Greenhill Fall Classic
2022 — NSDA Campus, TX/US
Policy RR Paradigm ListAll Paradigms: Show Hide
Director of Debate at the University of Texas
firstname.lastname@example.org - please add me to your email chain
I would like to see more evidence spin and storytelling. I think impact interaction matters on this topic. Narrate the trip wires that cause your impact to occur. Timeframe/probability matter a lot more to me than magnitude (it all seems pretty bad). I care whether the disad turns the case or vice versa.
Please engage and indict your opponents' evidence. Evidence quality matters. Several of the major topic authors on this topic were also the major topic authors on the 09-10 topic. I will reward debaters who can articulate the distinct warrants and disagreements between the policy wonks. I think this is especially important for kritik debating. Several topic authors are known quantities and fodder for epistemology links.
I think evidence matters when evaluating topicality and counterplan competition. In addition to reading evidence for interps/violations/textual competition, debaters should explain why their definitions should be preferred. I will defer to the negative on T or counterplan competition until the aff counter-defines the words. If the aff covers the definitions, the neg must also explain why its definitions are better for a year's worth of debates. I think "does this definition produce better debates?" is a more important question than "is this the most precise interpretation?".
-The oldies are goodies. Although the content of the nukes policy v k debate has changed over the past forty years, several of the warrants/justifications/conventional thinking continue to be applied on both sides. I am comfortable using old evidence to establish the thesis for a K as long as the 2N is capable at applying the oldies to give a convincing narrative that makes sense in 2023/4. I think framework/impact comparison becomes more convincing when 2Ns can put the aff's claims in context of the evolution in the academic debates that have occurred over the years. The same is true of 2As that can leverage old evidence that answers the K.
-I struggle with the competition for the abolition/nuclearism alts that include all of the plan. If the 2NR includes an alt that includes all of the plan I see myself voting aff even if the link debating is persuasive. I also think links that argue "the aff described the world problematically" are vulnerable to strategic perm debating. I think Ks are more persuasive that indict fiat and question the pedagogical benefit of reinvesting in gaming the ideal nuclear posture.
-This is the 5th topic in 14 years (Nukes 1, War Powers, Exec Authority, Military Presence, Nukes 2) with a viable version of the NFU aff. Affs should have a take in the 2AC (hopefully several) about why it is pedagogically valuable to debate about the nuclear posture.
-I am unlikely to disregard the nukes K because its unfair unless the block or 2NR drop fairness. I am more likely to disregard the K because the alt doesn't solve and the aff convinces me that the links are not unique to the aff.
-Fiat double bind still not a thing.
Debating Non-USFG Affs
-Will vote for T-US but will be bored if the aff claims to lead to disarm. No solvency/presumption + disad seems more viable/entertaining. I think the aff can win that T-US = FG is overlimiting and produces a stale topic.
-I think that competing interpretation debates are fun and will reward teams who invest in the interpretation debating. I don't think the aff's interps have to be the most predictable as long as they can describe what limits the counter-interps impose on the topic and why they provide a desirable division of ground.
-Affs should vet their authors to make sure they don't advocate the TVA. I think "your author says the US should actually do it" requires 1AR pen time. I don't think that the TVA is a counterplan but I do think that the TVA raises a necessary/sufficiency standard for whether shifting the point of stasis away from the resolution is required to solve the Ks of T. I think if the neg wins a TVA is compatible with the 1AC author's claims it substantially deflates the aff's "topic design bad" offense versus T/framework. If the aff introduces Acheson evidence in the 1AC I expect the 2AC/1AR to be able to explain the method comparison between US disarm and Acheson's vision of disarm.
Arguments Regarding Community Norms
-I think that teams are entitled to make non-resolutional procedural arguments related to argument style or the content that a ballot should endorse. Teams can present an interpretation and argue why that interpretation should be preferred. If I vote for those strategies my ballot just means that a team did the better arguing for the purpose of that debate.
-Ad-homs are not arguments. I do not flow ad-homs or use them to evaluate debates. I am an employee of the state of Texas and will never cast my ballot to assign positive or negative value to an undergraduate student's character. It is wholly outside of my jurisdiction to judge any individual's conduct outside of the words they say in a debate after the 1AC has started and before the 2AR has ended. If you believe the conduct of a member of the community is so reprehensible that it must come before evaluating arguments that occur in a debate, I strongly encourage you to pursue a resolution with the relevant NDT/CEDA/ADA committee prior to the start of a NDT/CEDA/ADA sanctioned competition. Those decision-making bodies are designed to evaluate complaints in a professional manner that protects the confidentiality of all parties. As a tournament director, I can attest to the usefulness of these decision-making bodies to carefully navigate sensitive issues concerning interpersonal conflicts between members of the community. I do not see any value in offering competitive incentives for tactically deploying reputation-damaging claims as procedurals.
I am a clash judge set out to pasture. I am generally in a state of judging ennui because debates are often copies of copies of debates I've seen before. With that said, here's some advice:
1) All debate is role playing. You're lying to yourself if you think it's not. Make it entertaining, don't break character, and refrain from lobbing fallacies at your opponent.
2) I generally vote for the team that A) has a clear narrative throughout the debate and B) does the most to complicate their opponent's narrative. Be convincing. "Extinction outweighs" is an incomplete narrative. Talk about internal links more and use them to make more turns the case/da/k arguments.
A) Cross-examination is my favorite part of the debate. Don't waste the opportunity. If you can't defend your narrative in cx don't expect me to let you make up for it in rebuttals.
B) The 2NR and 2AR should collapse the debate to the most important questions. Boo to final rebuttals that race through the speech without communicating to me the ballot you would like me to write in your favor.
3) I hate your 2NR/2AR blocks. I don't want them. Just answer the previous speech instead and identify what the errors are of the previous speech. If you read them anyway don't be obvious. I flow on a laptop and will know/become irritated if you are rereading a block from a previous speech instead of developing arguments in response to opponent's arguments.
4) I like evidence-based arguments. Debate should be academically rigorous. The 2AC and the 2NC should read cards. Well-evidence arguments are important because they connect students' creative ideas to academic communities pursuing similar questions. Connecting arguments to academic literature is also important because no individual has a complete understanding of the world. If your strategy does not rely on evidence I expect you to be excellent at cross-examination.
A) If your style is not evidence-centered, I still expect students to connect important ideas to a clearly identifiable literature base. A failure to connect your arguments to a clear literature base feels to me like an effort to deprive opponents of link ground and implicitly an expectation that the opponent is responsible for refuting the un-published ideas of student debaters. I don't want to decide those debates.
B) I am very much over students referencing the history of cross-examination debate without reference to evidence. The rush for originality dismisses the rich history of academic work documenting the examples often invoked in competition.
C) Caveat: I don't read a ton of evidence to decide debates. The best debaters will deploy the claims/warrants of their evidence convincingly such that I feel like they know what they're talking about. I flow on the computer. If I have to read your cards during the debate to figure out what you're talking about I'm having a bad time.
D) If you introduce and convincingly deploy an evidence-based argument (tangential to the new topic) that I've never seen before I will likely tune in and reward you with higher points.
5) Debates over competing interpretations (definitional argument) is, without question, the most important skill that cross-examination debates provide. Interpretations/counter-interpretations provide instruction to the judge for how to interpret whether the teams have met their burdens. I'm agnostic about the content of your theory arguments but I'm unlikely to vote for them if there is not enough information to explain to your opponent what I am voting for when providing my reasons for decision.
6) There is some recent grumbling from my fellow old-heads about neg conditionality and judge kick getting out of control. I cosign those concerns. If the aff breathes a claim and warrant about judge kick in each speech starting in the 2AC I will disregard it. 2N's are entitled to their hustle but shouldn't expect my sympathy if the 1AR answers judge kick and the 2AR extends it. For the aff to win on conditionality the 1AR has to be airtight covering the 2NC/1NR.
Square up. Friday night lights. Fight night. Any given Sunday. Start your engines and may the best debater win.
My bias is that debate is competitive and adversarial, not cooperative. My bias is that debate strategies should be evidence-centric and, at a minimum, rooted in an academic discipline. My bias is that I do not want to consider anything prior to the reading of the 1AC when making my decision. My bias is that I will only flow one speaker in each rebuttal unless it is clearly and compellingly established in the constructives why I should flow both speakers in the same speech.
For me to vote on an argument it must have a claim, warrant, and impact. A claim is an assertion of truth or opinion. A warrant is an analytical connection between data/grounds/evidence and your claim. An impact is the implication of that claim for how I should evaluate the debate.
I think about permutations in a very precise way. I do not think it's the only way to think about them but I am unlikely to be persuaded to think otherwise. I think that a plan specifies a desired outcome. There are a set number of means to achieve the desired outcome. I also think that a counterplan or alternative specifies a desired outcome with a set number of means to achieve that outcome. A permutation asserts that it is theoretically possible for there to be a means of action that satisfies both the outcome of the plan and the counterplan or alternative. A permutation could be expressed as where the set numbers of the aff's and the neg's strategies overlap. Permutations are defense. Rarely do they "solve all their offense." It would behoove affs to know what offense they are "no linking" with the perm and what offense the perm does not resolve. This discussion should ideally begin in the 2AC and it must take place in the 1AR.
---"Perm do the counterplan" and "perm do the alt" are claims that are often unaccompanied by warrants. I will not vote for these statements unless the aff explains why they are theoretically legitimate BEFORE the 2AR. I am most likely to vote for these arguments when the aff has 1) a clear model of counterplan/alternative competition that justifies such a perm AND 2) an explanation for where the aff and the cp/alt overlap
I would prefer that debaters engage arguments instead of finesse their way out of links. This is especially awful when it takes place in clash debates. If you assert your opponent's offense does not apply when it does I will lower your speaker points.
In that vein, it is my bias that if an affirmative team chooses not to say "USFG Should" in the 1AC that they are doing it for competitive reasons. It is, definitionally, self-serving. Self-serving does not mean the aff should lose, just that they should be more realistic about the function of their 1AC in a competitive activity. If the aff does not say "USFG Should" they are deliberately shifting the point of stasis to other issues that they believe should take priority. It is reciprocal, therefore, for the negative to use any portion of the 1AC as it's jumping off point.
I think that limits, not ground, is the controlling internal link for most T-related impacts. Ground is an expression of the division of affirmative and negative strategies on any given topic. It is rarely an independent impact to T. I hate cross-examination questions about ground. I do not fault teams for being unhelpful to opponents that pose questions in cross-examination using the language of ground. People commonly ask questions about ground to demonstrate to the judge that the aff has not really thought out how their approach to the resolution fosters developed debates. A better, more precise question to ask would be: "What are the win conditions for the negative within your model of competition?"
***Older Paradigm (Still True)***
I judge debates based on execution. My decisions rarely come down to just 2NR v 2AR. They are strongly influenced by how ideas develop in CX, the block, and the 1AR.
The best rebuttals will isolate a unique impact and explain why their opponent's impact is either less important or impossible to resolve. The most persuasive rebuttals, to me, are those that explain how I should evaluate the debate given the available information. This is especially true in debates about debate where neither side agrees on a normative method for evaluation.
I can't stress how irritated I am by students that make sweeping claims about argument styles that they don't usually engage in. Debate is hard and everyone puts in an incredible amount of work. Oftentimes, people don't get credit for their effort. That stinks. That does not mean, however, that other folks' contributions are less valuable than yours because they approach the game differently.
I think there is an important role for philosophical arguments in debate, with caveats. Ks should disprove solvency. I think creatively interpreting the resolution is interesting. Affirmative teams that decide the resolution doesn't matter in advance of the debate and only impact turn their opponent's positions bore me. I would rather affs be deliberately extra-topical than anti-topical. Link arguments should be consistent with framework arguments. The terms used in speeches and tags should reflect the language of the literature base they are meant to represent. Not all Ks of humanism are the same. Not all Ks are Ks of humanism.
I think there is an important role for policy arguments in debate, with caveats. Vague plan writing does not equal strategic plan writing. Impact evidence is often outdated and/or includes multiple alt-causes. I perceive a degree of self-righteousness from debaters that have extensive experience going for T-USFG but have little experience going for T in other situations. I perceive a higher degree of self-righteousness from debaters who preach the merits of research when going for T-USFG while very obviously reading evidence they copy and pasted from other school's open-source documents.
What you should expect of me:
1) I will evaluate the debate and cast a provisional decision about which team did the better debating based on the content of the speeches and the cross-examinations.
2) I will flow your debate in an excel template and save a copy after the debate for scouting purposes.
How I think about debate:
I. The aff's burden is to prove that the 1AC is A) an example of the res and B) a positive departure from the squo. The neg should disprove the 1AC and can win by establishing that the aff is wrong about either A or B. The neg can also win by offering a counter-proposal that competes with and is net beneficial to the 1AC.
II. In order to accomplish A, the aff should be able to:
1) provide an interpretation of the resolution
2) explain how the 1AC meets their interpretation of the resolution
3) demonstrate that their vision of the resolution is superior to the neg’s
III. In the event that the aff argues they do not have to abide by the terms of the resolution, the aff should be able to:
1) provide sound reasoning for why the agreed upon point of stasis fails to address the agreed upon controversy area
2) explain the roles of the aff and the neg in their vision of debate
3) demonstrate that their vision of debate is superior to the neg’s
IV. The aff cannot win by simply flipping the burden of proof and indicting the neg’s interpretation of the resolution.* The aff must at all times defend a contestable proposition. If III (see above) occurs, the neg's burden is not to disprove the solvency and harms of the 1AC (B). Rather, all the neg should have to disprove is that abandoning A is necessary to solve/talk about B. If the neg can demonstrate that the original stasis point can accommodate the harms area then the aff has not proven that abandoning the res must occur.
*Exceptions to IV: language Ks, conditionality bad
Things I enjoy:
· When debaters express a nuanced knowledge of the resolution/controversy area
· Good jokes
· Bold choices
· Exposing specious arguments in C-X
· Solvency debates
· Links to the plan
· Supporting claims with high-quality research
· Final rebuttals that begin with a brief explanation of the key issues in the debate and why they have won given the arguments presented in earlier speeches
· When debaters prioritize answering the question, “What should debate look like?”
· Creative permutations—a perm says that there is a possible world in which both the 1AC and the counter-proposal can occur simultaneously, or that the counter-proposal is an example of how the aff’s proposition could be implemented—the aff should describe the permutation in both rebuttals and explicitly argue what elements of the neg’s strategy it mitigates/solves. Asserting the hypothetical validity of a perm and being intentionally vague until the 2AR does not an aff ballot make.
Things I don’t enjoy:
· When debaters compensate for dropping an argument by asserting that it is new
· When embedded clash becomes an excuse for not flowing
· When debaters make straw person characterizations of argument styles they do not personally engage in
· Trained incapacity
· “Death good”/ “death not real”
· Basic strats
· Recycled strats
· Recycled blocks
· K 1NC shells that I can find in my inbox from previous seasons
· “Procedural fairness”
· Teams that don’t take advantage if/when their opponent impact turns fairness
· Affs that don’t defend a substantial departure from the squo
· Affs that don’t specify the terms of the 1AC/backtrack on the terms of the 1AC for the purpose of permuting the neg’s counter-proposal
· Bad internal links
· C-X belligerence
· Hyperbolic impacts
· Counter-perms (honestly, it’s been 10 years and I still don’t get it)
· Asserting “perm do the counter-proposal” when it’s shamelessly severance
· When great CX moments don’t make it into the speeches
· Failing to capitalize on 2AC/block choices and settling for coin flip decisions
· “Point me to a line in the card where it says…” OR “I just ctrl F’ed that word in the document and it isn’t there”
**Online update: if my camera is off, i am not there**
I think debate is a game with educational benefits. I will listen to anything, but there are obviously some arguments that are more persuasive than others. i think this is most of what you're looking for:
1. arguments - For me to vote on an argument it must have a claim, warrant, and impact. A claim is an assertion of truth or opinion. A warrant is an analytical connection between data/grounds/evidence and your claim. An impact is the implication of that claim for how I should evaluate the debate. debate is competitive and adversarial, not cooperative. My bias is that debate strategies should be evidence-centric and, at a minimum, rooted in an academic discipline. My bias is that I do not want to consider anything prior to the reading of the 1AC when making my decision.
3. framework - arguments need to be impacted out beyond the word 'fairness' or 'education'. affirmatives do not need to read a plan to win in front of me. however, there should be some connection to the topic. fairness *can be* a terminal impact.
