[eDebate] 2nd VP answers (Ques 1-10) from Mike Davis

Darren Elliott delliott
Sun Jan 4 18:20:50 CST 2009

Question #1-- 
Several national tournaments have recently enacted policies that
preclude the public posting of video-recorded debates, but allow for
"private sharing". Whether that sharing is limited to the college
community, or might include interested high school debaters, etc.,
remains unclear. 
1. What is your opinion about having a similar policy for CEDA
2. What limitations do you think should exist, if any, on sharing video
with high school debaters or others outside the CEDA community? 
3. How should such policies intersect with programs who assert their
policy is not to allow their debaters to be video-recorded? 
Response: This is a tricky question because I think what I would like is
probably not practical in application in many ways. Let me start by
explaining my team policy. We allow anyone to record us during any
competition. The reason that I am comfortable with this policy is that I
do not believe we should be doing anything in a debate that I would not
want my administration to know about. What helps me make this statement
is that debate has a great degree of political capital at JMU. We have
worked very hard over the past 40 years to make sure debate is well
respected and well supported. This allows me to leverage the positive
image of debate against any negatives that would appear on tape.  
I would love it if, as a community, we could adopt that same standard,
but I know that not every program is on the same stable ground that we
are and could not take that same risk. So for CEDA I would favor an opt
out policy of taping. The assumption would be that every debate could be
taped unless one of the teams or judges asks that they not be taped. The
portions of the debate and post-round discussion that they were not
involved in could still be taped, but their portions of the debate could
The assumption of these recordings would be that they could be
distributed for educational, but not commercial uses. One of the most
valuable teaching tools for new debaters is showing them rounds I have
recorded over the years. I would like to see CEDA take the lead in
collecting videos that have been recorded by individuals and
distributing them so new programs or smaller programs that are not
exposed to a variety of debate styles and arguments could watch them. 
The biggest problem I currently see is that no policy in regards to
taping occurs. We need to have a policy spelled out that specifies rules
for recording and distribution. The ad hoc nature of taping and
distribution results in conflicts when teams ask not to be taped and
when teams release those tapes without consideration for those were
Question #2-- 
Assume there is some glimmer of possibility for a program to emerge
(students seeking to establish one, a faculty member trying to get it
started, etc.). What sort of support, in the form of information, letter
writing, sending in outsiders, etc., should CEDA provide? 
I have been the chair of the CEDA Development and Retention Committee
for four years. I am proud of the modest success that we have had thus
far. I was successful in getting the Emerging Program Initiative passed.
This initiative gives free CEDA membership and reduced entry fees to any
team in their first three years of competition. I was also successful
this year in negotiating with the Arizona Debate Institute to provide
free access to their evidence for new programs.  
While those successes are something I am very proud of, they are only
the beginning. We need to work harder to develop and sustain new
programs. I think right now we are aiming too low when it comes to new
programs. As chair of the committee I have asked each regional
representative to appoint someone in their region to be in charge of new
program development. New program development has to be a regional effort
where existing programs help emerging programs survive. 
As a member of the executive council of CEDA, it would be my number one
priority to increase the number of schools parcannot survive unless we increase the number of schools competing and
make regional travel a realistic possibility for everyone. I would do
everything in my power to expand the scope of emerging programs
initiative. We should find ways to get new or struggling programs free
housing, discounted travel and scholarship money to attend summer
Part of the reason why the regions must be invested in the development
of new programs is because of the fact that the initial outreach should
be tailored to what that school needs and the climate of regional debate
in the region where the new program is located. The CEDA Development and
Retention Committee should always write a letter when they hear of a new
program (something that I currently do). CEDA should always provide
evidence sets for new programs. The CEDA president should send letters
to key administrators at the end of each commending the team?s success
and encouraging further support of that program. Other than those
efforts CEDA, the new school?s region and the Development and Retention
Committee should be in constant contact with the new program so that it
can be responsive to their needs. 
Finally, the end goal of new program development should be the eventual
appointment of a full time debate coach. Student programs occasionally
survive and are often a fantastic starting point for new programs, but
the programs which have real staying power are those that employ full
time debate coaches.  
Question #3-- 
Some would like to see CEDA Nationals attended by most or all NDT 1st
round teams. 
1. Do you think this is an important objective? 
2. What actions would you take to pursue it? 
3. What changes in the tournament would you be open to make in order to
make it happen? 
I honestly could care less if most or all of the NDT First Round Team
attend. What I actually care more about is that CEDA Nats is as big as
possible. I would certainly encourage First Round Teams to attend, but I
do not think that their attendance is any more important than any other
team. My biggest concern about making changes to try to bring in First
Round Teams could trade off with other teams attending. We should find
ways to reduce entry barriers for everyone (not just sixteen team). 
One of the things I think can be done to make the tournament larger (and
probably encourage more First Round Teams to attend) would be to have
CEDA after the NDT. While I know this is not always possible due to
scheduling issues, I believe that we should push to have CEDA second at
least every other year. I will cover more of this on question nine about
increasing the number of teams competing at CEDA Nats. 
