. People, like arguments, should be judged on their
content. CEDA as an organization is uniquely suited to incorporate this
philosophy of inclusion of a diversity of argumentative styles and argument
content. I will deliver an organization that defends and celebrates

This election cycle we've heard a lot about change you can believe in. I
think debate deserves change that believes in it, change that believes in
you. I believe our coaches and debaters are out there, working hard,
debating well, and doing their best to represent their schools and this
activity each weekend. I believe that debate offers a uniquely educational
opportunity unmatched in the academy and is worth fighting for. I've spent
over half of my life in debate. It's given me a lot. I come from a long line
of CEDA coaches and have coached in the belly of classic CEDA at UCO, the
cutting edge of CEDA programs at the time of the merger with MSU, and a
neuvo CEDA institution at OU. I intend to serve CEDA because I believe in
debate. I will deliver a vision of debate that supports debaters, coaches,
and directors.

Debate needs to be proactive in defending itself. The anecdotal impetus for
debate arises from the failure of the secondary and higher education to meet
the needs of students to compare, contrast, and make decisions about ideas
that are at odds with one another. We should not be apologetic for being
weird. Much of the challenge facing debate today stems from our refusal to
dress like everyone else, to act like everyone else, and to hide our
disagreements, especially when they're emotional and meaningful. While
certain behaviors have no business in debate, we should not hide that which
makes us special ? our ability to allow individuals from across the social
spectrum to disagree meaningfully and openly. CEDA should resist new content
restrictions and categorical and vague organizational rules regarding
professionalism and instead support proactive adoption of a public relations
model, in-house guidelines for ethical behavior, and develop procedures for
information gathering regarding sensitive or extreme incidents. I will
deliver a debate that is out front, extolling its virtues, and refuses to
abide by a general negativity toward what we do. Anyone that knows me can be
sure that I will not back down from the challenge of defending debate and

Debate is not on the ropes. Lowest-common denominator education has let some
of the best students slip through the cracks due to boredom and the evident
mismatch between the subjects being taught them and the reality of their
experiences. As a result, debate attracts disaffected, socially active,
intelligent individuals. It is intentionally anti-majoritarian. It's
unsurprising that some individuals don't understand and support us. There is
a rising ride of anti-intellectualism in America. Universities have largely
given into the business model for schools, eschewing esoteric educational
opportunities. Debate should hold the line on maintaining its mission of
providing a truly academic experience for students while exploring
possibilities for revenue creation and capacity building. More debate
coaches than ever serve duel roles as debate coaches and educators serving
broadly in the academy, a role I can relate to as a PhD candidate nearing
completion at an R1 institution.  CEDA should be at the forefront of
producing information for its membership on new revenue streams and human
resources enhancements. I will deliver exploratory research into new funding
opportunities for debate programs of all types, helping to weather the storm
of increasing financial uncertainty.

Debate is about the debaters. The organization sometimes loses sight of
this. Our jobs exist because debaters exist. They are the primary unit of
our professional lives. The national tournament *is* significant. It is a
celebration not just of the students that win or even of the students that
participate in the tournament, but of the entirety of debate across the
board. Hosting and preparing for the CEDA national tournament is a
high-intensity job, but debating in it is even more nerve-wracking. The
national tournament has to be run with debaters in mind, releasing pairings
reasonably, placing judges with as high a mix of preference and mutuality as
possible, and providing for high-quality host facilities, both on campus and
at the tournament hotel(s). A CEDA officer should think like a debater
first. I will deliver a CEDA national tournament that debaters can't wait to
attend, bringing the tournament back to its ever-growing participation
numbers from the 1990's.

Debate asks a lot of you. It's time for you to ask something of debate. You
deserve leadership that believes in you, that defends diversity, that loves
debate for what it is, not for what it was, and that recognizes the primacy
of debaters. The CEDA leadership is not all-powerful, but should be working
as the public face of those it represents, not in the limited sense of the
ideal of debate, but in the far-reaching sense of everyone that debate
includes. Debate is alive and thriving in spite of the challenges it faces.
The apparent crisis facing debate is one of image, not substance. Our
students are more talented than ever, our tournaments are increasingly
competitive, our directors and coaches are qualified and well-compensated,
and our organization is hopeful, but timid. Our leaders should be as
positive as our programs. Debate should defend itself without being
defensive ? about whom we are, about what we do, and about how we do it.
This election should be more than a coronation of the seated CEDA
administration; it should represent an opportunity to elect a new vision for
the organization. Vote for change that believes in you.

As an aside, Mike Davis is a low-rent version of me, Vik Keenan is obviously
some kinda terrorist, Andy Ellis is from South Carolina, need I say more,
and Scott Elliot doesn't really require my help to indict him. I wanted to
go negative first. Any responses to these allegations are clearly derivative
mud-slinging. Seriously though, debate should be more fun. Our leadership is
frequently boring and takes itself too seriously. Most tournaments have lost
that sense of camaraderie that drew many of us to commit to debate as a
career. We should be able to belittle and degrade a bit. Like Eisenhower
said, "A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along
with people, of getting things done."


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