4. critiques - they should have links to the plan or have a coherent story in the context of the advantages. i am less inclined to vote neg for broad criticisms that arent contextualized to the affirmative. a link of omission is not a link. similarly, affirmatives lose debates a lot just because their 2ac is similarly generic and they have no defense of the actual assumptions of the affirmative.
5. counterplans - should likely have solvency advocates but its not a dealbreaker. slow down when explaining tricks in the 2nc.
6. theory - more teams should go for theory more often. negatives should be able to do whatever they want, but affirmatives need to be able to go for theory to keep them honest.
7. topicality - its an evidentiary issue that many people impact poorly. predictable limits, not ground, is the controlling internal link for most T-related impacts. saying 'we lose the [insert argument]' isnt really an impact without an explanation of why that argument is good. good debates make comparative claims between aff/neg opportunities to win relative to fairness.
8. clipping - i sometimes read along with speeches if i think that you are clipping. i will prompt you if i think you are clipping and if i think you are still clipping i will vote against you even if the other team doesnt issue an ethics challenge.
9. 2nr/2ar - there are lots of moving parts in debate. if you disagree with how i approach debate or think about debate differently, you should start your speech with judge instruction that provides an order of operations or helps construct that ballot. teams too often speak in absolute certainties and then presume the other team is winning no degree of offense. that is false and you will win more debates if you can account for that in your speech.
10. keep track of your own time.
unapologetically stolen from brendan bankey's judge philosophy as an addendum because there is no reason to rewrite it:
---"Perm do the counterplan" and "perm do the alt" are claims that are often unaccompanied by warrants. I will not vote for these statements unless the aff explains why they are theoretically legitimate BEFORE the 2AR. I am most likely to vote for these arguments when the aff has 1) a clear model of counterplan/alternative competition AND 2) an explanation for where the
I would prefer that debaters engage arguments instead of finesse their way out of links. This is especially awful when it takes place in clash debates. If you assert your opponent's offense does not apply when it does I will lower your speaker points.
In that vein, it is my bias that if an affirmative team chooses not to say "USFG Should" in the 1AC that they are doing it for competitive reasons. It is, definitionally, self-serving. Self-serving does not mean the aff should lose [or that its bad necessarily], just that they should be more realistic about the function of their 1AC in a competitive activity. If the aff does not say "USFG Should" they are deliberately shifting the point of stasis to other issues that they believe should take priority. It is reciprocal, therefore, for the negative to use any portion of the 1AC as it's jumping off point.
I think that limits, not ground, is the controlling internal link for most T-related impacts. Ground is an expression of the division of affirmative and negative strategies on any given topic. It is rarely an independent impact to T. I hate cross-examination questions about ground. I do not fault teams for being unhelpful to opponents that pose questions in cross-examination using the language of ground. People commonly ask questions about ground to demonstrate to the judge that the aff has not really thought out how their approach to the resolution fosters developed debates. A better, more precise question to ask would be: "What are the win conditions for the negative within your model of competition?"
I am the debate coach at Blue Valley North HS. I was an NDT/CEDA debater at Wichita State University (2012) and a graduate assistant at the University of Kansas. I have taught camp at Michigan or Kansas every year since I graduated. I typically judge 50-80 policy rounds per year, plus some pf/ld/speech.
email: brianbox4 @ gmail dot com - do not stop prep until you hit send on the email.
I really, really enjoy judging good debates. I really, really dislike judging debates that take two hours, lack clash and mostly involve unclearly reading a document into the screen. I care far more about your ability to speak clearly and refute arguments than the type of arguments you read. Good debate good, bad debate bad. I will vote for any argument you win.
Ultimately, the debate is not about me, and I will do my best to evaluate whichever strategy you pursue, but I am very bored by negative strategies that do not demonstrate an undesirable effect of the affirmative. There is a time and a place for most strategies, and I firmly believe there is no one right way to debate, but I wish more of the debates I judged were about core topic arguments and less about non-competitive counterplans (obviously debatable), generic critiques of fiat, poorly supported politics disads, ridiculous impact turns, etc.
I have found that 99% of high school debates are such clear technical victories that my argument specific thoughts aren't terribly relevant. As such, I want to emphasize a few points that are important for debating in front of me.
Points of emphasis - adhere to each of these and your speaker points will be no lower than a 29.
1. Clarity. Many of the debates I judge mumble and slur the text of evidence, and the transitions between arguments are difficult to follow. If I cannot understand you, I will say "clear" once. If I have to say it a second time, I will reduce your speaker points by a full point. If I have to say it a third time, I will stop flowing your speech.
2. Refutation. If you use your flow to identify the argument you are answering, read evidence with purpose and speak clearly while you do it, the floor for your speaker points will be a 29. If you start the timer and read straight down without saying which argument you are answering or how to apply your evidence, the ceiling for your speaker points will be a 27. Scouring the flow to fit the pieces together IS judge intervention.
3. Highlighting. I will completely ignore evidence that is highlighted nonsensically. The threshold is obviously subjective, so if you are of the school of thought that you should intentionally highlight your evidence poorly to force the judge to read the unhighlighted text on their own, I am not a good judge for you.
4. Flowing. If you aren't flowing the debate, I won't flow your speech.
5. Meaning of the plan. If asked to clarify the meaning of the plan in CX, you need to answer. The way you choose to answer is up to you, but If your plan is the resolution + one word, be prepared explain what it does. If you do not, I will A. automatically assume the negative CP competes or DA links (based on the part of the plan in question) and B. The burden for what the negative has to do to win a vagueness procedural or solvency argument becomes exceedingly low.
6. Prompting. Each speaker should give one constructive and one rebuttal. You are permitted to prompt your partner once per speech. Additional interruptions will result in a full speaker point deduction and the arguments being ignored.
7. CX. Each partner must ask questions in one CX and answer questions in one CX. You are permitted to ask or answer one question in a CX to which you are not assigned. Additional instances will result in a full speaker point deduction and the questions/answers being ignored.
Other things to know
Evidence matters a lot. I read lots of evidence and it heavily factors into my decision. Cross-ex is important and the best ones focus on the evidence. Author qualifications, histories, intentions, purpose, funding, etc. matter. The application of meaningful author indicts/epistemic arguments about evidence mean more to me than many judges. I find myself more than willing to ignore poorly supported arguments.
I cannot emphasize enough how important clarity is. I can't believe how often I see judges transcribing the speech document. If you have dramatic tone changes between tag and card, where you can barely be heard when reading the text of evidence, you will get lower points from me. If I can't understand the argument, it doesn't count. There is no difference between being incoherent and clipping. Reading directly into the screen at top speed - no matter how clear you are - is nearly impossible for me to understand.
Go for theory? I will never be the judge who views all sides of any theory debate to be equal, but am far more likely than I once was to vote for an argument about the scope of negative fiat. I am more likely to be convinced by a qualitative interpretation than a quantitative one. Affirmatives should be extending theory arguments that say a type of counterplan or category of fiat is bad more often. Conditionality is good. Judge kick is my default.
The link matters the most.The first thing I look at is the link. When in conflict, it is more important to contest the link than the impact.
CX is huge. This is where you separate debaters who have researched their argument and can intentionally execute a strategy from debaters who have practiced reading unclearly as fast as possible. I don't flow CX, but I am very attentive and you should treat me like a lay judge because these moments will be impactful.
Paradigm Last Updated – Summer 2023
Coach @ Shawnee Mission South and the University of Kansas.
Put me on the email chain :) email@example.com
Judge instruction, above all else, is super important for me – I think this looks differently depending on your style of debate. Generally, I think clear instruction in the rebuttals about where you want me to focus my attention and how you want me to filter offense is a must. For policy teams I think this is more about link and impact framing, and for more critical teams I think this is about considering the judge’s relationships to your theory/performance and being specific about their role in the debate.
For every "flow-check" question, or CX question that starts with a variation of "did you read..." I will doc you .5 speaker points. FLOW DAMNIT.
I am flexible and can judge just about anything. I debated more critically, but read what you're most comfortable with. I will approach every judging opportunity with an open mind and provide feedback that makes sense to you given your strategy.
I care about evidence quality to the extent that I believe in ethically cut evidence, but I think evidence can come in many forms. I won’t read evidence after a debate unless there is an egregious discrepancy over it, or I've been instructed to do so. I think debaters should be able to explain their evidence well enough that I shouldn’t have to read it, so if I'm reading evidence then you haven't done your job to know the literature and will probably receive more judge intervention from me. That being said, I understand that in policy debate reading evidence has become a large part of judging etc, because I'm not ever cutting politics updates be CLEAR and EXPLICIT about why I am reading ev/ what I should be looking for.
Please know I am more than comfortable“clearing” you. Disclosure is good and should be reciprocated. Clipping/cutting cards out of context is academic malpractice and will result in an automatic loss.
Truth over Tech -OR- Tech over Truth
For the most part, I am tech over truth, but if both teams are ahead on technical portions of the debate, I will probably use truth to break the tie.
I think debates about debate are valuable and provide a space for confrontation over a number of debate's disparities/conflicts. A strong defense of your model and a set of specific net-benefits is important. Sure, debate is a game, education is almost always a tiebreaker. Fairness is a fake impact -- go for it I guess but I find it rare nowadays that people actually go for it. I think impact-turning framework is always a viable option. I think both sides should also clearly understand their relationship to the ballot and what the debate is supposed to resolve. At the end of the debate, I should be able to explain the model I voted for and why I thought it was better for debate. Any self-deemed prior questions should be framed as such. All of that is to say there is nothing you can do in this debate that I haven't probably seen so do whatever you think will win you the debate.
Performance + K Affirmatives
Judge instruction and strong articulation of your relationship to the ballot is necessary. At the end of the debate, I shouldn't be left feeling that the performative aspects of the strategy were useless/disjointed from debate and your chosen literature base.
I filter a lot of what I have read through my own experience both in and out of academia. I think it’s important for debaters to also consider their identity/experience in the context of your/their argument. I would avoid relying too much on jargon because I think it’s important to make the conversations that Kritiks provide accessible. I have read/researched enough to say I can evaluate just about anything, but don't use that as an excuse to be vague or assume that I'll do the work for you. At the end of the debate, there should be a clear link to the AFF, and an explanation of how your alternative solves the links -- too many people try to kick the alt and I don't get it. Links to the AFF’s performance, subject formation, and scholarship are fair game. I don’t want to say I am 100% opposed to judging kicking alts for people, but I won’t be happy about it and doubt that it will work out for you. If you wanna kick it, then just do it yourself... but again I don't get it.
Any other questions, just ask -- at this point people should know what to expect from me and feel comfortable reaching out.
Goodluck and have fun!
Associate Director of Debate @ Greenhill
Still helping KU in my free time
Please add me to the email chain: firstname.lastname@example.org
I love debate and I will do my absolute best to make a decision that makes sense and give a helpful RFD.
Competing interpretations are easier to evaluate than reasonability. You need to explain to me how we determine what is reasonable if you are going for reasonability.
Having said that if your intep is so obscure that there isn't a logical CI to it, perhaps it is not a good interpretation.
T debates this year (water topic) have gotten too impact heavy for their own good. I've judged a number of rounds with long overviews about how hard it is to be negative that never get to explaining what affirmatives would be topical under their interp or why the aff interp links to a limits DA and that's hard for me because I think much more about the latter when I think about topicality.
Affirmatives should be about the topic. I will be fairly sympathetic to topicality arguments if I do not know what the aff means re: the topic after the 1AC.
I think teams are meming a bit on both sides of this debate. Phrases like "third and fourth level testing" and "rev v rev debates are better" are kind of meaningless absent robust explanation. Fairness is an impact that I will vote on. Like any other impact, it needs to be explained and compared to the other team's impact. I have also voted on arguments about ethics, education, and pedagogy. I will try my best to decide who wins an impact and which impact matters more based on the debate that happens.
I do not think the neg has to win a TVA to win topicality; it can be helpful if it happens to make a lot of sense but a forced TVA is generally a waste of time.
If the aff is going for an impact turn about debate, it would be helpful to have a CI that solves that impact.
I would love to see you go for a disad and case in the 2NR. I do not find it persuasive when an affirmative team's only answer to a DA is impact framing. Impact framing can be important but it is one of a number of arguments that should be made.
I am aware the DA's aren't all great lately. I don't think that's a reason to give up on them. It just means you need a CP or really good case arguments.
I really enjoy an old-fashioned k vs the aff debate. I think there are lots of interesting nuances available for the neg and the aff in this type of debate. Here are some specific thoughts that might be helpful when constructing your strategy:
1. Links of omission are not links. Links of “commission” will take a lot of explaining.
2. Debating the case matters unless there is a compelling framework argument for why I should not evaluate the case.
3. If you are reading a critique that pulls from a variety of literature bases, make sure I understand how they all tie to together. I am persuaded by aff arguments about how it's very difficult to answer the foundation of multiple bodies of critical literature because they often have different ontological, epistemological, psychoanalytic, etc assumptions. Also, how does one alt solve all of that??
4. Aff v. K: I have noticed affirmative teams saying "it's bad to die twice" on k's and I have no idea what that means. Aff framework arguments tend to be a statement that is said in the 2AC and repeated in the 1AR and 2AR - if you want fw to influence how I vote, you need to do more than this. Explain how it implicates how I assess the link and/or alternative solvency.
5. When ontology is relevant - I feel like these debates have devolved into lists of things (both sides do this) and that's tough because what if the things on the list don't resonate?
Generic counterplans are necessary and good. I think specific counterplans are even better. Counterplans that read evidence from the 1AC or an aff author - excellent! I don't have patience for overly convoluted counterplans supported by barely highlighted ev.
I do not subscribe to (often camp-driven) groupthink about which cp's "definitely solve" which aff's. I strongly disagree with this approach to debate and will think through the arguments on both sides of the debate because that is what debate is about.
Solvency deficits are a thing and will be accounted for and weighed along with the risk of a DA, the size of the DA impact, the size of the solvency deficit, and other relevant factors. If you are fiating through solvency deficits you should come prepared with a theoretical justification for that.
I am generally neg leaning on cp theory but if you want to make an argument about why a certain cp is illegitimate (cough, con con) I will do my best to objectively evaluate that argument.
Some people think it is auto-true that politics disads and certain cp's are terrible for debate. I don't agree with that. I think there are benefits/drawbacks to most arguments. This matters for framework debates. A plan-less aff saying "their model results in politics DA's which is obviously the worst" will not persuade absent a warrant for that claim.
Love a good case debate. It's super under-utilized. I think it's really impressive when a 2N knows more about the aff evidence than the aff does.
Please don't be nasty to each other; don't be surprised if I interrupt you if you are.
I don't flow the 1AC and 1NC because I am reading your evidence. I have to do this because if I don't I won't get to read the evidence before decision time in a close debate.
If the debate is happening later than 9PM you might consider slowing down and avoiding especially complicated arguments.
There was once a team who lost an "ethics challenge" because they capitalized a letter in a 1AC that had not been capitalized in the previous version of the 1AC -- that is not actually an ethics challenge. If you make a frivolous or convoluted ethics challenge in a debate that I judge I will ask you to move on and be annoyed for the rest of the round. Legitimate ethics challenges exist and should/will be taken seriously but ethics challenges are not something we should play fast and loose with.
For debating online:
-If you think clarity could even possibly be an issue, slow down a ton. More than ever clarity and quality are more important than quantity.
-If my camera is off, I am not there, I am not flowing your speech, I probably can't even hear you. If you give the 1AR and I'm not there, there is not a whole lot I can do for you.
I've coached LASA since 2005. I judge ~120 debates per season on the high school circuit.
If there’s an email chain, please add me: email@example.com.
If you have little time before the debate, here’s all you need to know: do what you do best. I try to be as unbiased as possible and I will defer to your analysis. As long as you are clear, go as fast as you want.
Most judges give appalling decisions. Here's where I will try to be better than them:
- They intervene, even when they claim they won't. Perhaps "tech over truth" doesn't mean what it used to. I will attempt to adjudicate and reach a decision purely on only the words you say. If that's insufficient to reach a decision either way--and it often isn't--I will add the minimum work necessary to come to a decision. The more work I have to do, the wider the range of uncertainty for you and the lower your speaks go.
- They aren't listening carefully. They're mentally checked out, flowing off the speech doc, distracted by social media, or have half their headphones off and are taking selfies during the 1AR. I will attempt to flow every single detail of your speeches. I will probably take notes during CX if I think it could affect my decision. If you worked hard on debate, you deserve a judge who works hard as well.