Question #4-- 
How do you feel about having electronic business meetings to allow those
of us who cannot attend nca an opportunity to participate more in ceda?
(eg via an online bulletin board, via edebate/ceda-l, etc.) 
I think that increasing participation in our organization in any way
possible is an excellent goal. I think that a lot of CEDA business can
be conducted virtually. We should move more of our meetings to online
formats using things like Illuminate where we can have the value of face
to face communication without having to be in the same location. I have
significant experience with Illuminate and this free tool would be a
great way to conduct much of CEDA?s business. 
I would also like to see the further utilization of the CEDA website for
information sharing. Too much of our information is shared on an ad hoc
basis. Those who are on the EC or know someone who is know all of the
information while those who are not are often left wondering what
happened at our meetings. At a minimum we should post minutes from every
That being said I think that there is still a need for traditional face
to face meetings. I know some have called for us to no longer have in
person meetings either at NCA or at the traditional summer meeting. I
think that these meetings still serve a significant purpose for the
organization. My experience with the virtual portion of our summer
meetings is that there is not a great deal of virtual participation.
There are certainly people who participate (Neil Berch seems to be
omnipresent), but for the most part the contributions to those meetings
are made by the people in the room.  
What we need to do instead is lower barriers for participation. As a
graduate student I served as a regional representative and received not
funding from my school to attend the summer meetings. This was a burden
on me, but I was lucky enough to have a supportive spouse with a full
time job for most of those years. Not everyone is that lucky. We rely on
graduate students to fill our committees and EC positions and we need to
find ways that they can attend. The same goes for undergraduates. I got
my start with the CEDA EC traveling as an undergraduate to the CEDA
summer meeting and the best way to get our students to become coaches
who feel a connection to CEDA is to include them in our decision making
process earlier. 
Another method of increasing participation is through the use of
regional forums. I would encourage all regional reps to hold meetings
that do not just discuss the business for that region, but communicate
the important business of CEDA. I would also travel to as many regions
as possible and conduct some regional forums of my own. For those
regions I could not visit I would encourage other members of the
executive council to conduct meetings on my behalf. 
Question #5-- 
What will each of you do to help revive progams at smaller colleges who
have lost their programs either by funding shortfalls or administration
This is probably the hardest question to answer and probably one of our
biggest challenges as an organization. In many ways it is much easier to
start a new program than it is to revive a previously existing program.
I debated at a school that no longer has an active debate program
(Syracuse University). The program was cut due to internal politics and
even discussing its revival has been an uphill struggle.  
The first thing we need to do is try to do much more to prevent those
schools from leaving in the first place. We need to find ways to create
regional debate opportunities so that budgets can go further and so that
coaches do not have to be away from home five days for every tournament
they travel to. Additionally, like the new program initiative described
in the answer to question number one we need an at risk program
initiative that help save programs before they disappear. 
Finally, a CEDA alumni network that actively works to reinvigorate new
programs may be our best hope. One thing I have learned as a director
the past three years is how quickly a call from a well placed alumni can
remedy a potential budget shortfall. We need to work to generate an
alumni database that can be used to connect alumni with the school that
they debated for to revitalize former programs, protect struggling
programs and increase resources for existing programs.
Question #6-- 
Under what conditions, if any, would you accept, advocate or defend the
content regulation of a CEDA-sanctioned intercollegiate debate? 
The short answer is none. I don?t think as an organization we should be
in the business of regulating what happens in a debate. One of the best
parts of our activity is that it is one of the few places where the
students get to make their own rules. I would worry that any content
based restriction would be overly broad and stifle academic freedom. 
However, I would support any school that wanted to construct rules for
their own tournament. Different schools and localities have different
rules regarding student conduct. Schools should be able to restrict
activities that they feel might jeopardize the future of their program,
their ability to host future tournaments or simply that they feel are
not appropriate. These criteria should be clearly stated in their
invitation so that individual schools can choose whether or not they
want to attend. 
This does not answer the question ohas to restrict illegal activities in debate rounds at the national
tournament. Additionally, CEDA would have to negotiate with local hosts
to ensure that potential hosts are not placed at risk. It is a delicate
balance between academic freedom and the future of our organization. 
Question #7-- 
What should CEDA in conjunction with the NDT do in the next five years
to bring our organizations into the fold of convergence and increase the
electronic eloquence of our organizations?  Secondarily, what should
CEDA in conjunction with the NDT do to foster our students'  development
of producerly skills necessary to successfully communicate ideas,
develop meaningful social and political coalitions, and participate in
democratic discourse in the "real world" with all the underlying
We often do twice as much work as we have to because we pretend that
CEDA and the NDT are still two separate organizations. As someone who
spent over a dozen hours at NCA in CEDA/AFA/NDT business meetings I can
tell you there is quite a bit of overlap in the leadership of each
organization. The problem is we still pretend like we are different.
