[eDebate] 2nd VP answers (Ques 11-19) from Vik Keenan

Darren Elliott delliott
Sun Jan 4 18:24:02 CST 2009

Question #11--
What experience do you have to make you qualified to be in charge of a
National Organization that fulfills both academic and competitive needs
of its members?

I knew that story about taking Ricky and Nate to their very first
college tournament would come in handy some day!

Kidding. But I have coached my share of successful debaters, either
tangentially or directly (some of them even request me), so I get what
it means to be ?competitive?. (I also think someday someone should do a
study on the ?sports psychology? of competitive debate). I also run a
rather large University tournament at NYU for a scholarship program,
where all of the competitive parameters are at my discretion. I?ve
hosted tournaments, and travel regionally and nationally, so I
understand the needs of a variety of programs. 

I view myself as an educator. I became a debate coach because as a
teacher I believed in debate as a unique pedagogical opportunity. Freire
was my hero for lesson planning before he was an argument to most of
you. Educational goals, curriculum development, and pedagogical
techniques so ALL students can learn are what I do. People talk about
callings, passions, and vocations, and education is mine. I think we
should do MORE with how we promote ourselves as an academic pursuit, and
working in University administration gives me a perspective on how to
communicate our needs to those who control our resources. (I also have a
5 year stint in project management training just to round out my
background in admin, and it would be nice to use it more often). One of
my stated goals as CEDA 2VP and beyond is to refocus the coordination of
research and professional opportunities for our graduate coaches to make
their time in debate seen as professionally beneficial in their larger
academic fields.

I do also coordinate multiple schools on a regular basis. Seriously,
what?s another 80 or so programs and their admins to learn about? 

I also perform miracles, but only in association with running a debate
tournament. (Reserving an entire street in NYC for parking and getting a
Giants Super Bowl victory in conjunction with our regional tournament
are the latest examples. I'll work on loaves and fishes in conjunction
with breakfasts at CEDA Nats).

Actually, I think my best qualification is my willingness to listen to
others, and to learn from others, because this national organization
serves so many types of schools. But there?s another question that
speaks more to that point next, so ?

Question #12--
4 of the 5 years that you serve CEDA, 2 as a VP and 2 as a Past
President, you have to work well with others who are the actual
President. Whichever one of you wins will have to work well as a unit
with Gordon Stables and Sue Peterson (the 2 who will assume the
Presidency before you). What do you bring to the table to ensure a
smooth and complementary leadership role?

I think my ability to work well with others, to listen and respect
different views and different program needs, and to accept that I need
to learn from others are my best qualifications for the role of 2VP and
beyond. I believe in first trying to reach consensus through reason. I
think diplomacy and tact are the first approaches to creating
resolution. This isn?t to say I?m not argumentative occasionally, or I
haven?t used an adversarial approach to reach understanding (I am an
actual debate coach afterall), but I?m willing to admit when I?m wrong,
and I?m willing to try to mend bridges if there has been
misunderstanding. I understand the need to talk to people individually
when pushing forward and agenda, and I understand when it?s necessary to
present a united front for the good of a group, even if it?s not my own
personal agenda.

I think I?m on the same page as Gordon on a lot of his ideas for the
next year (in fact, I?m pretty sure Gordon wishes I would ask his
opinion about policy stuff a little bit less). I respect Sue deeply, and
usually find myself mentally going ?extend? for points she has made in
EC conversations. I don?t think my vision of CEDA is radically different
than theirs. For those who would be 2VP after me, I would make sure that
my long term goals with the organization are clearly articulated so that
implementation wasn?t a surprise.

Finally, I will underscore that working with others, and forwarding
individual as well as collective goals is essentially what already do as
the Assistant Director of the New York Coalition. My entire coaching
career has prepared me for working and leading with others (and
demonstrating those skills were exactly why I was elected to exec board
of the BQCFL when I was a high school coach - even speech people thought
I was uniquely good and playing with others to get things accomplished
and write new policies that served the best interests of all our member
institutions). And if my interactions with you don?t involve hybrid
policies or locating the charter bus that is 7 hours late for a
tournament in a place including the name "Virginia", I'm usually pretty
laid back about most debate issues.