- They give poorly-reasoned decisions that rely on gut instincts and ignore arguments made in the 2NR/2AR. I will probably take my sweet time making and writing my decision. I will try to be as thorough and transparent as possible. If I intervene anywhere, I will explain why I had to intervene and how you could've prevented that intervention. If I didn't catch or evaluate an argument, I will explain why you under-explained or failed to extend it. I will try to anticipate your questions and preemptively answer them in my decision.
- They reconstruct the debate and try to find the most creative and convoluted path to a ballot. I guess they're trying to prove they're smart? These decisions are detestable because they take the debate away from the hands of the debaters. If there are multiple paths to victory for both teams, I will take what I think is the shortest path and explain why I think it's the shortest path, and you can influence my decision by explaining why you control the shortest path. But, I'm not going to use my decision to attempt to prove I'm more clever than the participants of the debate.
- If you think the 1AR is a constructive, you should strike me.
- I’m not a professional debate coach or even a teacher. I work as a finance analyst in the IT sector and I volunteer as a debate coach on evenings and weekends. I don’t teach at debate camp and my topic knowledge comes primarily from judging debates. My finance background means that, when left to my own devices, I err towards precision, logic, data, and concrete examples. However, I can be convinced otherwise in any particular debate, especially when it’s not challenged by the other team.
- Tech over truth in most instances. I will stick to my flow and minimize intervention as much as possible. I firmly believe that debates should be left to the debaters. I rarely make facial expressions because I don’t want my personal reactions to affect how a debate plays out. I will maintain a flow, even if you ask me not to. However, tech over truth has its limits. An argument must have sufficient explanation for it to matter to me, even if it’s dropped. You need a warrant and impact, not just a claim.
- Evidence comparison is under-utilized and is very important to me in close debates. I often call for evidence, but I’m much more likely to call for a card if it’s extended by author or cite.
- I don’t judge or coach at the college level, which means I’m usually a year or two behind the latest argument trends that are first broken in college and eventually trickle down to high school. If you’re reading something that’s close to the cutting edge of debate arguments, you’ll need to explain it clearly. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear new arguments. On the contrary, a big reason why I continue coaching debate is because I enjoy listening to and learning about new arguments that challenge my existing ways of thinking.
- Please mark your own cards. No one is marking them for you.
- If I feel that you are deliberately evading answering a question or have straight up lied, and the question is important to the outcome of the debate, I will stop the timer and ask you to answer the question. Example: if you read condo bad, the neg asks in CX whether you read condo bad, and you say no, I’ll ask if you want me to cross-out condo on my flow.
- Don't over-adapt to me in these debates. If you are most comfortable going for procedural fairness, do that. If you like going for advocacy skills, you do you. Like any other debate, framework debates hinge on impact calculus and comparison.
- When I vote neg, it’s usually because the aff team missed the boat on topical version, has made insufficient inroads into the neg’s limits disad, and/or is winning some exclusion disad but is not doing comparative impact calculus against the neg’s offense. The neg win rate goes up if the 2NR can turn or access the aff's primary impact (e.g. clash and argument testing is vital to ethical subject formation).
- When I vote aff, it’s usually because the 2NR is disorganized and goes for too many different impacts, there’s no topical version or other way to access the aff’s offense, and/or concedes an exclusion disad that is then impacted out by the 2AR.
- On balance, I am worse for 2ARs that impact turn framework than 2ARs that have a counter-interp. If left to my own devices, I believe in models and in the ballot's ability to, over the course of time, bring models into existence. I have trouble voting aff if I can't understand what future debates look like under the aff's model.
- Over the years, “tech over truth” has led me to vote neg on some untruthful T violations. If you’re neg and you’ve done a lot of research and are ready to throw down on a very technical and carded T debate, I’m a good judge for you.
- If left to my own devices, predictability > debatability.
- Reasonability is a debate about the aff’s counter-interpretation, not their aff. The size of the link to the limits disad usually determines how sympathetic I am towards this argument, i.e. if the link is small, then I’m more likely to conclude the aff’s C/I is reasonable even without other aff offense.
- The kritik teams I've judged that have earned the highest speaker points give highly organized and structured speeches, are disciplined in line-by-line debating, and emphasize key moments in their speeches.
- Just like most judges, the more case-specific your link and the more comprehensive your alternative explanation, the more I’ll be persuaded by your kritik.
- I greatly prefer the 2NC structure where you have a short (or no) overview and do as much of your explanation on the line-by-line as possible. If your overview is 6 minutes, you make blippy cross-applications on the line-by-line, and then you drop the last three 2AC cards, I’m going to give the 1AR a lot of leeway on extending those concessions, even if they were somewhat implicitly answered in your overview.
- Framework debates on kritiks often don't matter. For example, the neg extends a framework interp about reps, but only goes for links to plan implementation. Before your 2NR/2AR, ask yourself what winning framework gets you/them.
- I’m not a good judge for “role of the ballot” arguments, as I usually find these to be self-serving for the team making them. I’m also not a good judge for “competing methods means the aff doesn’t have a right to a perm”. I think the aff always has a right to a perm, but the question is whether the perm is legitimate and desirable, which is a substantive issue to be debated out, not a gatekeeping issue for me to enforce.
- I’m an OK judge for K “tricks”. A conceded root cause explanation, value to life impact, or “alt solves the aff” claim is effective if it’s sufficiently explained. The floating PIK needs to be clearly made in the 2NC for me to evaluate it. If your K strategy hinges on hiding a floating PIK and suddenly busting it out in the 2NR, I’m not a good judge for you.
- Just like most judges, I prefer case-specific over generic counterplans, but we can’t always get what we want.
- I lean neg on PICs. I lean aff on international fiat, 50 state fiat, condition, and consult. These preferences can change based on evidence or lack thereof. For example, if the neg has a state counterplan solvency advocate in the context of the aff, I’m less sympathetic to theory.
- I will not judge kick the CP unless explicitly told to do so by the 2NR, and it would not take much for the 2AR to persuade me to ignore the 2NR’s instructions on that issue.
- Presumption is in the direction of less change. If left to my own devices, I will probably conclude that most counterplans that are not explicitly PICs are a larger change than the aff.
- I’m a sucker for specific and comparative impact calculus. For example, most nuclear war impacts are probably not global nuclear war but some kind of regional scenario. I want to know why your specific regional scenario is faster and/or more probable. Reasonable impact calculus is much more persuasive to me than grandiose impact claims.
- Uniqueness only "controls the direction of the link" if uniqueness can be determined with certainty (e.g. whip count on a bill, a specific interest rate level). On most disads where uniqueness is a probabilistic forecast (e.g. future recession, relations, elections), the uniqueness and link are equally important, which means I won't compartmentalize and decide them separately.
- Zero risk is possible but difficult to prove by the aff. However, a miniscule neg risk of the disad is probably background noise.
- I actually enjoy listening to a good theory debate, but these seem to be exceedingly rare. I think I can be persuaded that many theoretical objections require punishing the team and not simply rejecting the argument, but substantial work needs to be done on why setting a precedent on that particular issue is important. You're unlikely to win that a single intrinsic permutation is a round-winning voter, even if the other team drops it, unless you are investing significant time in explaining why it should be an independent voting issue.
- I think that I lean affirmative compared to the rest of the judging community on the legitimacy of counterplans. In my mind, a counterplan that is wholly plan-inclusive (consultation, condition, delay, etc.) is theoretically questionable. The legitimacy of agent counterplans, whether domestic or international, is also contestable. I think the negative has the right to read multiple planks to a counterplan, but reading each plank conditionally is theoretically suspect.
- I usually take a long time to decide, and give lengthy decisions. LASA debaters have benefitted from the generosity of judges, coaches, and lab leaders who used their decisions to teach and trade ideas, not just pick a winner and get a paycheck. Debaters from schools with limited/no coaching, the same schools needed to prevent the decline in policy debate numbers, greatly benefit from judging feedback. I encourage you to ask questions and engage in respectful dialogue with me. However, post-round hostility will be met with hostility. I've been providing free coaching and judging since before you were birthed into the world. If I think you're being rude or condescending to me or your opponents, I will enthusiastically knock you back down to Earth.
- I don't want a card doc. If you send one, I will ignore it. Card docs are an opportunity for debaters to insert cards they didn't read, didn't extend, or re-highlight. They're also an excuse for lazy judges to compensate for a poor flow by reconstructing the debate after the fact. If your debating was disorganized and you need a card doc to return some semblance of organization, I'd rather adjudicate the disorganized debate and then tell you it was disorganized.
Ways to Increase/Decrease Speaker Points:
- Look and sound like you want to be here. Judging can be spirit murder if you're disengaged and disinterested. By contrast, if you're engaged, I'll be more engaged and helpful with feedback.
- Argument resolution minimizes judge intervention. Most debaters answer opposing positions by staking out the extreme opposite position, which is generally unpersuasive. Instead, take the middle ground. Assume the best out of your opponents' arguments and use "even if" framing.
- I am usually unmoved by aggression, loud volume, rudeness, and other similar posturing. It's both dissuasive and distracting. By contrast, being unusually nice will always be rewarded with higher points and never be seen as weakness. This will be especially appreciated if you make the debate as welcoming as possible against less experienced opponents.
- Do not steal prep. Make it obvious that you are not prepping if there's not a timer running.
- Do not be the person who asks for a roadmap one second after the other team stops prep. Chill. I will monitor prep usage, not you. You're not saving us from them starting a speech without giving a roadmap.
- Stop asking for a marked doc when they've only skipped or marked one or two cards. It's much faster to ask where they marked that card, and then mark it on your copy. If you marked/skipped many cards, you should proactively offer to send a new doc before CX.
Montgomery Bell Academy
University of Michigan - Institute Instructor
Juan Diego Catholic
Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks
Jordan (UT) 96-98
College of Eastern Utah 99
Cal St Fullerton 01-04
Points will generally stay between 27.5 and 29.9. It generally takes between a 28.7 and 28.8 to clear. I assign points with that in mind. Teams that average 28.75 or higher in a debate means that I thought your points were elimination round-level debates. While it's not an exact science, 28.9-29 mean you had a good chance advancing the elimination rounds, 29+ indicates excellence reserved for quarters+. I'm not stingy with these kinds of points and they have nothing to do with past successes. It has everything to do with your performance in THIS debate.
1. Try to treat each other with mutual respect.
2. Cards and tags should have the same clarity
3. Cards MUST be marked during the speech. Please say, "Mark the card," and please have you OR your partner physically mark the cards in the speech. It is not possible to remember where you've marked your cards after the speech. Saying "mark the card" is the only way to let your judge and competitors know that you do not intend to represent that you've read the entirety of the card. Physically marking the card in the speech is necessary to maintain an accurate account of what you did or didn't read.
My 20 years in the community has led me to have formulated some opinions about how the activity should be run. I'm not sharing these with you because I think this is the way you have to debate, but because you may get some insight about how to win and earn better speaker points in front of me.
1) Conceded claims without warrants -
2) Voting issues are reasons to reject the argument. (Other than conditionality)
3) Debate stays in the round -- Debate is a game of testing ideas and their counterparts. Those ideas presented in the debate will be the sole factor used in determining the winning team. Things said or done outside of this debate round will not be considered when determining a winning team.
4) Your argument doesn't improve by calling it a "DA" -- I'm sure your analytical standard to your framework argument on the K is great, but overstating its importance by labeling it a "DA" isn't accurate. It's a reason to prefer your interpretation.
Topicality vs Conventional Affs: I default to competing interpretations on topicality but can be persuaded by reasonability. Topicality is a voting issue.
Topicality vs Critical Affs: I generally think that policy debate is a good thing and that a team should both have a plan and defend it. Given that, I have no problem voting for "no plan" advocacies or "fiat-less" plans. I will be looking for you to win that your impact turns to topicality/framework outweighs the loss of education/fairness that would be given in a "fiated" plan debate. Affirmative teams struggle with answering the argument that they could advocate most of their aff while defending a topical plan. I also think that teams who stress they are a pre-requisite to topical action have a more difficult time with topical version-type arguments than teams who impact turn standards. If you win that the state is irredeemable at every level, you are much more likely to get me to vote against FW. The K aff teams who have had success in front of me have been very good at generating a good list of arguments that opposing teams could run against them to mitigate the fairness impact of the T/FW argument. This makes the impact turns of a stricter limit much more persuasive to me.
I'm also in the fairness camp as a terminal impact, as opposed to an emphasis on portable skills. I think you can win that T comes before substantive issues.
One note to teams that are neg against an aff that lacks stable advocacy: Make sure you adapt your framework arguments to fit the aff. Don't read..." you must have a plan" if they have a plan. If a team has a plan but doesn't defend fiat, base your ground arguments on that violation.
Counterplans and Disads: The more specific to the aff, the better. There are few things better than a well-researched PIC that just blind sites a team. Objectively, I think counterplans that compete on certainty or immediacy are not legitimate. However, I still coach teams to run these arguments, and I can still evaluate a theory debate about these different counterplans as objectively as possible. Again, the more specific the evidence is to the aff, the more legitimate it will appear.
The K: I was a k debater and a philosophy major in college. I prefer criticisms that are specific to the resolution. If your K links don't discuss poverty and redistribution strategies this year, then it's unlikely to be very persuasive to me.
Impact comparisons usually become the most important part of a kritik, and the excessive link list becomes the least of a team’s problems heading into the 2nr. You need to win that either a) you turn the case and have an external impact or b) you solve the case and have an external impact. Root cause arguments are good but rarely address the timeframe issue of case impacts. If you are going to win your magnitude comparisons, then you better do a lot to mitigate the case impacts. I also find most framework arguments associated with a K nearly pointless. Most of them are impacted by the K proper and therefore depend on you winning the K to win the framework argument. Before devoting any more time to framework beyond getting your K evaluated, you should ask yourself and clearly state to me what happens if you win your theory argument. You should craft your "role of the ballot" argument based on the answer to that question. I am willing to listen to sequencing arguments that EXPLAIN why discourse, epistemology, ontology, etc., come first.
Conclusion: I love debate...good luck if I'm judging you, and please feel free to ask any clarifying questions.
In an effort to promote disclosure at the high school level, any team that practices near-universal "open source" will be awarded .2 extra per debater if you bring that to my attention prior to the RFD.
Introduction: Hello, debaters and fellow educators. I am Tim Ellis, and I am honored to be here as a judge at this high school policy debate tournament. My background includes [briefly mention your educational and professional background relevant to the debate topic or communication skills]. My role as a judge is to evaluate your arguments, critical thinking, and communication abilities, while maintaining a fair and unbiased approach to the debate.
Debate Philosophy: I believe in fostering an environment where students can express their ideas passionately, engage in respectful discourse, and develop their critical thinking skills. I encourage debaters to focus on clear and logical arguments, evidence-based analysis, and effective communication. Substance will always take precedence over style, but effective delivery can enhance your message.
Argumentation: I value well-structured arguments that are supported by credible evidence. When presenting your case, it's important to clearly define your position, provide relevant evidence, and logically connect your arguments. The use of real-world examples and expert opinions can significantly bolster your points. Remember, the quality of your evidence matters more than the quantity.
Clash and Refutation: Debates thrive on clash – the direct engagement with your opponents' arguments. I expect debaters to engage with opposing viewpoints by directly addressing their arguments, demonstrating the weaknesses in their logic, and offering counterarguments supported by evidence. Effective refutation requires a deep understanding of your opponents' case, so take the time to dissect their position and refute it cogently.
Communication: Clear communication is key to conveying your ideas persuasively. Speak confidently, enunciate your words, and maintain a steady pace. Avoid jargon or excessive use of technical terms that might alienate those unfamiliar with the topic. Remember, effective communication isn't just about what you say, but how you say it – engaging with your audience is crucial.
Etiquette and Sportsmanship: Respect for your opponents, your partner, and the judge is non-negotiable. Keep your focus on the arguments and ideas, rather than personal attacks. Maintain a professional demeanor throughout the debate, and remember that good sportsmanship is an integral part of the debate community.
Time Management: Time management is essential. Respect the allocated time limits for your speeches, cross-examinations, and rebuttals. Effective time allocation allows for a balanced and comprehensive discussion of the issues at hand.
Final Thoughts: Debating is a valuable skill that extends beyond the walls of this tournament. Regardless of the outcome, embrace the learning experience. Constructive feedback is intended to help you grow as debaters and thinkers. I am here to provide a fair assessment of your performance, and my decisions will be based on the quality of your arguments, your ability to engage in meaningful clash, and your overall communication skills.
