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Re: Berkeley eligibility
As former officers and/or members of the Berkeley Debate team, we would
like to give some background and correct some "mistakes" from Erica
Grosjean's report on recent events in the UC Berkeley Debate team.
We have every interest in seeing (and we hope to see in the future) the UC
Berkeley Debate team rid itself of the legacy of the cheating that has
occurred in the past few years. But Erica's letter, a
sugar-coated milieu of mis-statements, exaggerations, and
half-truths, works to undermine the goal of creating an honest,
trustworthy team. This type of attempt to sweep the team's problems
under the rug works to the detriment of that goal, and contributed to our
quitting the team in disgust last month.
First, it is important to understand the depth of the illegal debating
that went on. At the end of the Spring 1996 semester--after constant
battles between those of us on the team intolerant to cheating debaters
and those cheating--the following incidents of cheating were reported to
the UC administration:
Zack Brown. Unregistered and debating for six consecutive semesters:
Fall 92, Spring 93, Fall 93, Spring 94, Fall 94, Spring 95. Illegally
attended the 1993 and 1994 Nationals and advanced to out rounds at both
tournaments. Advanced at and/or won numerous tournaments.
David Brenigar. Unregistered and debating for two consecutive semesters:
Fall 95 and Spring 96. Advanced to out rounds at numerous competitions,
including the final round of the Spring 1996 Northwest Championships.
Also debated illegally at NDT tournaments during Fall 1995. Was
illegally registered for the 1996 CEDA nationals.
Jason Nordwick. Unregistered and debating for three consecutive
semesters: Spring 95, Fall 95, and Spring 96. Illegally attended the
1995 CEDA nationals.
Megan Fahlstrom. Unregistered and debating for two consecutive
semesters: Fall 94 and Spring 95. Debated while unregistered at
Parliamentary tournaments in Fall 95.
Evan Rumberger. Unregistered and debating for two consecutive semesters:
Fall 94 and Spring 95.
Forensics at Berkeley is divided into three separate categories: IE's.
NDT, and CEDA. All three were tainted by cheating. Misters Brown and
Brenigar were, respectively, presidents of CEDA and NDT while they were
illegally debating. Ms. Fahlstrom was known to be unregistered when she
competed for the parliamentary section. Illegal Berkeley CEDA Debaters
participated in three consecutive national championships: 1993, 1994, and
1995 -- and an illegal debater was registered for the 1996 championship
until he was exposed and the team was forced to cancel his registration.
Rumberger was never a student at UC Berkeley. He was a UCSD
student taking a year off and rooming with some Berkeley debaters.
He asked for and received permission from the team's then-ruling
council to compete for Berkeley. Fahlstrom tried to hide her
lack of registration and was forced off the team when it was
revealed. That was not, however, common procedure: Brown tried
to hide his lack of registration from new members of the team,
and established members assisted him in his deception, but by Fall
94 everyone knew about it. He kept debating. Both Nordwick and Brenigar
hid their lack of registration, but once exposed, Nordwick was allowed to
debate at three more tournaments; and there was a major push among some
members of the team (to our extreme disappointment) to also allow
Brinegar to continue debating. There was also great resentment expressed
by some members of the team (most still running the team today) after the
exposure of the cheating. But the resentment was not directed toward the
cheaters, but toward the man who had tried to stop the cheating--Sherman
Boyson, volunteer novice teacher.
With these facts (which are easily conformed, as UC Berkeley has a
policy of making registration a matter of public record,) we would like
to comment on certain statements made be Erica in her post:
"The majority of these violations happened in years past at a time when
our regulatory knowledge and enforcement ability was much smaller than it
No. Simply not true. In the two most recent academic years (94-95 and
95-96) there were five illegal debaters representing Berkeley. All of
the violators debated for multiple semesters. Of the 15 total semesters
of illegal debate violations compiled by those five, only four occurred
prior to Fall 1994. Four out of fifteen is not a "majority." It's about
25 percent, which means that 75 percent of the cheating has occurred
"Most of the violations concerned students who, for various reasons, were
not officially registered at the time of debating."
ALL of the incidents of illegal debating the were reported to the
administration (and that we have detailed above) involved non-registration.
"Most were attending classes and taking tests thoughout this time but had
financial aid blocks or other extraneous circumstances which prevented
them from being officially registered."
Again, not true. While two students claimed financial aid blocks once
exposed and scrambling for an excuse for their non-registration, no one
ever provided proof of a financial aid block to the team. Both were
asked to furnish this proof but could not. One student even forged a
letter from the university claiming such a block. The President of the
Senior Council, to our chagrin, accepted that letter even through a) it
was not on letterhead, and b) it was printed on a colored piece of
paper. It was an obvious forgery (that was understood by all the members
of the governing body). The student even admitted later, to some, that
it was a forgery. Moreover, no one has "registration blocks" that allow
you to attend classes without registration for two, three, or six
semesters. Two of the violators blatantly stopped attending school but
continued to debate--and one loudly asserted that he had the right to be
on the team while not attending school. The fifth violator, as we have
said, was given permission by the team to compete while ineligible.