Question #13--
Do you feel CEDA should abandon its current leadership structure and
move towards another structure? If so, what should the new structure
look like?

I think it?s more an issue of minor repair.

I think the EC needs to be smaller, which redistricting may do
inevitably, and which could conceivably alter the larger national
dynamic. I think the 5 National officers need to be empowered for some
direct action a bit more. I think Regional Reps should have more than a
purely democratic function in official regional policy, because program
growth initiatives work better on a local level. 

I think it is a professional job to lead this organization ? but I?m not
yet sure a different kind of management structure is what is right for
us. There may be a better way to structure our organization, but it?s
not a whim, and we?re an organization that actually has the skills to
research the pros and cons of alternatives. I would probably not
initiate a large restructuring in my leadership position, but I would be
willing to consider and support a proposal brought to me that seems to
have merit. 

Question #14--
Recently CEDA has discussed moving from Regions to self-selecting
Conferences. Do you favor the conference format and if not, why?

Honestly, I'm indifferent with conferences individually, but I recognize
they may be needed nationally, which is why I voted in favor of them. I
debated and coach is a very geographically blessed area that allows for
real regional travel, but I understand why there is a real need for
restructuring for others. Honestly, for my program, geography can
continue to be destiny, or Andy and I can finally create the I-95
conference. At a minimum, I support all of Jeff?s proposed realignments
for regions, because there needs to be some kind of change.

Question #15--
Do you favor a continued use of edebate for ceda business and
discussion, or should the organization move towards a list serv that is
controlled by the organization?

I think we do need an official "CEDA" or debate business communication
mechanism. This is why I have supported moving certain business to the
website discussion boards when possible (such as topic paper
conversations). Any change is going to require retraining those of us
who are in the habit of checking the edebate archives, or having them
emailed to us, and I think we still need to have a space for "community
socialization" (and maybe revamped DCA, poker tournament results, and
fantasy league requests ...). However, I think "business" needs to be
moved to account for the emerging fluidity of electronic communication
and its long term implications. This may be as simple as a division
between CEDA-L, edebate, and discussion threads, rather than a new
communication mechanism. I understand the need to balance freedom of
expression and inclusion with our prthink the solution ultimately may not be one source of communication.

Question #16--
Do you favor the current amendment before the membership on
professionalism and ethics?

I certainly favor it more than the AFA version, and I favor having such
an amendment in general. I think the current version is sufficient, and
as I said in my candidate statement, I think we need to be leaders in
this, not followers. I would be willing to revisit and to amend the
amendment after it passed if we identify a significant way to improve
it, but I don't want to wait to see what other organizations decide for
us. I would rather initiate action now.

Question #17--
How should CEDA respond and under what time table should CEDA respond in
the face of publicity or press that puts the organization in a bad
light? Who should be consulted?

I think I've discussed some of this on the edebate post related to this
topic (Neil's Question: It's 3AM
but I'll add that my experience over the past year has been that when
possible, preferably we should respond in writing to allow for
convenient vetting by the National EC officers and a PR person. The
response time should not ever be longer than a week, but preferably as
immediate as possible. I think when time allows the entire EC should be
consulted, and if time does not allow for that, the entire EC should be
informed that an immediate response was required so that they are not
caught off guard. At a minimum, an official PR officer and the CEDA
President should be the default leaders of the response.

More importantly, we should be creating our own press, and we should be
identify potential bad PR points to have a response proactively at the
ready, rather than "waiting" to see if it's an issue. 

Question #18--
Should CEDA have the ability to sanction its own members for behavior
unbecoming a professional, such as verbal, physical, or sexual
harassment? Whether CEDA sanctions the offender or not, should CEDA
report complaints to the home institution of the offender and if so, how
should that report be made and by whom?