I am looking forward to witnessing your insightful arguments and thoughtful engagement. Let's engage in a spirited and enlightening debate that enriches all of us. Best of luck to each team, and may the discourse be both rigorous and rewarding.
Lindsay Jade (or LJ, whichever works!)
Greenhill '21 | UT Austin '26 (2A)
assistant coaching for Greenhill
please put me on the email chain! firstname.lastname@example.org
-longhorn classic update: this is my first time judging this topic during the regular season (although I did work at DDI over the summer) - I am less likely to be familiar with acronyms or have preexisting thoughts about what is "definitely (un)topical" or which CPs solve what affs - err on the side of explaining!
-tldr: read whatever you're best at! I have preferences, but am generally open to hearing whatever you have to say.
-I'd always prefer to evaluate the round in front of me rather than intervene. I will try to evaluate debates based on the flow before reading evidence, unless explicitly told to read a certain card.
-tech > truth
-numbering arguments = better speaks and better decisions!
-dropped arguments are true, but need to be fully extended along with an explanation of the implications you want them to have on my decision
-fully explaining/developing arguments and good line-by-line skills are important to me and will lead to higher speaker points than reading excessive overviews. If your answer to an argument is to cross-apply the overview, I tend to believe that the arguments in the overview should've just been on that part of the line-by-line. Similarly, I am much less likely to vote on "they dropped this line in my 2-minute long overview" than a more contextualized individual line-by line argument
-please be kind and respectful to each other!
-open cx is fine, but please don't excessively talk over each other/interrupt.
-framing contentions are fine when you contextualize them to your aff and the CP/DA. "Probability first" still requires substantive answers to the DA to prove the probability is actually low.
-my bias is generally to weigh consequences, but I can be persuaded as to which ones matter more and why
-smart analytics and/or internal link defense > generic impact defense card
K affs vs. framework:
-I am probably slightly better for the neg here, although I have some (very very limited) experience reading k affs
-I'm fine with both limits/fairness/clash and idea testing/education style impacts (however, if your 2NR is the fun impact, the RFD probably won't be very fun for you).
-impact calculus and analysis, explaining how your interpretation best resolves that impact (and theirs can't access it), and how it interacts with the other team's impacts, will make it easier for me to evaluate the debate in your favor
-Some of my favorite debates to judge! I have experience debating pretty much all the Ks you usually see every year, but you should still do your best not to assume knowledge
-2NC overviews longer than 30 seconds seem excessive to me
-I probably care less about framework than most judges - framework determines which arguments I evaluate, but does not guarantee you win those arguments or the debate - if you want it to implicate any other part of the debate, you should explain that to me
-My "default" framework is that the aff gets to weigh the plan, but the negative can probably get most links to representations. Of course, this can be changed if the neg is just so far ahead on framework, but I tend to not consider "role of the ballot" arguments as much. Instead, substantive arguments about why representations/justifications outweigh material action or vice versa are more persuasive to me. I tend to think teams (especially if you aren't reading an extinction impact on the aff) invest too much time in framework that should be used on the link/perm/alt debate in most cases.
-floating PIKs are probably bad, but if you get away with it, good for you
Topicality vs. policy affs
-I am probably less willing than others to vote on "limits for the sake of limits" just because the topic might be huge. Neg teams' limits arguments are more persuasive when they're explained in the context of those limits being predictable (accompanied by examples). Please impact out your argument and explain how it turns each others' impacts.
-aff teams: good impact analysis (why impacts outweigh and turn theirs), defense to neg impacts, and examples are the way to my ballot
-not a big fan of subsets/whatever the throwaway T argument becomes this year, but really enjoy aff-specific smart T arguments (I know this isn't always possible and will still vote on whatever you win)
-I think reasonability is underrated when explained without relying solely on buzz words. This also applies to CP theory!
CPs and theory:
-aff teams: the permutation and links to the net benefit are your friend. If perm do both is the 2AR strategy, then explanations about how it shields the link starting in the 2AC is best if not necessary
-also, solvency deficits are best when they're clear and impacted out/explained
-neg teams: be sure to have a clear story/explanation for how the aff/perm links to the net benefit and the CP alone avoids it
-theory debates are probably some of my least favorite debates to judge, but if it becomes the debate I understand
-nothing except conditionality is probably a voting issue. my voting record has shown me that as a judge I tend to lean negative on conditionality, but I will do my best not to intervene
-if I think you are partially right about a theory argument but can't fully reject the team or argument, I still might be more sympathetic to a permutation that might not have been a winner in a vacuum. I won't automatically do that cross-application for you, though, so you should tell me to!
-my initial bias is that most process CPs are fine (but can be persuaded otherwise). I'd rather see creative permutations/specific theory interps than "process CPs bad"
-PICs out of words that aren't in the plan text are probably illegitimate
-judge kick: if the CP is conditional, if the neg tells me to and it's unanswered, or the neg is ahead on the question of whether I should, then I will. Neg teams, you should probably start telling me to do this in the block rather than the 2nr so I don't have to evaluate your 1 sentence against (rightfully) new 2ar arguments about it. If neg says the CP is conditional and/or "status quo is always an option" in 1NC CX, the 2AC should have the no judge kick argument if that's something you care about.
-functionally intrinsic perms (that are limited to neg solvency advocates and only the plan and CP text) are my favorite!
-impact calc is very helpful and probably one of the best ways for you to influence my decision, especially with turns case arguments
-that being said, tech > truth, and I love (reasonably) creative spin on arguments and will reward you for it speaker point wise even if it doesn't work out for you
-politics is okay! Explaining differences between cards/warrants > reading 10 more uniqueness cards
Non-negotiables (stolen from holland bald)
- death good = L
- being racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. or making the debate unsafe for anyone involved (to be determined at my discretion) = L and the lowest speaks i can assign.
- no asking for better speaks
- i will flow a 2-hour long debate comprised of eight speeches. "Calling for a double win, intentionally interrupting an opponent’s speech, soliciting outside participation in a speech or cross-x, breaking time limits, playing board games, or devolving the debate into a 2 hour long discussion is a recipe for a quick L for the team that initiates it." -shree
- you have to read re-highlightings, you usually can't insert them unless it's just one word or something
-my goal is to be a judge I would feel good about evaluating one of my debates. Feel free to ask questions after the round if any part of my decision doesn't make sense to you.
-if you have any questions, please email me: email@example.com
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org --- of course I want to be on the chain
Program Manager and Debate Coach, University of Michigan
Head Debate Coach, University of Chicago Lab Schools
Previously a coach at Whitney Young High School (2010-20), Caddo Magnet (2020-21), Walter Payton (2018, 2021-23)
Last updated: October, 2023
First, a topic-specific update for FR: Evenly debated, "T-Taxes" is unwinnable for the negative. Perhaps you will convince me otherwise, but keep in mind I did quite a bit of research on this subject before camps even started (as I gave the topic lecture for Michigan and wrote both the Topicality and Job Guarantee Aff/Neg files for their starter pack), so if you think you have a credible case then you're likely in need of new evidence. I really dislike being dogmatic on something like this. I began the summer trying to develop a case for why affs must tax, but I ran into a basic logical problem and have not seen evidence that establishes the bare minimum of a topicality interpretation. Consider the definition of "net worth." Let's assume that all the definitions of net worth state it means "(financial assets like savings, real estate, and investments) - (debts and liabilities)." "T-FR must include tax" is the logical equivalent of "well, because net worth means assets AND liabilities, cashing a giant check doesn't increase your net worth because you don't ALSO decrease your debts owed elsewhere." For this to be a topicality argument, you'd need to find a card that says "Individual policy interventions aren't fiscal redistribution if they merely adjust spending without tax policy." Such a card likely doesn't exist, because it's self-evidently nonsense. What makes the case especially confounding is that the aff doesn't seem heavily favored in debates---far from it. Unless UBI and JG subsets come into play (and I doubt they will, as the aff case for them is fairly weak), I don't think it's likely that negative teams need another generic or that aff teams should be precluded from deficit spending. I'll certainly evaluate arguments on this subject as fairly as possible, and if you technically out-execute the opposing team, I'll vote against them remorselessly. But you should know my opinion regardless.
Philosophy: I attempt to judge rounds with the minimum amount of intervention required to answer the question, "Who has done the better debating?", using whatever rubrics for evaluating that question that debaters set up.
I work in debate full-time. I attend a billion tournaments and judge a ton of debates, lead a seven week lab every summer, talk about debate virtually every day, and research fairly extensively. As a result, I'm familiar with the policy and critical literature bases on both the college nuclear forces topic and the HS fiscal redistribution topic.
I’ve coached my teams to deploy a diverse array of argument types and styles. Currently, I coach teams that primarily read policy arguments. But I was also the primary argument coach for Michigan KM from 2014-16. I’ve coached many successful teams in both high school and college that primarily read arguments influenced by "high theory", postmodernist thought, and/or critical race literature. I'm always excited to see debaters deploy new or innovative strategies across the argumentative spectrum.
Impact turns have a special place in my heart. There are few venues in academia or life where you will be as encouraged to challenge conventional wisdom as you are in policy debate, so please take this rare opportunity to persuasively defend the most counter-intuitive positions conceivable. I enjoy judging debaters with a sense of humor, and I hope to reward teams who make their debates fun and exciting (through engaging personalities and argument selection).
My philosophy is very long. I make no apology for it. In fact, I wish most philosophies were longer and more substantive, and I still believe mine to be insufficiently comprehensive. Frequently, judges espouse a series of predictable platitudes, but I have no idea why they believe whatever it is they've said (which can frequently leave me confused, frustrated, and little closer to understanding how debaters could better persuade them). I attempt to counter this practice with detailed disclosure of the various predispositions, biases, and judgment canons that may be outcome-determinative for how I decide your debate. Maybe you don't want to know all of those, but nobody's making you read this paradigm. Having the option to know as many of those as possible for any given judge seems preferable to having only the options of surprise and speculation.
What follows is a series of thoughts that mediate my process for making decisions, both in general and in specific contexts likely to emerge in debates. I've tried to be as honest as possible, and I frequently update my philosophy to reflect perceived trends in my judging. That being said, self-disclosure is inevitably incomplete or misleading; if you're curious about whether or not I'd be good for you, feel free to look at my voting record or email me a specific question (reach me via email, although you may want to try in person because I'm not the greatest with quick responses).
0) Online debate
Online debate is a depressing travesty, although it's plainly much better than the alternative of no debate at all. I miss tournaments intensely and can't wait until this era is over and we can attend tournaments in-person once again. Do your best not to remind us constantly of what we're missing: please keep your camera on throughout the whole debate unless you have a pressing and genuine technical reason not to. I don't have meaningful preferences beyond that. Feel free to record me---IMO all debates should be public and free to record by all parties, especially in college.
1) Tech v. Truth
I attempt to be an extremely "technical" judge, although I am not sure that everyone means what everyone else means when they describe debating or judging as "technical." Here's what I mean by that: outside of card text, I attempt to flow every argument that every speaker expresses in a speech. Even in extremely quick debates, I generally achieve this goal or come close to it. In some cases, like when very fast debaters debate at max speed in a final rebuttal, it may be virtually impossible for me to to organize all of the words said by the rebuttalist into the argumentative structure they were intending. But overall I feel very confident in my flow: I will take Casey Harrigan up on his flowing gauntlet/challenge any day (he might be able to take me if we were both restricted to paper, but on our computers, it's a wrap).
In addition, being "technical" means that I line up arguments on my flow, and expect debaters to, in general, organize their speeches by answering the other team's arguments in the order they were presented. All other things being equal, I will prioritize an argument presented such that it maximizes clear and direct engagement with its counter-argument over an argument that floats in space unmoored to an adversarial argument structure.
I do have one caveat that pertains to what I'll term "standalone" voting issues. I'm not likely to decide an entire debate based on standalone issues explained or extended in five seconds or less. For example, If you have a standard on conditionality that asserts "also, men with curly unkempt hair are underrepresented in debate, vote neg to incentivize our participation," and the 1ar drops it, you're not going to win the debate on that argument (although you will win my sympathies, fellow comb dissident). I'm willing to vote on basically anything that's well-developed, but if your strategy relies on tricking the other team into dropping random nonsense unrelated to the rest of the debate entirely, I'm not really about that. This caveat only pertains to standalone arguments that are dropped once: if you've dropped a standalone voting issue presented as such in two speeches, you've lost all my sympathies to your claim to a ballot.
In most debates, so many arguments are made that obvious cross-applications ensure precious few allegedly "dropped" arguments really are accurately described as such. Dropped arguments most frequently win debates in the form of little subpoints making granular distinctions on important arguments that both final rebuttals exert time and energy trying to win. Further murkiness emerges when one realizes that all thresholds for what constitutes a "warrant" (and subsequently an "argument") are somewhat arbitrary and interventionist. Hence the mantra: Dropped arguments are true, but they're only as true as the dropped argument. "Argument" means claim, warrant, and implication. "Severance is a voting issue" lacks a warrant. "Severance is a voting issue - neg ground" also arguably lacks a warrant, since it hasn't been explained how or why severance destroys negative ground or why neg ground is worth caring about.
That might sound interventionist, but consider: we would clearly assess the statement "Severance is a voting issue -- purple sideways" as a claim lacking a warrant. So why does "severence is a voting issue - neg ground" constitute a warranted claim? Some people would say that the former is valid but not sound while the latter is neither valid nor sound, but both fail a formal test of validity. In my assessment, any distinction is somewhat interventionist. In the interest of minimizing intervention, here is what that means for your debating: If the 1ar drops a blippy theory argument and the 2nr explains it further, the 2nr is likely making new arguments... which then justifies 2ar answers to those arguments. In general, justify why you get to say what you're saying, and you'll probably be in good shape. By the 2nr or 2ar, I would much rather that you acknowledge previously dropped arguments and suggest reasonable workaround solutions than continue to pretend they don't exist or lie about previous answers.
Arguments aren't presumptively offensive or too stupid to require an answer. Genocide good, OSPEC, rocks are people, etc. are all terribly stupid, but if you can't explain why they're wrong, you don't deserve to win. If an argument is really stupid or really bad, don't complain about how wrong they are. After all, if the argument's as bad as you say it is, it should be easy. And if you can't deconstruct a stupid argument, either 1) the argument may not be as stupid as you say it is, or 2) it may be worthwhile for you to develop a more efficient and effective way of responding to that argument.
If both sides seem to assume that an impact is desirable/undesirable, and frame their rebuttals exclusively toward avoiding/causing that impact, I will work under that assumption. If a team read a 1AC saying that they had several ways their plan caused extinction, and the 1NC responded with solvency defense and alternative ways the plan prevented extincton, I would vote neg if I thought the plan was more likely to avoid extinction than cause it.
I'll read and evaluate Team A's rehighlightings of evidence "inserted" into the debate if Team B doesn't object to it, but when debated evenly this practice seems indefensible. An important part of debate is choosing how to use your valuable speech time, which entails selecting which pieces of your opponent's ev most clearly bolster your position(s).
2) General Philosophical Disposition
It is somewhat easy to persuade me that life is good, suffering is bad, and we should care about the consequences of our political strategies and advocacies. I would prefer that arguments to the contrary be grounded in specific articulations of alternative models of decision-making, not generalities, rhetoric, or metaphor. It's hard to convince me that extinction = nbd, and arguments like "the hypothetical consequences of your advocacy matter, and they would likely produce more suffering than our advocacy" are far more persuasive than "take a leap of faith" or "roll the dice" or "burn it down", because I can at least know what I'd be aligning myself with and why.
Important clarification: pragmatism is not synonymous with policymaking. On the contrary, one may argue that there is a more pragmatic way to frame judge decision-making in debates than traditional policymaking paradigms. Perhaps assessing debates about the outcome of hypothetical policies is useless, or worse, dangerous. Regardless of how you debate or what you debate about, you should be willing and able to mount a strong defense of why you're doing those things (which perhaps requires some thought about the overall purpose of this activity).