"In the last few years, we have substantially increased the checks
regarding the eligibility of debaters. We now regularly check the
registration status of all people interested in debating through the
office of the registrar and we submit these results to our University
This policy was in effect during the Spring 1996 semester when two
students were cheating and attending tournaments. It was never
enforced. In fact, this year, it has only been enforced sporadically,
and the current Secretary was not initially informed of what to do as the
person designated to check such registration. Brinegar was registered
for the 1996 Nationals in spite of a registration form that requires
certification of full registration. This was not an isolated
occurrence: it also happened at the previous three nationals;
the forms were signed despite the knowledge of most members of
the team that the debaters were unregistered.
"In fact, during our last year, when it was discovered that people were
competing while ineligible, our governing body immediately took action to
stop those people from debating. No one debated whom we discovered to be
Absolutely untrue. Sherman Boyson informed Dan Spillane (then president),
Erica Grosjean (Nordwick's then partner) and Ratha Pathak (then national
treasurer) in January 1996 that Mr. Nordwick was unregistered and had been so
during his three
semesters of debating. Instead of suspending him immediately, he was allowed
to attend the Southern Utah tournament, where, we agreed, he would
be confronted about his lack of registration. Somehow, no
one at the tournament had the time, despite the agreement of the
governing body, to question him that weekend. Next, the governing body
passed a new policy that all student registrations would be checked
within two weeks. After two weeks passed, Nordwick was still
unregistered and everyone knew it. He was STILL allowed to compete at
UMKC. After his return from UMKC, the same majority of the governing
body voted against our objections and allowed Nordwick to attend yet
another tournament, since it was felt by them that Mr. Nordwick would
soon clear up his registration problems. It was a well-known fact that
Mr. Nordwick was unregistered, yet he was still allowed to go to three
tournaments after this fact was disclosed.
In light of this, it is somewhat incredible, to say the least, that
Erica asserts that "during the past year...no one debated whom we
discovered to be ineligible. It was well known by Erica that Nordwick
was unregistered -- Nordwick was her debate partner. Moreover, previous
illegal debating by Misters Rumberger and Brown were also
well known on the team.
"The office of student conduct concluded that our team should continue
debating fully. The office was impressed by our measures to correct the
problem and displayed understanding for our circumstances."
The office of student conduct put the debate team on probation. Any
further problems, and the office of student conduct will censure the
Moreover, what are some of these "measures?" They include electing a six
semester violator as a current officer of the team, the violator making
the policy to curb the violations. (Would you trust a violator of the
law to write the legislation punishing his violation?) Other current
officers on the team were among the most vocal advocates of allowing
Nordwick and Brinegar to continue competing after their ineligibility was
But the "measures" do not stop there. At the first meeting after he reported
the violations, Erica, Zack & Ratha retaliated by leading the team to ban
Boyson from any further participation in the team, forever. When a
motion was presented to ban Zack, the current officer who cheated for three
straight years, as well, it
was soundly defeated.
At this point, it became apparent to all of us that the effort to reform
the debate team was a lost cause. Instead of punishing the offenders,
the team has chosen to punish those who tried to stop
the corruption while rewarding those who cheated. We all quit in disgust.
Those of us who had positions as officers resigned from those positions.
Some of the most significant wins by the Berkeley team in recent years should
be our pride, but instead those wins are a source of shame. The
pervasiveness of the cheating and the lax response to the offenders is
astounding. None of the debaters who cheated have been sanctioned in any
way. If they just registered for school, they could debate for Berkeley
again. After all, the most extreme offender is a team officer now.
It was interesting to read the initial responses to Erica's posting. One
person wondered how Berkeley does so well without coaches and there have been
many admirable examples of true achievement at Berkeley. The novice team
that lost to UVM in the final round of Novice Nationals last spring was
comprised of two true novices -- fully registered and fresh to the activity.
But other Berkeley wins on the varsity level carry a stain. It is a bit
of an advantage when you don't have to worry about studying or missing
classes or having to work to pay for tuition. Especially when you don't have
to worry about it for three long years.
We all want a UC Berkeley debate team free of corruption. If we thought
there were a reasonable chance of such an occurrence, we would probably
still be on the debate team. But Erica's posting is proof that the team
is moving in the opposite direction. Berkeley's problems will not be
solved by sweeping past violations under the rug with outright lies,
misstatements, and half-truths. Doing so will only exacerbate past
problems. Only when the truth is known and individual offenders are punished
will the Berkeley Debate Team's problems cease.
Wynn Wilcox, Former Novice Coach, UC Berkeley Debate Team
Chia-Jung Yang, Former Local Treasurer, UC Berkeley Debate Team
Elizabeth Phu, Former Local Treasurer & Former Publicity/Fund-raiser, UC
Berkeley Debate Team
Mary Tsai, Former Member, UC Berkeley Debate Team
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (email@example.com)
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