CEDA Nats and the NDT are planned with reference to each other, but
(with the exception of Kansas City a few years ago and Berkeley next
year) there is little cooperation when planning these events. We serve
the same constituency, but we pretend like we are different. This leads
to us continually reinventing the wheel when we approach changes is our
This question is more specific in that is asks about the electronic
eloquence of our organization. I think that Jeff Jarman?s development of
the new website is a good step. I would like to see the community use
the website to its advantage more that it does. Executive council
members, committees and regional representatives should post their
reports prior to our business meetings to encourage greater public
Our students are often much more familiar with the different
communication technologies at our disposal. Bringing the students into
the fold by asking them to contribute to our organization is a great way
to both increase our students involvement in the organization and allow
them to develop marketable talents. I have experience with this at JMU
as we have students create our alumni newsletter, materials for our
summer institute and our team website. The students who have worked on
these projects have been able to use those materials when applying for
jobs and internships. This is an effort the could certainly be expanded
to CEDA initiatives. 
Question #8-- 
Describe your ideal debate round, team, squad, tournament, and
I think that one of the real strengths of what we do is the research
that is required to compete. My ideal debate round would not be
described by the arguments that are present, but instead my ideal debate
round is one where the students have done in-depth research on the
topic. I could restate my judging philosophy here, but in a nutshell I
think debate should challenge students to explore issues at the same
depth as they would if they were taking a senior level seminar on the
issues they are debating. 
Many coaches would identify their ideal team as hard working or
nationally competitive. While I certainly would like to see those
characteristics in my debaters that is not the thing that I prize the
most. I did not debate in high school. I discovered debate my freshman
year in college and some of my favorite teams are those students who
came from the same place I did because they seem to enjoy debating more.
My ideal team is one that loves debating. My top team last year was
certainly not my most successful, but they were certainly one of my
favorites because they truly loved to debate. They loved going to
tournaments, talking about debate and their fellow debaters. My ideal
two person team is one that has some of the same passion and love of
debate that I do. 
My favorite squad is easy to define. I am sure my debater get tired of
hearing me say this because I talk repeateas the place where I wanted to spend my career. There were certainly
programs out there with bigger budgets and more experienced debaters. I
have heard people say repeatedly that you have to choose between a
nationally competitive squad and a full service program that competes at
all levels of debate. I refuse to make that choice. Since I have been at
JMU we have had teams go 5-3 at national tournaments and in final rounds
of all three divisions at regional tournaments. I am lucky in that I am
coaching my ideal squad right now and that I am at a university that
supported my vision from day one. 
I think the ideal tournament is one of the harder ones to define because
I appreciate the diversity of tournament options that we have. I like
the mix of eight round national tournaments, six round three day
tournaments, six round two day tournaments and all of the other possible
tournament layouts. When I choose our travel schedule I like to try to
fin tournaments that will help my students see the diversity of the
debate community. That is part of the reason why we tend to travel to
multiple regions every year even though there are plenty of tournaments
in close proximity. It is not because I love the eight hour drive to
Nashville, but it is because certain tournaments demonstrate to my
students why I love debate as much as I do. 
As for the ideal community, I think in many ways we are the ideal
community. I disagree with many of the individuals in this community
about arguments, the ways they run their programs, the ways they want to
write topics, etc. However, the great part about our community is that
we can have these disagreements, but I can still consider those
individuals friends. We have a community of people who care deeply about
the activity and that love of the activity means that intelligent people
can disagree, but still agree about the importance of preserving debate
for future generations. 
The one change I would like to see in our community is that I would like
to see it be much larger. We need more programs and more teams from
those programs. The best way to ensure a diverse and self-sustaining
community is to ensure continued growth.
Question #9-- 
What would you do to try and increase the number of teams participating
at CEDA Nationals? 
New program development is the easy answer to this question. See my
answers above for more on this. The more programs we have debating the
more teams we will have at CEDA Nats. Creating new programs is not
enough. We need to find ways to make CEDA Nats affordable for new
programs. Finding things like free housing and sharing transportation
can decrease entry barriers for new and struggling teams. 
Additionally, I would like to see CEDA Nats be after the NDT some years.
Those years CEDA tends to be slightly larger. It also helps if CEDA and
the NDT are in the same geographical region (or even the same
city/school) as it eliminates some of the costs that prohibit teams from
attending both.  
While it may not increase attendance at CEDA Nats, I also think we
should do whatever we can to encourage rotation of our national
tournament across regions of the country. Even if this does not increase
the size of the tournament it would allow new teams to attend the
tournament. Everyone should be able to drive to CEDA Nats once in a
Question #10-- 
What should CEDA do to revitalize Regional Debate? 
I think I am starting to sound like a broken record on this, but new
programs are the single best way to encourage regional debate. It is
simple math if there are not enough teams in your region to host a
regional tournament then those tournaments are not an option.  
Additionally, regional representatives need to work to designate
regional options that might be attractive to members of our community
outside of their region. A few teams from outside of the region can make
or break a regional tournament. As president I plan on leading by
example and attempting to attend tournaments in as many regions as
pWe also need some coordination between regions that border each other
when it comes to tournament schedules. We should try not compete with
each other for potential entrants whenever possible. The establishment
of an official national calendar that is constructed by regional
representatives would be a good start to this type of coordination. 

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