1) Yes for 2/3. 2) Sometimes.

Look, we already have a sexual harassment policy (which also needs to be
updated a bit) which allows sanctioning to a degree, or at least action
to address the issue. In general, I?m a fan of us having a sexual
harassment policy where we can ask people to leave so we can encourage
our debaters to stay. (And I'm a little disturbed very few other
forensics organizations have a similar policy ? in fact I?ve been
working with some APDA students who are interested in creating that as
their legacy to their activity). I think a policy related to other
offenses should involve a tiered system of tournament and school based
conversations, investigations, or actions as appropriate that could
possibly lead to sanctioning action if the offense were serious enough.
I think we should encourage hosts to establish parameters that they feel
comfortable with as educators, academics, and hosts to encourage
discussions. I don't think it's CEDA's job to report a number of things
to an individual's home institution - that should be left to the
Director of the program once CEDA has been in contact with that Director
regarding the issue, potential further inquiry, and any action. In the
case when it is a Director in question, then we may need to examine
further action of alerting the individual's home institution (whomever
is their "supervisor" or appropriate department) directly, at a minimum
indicating that an investigation is under way.

I'm not sure what "physical harassment" was meant to encompass, but I'm
reasonably sure assault and battery are criminal offenses. Somehow, I
think criminal behavior may be something we want to discourage, but
depending on where we are, campus security and host institutions may not
let it be just up to us. I had 8 years teaching in high schools in
Brooklyn - and I've engaged in my share of "conflict resolution", to use
an encompassing euphemism. The lesson I learned fare variety of approaches, and engaging in reasonable conversation is
the first step, and that having a series of procedures is essential. I
think "Verbal Harassment" may be too vague in a speech activity beyond
what is encompassed in the other areas (sexual harassment, threat of

As I said in a previous question, I support a professional conduct
amendment in some manner to clearly articulate CEDA's role and the
limits of its authority, in part because it delineates CEDA's
jurisdiction/authority better and because it does create reasonable
procedures. I think this issue is identifying that there are some things
that will not be left to us in the long run anyway, and prioritizing the
ways we want to control our own destiny for our members in this area.
The EC will not act without authority to do so, but in an ideal world, I
think CEDA's organizational structure requires some such authority for
the good of our community.

Question #19--
Finally, why do you want to be President of the organization?

Being nominated at NCA was a bit of a surprise (I was quite insistent
that Mike Davis had me confused with someone else when he told me). But
as I considered the opportunity and discussed it with others, it seems a
natural extension of my increasing involvement in the organization. I'm
currently the Regional Rep for the largest Region in CEDA. I have been
attending or viewing the Topic Meetings for the past 3 years to
understand the process and because I believe our resolutions can be
better. I have attended more NDT Committee meetings than some of its
members over the past 5 years because I think we need to take action
when our organizations have competing policies that hinder participation
in the world of the "merger". I want to be CEDA President because I
think we are at a point as an organization that we need continue the
progress we've made with accountability, while still moving forward with
initiatives that encourage the growth of debate. I think this will
require building bridges and understanding the needs of many different
kinds of programs and schools, and I think I have a willingness to
follow through and succeed with that very necessary work, and to take
the initiative in creating cross-organizational discussions about
policies (a concern for others it seems based on the number of mentions
of the NDT is the previous questions). I have a respect for what we do
well as an organization, but a recognition of where we can improve, and
I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater just for the sake
of perceived progress. I have seen how much work it takes to be CEDA
President, and I recognize that I am in a position professionally to
dedicate myself to the position over the next 5 years to accomplish the
goals I set forward. I also feel that the immediate future of our
organization requires an understanding not only of debate, but of
University admin, which I have. Mostly, I really believe in our
community, and I would consider it a privilege to work at advancing our
goals together.

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