[eDebate] some context on the miami debate decision

Steve Mancuso spmancuso
Thu Feb 26 22:12:51 CST 2009

I've exchanged e-mail with Gary Shulman, the Miami (OH) Communications Department chair, within the past hour.? He provided some added insight into the circumstances that led Miami to suspend the policy debate program. 

In January, the upper administration chose to terminate the Communications graduate program by cutting off all future graduate assistantships.? This decision is ultimately what led to last night's announced reorganization of the Miami Forensics program. 

In the past, there have been six people assigned to coach the Forensics team at Miami, two faculty members - one for speech and one for debate - and four graduate students, again two to each program.? The January decision had the effect of cutting the coaching staff from six to two. 

Therefore, the (most certainly unintended) effect of the University's decision to abolish graduate assistantships was to dramatically cut back on the coaching staff that was available to travel with the Forensics team. The decision that we learned about last night - to end the policy team - was the direct result of that decision in January.? 

Gary and the new DOF, who is also the IE coach, decided that in order to keep the Forensics team viable, they should switch to Parli debate - where apparently the debaters and speech team members will travel together, streamlining the supervision responsibilities for the remaining faculty members and saving money.? My guess is that next year it will be up to the IE coach and the debate coach, faculty members, to divide the travel/supervision responsibilities.? 

Gary, however, also added this to his explanation: "With Miami's severe budget crisis it is also important to show that we are serving as many students as possible in order to survive through these hard times.? Parli debate is more accessible to inexperienced students."

While Gary insists that the "bias" of the DOF did not play a role in this, I've heard from several people that the DOF has long favored Parli debate over Policy - and clearly Gary's stated rationale for the recent decision was informed by the DOF's views of the greater accessibility of Parli debate.? My experience with Gary Shulman over three years is that he probably had no idea that Parli debate existed, let alone what it was like, until very recently.? 

Gary does offer the encouragement that when economic times improve, and IF the University restores the graduate
assistantships, they will consider returning to NDT debate.? I consider
the latter of these two conditions unlikely though, because I've heard that the decision to eliminate the MA program was not primarily related
to the recent economic downturn.? 

For those of you who wish to engage in a letter writing campaign, I would suggest that you address your arguments, and possible solutions, squarely to the graduate student staffing dilemma.? 

Miami, obviously, could hire debate and speech coaches that are not graduate students if they so chose, although that kind of solution is far from their radar screen.? 

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