The brilliance and joy of policy debate is most found in its intellectual freedom. What makes it so unlike other venues in academia is that, in theory, debaters are free to argue for unpopular, overlooked, or scorned positions and ill-considered points of view. Conversely, they will be required to defend EVERY component of your argument, even ones that would be taken for granted in most other settings. Just so there's no confusion here: all arguments are on the table for me. Any line drawn on argumentative content is obviously arbitrary and is likely unpredictable, especially for judges whose philosophies aren't as long as mine! But more importantly, drawing that line does profound disservice to debaters by instructing them not to bother thinking about how to defend a position. If you can't defend the desirability of avoiding your advantage's extinction impact against a wipeout or "death good" position, why are you trying to persuade me to vote for a policy to save the human race? Groupthink and collective prejudices against creative ideas or disruptive thoughts are an ubiquitous feature of human societies, but that makes it all the more important to encourage free speech and free thought in one of the few institutions where overcoming those biases is possible.
3) Topicality and Specification
Overall, I'm a decent judge for the neg, provided that they have solid evidence supporting their interpretation.
Limits are probably desirable in the abstract, but if your interpretation is composed of contrived stupidity, it will be hard to convince me that affs should have predicted it. Conversely, affs that are debating solid topicality evidence without well-researched evidence of their own are gonna have a bad time. Naturally, of these issues are up for debate, but I think it's relatively easy to win that research/literature guides preparation, and the chips frequently fall into place for the team accessing that argument.
Competing interpretations is potentially less subjective and arbitrary than a reasonability standard, although reasonability isn't as meaningless as many believe. Reasonability seems to be modeled after the "reasonable doubt" burden required to prove guilt in a criminal case (as opposed to the "preponderence of evidence" standard used in civil cases, which seems similar to competing interps as a model). Reasonability basically is the same as saying "to win the debate, the neg needs to win an 80% risk of their DA instead of a 50% risk." The percentages are arbitrary, but what makes determining that a disad's risk is higher or lower than the risk of an aff advantage (i.e. the model used to decide the majority of debates) any less arbitrary or subjective? It's all ballpark estimation determined by how persuaded judges were by competing presentations of analysis and evidence. With reasonability-style arguments, aff teams can certainly win that they don't need to meet the best of all possible interpretations of the topic, and instead that they should win if their plan meets an interpretation capable of providing a sufficient baseline of neg ground/research parity/quality debate. Describing what threshold of desirability their interpretation should meet, and then describing why that threshold is a better model for deciding topicality debates, is typically necessary to make this argument persuasive.
Answering "plan text in a vacuum" requires presenting an alternative standard by which to interpret the meaning and scope of the words in the plan. Such seems so self-evident that it seems banal to include it in a paradigm, but I have seen many debates this year in which teams did not grasp this fact. If the neg doesn't establish some method for determining what the plan means, voting against "the plan text in a vacuum defines the words in the plan" is indistinguishable from voting for "the eighty-third unhighlighted word in the fifth 1ac preempt defines the words in the plan." I do think setting some limiting standard is potentially quite defensible, especially in debates where large swaths of the 1ac would be completely irrelevent if the aff's plan were to meet the neg's interp. For example: if an aff with a court advantage and a USFG agent says their plan meets "enact = Congress only", the neg could say "interpret the words USFG in the plan to include the Courts when context dictates it---even if 'USFG' doesn't always mean "Courts," you should assume it does for debates in which one or more contentions/advantages are both impertinent and insoluable absent a plan that advocates judicial action." But you will likely need to be both explicit and reasonable about the standard you use if you are to successfully counter charges of infinite regress/arbitrariness.
4) Risk Assessment
In front of me, teams would be well-served to explain their impact scenarios less in terms of brinks, and more in terms of probabilistic truth claims. When pressed with robust case defense, "Our aff is the only potential solution to a US-China war that's coming in a few months, which is the only scenario for a nuclear war that causes extinction" is far less winnable than "our aff meaningfully improves the East Asian security environment through building trust between the two great military powers in the region, which statistically decreases the propensity for inevitable miscalculations or standoffs to escalate to armed conflict." It may not be as fun, but that framing can allow you to generate persuasive solvency deficits that aren't grounded in empty rhetoric and cliche, or to persuasively defeat typical alt cause arguments, etc. Given that you decrease the initial "risk" (i.e. probability times magnitude) of your impact with this framing, this approach obviously requires winning substantial defense against whatever DA the neg goes for, but when most DA's have outlandishly silly brink arguments themselves, this shouldn't be too taxing.
There are times where investing lots of time in impact calculus is worthwhile (for example, if winning your impact means that none of the aff's impact claims reach extinction, or that any of the actors in the aff's miscalc/brinkmanship scenarios will be deterred from escalating a crisis to nuclear use). Most of the time, however, teams waste precious minutes of their final rebuttal on mediocre impact calculus. The cult of "turns case" has much to do with this. It's worth remembering that accessing an extinction impact is far more important than whether or not your extinction impact happens three months faster than theirs (particularly when both sides' warrant for their timeframe claim is baseless conjecture and ad hoc assertion), and that, in most cases, you need to win the substance of your DA/advantage to win that it turns the case.
Incidentally, phrasing arguments more moderately and conditionally is helpful for every argument genre: "all predictions fail" is not persuasive; "some specific type of prediction relying on their model of IR forecasting has little to no practical utility" can be. The only person who's VTL is killed when I hear someone say "there is no value to life in the world of the plan" is mine.
At least for me, try-or-die is often bizarrely intuitive based on argument selection (i.e. if the neg spots the aff that "extinction is inevitable if the judge votes neg, even if it's questionable whether or not the aff solves it", rationalizing an aff ballot becomes rather alluring and shockingly persuasive). You should combat this innate intuition by ensuring that you either have impact defense of some sort (anything from DA solves the case to a counterplan/alt solves the case argument to status quo checks resolve the terminal impact to actual impact defense can work) or by investing time in arguing against try-or-die decision-making.
Counterplan theory/competition debating is a lost art. Affirmatives let negative teams get away with murder. Investing time in theory is daunting... it requires answering lots of blippy arguments with substance and depth and speaking clearly, and probably more slowly than you're used to. But, if you invest time, effort, and thought in a well-grounded theoretical objection, I'll be a receptive critic.
The best theory interpretations are clear, elegant, and minimally arbitrary. Here are some examples of args that I would not anticipate many contemporary 2N's defeating:
--counterplans should be policies. Perhaps executive orders, perhaps guidence memos, perhaps lower court decisions, perhaps Congressional resolutions. But this would exclude such travesties as "The Executive Branch should always take international law into account when making their decisions. Such is closer to a counterplan that says "The Executive Branch should make good decisions forever" than it is to a useful policy recommendation. It's relatively easy for CPs to be written in a way that meets this design constraint, but that makes it all the easier to dispose of the CPs that don't.
--counterplans should not be able to fiat both the federal government and additional actors outside of the federal government. It's utopian enough to fiat that Courts, the President, and Congress all act in concert in perpetuity on a given subject. It's absurd to fiat additional actors as well.
There are other theoretical objections that I might take more seriously than other judges, although I recognize them as arguments on which reasonable minds may disagree. For example, I am somewhat partial to the argument that solvency advocates for counterplans should have a level of specificity that matches the aff. I feel like that standard would reward aff specificity and incentivize debates that reflect the literature base, while punishing affs that are contrived nonsense by making them debate contrived process nonsense. This certainly seems debateable, and in truth if I had to pick a side, I'd certainly go neg, but it seems like a relatively workable debate relative to alternatives.
Competition debates are a particularly lost art. Generally, I prefer competition debates to theoretical ones, although I think both are basically normative questions (i.e. the whole point of either is to design an ideal, minimally arbitrary model to produce the debates we most desire). I'm not a great judge for counterplans that compete off of certainty or immediacy based on "should"/"resolved" definitions. I'm somewhat easily persuaded that these interpretations lower the bar for how difficult it is to win a negative ballot to an undesirable degree. That being said, affs lose these debates all the time by failing to counter-define words or dropping stupid tricks, so make sure you invest the time you need in these debates to win them.
"CPs should be textually and functionally competitive" seems to me like a logical and defensible standard. Some don't realize that if CPs must be both functionally and textually competitive, permutations may be either. I like the "textual/functional" model of competition BECAUSE it incentives creative counterplan and permutation construction, and because it requires careful text-writing.
That being said, "functional-only" is a very defensible model as well, and I think the arguments to prefer it over functional/textual hinge on the implication of the word being defined. If you say that "should is immediate" or "resolved is certain," you've introduced a model of competition that makes "delay a couple weeks" or "consult anyone re: plan" competitive. If your CP competes in a way that introduces fewer CPs (e.g. "job guarantees are admininstered by the states", or "NFUs mean no-first-use under any circumstance/possibility"), I think the neg's odds of winning are fairly reasonable.
Offense-defense is intuitive to me, and so teams should always be advised to have offense even if their defense is very strong. If the aff says that the counterplan links to the net benefit but doesn't advance a solvency deficit or disadvantage to the CP, and the neg argues that the counterplan at least links less, I am not very likely to vote affirmative absent strong affirmative framing on this question (often the judge is left to their own devices on this question, or only given instruction in the 2AR, which is admittedly better than never but still often too late). At the end of the day I must reconcile these opposing claims, and if it's closely contested and at least somewhat logical, it's very difficult to win 100% of an argument. Even if I think the aff is generally correct, in a world where I have literally any iota of doubt surrounding the aff position or am even remotely persuaded by the the negative's position, why would I remotely risk triggering the net benefit for the aff instead of just opting for the guaranteed safe choice of the counterplan?
Offense, in this context, can come in multiple flavors: you can argue that the affirmative or perm is less likely to link to the net benefit than the counterplan, for example. You can also argue that the risk of a net benefit below a certain threshold is indistinguishable from statistical noise, and that the judge should reject to affirm a difference between the two options because it would encourage undesirable research practices and general decision-making. Perhaps you can advance an analytic solvency deficit somewhat supported by one logical conjecture, and if you are generally winning the argument, have the risk of the impact to that outweigh the unique risk of aff triggering the DA relative to the counterplan. But absent any offensive argument of any sort, the aff is facing an uphill battle. I have voted on "CP links to politics before" but generally that only happens if there is a severe flaw in negative execution (i.e. the neg drops it), a significant skill discrepancy between teams, or a truly ill-conceived counterplan.
I'm a somewhat easy sell on conditionality good (at least 1 CP / 1 K is defensible), but I've probably voted aff slightly more frequently than not in conditionality debates. That's partly because of selection bias (affs go for it when they're winning it), but mainly because neg teams have gotten very sloppy in their defenses of conditionality, particularly in the 2NR. That being said, I've been growing more and more amenable to "conditionality bad" arguments over time.
However, large advantage counterplans with multiple planks, all of which can be kicked, are fairly difficult to defend. Negative teams can fiat as many policies as it takes to solve whatever problems the aff has sought to tackle. It is unreasonable to the point of stupidity to expect the aff to contrive solvency deficits: the plan would literally have to be the only idea in the history of thought capable of solving a given problem. Every additional proposal introduced in the 1nc (in order to increase the chance of solving) can only be discouraged through the potential cost of a disad being read against it. In the old days, this is why counterplan files were hundreds of pages long and had answers to a wide variety of disads. But if you can kick the plank, what incentive does the aff have to even bother researching if the CP is a good idea? If they read a 2AC add-on, the neg gets as many no-risk 2NC counterplans to add to the fray as well (of course, they can also add unrelated 2nc counterplans for fun and profit). If you think you can defend the merit of that strategy vs. a "1 condo cp / 1 condo k" interp, your creative acumen may be too advanced for interscholastic debate; consider more challenging puzzles in emerging fields, as they urgently need your input.
I don't think I'm "biased" against infinite conditionality; if you think you have the answers and technical acuity to defend infinite conditionality against the above argumentation, I'd happily vote for you.
I don't default to the status quo unless you explicitly flag it at some point during the debate (the cross-x or the 2nc is sufficient if the aff never contests it). I don't know why affs ask this question every cross-x and then never make a theory argument about it. It only hurts you, because it lets the neg get away with something they otherwise wouldn't have.
All that said, I don't have terribly strong convictions about any of these issues, and any theoretical predisposition is easily overcame by outdebating another team on the subject at hand.
Most theoretical objections to (and much sanctimonious indignation toward) the politics disadvantage have never made sense to me. Fiat is a convention about what it should be appropriate to assume for the sake of discussion, but there's no "logical" or "true" interpretation of what fiat descriptively means. It would be ludicrously unrealistic for basically any 1ac plan to pass immediately, with no prior discussion, in the contemporary political world. Any form of argument in which we imagine the consequences of passage is a fictive constraint on process argumentation. As a result, any normative justification for including the political process within the contours of permissible argument is a rational justification for a model of fiat that involves the politics DA (and a DA to a model of fiat that doesn't). Political salience is the reason most good ideas don't become policy, and it seems illogical for the negative to be robbed of this ground. The politics DA, then, represents the most pressing political cost caused by doing the plan in the contemporary political environment, which seems like a very reasonable for affs to have to defend against.
Obviously many politics DAs are contrived nonsense (especially during political periods during which there is no clear, top-level presidential priority). However, the reason that these DAs are bad isn't because they're theoretically illegitimate, and politics theory's blippiness and general underdevelopment further aggravate me (see the tech vs truth section).
Finally, re: intrinsicness, I don't understand why the judge should be the USFG. I typically assume the judge is just me, deciding which policy/proposal is the most desirable. I don't have control over the federal government, and no single entity does or ever will (barring that rights malthus transition). Maybe I'm missing something. If you think I am, feel free to try and be the first to show me the light...
7) Framework/Non-Traditional Affs
Despite some of the arguments I've read and coached, I'm sympathetic to the framework argument and fairness concerns. I don't think that topicality arguments are presumptively violent, and I think it's generally rather reasonable (and often strategic) to question the aff's relationship to the resolution. Although framework is probably always the best option, I would generally also enjoy seeing a well-executed substantive strategy if one's available. This is simply because I have literally judged hundreds of framework debates and it has gotten mildly repetitive, to say the least (just scroll down if you think that I'm being remotely hyperbolic). But please don't sacrifice your likelihood of winning the debate.
My voting record on framework is relatively even. In nearly every debate, I voted for the team I assessed as demonstrating superior technical debating in the final rebuttals, and that will continue in the future.
I typically think winning unique offense, in the rare scenario where a team invests substantial time in poking defensive holes in the other team's standards, is difficult for both sides in a framework debate. I think affs should think more about their answers to "switch side solves your offense" and "sufficient neg engagement key to meaningfully test the aff", while neg's should generally work harder to prepare persuasive and consistent impact explanations. The argument that "other policy debates solve your offense" can generally push back against skills claims, and the argument that "wiki/disclosure/contestable advocacy in the 1ac provides some degree of predictability/debateability" can often push back against "vote neg on presumption because truth-testing- we literally couldn't negate it" but for some reason in many debates neg's completely blow off these arguments.
I'm typically more persuaded by affirmative teams that answer framework by saying that the skills/methods inculcated by the 1ac produce more effective/ethical interactions with institutions than by teams that argue "all institutions are bad."
Fairness is an impact, though like any impact its magnitude and meaning is subject to debate. Fairness is an abstract value. Like most values, it is difficult to explain beyond a certain point, and it can't be proven or disproven. It's hard to answer the question "why is fairness good?" for the same reason it's hard to answer the question "why is justice good?" It is pretty easy to demonstate why you should presume in favor of fairness in a debate context, given that everyone relies on essential fairness expectations in order to participate in the activity (for example, teams expect that I flow and give their arguments a fair hearing rather than voting against them because I don't like their choice in clothing). But as soon as neg teams start introducing additional standards to their framework argument that raise education concerns, they have said that the choice of framework has both fairness and education implications, and if it could change our educational experience, could the choice of framework change our social or intellectual experience in debate in other ways as well? Maybe not (I certainly think it's easy to win that an individual round's decision certainly couldn't be expected to) but if you said your FW is key to education it's easy to see how those kinds of questions come into play and now can potentially militate against fairness concerns.
I think it's perfectly reasonable to question the desirability of the activity: we should all ideally be self-reflexive and be able to articulate why it is we participate in the activities on which we choose to dedicate our time. After all, I think nearly everybody in the world does utterly indefensible things from time to time, and many people (billions of them, probably) make completely indefensible decisions all the time. The reason why these arguments can be unpersuasive is typically because saying that debate is bad may just link to the team saying "debate bad" because they're, you know, debating, and no credible solvency mechanism for altering the activity has been presented.
