[eDebate] Call for participation - AFA Code projects

Mitchell, Gordon Roger gordonm
Wed Aug 19 23:55:46 CDT 2009

Please join me in one or more of the following projects, which are designed as dovetailing catalysts to spark awareness and discussion about the complex entwinements of research, money and competition in the academic policy debate community.

Article II, Section 3 of the American Forensic Association's "Code of Forensics Program and Forensics Tournament Standards for College and Universities" holds that "forensics competitors are expected to do their own research." This provision goes on to stipulate:

"A. Persons other than the forensic competitor (undergraduate students, graduate students or instructor/coaches) are not to get charged with the responsibility for doing a forensics competitor's research.
B. This provision shall not be construed to prevent coaches or assistants from engaging in limited research designed to:
(i) teach research techniques
(ii) provide limited examples of high quality research
(iii) identify areas of research which students should pursue, and
(iv) provide the coach with the working knowledge necessary to function as effective critic with respect to the debate or speech topics being investigated by his/her students."

Source: http://www.americanforensics.org/documents/afacode.html

The AFA Code Enforcement Project gathers information regarding possible Code violations of Article II, Section 3 (the "own research" clause) by AFA member debate programs. As coordinator for this project, I will collect solicited and unsolicited information relating to possible "own research" Code violations, then collate and submit credible information to the AFA Educational Development and Practices Committee in separate reports on November 1, 2009 and March 15, 2010.

Current members of the AFA Educational Development and Practices Committee:

Article 5, Section 7 of the AFA Code spells out sanctions for member programs found by the Educational Development and Practices Committee to be in violation of the Code's "own research" clause:

"Forensics squads found guilty of using non-competitors for primary research purposes will have a note of censure published in the AFA Newsletter, with written notice of the censure communicated by the AFA President to appropriate officials at the offending school. The squad will be barred from national competitions sponsored in whole or in part by the AFA for a period of 12 calendar months from the date when the Educational Development and Practices Committee ruled the school to be in violation of this part of the Code."

Translation: Violate "own research clause" = no NDT.

If you think the AFA Code Enforcement Project, and the "own research" clause that underwrites it are both bonkers, do something about it by submitting a Code amendment. Article 6 of the Code spells out the procedure: "This code may be amended by majority vote at any General Business Meeting, provided that those members with voting privileges have been notified of the proposed text of the amendment at least 30 days prior to the date of the General Business Meeting; or without prior notice by a two-third majority of those present and voting at the General Business Meeting"
The next AFA Business Meeting will likely be held at the National Communication Association Convention in Chicago, IL, on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 from 4:00pm - 5:30pm. Proposed amendments circulated to AFA members by October 11, 2009 will pass by majority vote. Other amendments presented later would need a 2/3 vote to pass.

To coordinate this project I will volunteer my assistance for those who wish to write and submit amendments, whether they call for deletion of the "own research" clause, substitution of the clause with a superior framework, or simple grammatical improvements on the existing clause language (e.g. replace "not to get charged" with "not to be charged").

The AFA Code was adopted in 1982. Was the "own research" clause part of the original text? If not, when was the clause added, and under what circumstances? Were there differing opinions about the wisdom of the clause at the time of its inclusion in the Code? Were there alternate wordings considered? Has the "own research" clause ever been enforced before? Were there any previous attempts to enforce it that failed?

These are non-trivial historical questions, ones with enduring salience for a debate community that continues to struggle with the corroding effects of contest round sportification. Fortunately, inaugural 1947 NDT winner and AFA historian Jerry Sanders has set up the AFA's official archive in the University of Utah Library's Special Collections. Thanks to this recent opening of this collection, many of the above questions can be answered through original research of the relevant primary documents, including official correspondence and meeting minutes.

To coordinate the AFA Code Research Project, I will organize and seek funding for a research trip to Utah, and form research teams of interested scholars for the purpose of sharing relevant findings and publishing them as components of scholarly articles reflecting on the history and contemporary relevance of the "own research" clause.

Please convey your interest in working on one or more of the following projects to gordonm at pitt.edu.



* * *

Gordon R. Mitchell
Associate Professor of Communication
Director of Graduate Studies
Director, William Pitt Debating Union
University of Pittsburgh
CL 1117, 4200 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: (412) 624-8531
Fax: (412) 624-1878

More information about the Mailman mailing list