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Mr. Whitney fears that mutual prefs may lead to some students just staying home
and asks what the justifications are. Someone else (forgive - I can't remember
who and my software is Jurassic) wonders what happens if everyone prefs the
Why have mutual prefs: Largely because the debaters would like it. You heard
the awards assembly. I've never seen someone who was giving a formal speech at
the national tournament actually be laughed at before. This year, someone was
giving a speech commending Dr. Bartanan and mentioned - in passing - that Nats
was a popular tournament because it had random judging. The last time I saw a
crowd belly-laugh that hard was at my last George Carlin concert. That
incident, like nothing before it, said to me: "the call for SOMETHING other
than the current slap-dash randomness we have now comes from the grassroots.
It's not just a preference of the people on CEDA-L or the so-called national
circuit." However, there are other reasons for mutual prefs besides just "the
debaters want it."
Judges would like it better: I imagine a few judges would be little preferred
and hence wouldn't judge many rounds. My heart bleeds. First, as long as I
knew I was sitting out based on student preference and not randomness, I'd F'IN
LOVE SOME ROUNDS OFF. Also, if a given critic feels alienated, there's a
reason. The reason is not likely to be "nobody knows me so they assume I'm a
bozo." The reason will be "Everybody read my judging philosophy and marked me
a big honkin' C as soon as they got over the apoplexy." UMKC saw judges at the
national tournament we had never seen before. We read their judging
philosophies and trusted that they weren't lying. We struck those judges who's
philosophies indicated they wished to stifle the kind of debate we genuinely
came to participate in, and kept those judges who's philosophies said they
would try and make an honest effort to be fair. We will do the same thing with
a mutual prefs sheet. The only way to get a C from us is to say that you won't
try or that there are arguments you won't listen to or delivery you won't
listen to. Say that (believe that) and I think your place truly is in the
judges lounge. With the exception of the few judges who just don't fit with
the bulk of the debaters, most other judges will enjoy debates more if they
know 1. both teams chose to debate in front of them and 2. that means eveyone
came into the transaction knowing and choosing freely. I'd prefer that.
CEDA would gain credibility: My teams are talking about wanting to do NDT at
least on an experimental basis. It's not because NDT has more prestige or
because they think they've done all they can in CEDA or anything ridiculous
like that. It's because they're frustrated with their judges. The following
have happened to one or another of my teams this year:
- A judge voted against them in a debate they clearly won, and later told
others he did so to punish UMKC for taking transfer students.
- A judge at nationals fell asleep no less than four times in their debate.
Even while awake this critic flowed not one single argument.
- A judge voted for us based on solvency presses. The word "solvency" or any
synonym never passed my debaters lips so much as once.
- A judge dropped us for failing to say the words "extend case." Case wasn't
contested - but because they didn't say "extend" it wasn't and they lost.
- A judge dropped us for, as near as we can tell, no reason at all. The
ballot is uninformative - it says nothing about the debate and contains only
stick figures dancing some bizarre polka. The critic fled without giving an
These are but a few examples. Now, there are also many exceptional critics
that we would never complain about or trade for anyone on the NDT side. But
there's nothing I can say to my debaters when the above travesties occur. My
teams and those of many other squads work very hard to research arguments and
prepare for tournaments. When people abuse their power as critic or are so
amazingly incompetant that they can vote on issues not even mentioned, that
mocks the committment students make. My teams look to me for explanation or
justification and I have none. As a result, when they lose motivation and
indicate that they want to quit, I can't answer them. It shouldn't be that
way. They work hard, their critics should be competent and fair. Mutual
prefs, while not perfect, are a step in that direction.
I can't imagine why mutual prefs would make some debaters stay home.
Remember, Mahoney's system tries to give you judges you prefer. If it can't,
it reverts to randomness, which means if any given team can't have their
choice, they get status quo. Why would that drive you away? I can see why it
might not attract, but how could it repel? Also, with 208 or more teams, every
team will pref the same 50 judges about as frequently as the 200+ monkeys in
the trees of Zaire will crank out copies of Hamlet. It's statistically
unlikely at best. The statistics are further biased because each judge (even
the so-called "in/popular/national circuit" judges) have people who don't like
I think there are a number of extremely fine debaters in CEDA. There are also
a number of extremely fine critics. I know two extremely fine debaters from
California who generally choose to strike me - they debate well and are
intelligent and prepared, but we see things differently. I bear no resentment
or animosity. Neither (I believe) do they. Nationals is meant to showcase a
year's worth of practice and a semester's worth of research. It should be the
best debate experience of a student's career - it's the only time they get to
compete against the entire nation. We shouldn't let it be spoiled by poor
judge/student fits or by active judging malice or incompetence.
* Matthew K. Roskoski *
* UMKC Debate Forum *
* (816) 235-1336 *
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