So generally, I am a good judge for the fairness approach (although it's not without its dangers, as any impact of any trivially small magnitude to the dangers of a ballot for the neg can ensure the aff outweighs). Still, it's nice to hear a defense of debate if you choose to go that route as well. If you go this route, it means "procedural fairness" is de-emphasized in favor of an explanation for why the particular fairness norms established by your topicality interpretation are crucial to a particular vision of the activity and a defense of that vision's benefits. This can be enjoyable to watch, and some debaters are very good at this approach. In the aggregate, however, this route tends to be more difficult than the 'fairness' approach.
If you're looking for an external impact, there are two impacts to framework that I have consistently found more persuasive than others, and they're related to why I value the debate activity. First, "switch-side debate good" (forcing people to defend things they don't believe is the only vehicle for truly shattering dogmatic ideological predispositions and fostering a skeptical worldview capable of ensuring that its participants, over time, develop more ethical and effective ideas than they otherwise would). Second, "agonism" (making debaters defend stuff that the other side is prepared to attack rewards debaters for pursuing clash; running from engagement by lecturing the neg and judge on a random topic of your choosing is a cowardly flight from battle; instead, the affirmative team with a strong will to power should actively strive to beat the best, most well-prepared negative teams from the biggest schools on their terms, which in turn provides the ultimate triumph; the life-affirming worldview facilitated by this disposition is ultimately necessary for personal fulfillment, and also provides a more effective strategy with which to confront the inevitable hardships of life).
Many aff "impact turns" to topicality are often rendered incoherent when met with gentle pushback. It's difficult to say "predictability bad" if you have a model of debate that makes debate more predictable from the perspective of the affirmative team. Exclusion and judgment are inevitable structural components of any debate activity that I can conceive of: any DA excludes affs that link to it and don't have an advantage that outweighs it. The act of reading that DA can be understood as judging the debaters who proposed that aff as too dull to think of a better idea. Both teams are bound to say the other is wrong and only one can win. Many aff teams may protest that their impact turns are much more sophisticated than this, and are more specific to some element of the topicality/FW structure that wouldn't apply to other types of debate arguments. Whatever explanation you have for why that above sentence true should be emphasized throughout the debate if you want your impact turns or DA's to T to be persuasive. In other words, set up your explanation of impact turns/disads to T in a way that makes clear why they are specific to something about T and wouldn't apply to basic structural requirements of debate from the outset of the debate.
I'm a fairly good judge for the capitalism kritik against K affs. Among my most prized possessions are signed copies of Jodi Dean books that I received as a gift from my debaters. Capitalism is persuasive for two reasons, both of which can be defeated, and both of which can be applied to other kritiks. First, having solutions (even ones that seem impractical or radical) entails position-taking, with clear political objectives and blueprints, and I often find myself more persuaded by a presentation of macro-political problems when coupled with corresponding presentation of macro-political solutions. Communism, or another alternative to capitalism, frequently ends up being the only solution of that type in the room. Second, analytic salience: The materialist and class interest theories often relatively more explanatory power for oppression than any other individual factor because they entail a robust and logically consistent analysis of the incentives behind various actors committing various actions over time. I'm certainly not unwinnable for the aff in these debates, particularly if they strongly press the alt's feasibility and explain what they are able to solve in the context of the neg's turns case arguments, and I obviously will try my hardest to avoid letting any predisposition overwhelm my assessment of the debating.
8) Kritiks (vs policy affs)
I'm okay for 'old-school' kritik's (security/cap/etc), but I'm also okay for the aff. When I vote for kritiks, most of my RFD's look like one of the following:
1) The neg has won that the implementation of the plan is undesirable relative to the status quo;
2) The neg has explicitly argued (and won) that the framework of the debate should be something other than "weigh the plan vs squo/alt" and won within that framework.
If you don't do either of those things while going for a kritik, I am likely to be persuaded by traditional aff presses (case outweighs, try-or-die, perm double-bind, alt fails etc). Further, despite sympathies for and familiarity with much poststructural thought, I'm nevertheless quite easily persuaded to use utilitarian cost-benefit analysis to make difficult decisions, and I have usually found alternative methods of making decisions lacking and counter-intuitive by comparison.
Kritik alternatives typically make no sense. They often have no way to meaningfully compete with the plan, frequently because of a scale problem. Either they are comparing what one person/a small group should do to what the government should do, or what massive and sweeping international movements should do vs what a government should do. Both comparisons seem like futile exercises for reasons I hope are glaringly obvious.
There are theory arguments that affs could introduce against alternatives that exploit common design flaws in critical arguments. "Vague alts" is not really one of them (ironically because the argument itself is too vague). Some examples: "Alternatives should have texts; otherwise the alternative could shift into an unpredictable series of actions throughout the debate we can't develop reasonable responses against." "Alternatives should have actors; otherwise there is no difference between this and fiating 'everyone should be really nice to each other'." Permutations are easy to justify: the plan would have to be the best idea in the history of thought if all the neg had to do was think of something better.
Most kritik frameworks presented to respond to plan focus are not really even frameworks, but a series of vague assertions that the 2N is hoping that the judge will interpret in a way that's favorable for them (because they certainly don't know exactly what they're arguing for). Many judges continually interpret these confusing framework debates by settling on some middle-ground compromise that neither team actually presented. I prefer to choose between options that debaters actually present.
My ideal critical arguments would negate the aff. For example, against a heg aff, I could be persuaded by security K alts that advocate for a strategy of unilateral miltary withdrawal. Perhaps the permutation severs rhetoric and argumentation in the 1ac that, while not in the plan text, is both central enough to their advocacy and important enough (from a pedagogical perspective) that we should have the opportunity to focus the debate around the geopolitical position taken by the 1ac. The only implication to to a "framework" argument like this would be that, assuming the neg wins a link to something beyond the plan text, the judge should reject, on severence grounds, permutations against alts that actually make radical proposals. In the old days, this was called philosophical competition. How else could we have genuine debates about how to change society or grand strategy? There are good aff defenses of the plan focus model from a fairness and education perspective with which to respond to this, but this very much seems like a debate worth having.
All this might sound pretty harsh for neg's, but affs should be warned that I think I'm more willing than most judges to abandon policymaking paradigms based on technical debating. If the negative successfully presents and defends an alternative model of decisionmaking, I will decide the debate from within it. The ballot is clay; mold it for me and I'll do whatever you win I should.
9) Kritiks (vs K affs)
Seriously, I don't have strong presuppositions about what "new debate" is supposed to look like. For the most part, I'm happy to see any strategy that's well researched or well thought-out. Try something new! Even if it doesn't work out, it may lead to something that can radically innovate debate.
Most permutation/framework debates are really asking the question: "Is the part of the aff that the neg disagreed with important enough to decide an entire debate about?" (this is true in CP competition debates too, for what it's worth). Much of the substantive debating elsewhere subsequently determines the outcome of these sub-debates far more than debaters seem to assume.
Role of the ballot/judge claims are obviously somewhat self-serving, but in debates in which they're well-explained (or repeatedly dropped), they can be useful guidelines for crafting a reasonable decision (especially when the ballot theorizes a reasonable way for both teams to win if they successfully defend core thesis positions).
Yes, I am one of those people who reads critical theory for fun, although I also read about domestic politics, theoretical and applied IR, and economics for fun. Yes, I am a huge nerd, but who's the nerd that that just read the end of a far-too-long judge philosophy in preparation for a debate tournament? Thought so.
10) Addendum: Random Thoughts from Random Topics
In the spirit of Bill Batterman, I thought to myself: How could I make this philosophy even longer and less useable than it already was? So instead of deleting topic-relevent material from previous years that no longer really fit into the above sections, I decided to archive all of that at the bottom of the paradigm if I still agreed with what I said. Bad takes were thrown into the memory hole.
Topicality on NATO emerging tech: Security cooperation almost certainly involves the DOD. Even if new forms of security cooperation could theoretically exclude the DOD, there's not a lot of definitional support and minimal normative justification for that interpretation. Most of the important definition debates resolve substantive issues about what DA and impact turn links are granted and what counterplans are competitive rather than creating useful T definitions. Creative use of 'substantially = in the main' or 'increase = pre-existing' could elevate completely unworkable definitions into ones that are viable at the fringes.
Topicality on Legal Personhood: Conferring rights and/or duties doesn't presumptively confer legal personhood. Don't get me wrong: with evidence and normative definition debating, it very well may, but it doesn't seem like something to be taken for granted. There is a case for "US = federal only" but it's very weak. Overall this is a very weak topic for T args.
Topicality on water: There aren't very many good limiting devices on this topic. Obviously the states CP is an excellent functional limit; "protection requires regulation" is useful as well, at least insofar as it establishes competition for counterplans that avoid regulations (e.g. incentives). Beyond that, the neg is in a rough spot.
I am more open to "US water resources include oceans" than most judges; see the compiled evidence set I released in the Michigan camp file MPAs Aff 2 (should be available via openevidence). After you read that and the sum total of all neg cards released/read thus far, the reasoning for why I believe this should be self-evident. Ironically, I don't think there are very many good oceans affs (this isn't a development topic, it's a protection topic). This further hinders the neg from persuasively going for the this T argument, but if you want to really exploit this belief, you'll find writing a strategic aff is tougher than you may imagine.
Topicality on antitrust: Was adding 'core' to this topic a mistake? I can see either side of this playing out at Northwestern: while affs that haven't thought about the variants of the 'core' or 'antitrust' pics are setting themselves up for failure, I think the aff has such an expansive range of options that they should be fine. There aren't a ton of generic T threats on this topic. There are some iterations of subsets that seem viable, if not truly threatening, and there there is a meaningful debate on whether or not the aff can fiat court action. The latter is an important question that both evidence and normative desirability will play a role in determining. Beyond that, I don't think there's much of a limit on this topic.
ESR debates on the executive powers topic: I think the best theory arguments against ESR are probably just solvency advocate arguments. Seems like a tough sell to tell the neg there’s no executive CP at all. I've heard varied definitions of “object fiat” over the years: fiating an actor that's a direct object/recipient of the plan/resolution; fiating an enduring negative action (i.e. The President should not use designated trade authority, The US should not retaliate to terrorist attacks with nukes etc); fiating an actor whose behavior is affected by a 1ac internal link chain. But none of these definitions seem particularly clear nor any of these objections particularly persuasive.
States CP on the education and health insurance topics: States-and-politics debates are not the most meaningful reflection of the topic literature, especially given that the nature of 50 state fiat distorts the arguments of most state action advocates, and they can be stale (although honestly anything that isn't a K debate will not feel stale to me these days). But I'm sympathetic to the neg on these questions, especially if they have good solvency evidence. There are a slew of policy analysts that have recommended as-uniform-as-possible state action in the wake of federal dysfunction. With a Trump administration and a Republican Congress, is the prospect of uniform state action on an education or healthcare policy really that much more unrealistic than a massive liberal policy? There are literally dozens of uniform policies that have been independently adopted by all or nearly all states. I'm open to counter-arguments, but they should all be as contextualized to the specific evidence and counter-interpretation presented by the negative as they would be in a topicality debate (the same goes for the neg in terms of answering aff theory pushes). It's hard to defend a states CP without meaningful evidentiary support against general aff predictability pushes, but if the evidence is there, it doesn't seem to unreasonable to require affs to debate it. Additionally, there does seem to be a persuasive case for the limiting condition that a "federal-key warrant" places on affirmatives.
Topicality on executive power: This topic is so strangely worded and verbose that it is difficult to win almost any topicality argument against strong affirmative answers, as powerful as the limits case may be. ESR makes being aff hard enough that I’m not sure how necessary the negative needs assistance in limiting down the scope of viable affs, but I suppose we shall see as the year moves forward. I’m certainly open to voting on topicality violations that are supported by quality evidence. “Restrictions in the area of” = all of that area (despite the fact that two of the areas have “all or nearly all” in their wordings, which would seem to imply the other three are NOT “all or nearly all”) does not seem to meet that standard.
Topicality on immigration: This is one of the best topics for neg teams trying to go for topicality in a long time... maybe since alternative energy in 2008-9. “Legal immigration” clearly means LPR – affs will have a tough time winning otherwise against competent negative teams. I can’t get over my feeling that the “Passel and Fix” / “Murphy 91” “humanitarian” violations that exclude refugee, asylums, etc, are somewhat arbitrary, but the evidence is extremely good for the negative (probably slightly better than it is for the affirmative, but it’s close), and the limits case for excluding these affs is extremely persuasive. Affs debating this argument in front of me should make their case that legal immigration includes asylum, refugees, etc by reading similarly high-quality evidence that says as much.
Topicality on arms sales: T - subs is persuasive if your argument is that "substantially" has to mean something, and the most reasonable assessment of what it should mean is the lowest contextual bound that either team can discover and use as a bulwark for guiding their preparation. If the aff can't produce a reasonably well-sourced card that says substantially = X amount of arms sales that their plan can feasibly meet, I think neg teams can win that it's more arbitrary to assume that substantially is in the topic for literally no reason than it is to assume the lowest plausible reading of what substantially could mean (especially given that every definition of substantially as a higher quantity would lead one to agree that substantially is at least as large as that lowest reading). If the aff can, however, produce this card, it will take a 2N's most stalwart defense of any one particular interpretation to push back against the most basic and intuitive accusations of arbitrariness/goalpost-shifting.
T - reduce seems conceptually fraught in almost every iteration. Every Saudi aff conditions its cessation of arms sales on the continued existence of Saudi Arabia. If the Saudi military was so inept that the Houthis suddenly not only won the war against Saleh but actually captured Saudi Arabia and annexed it as part of a new Houthi Empire, the plan would not prevent the US from selling all sorts of exciting PGMs to Saudi Arabia's new Houthi overlords. Other than hard capping the overall quantity of arms sales and saying every aff that doesn't do that isn't topical, (which incidentally is not in any plausible reading a clearly forwarded interpretation of the topic in that poorly-written Pearson chapter), it's not clear to me what the distinction is between affs that condition and affs that don't are for the purposes of T - Reduce
Topicality on CJR: T - enact is persuasive. The ev is close, but in an evenly debated and closely contested round where both sides read all of the evidence I've seen this year, I'd be worried if I were aff. The debateability case is strong for the neg, given how unlimited the topic is, but there's a case to be made that courts affs aren't so bad and that ESR/politics is a strong enough generic to counter both agents.
Other T arguments are, generally speaking, uphill battles. Unless a plan text is extremely poorly written, most "T-Criminal" arguments are likely solvency takeouts, though depending on advantage construction they may be extremely strong and relevant solvency takeouts. Most (well, all) subsets arguments, regardless of which word they define, have no real answer to "we make some new rule apply throughout the entire area, e.g. all police are prohibitied from enforcing XYZ criminal law." Admittedly, there are better and worse variations for all of these violations. For example, Title 18 is a decent way to set up "T - criminal justice excludes civil / decrim" types of interpretations, despite the fact it's surprisingly easy for affs to win they meet it. And of course, aff teams often screw these up answering bad and mediocre T args in ways that make them completely viable. But none of these would be my preferred strategy, unless of course you're deploying new cards or improved arguments at the TOC. If that's the case, nicely done! If you think your evidence is objectively better than the aff cards, and that you can win the plan clearly violates a cogent interpretation, topicality is always a reasonable option in front of me.
Topicality on space cooperation: Topicality is making a big comeback in college policy debates this year. Kiinda overdue. But also kinda surprising because the T evidence isn't that high quality relative to its outsized presence in 2NRs, but hey, we all make choices.
STM T debates have been underwhelming in my assessment. T - No ADR... well at least is a valid argument consisting of a clear interp and a clear violation. It goes downhill from there. It's by no means unwinnable, but not a great bet in an evenly matched ebate. But you can't even say that for most of the other STM interps I've seen so far. Interps that are like "STM are these 9 things" are not only silly, they frequently have no clear way of clearly excluding their hypothesized limits explosion... or the plan. And I get it - STM affs are the worst (and we're only at the tip of the iceberg for zany STM aff prolif). Because STM proposals are confusing, different advocates use the terms in wildly different ways, the proposals are all in the direction of uniqueness and are difficult to distinguish from similar policy structures presently in place, and the area lacks comprehensive neg ground outside of "screw those satellites, let em crash," STM affs producing annoying debates (which is why so many teams read STM). But find better and clearer T interps if you want to turn those complaints about topical affs into topicality arguments that exclude those affs. And I encourage you to do so quickly, as I will be the first to shamelessly steal them for my teams.
Ironically, the area of the topic that produces what seem to me the best debates (in terms of varied, high-quality, and evenly-matched argumentation) probably has the single highest-quality T angle for the neg to deploy against it. And that T angle just so happens to exclude nearly every arms control aff actually being ran. In my assessment, both the interp that "arms control = quantitative limit" and the interp that "arms control = militaries just like chilling with each other, hanging out, doing some casual TCBMs" are plausible readings of the resolution. The best aff predictability argument is clearly that arms control definitions established before the space age have some obvious difficulties remaining relevant in space. But it seems plausible that that's a reason the resolution should have been written differently, not that it should be read in an alternate way. That being said, the limits case seems weaker than usual for the neg (though not terrible) and in terms of defending an interp likely to result in high-quality debates, the aff has a better set of ground arguments at their disposal than usual.
Trump-era politics DAs: Most political capital DAs are self-evidently nonsense in the Trump era. We no longer have a president that expends or exerts political capital as described by any of the canonical sources that theorized that term. Affs should be better at laundry listing thumpers and examples that empirically prove Trump's ability to shamelessly lie about whatever the aff does or why he supports the aff and have a conservative media environment that tirelessly promotes that lie as the new truth, but it's not hard to argue this point well. Sometimes, when there's an agenda (even if that agenda is just impeachment), focus links can be persuasive. I actually like the internal agency politics DA's more than others do, because they do seem to better analyze the present political situation. Our political agenda at the national level does seem driven at least as much by personality-driven palace intrigue as anything else; if we're going to assess the political consequences of our proposed policies, that seems as good a proxy for what's likely to happen as anything else.
Director of Debate at Alpharetta High School where I also teach AP US Government & Politics (2013- present)
Former grad assistant at Vanderbilt (2012-2013)
Debated at Emory (2007-2011).
Please add me to the email chain: email@example.com
Most of the below notes are just some general predispositions/ thoughts. I firmly believe that debaters should control the debate space and will do my best to evaluate the round in front of me, regardless of if you adapt to these preferences or not.
I flow on paper and definitely need pen time; I've tried to flow on the computer and it just doesn't work for me.
Counterplans- I like a good counterplan debate. I generally think conditionality is good, and is more justified against new affirmatives. PICs, Process CPs, Uniqueness CPs, Multiplank CPs, Advantage CPs etc. are all fine. On consult counterplans, and other counterplans that are not textually and functionally competitive, I tend to lean aff on CP theory. All CPs are better with a solvency advocate. If the negative reads a CP, presumption shifts affirmative, and the negative needs to be winning a decent risk of the net benefit for me to vote negative. I am probably not the greatest person for counterplan competition debates.
Disads- The more specific, the better. Yes, you can read your generic DAs but I love when teams have specific politix scenarios or other specific DAs that show careful research and tournament prep. If there are a lot of links being read on a DA, I tend to default to the team that is controlling uniqueness.
Topicality- I find T debates sometimes difficult to evaluate because they sometimes seem to require a substantial amount of judge intervention. A tool that I think is really under utilized in T debates is the caselist/ discussion of what affs are/ are not allowed under your interpretation. Try hard to close the loop for me at the end of the 2nr/ 2ar about why your vision of the topic is preferable. Be sure to really discuss the impacts of your standards in a T debate.
Framework- Framework is a complicated question for me. On a truth level, I think people should read a plan text, and I exclusively read plan texts when I was a debater. However, I'll vote for whoever wins the debate, whether you read a topical plan text or not, and frequently vote for teams that don't read a plan text; in fact, my voting record is better for teams reading planless affirmatives than it is for teams going for FW. However, I also think this is because teams that don't defend a plan are typically much better at defending their advocacy than neg teams are at going for FW. I tend to think affs should at least be in the direction of the topic; I'm fairly sympathetic to the "you explode limits 2nr" if your aff is about something else. Put another way, if your aff is not at least somewhat related to the topic area it's going to be harder to get my ballot. I do think fairness is a terminal impact because I don't know what an alternative way to evaluate the debate would be but I can be persuaded otherwise.
Kritiks- I am more familiar with more common Ks such as security or cap than I am with high theory arguments like Baudrillard. You can still read less common or high theory Ks in front of me, but you should probably explain them more. I tend to think the alternative is one of the weakest parts of the Kritik and that most negative teams do not do enough work explaining how the Kritik functions.
Misc-If both teams agree that topicality will not be read in the debate, and that is communicated to me prior to the start of the round, any mutually agreed previous year's topic is on the table. I will also bump speaks +0.5 for choosing this option as long as an effort is made by both teams. I am unlikely to vote on disclose your prefs, wipeout, spark, or anything else I would consider morally repugnant. I also don't think debate should be a question of who is a good person. While I think you should make good decisions out of round, I am not in the camp of "I will vote against you for bad decisions you made out of round" or allegations made in round about out of round behavior. But, I have voted against teams or substantially lowered speaks for making the round a hostile learning environment and think it is my job as a judge and educator to make the round a safe space.
I am strongly in the camp of tech over truth.
I am a philosopher, a student, a teacher, a nomad, and above all I believe in facilitating life changing educational discourse.
Topicality - ✅.
Framework - substantial evidence comparison and/or preempting external offense ✅
Disadvantages-Go for it ✅
CP- Use them please ✅
K - Read some of the base literature before embarking on this journey. Will make the leap less destabilizing.
but yes ✅
Theory - Prove the abuse ✅
Speaks vary but I rarely give bad speaks. ✅
I listen, I care, I am a really objective judge. Push yourself, but have fun. Read and ask questions. Be open to every and any thought but not without proper discernment. Be prepared to defend your ideological commitments. Be confident. It alone will win you more debates than you can ever imagine.
This activity pronounces itself as a communication activity, one able to bring diverse groups of individuals together in order to facilitate educational growth and dialogue under objective standards that demonstrate effective skills in public speaking, policy rhetoric and leadership abilities. However, once you pull back the covers, once you open the fridge, once you check under the toilet seat…… rancid amounts of fecal matter litter the hallways of what is now contemporary competitive debate writ large. We must stop pretending that we want this space to change. Many people need others to be who they want them to be in order to project their insecurities and violent tendencies onto other people and debate so they can point at it as evidence of their own opinions touching the physical plane. This is an abusive practice that must stop, it creates modes of violence that perpetuate an endless wave of “you are fucked up” without considerable amounts of self reflection about ones own efforts to perpetuate violence in this space.
Some need to realize, you can’t just desire a world of exclusion without retaliation both in discourse and in reality. This goes all the ways, in every direction. Stop being surprised that you encounter wholesale resistance to your unitary world of disproportionate amounts of privilege that keeps the status quo running like business as usual. People don’t want to accept what they have been taught or told, and frankly the idea you accept what someone says without developing your own thoughts and having those tested in the real world against others, or the fact you get so mad when someone says you could be wrong means you are unwilling to say you still have much to learn young padawan, you don’t know everything, and you are not the all knowing omniscient energy that sustains the fabric of your reality and mine, so why not just lay down your swords.
Once you are perfect, then you can judge someone else. Until then, your thoughts about the world are here to be tested, to be disproven and to be questioned at the very very least. The exaggeration of an inevitable world of violence that sustains debate will always create the same stale ass debates we always hear. This is not to say I won’t listen to your claims, of course I will and will continue to evaluate them objectively as every judge should do. But, If you want a different world of debate, create it. Stop playing someone else’s game and getting mad you lose. Play a different game. Create a different game that usurps the current game. Create the revolution. Next.
Everyone needs a thug and a little love. Debate should change. Im bored. LOL TY
**Just a brief update for the high school community on the Inequality topic:
T - Taxes and Transfers - Heavily lean Aff here, but the Neg can win it I guess.
Process CPs - Good luck with these in front of me.
If you feel the need to not take prep before the 2AC or 2NC, good luck with that as well in front of me.
**Updated Summer 2023**
Yes I would like to be on the email chain: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will listen to all arguments, but a couple of caveats:
-This doesn't mean I will understand every element of your argument.
-I have grown extremely irritated with clash debates…take that as you please.
-I am a firm believer that you must read some evidence in debate. If you differ, you might want to move me down the pref sheet.
Note to all: In high school debate, there is no world where the Negative needs to read more than 5 off case arguments. SO if you say 6+, I'm only flowing 5 and you get to choose which you want me to flow.
In college debate, I might allow 6 off case arguments :/
Good luck to all!
Brian McBride. I love you so much, you will always be cherished in my memories. The impact you had on the community is immeasurable - thank you for being such a big part of why I love debate and am still involved today. If you haven't listened to Stars of the Lid, give it a try - I hope his music can bring all of us comfort when we need it.
I am a coach at Emory, Liberal Arts and Science Academy and The Harker School. Other conflicts: Texas, Westwood, St Vincent de Paul, Bakersfield High School
Email Chain: yes, email@example.com
Two Important things, rest kind of whatever by comparison:
1. Targeted verbal or physical attacks on your opponents, teammate, or anybody else in the room will result in the debate being ended. You will then receive the minimal points the tournament allows me to assign. I understand things get heated, this is not an attempt to eliminate that part of the game but I have no interest in tacitly consenting to students being attacked.
2. I'm totally uninterested in adjudicating arguments that endorse self harm. I won't auto-vote against you but if someone you're debating asks me to stop the debate I will. If I end up voting for you, you will not like your points.
Things like wipeout/spark/other impact turns or like "death k" are a little different than this category for me and you can still read those types of hypothetical impact turns as they don't feel the same as [self harm good].
You will receive a speaker point bump if you give your final rebuttal without the use of a laptop. I will give higher points to speeches with errors/pauses/inconsistencies etc. where the speaker debates off their flows than speeches that sound crystal clear and perfect but are delivered without the speaker looking up from their computer screen. If you flow off your laptop I will use my best judgement to assess the extent to which you're delivering arguments in such a way that demonstrates you have flowed the debate.
Ultimately, do what you do best. Giving speeches you're comfortable with is almost certainly a better path to victory than attempting to adapt to any of this stuff below. Debate is extremely hard and requires immense amounts of works. I will try to give you the same level of effort that I know you've put in.
Debate is an activity about persuasion and communication. If I can't understand your argument because what you are saying because you are unclear, haven't explained it, or developed it into a full argument-claim, warrant, impact, it likely won't factor in my decision.
The winner will nearly always be the team able to identify the central question of the debate first and most clearly trace how the development of their argument means they're ahead on that central question.
Virtually nothing you can possibly say or do will offend me [with the new above caveat] if you can't beat a terrible argument you probably deserve to lose.
I don't judge many non-framework debates anymore. I tend to vote neg when the neg wins clash is the biggest/most portable impact + explanation for how it improves over the year as a result of their interp and access aff offense via TVA or SSD. I also tend to vote neg if the 2nr goes for fairness + wins ballot proximity means no spillover for aff imapct turns. I tend to vote aff when they win an impact turn to the end result of clash alongside robust answers to the neg ballot can't access that offense args. I also tend to vote aff when the 2nr extends multiple offensive arguments (clash+fairness) because the combination of no models + clash or yes model + fairness generally leads to major issues the 2ar can exploit.
I think 2NCs that lack an explanation of how 2nd and 3rd level testing occurs under their interp and changes over the year, with examples, lacks credibility when going for only clash matters (you can maybe win the debate on a different terminal impact, but lately I haven't really voted on other ones). Fairness is both an internal link and an impact. Debate is a game but its also so much more. You can persuade me to think one way or the other in any given debate and I've learned to love judging these debates because I often learn new things about the activity and its potential.
-spamming permutations, particular ones that are intrinsic, without a text and with no explanation isn't a complete argument. [insert perm text fine, insert counter plan text is not fine].
-if evenly debated, better for textual competition is silly
-instead of saying "logical limited intrinsicness," say what it is you mean by that specifically
-pretty neg on "if it competes, its legitimate." Aff can win these debates by explaining why theory and competition should be separated and then going for just one in the 2ar. the more muddled you make this, the better it usually is for the neg.
-non-resolutional theory is rarely if ever a reason to reject the team. Generally don't think its a reason to reject the argument either.
-I'm becoming increasingly poor for conditionality bad as a reason to reject the team. This doesn't mean you shouldn't say in the 2ac why its bad but I've yet to see a speech where the 2AR convinced me the debate has been made irredeemably unfair or un-educational due to the status of counter plans. I think its possible I'd be more convinced by the argument that winning condo is bad means that the neg is stuck with all their counter plans and therefore responsible for answering any aff offense to those positions. This can be difficult to execute/annoying to do, but do with that what you will.
-affs usually lose these by forgetting about the case, negs usually lose these when they don't contextualize links to the 1ac. If you're reading a policy aff that clearly links, I'll be pretty confused if you don't go impact turns/case outweighs.
-link specificity is important - I don't think this is necessarily an evidence thing, but an explanation thing - lines from 1AC, examples, specific scenarios are all things that will go a long way
-these are almost always just framework debates these days but debaters often forget to explain the implications winning their interpretation has on the scope of competition. framework is an attempt to assign roles for proof/rejoinder and while many of you implicitly make arguments about this, the more clear you can be about those roles, the better.
-i'm less likely to think "extinction outweighs, 1% risk" is as good as you think it is, most of the time the team reading the K gives up on this because they for some reason think this argument is unbeatable, so it ends up mattering in more rfds than it should
I have been judging LD for a year now. The policy section all applies here.
Tech over truth but, there's a limit - likely quite bad for tricks - arguments need a claim, warrant and impact to be complete. Dropped arguments are important if you explain how they implicate my decision. Dropped arguments are much less important when you fail to explain the impact/relevance of said argument.
RVIs - no, never, literally don't. 27 ceiling. Scenario: 1ar is 4 minutes of an RVI, nr drops the rvi, I will vote negative within seconds of the timer ending.
Policy/K - both great - see above for details.
Phil - haven't judged much of this yet, this seems interesting and fine, but again, arguments need a claim, warrant and impact to be complete arguments.
Arguments communicated and understood by the judge per minute>>>>words mumbled nearly incomprehensibly per minute.
Unlikely you'll convince me the aff doesn't get to read a plan for topicality reasons. K framework is a separate from this and open to debate, see policy section for details.
If you read cards they must be sent out via email chain with me attached or through file share prior to the speech. If you reference a piece of evidence that you haven't sent out prior to your speech, fine, but I won't count it as being evidence. You should never take time outside of your prep time to exchange evidence - it should already have been done.
"Paraphrasing" as a substitute for quotation or reading evidence is a bad norm. I won't vote on it as an ethics violation, but I will cap your speaker points at a 27.5.
I realize some of you have started going fast now, if everyone is doing that, fine. However, adapting to the norms of your opponents circuit - i.e. if they're debating slowly and traditionally and you do so as well, will be rewarded with much higher points then if you spread somebody out of the room, which will be awarded with very low points even if you win.
After the debate ends, please send a document containing all evidence extended in the last speech.
Current affiliations are Interlake and Northwestern. My involvement with debate this year (2023-2024) will likely be rather low; any knowledge I have of either the high school or college topics has been gleaned through osmosis.
When I debated I read arguments of many 'styles' at a nationally competitive level; I don't have super strong feelings about argument content.
That said... please slow down substantially compared to your top speed! I don't think that my hearing is very good. The practical outcome is that I often just end up voting for whoever I can comprehend more, which I imagine is frustrating for everyone involved. Reducing rate of delivery will aid me in both understanding the literal words being said and figuring out what arguments are being made.
In general, neither snark nor pettiness nor overt aggression register as particularly powerful persuasive tools to me - they just make me feel awkward. I get that debates are often heated for a variety of (good, or at least understandable) reasons... but I strongly prefer when they aren't.
Some smaller proclivities:
- Conditionality is good
- Unless told otherwise, I will 'kick' advocacies for the negative
- I prefer that re-highlighted portions of the other team's evidence be read, rather than 'inserted into the record'
- If your partner interjects with something short during your speech, I don't think you have to parrot it; I will flow it regardless
Good luck \o/
Lane Tech - 2012 - 2013
Iowa City High - 2013 - 2016
University of Northern Iowa - 2016 - 2017
Emporia State 2018 - 2021
Berkeley Prep - 2021 -
-email chain -
-Recently retired k-leaning flex debater/resident performative stunt queen for Berkeley Prep Debate
-would much rather judge a really good policy v policy round than a poorly executed k round - BUT - would ultimately prefer to judge a k v k round where both sides have competing and creative strategies that they are both a) deeply invested in and b) have interesting interpretations of. Those are the rounds I always had the most fun in, but to be clear, I have also realized over the years that a policy v policy round has the potential for just as much, if not more and have no problem judging these debates.
-the team executing whatever argument they are most comfortable with at the highest level they can, will always in my eyes have an easier time getting my ballot/receiving higher speaks which means that the the speeches I want to see are those that you are enthused about giving and ultimately, I want you to be excited to be able to do whatever it is that you are best at.
-went for everything from big stick warming affs to f*** debate performance 1AC's, to Black/Native Studies like Warren, Wilderson, Moten, King, Gumbs and Hartman to Queer theory like Butler, Edelman and Trans-Rage to High theory like Nietzsche, Baudy and OOO as well as Procedurals like T/FW/A- and I-Spec, Disads/Case turns like to deterrence, politics and SPARK and of course, multiple different flavors of counterplans. so regardless of what it is you go for I'm down - just don't take this as an excuse to not use judge instruction/concise explanations that makes sense - even if I was a Nietzsche one - trick in high school that doesn't mean I'm going to do the nihilism work for you. All this is to say is that whoever you may be, you should feel comfortable that I have in some way or another had a certain level of experience with your literature base.
Due to recent events its been suggested to me that I add a layer to my philosophy I wasn't sure was necessary, but in an effort to help protect future debaters/debate rounds, as well as myself/fellow judges, here is what I will say -
While I do empathize with the competitive nature of this activity, it should go without saying that if there is violence of any kind, whether that be intentional or not, my role as an educator in this community is to intervene if that situation deems my involvement to be necessary and I want to make it very clear that I have no qualms in doing so. Its important to recognize when we have to put the game aside and understand as a community that we have a responsibility to learn from situations like those and to be better as we move forward. SO just for the sake of clarity, I do not have a desire to stop rounds, in fact - quite the opposite. However, my role as a judge (one that I would hope others embody when judging my own students) is one that adjudicates the round in the most equitable means possible AS WELL AS one that ensures the safety of, to the best of my capacity, each debate round and all of its participants/observers.
Also - Sometimes, and not always, but in the same fashion as countless other judges, I can, at times, be a very reactive/nonverbal judge. Understanding that those kinds of things are a) an inevitable part of this activity b) not always caused by something you did and c) can be incredibly critical in your in round-decision making is crucial and is a fundamental skill that I believe to be vastly important in succeeding within this activity. HOWEVER, that means that whether or not you choose to modify what you are doing based off how I am reacting is, at the end of the day, your decision and your decision alone - recognizing when to do so/when not to is a core facet of competing.
Strike me if you don't like it.
specific feels about certain things:
- have aff specific link explanations regardless of offcase position - that doesnt mean that every card has to be specific to the aff but your explanation of the link should be as specific to the 1AC as you can make possible - extra speaker points to those who can successfully pull lines
- hot take: after all this time in online debate, I will in fact "verbally interject if unable to hear" regardless of whether you make that clear to me before you begin your speech - so as a personal preference don't feel obligated to say that anymore. Id rather you just give me an order and start after getting some signal (verbal or visual) that we're all ready. as an incentive to help try and stop this practice, expect a lil boost in points.
- that being said, "as specific to the 1AC" means you could have a really good link to aff's mechanism. or you could have a great state link. or a link to their impacts. etc. it doesnt matter to me what the link is as long as it is well developed and made specific to what the 1AC is. I dont want to hear the same generic state link as much as the next person but if you make it creative and you use the aff than I dont see a problem.
- affirmatives could be about the topic, or they could not be, its up to you as long as whatever you choose to do you can defend and explain. If you're not about the topic and its a framework debate, I need to know what your model of debate is or why you shouldnt need to defend one etc. if youre reading a performance aff, the performance is just as important if not more than the evidence you are reading - so dont forget to extend the performance throughout the debate and use it to answer the other teams arguments.
- whether its one off or 8 please be aware of the contradictions you will be making in the 1NC and be prepared to defend them or have some sort of plan if called out.
- on that note theory debates are fine and could be fun. im not that opposed to voting on theory arguments of all varieties as long as you spend a sufficient amount of time in the rebuttals to warrant me voting on them. most of the time thats a substantial amount if not the entirety of one or more of your rebuttals.
- perm debates are weird and i dont feel great voting for "do both" without at least an explanation of how that works. "you dont get a perm in method debates" feels wrong mostly because like these are all made up debate things anyways and permutations are good ways to test the competitiveness of ks/cps/cas. that being said, if you have a good justification for why the aff shouldnt get one and they do an insufficient job of answering it, i will obviously vote on "no perms in method debates"
- dropped arguments are probably true arguments, but there are always ways to recover, however, not every argument made in a debate is an actual argument and being able to identify what is and isn't will boost your speaker points
how these are determined is inherently arbitrary across the board and let's not pretend I have some kind of rubric for you that perfectly outlines the difference between a 28.5 and a 28.6, or a 29.3 and a 29.4, or that my 29.3 will be the same as some other judges.
I do however think about speaks in terms of a competitive ladder, with sections that require certain innate skills which ended up being fairly consistent with other judges, if not slightly on the higher side of things. Hopefully, this section will more so help give you an idea of how you can improve your speeches for the next time you have me in the back.
-26s: these are few and far between, but if are to get one of these, we've probably already talked about what happened after the round. The key here is probably don't do whatever is that you did, and is most likely related to the stuff I talked about at the top.
-27s: If you're getting something in this range from me, it means you should be focusing on speaking drills (with an emphasis on clarity, and efficiency), as well as developing a deeper/fuller analysis of your arguments that picks apart the detailed warrants within the evidence you are reading.
-28s: Still need to be doing drills, but this time with more of an emphasis on affective delivery, finding a comfortable speed, and endurance. At this point, what I probably need to see more from you is effective decision making as well as judge instruction - in order to move into the 29 range, you should be writing my ballot for me with your final rebuttals in so far as using those speeches to narrow the debate down and effectively execute whatever route that may be by painting a picture of what has happened leading up to this moment
-29s: at this point, you're probably fairly clear and can effectively distinguish between pitches and tones as you go in order to emphasize relevant points. The only drills you should be doing here should be concerned with efficiency and breathing control, and if you are in the low 29's this is most likely a clarity issue and you should probably slow down a bit in order to avoid stumbling and bump your speaks up to high 29's. Higher 29's are most likely those who are making the correct decisions at most if not all stages of the debate, and successfully execute the final speeches in ways that prioritize judge instruction, and clearly lay the ballot out for me throughout the speech.
-30s: I actually don't have a problem giving these out, because I think my bar for a "perfect" speech can be subjective in so far as 30's for me can definitely make mistakes, but in the end you had a spectacular debate where you gave it everything you could and then some. I try not to give these out often though because of the risk it could possibly mess with your seeding/breaking, so if you do get one of these, thanks - I had a wonderful experience judging you.
-0.0 - 0.9 - this section is similar for every category in that it is dependent on things like argument extension and packaging, handling flows/the line by line, cross ex, link debating, etc. however, a team that is in the 29 range will have a higher bar to meet for those sort of minutia parts of your speech than those in the 28 or 27. That's because as you improve in delivery you should also be improving in execution, which means that in my eyes, a debater who may be in the 27 range the first time I see them, but is now speaking in the 28 range will have a higher bar than they did before in order to get into the high 28s.
Quick 2022 update--CX is important, use it fully. Examples make a big difference, but you have to compare your examples to theirs and show why yours are better. Quality of evidence matters--debate the strengths of your evidence vs. theirs. Finally, all the comments in a majority of paradigms about tech vs. truth are somewhat absurd. Tech can determine truth and vice-versa: they are not opposed or mutually exclusive and they can be each others' best tools. Want to emphasize your tech? Great--defend it. Want to emphasize your truths? Great--but compare them. Most of all, get into it! We are here for a bit of time together, let's make the most of it.
Updated 2020...just a small note: have fun and make the most of it! Being enthusiastic goes a long way.
Updated 2019. Coaching at Berkeley Prep in Tampa. Nothing massive has changed except I give slightly higher points across the board to match inflation. Keep in mind, I am still pleased to hear qualification debates and deep examples win rounds. I know you all work hard so I will too. Any argument preference or style is fine with me: good debate is good debate. Email: kevindkuswa at gmail dot com.
Updated 2017. Currently coaching for Berkeley Prep in Tampa. Been judging a lot on the China topic, enjoying it. Could emphasize just about everything in the comments below, but wanted to especially highlight my thirst for good evidence qualification debates...
_____________________________ (previous paradigm)
Summary: Quality over quantity, be specific, use examples, debate about evidence.
I think debate is an incredibly special and valuable activity despite being deeply flawed and even dangerous in some ways. If you are interested in more conversations about debate or a certain decision (you could also use this to add me to an email chain for the round if there is one), contact me at kevindkuswa at gmail dot com. It is a privilege to be judging you—I know it takes a lot of time, effort, and commitment to participate in debate. At a minimum you are here and devoting your weekend to the activity—you add in travel time, research, practice and all the other aspects of preparation and you really are expressing some dedication.
So, the first issue is filling out your preference sheets. I’m usually more preferred by the kritikal or non-traditional crowd, but I would encourage other teams to think about giving me a try. I work hard to be as fair as possible in every debate, I strive to vote on well-explained arguments as articulated in the round, and my ballots have been quite balanced in close rounds on indicative ideological issues. I’m not affiliated with a particular debate team right now and may be able to judge at the NDT, so give me a try early on and then go from there.
The second issue is at the tournament—you have me as a judge and are looking for some suggestions that might help in the round. In addition to a list of things I’m about to give you, it’s good that you are taking the time to read this statement. We are about to spend over an hour talking to and with each other—you might as well try to get some insight from a document that has been written for this purpose.
1. Have some energy, care about the debate. This goes without saying for most, but enthusiasm is contagious and we’ve all put in some work to get to the debate. Most of you will probably speak as fast as you possibly can and spend a majority of your time reading things from a computer screen (which is fine—that can be done efficiently and even beautifully), but it is also possible to make equally or more compelling arguments in other ways in a five or ten minute speech (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQVq5mugw_Y).
2. Examples win debates. Well-developed examples are necessary to make the abstract concrete, they show an understanding of the issues in the round, and they tend to control our understandings of how particular changes will play out. Good examples take many forms and might include all sorts of elements (paraphrasing, citing, narrating, quantifying, conditioning, countering, embedding, extending, etc.), but the best examples are easily applicable, supported by references and other experiences, and used to frame specific portions of the debate. I’m not sure this will be very helpful because it’s so broad, but at the very least you should be able to answer the question, “What are your examples?” For example, refer to Carville’s commencement speech to Tulane graduates in 2008…he offers the example of Abe Lincoln to make the point that “failure is the oxygen of success” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMiSKPpyvMk.
3. Argument comparison wins debate. Get in there and compare evidence—debate the non-highlighted portion of cards (or the cryptic nature of their highlighting). Debate the warrants and compare them in terms of application, rationale, depth, etc. The trinity of impact, plausibility, and verge analysis doesn’t hurt, especially if those variables are weighed against one another. It’s nice to hear good explanations that follow phrases like “Even if…,” “On balance…,” or “In the context of…” I know that evidence comparison is being done at an extremely high level, but I also fear that one of the effects of paperless debate might be a tilt toward competing speech documents that feature less direct evidence comparison. Prove me wrong.
4. Debates about the relative validity of sources win rounds. Where is the evidence on both sides coming from and why are those sources better or worse? Qualification debates can make a big difference, especially because these arguments are surprisingly rare. It’s also shocking that more evidence is not used to indict other sources and effectively remove an entire card (or even argument) from consideration. The more good qualification arguments you can make, the better. Until this kind of argument is more common, I am thirsty enough for source comparisons (in many ways, this is what debate is about—evidence comparison), that I’ll add a few decimal points when it happens. I do not know exactly where my points are relative to other judges, but I would say I am along a spectrum where 27.4 is pretty good but not far from average, 27.7 is good and really contributing to the debate, 28 is very good and above average, 28.5 is outstanding and belongs in elims, and 29.1 or above is excellent for that division—could contend for one of the best speeches at the tournament.
5. All debates can still be won in 2AR. For all the speakers, that’s a corollary of the “Be gritty” mantra. Persevere, take risks and defend your choices
(https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit). The ballot is not based on record at previous tournaments, gpa, school ranking, or number of coaches.
6. Do not be afraid to go for a little more than usual in the 2NR—it might even help you avoid being repetitive. It is certainly possible to be too greedy, leaving a bloated strategy that can’t stand up to a good 2AR, but I usually think this speech leaves too much on the table.
7. Beginning in the 1AR, brand new arguments should only be in reference to new arguments in the previous speech. Admittedly this is a fuzzy line and it is up to the teams to point out brand new arguments as well as the implications. The reason I’ve decided to include a point on this is because in some cases a 2AR has been so new that I have had to serve as the filter. That is rare and involves more than just a new example or a new paraphrasing (and more than a new response to a new argument in the 2NR).
8. Very good arguments can be made without evidence being introduced in card form, but I do like good cards that are as specific and warranted as possible. Use the evidence you do introduce and do as much direct quoting of key words and phrases to enhance your evidence comparison and the validity of your argument overall.
9. CX matters. This probably deserves its own philosophy, but it is worth repeating that CX is a very important time for exposing flaws in arguments, for setting yourself up for the rebuttals, for going over strengths and weaknesses in arguments, and for generating direct clash. I do not have numbers for this or a clear definition of what it means to “win CX,” but I get the sense that the team that “wins” the four questioning periods often wins the debate.
10. I lean toward “reciprocity” arguments over “punish them because…” arguments. This is a very loose observation and there are many exceptions, but my sympathies connect more to arguments about how certain theoretical moves made by your opponent open up more avenues for you (remember to spell out what those avenues look like and how they benefit you). If there are places to make arguments about how you have been disadvantaged or harmed by your opponent’s positions (and there certainly are), those discussions are most compelling when contextualized, linked to larger issues in the debate, and fully justified.
Overall, enjoy yourself—remember to learn things when you can and that competition is usually better as a means than as an ends.
And, finally, the third big issue is post-round. Usually I will not call for many cards—it will help your cause to point out which cards are most significant in the rebuttals (and explain why). I will try to provide a few suggestions for future rounds if there is enough time. Feel free to ask questions as well. In terms of a long-term request, I have two favors to ask. First, give back to the activity when you can. Judging high school debates and helping local programs is the way the community sustains itself and grows—every little bit helps. Whether you realize it or not, you are a very qualified judge for all the debate events at high school tournaments. Second, consider going into teaching. If you enjoy debate at all, then bringing some of the skills of advocacy, the passion of thinking hard about issues, or the ability to apply strategy to argumentation, might make teaching a great calling for you and for your future students (https://www.ted.com/talks/christopher_emdin_teach_teachers_how_to_create_magic note: debaters are definitely part of academia, but represent a group than can engage in Emdin’s terms). There are lots of good paths to pursue, but teaching is one where debaters excel and often find fulfilling. Best of luck along the ways.
Affiliations and History:
Please email (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) me all of the speeches before you begin.
I am the Director of Debate at Damien High School in La Verne, CA.
I was the Director of Debate for Hebron High School in Carrollton, TX from 2020-2021.
I was an Assistant Coach at Damien from 2017-2020.
I debated on the national circuit for Damien from 2009-2013.
I graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a BA in Critical Theory and Social Justice.
I completed my Master's degree in Social Justice in Higher Education Administration at The University of La Verne.
My academic work involves critical university studies, Georges Bataille, poetics, and post-colonialism.
Author of Suburba(in)e Surrealism (2021).
Yearly Round Numbers:
I try to judge a fair bit each year.
Fiscal Redistribution Round Count: 25 rounds
I judged 75 rounds or more on the NATO Topic.
I judged over 50 rounds on the Water Topic.
I judged around 40 rounds on the CJR topic.
I judged 29 rounds on the Arms topic (2019-2020) (not including practice rounds without a decision rendered).
I judged a bit of LD (32 debates) on the Jan-Feb Topic (nuke disarm) in '19/'20.
I judged around 25 debates on the Immigration topic (2018-2019) on the national circuit.
I judged around 50 rounds on the Education topic (2017-2018) on the national circuit.
LD Protocol:I have a 100% record voting against teams that only read Phil args/Phil v. Policy debates. Adapt or lose.
NDT Protocol: I will rarely have any familiarity with the current college topic and will usually only judge 12-15 rounds pre-NDT.
Please make your T and CP acronyms understandable.
Front Matter Elements:
If you need an accommodation of any kind, please email me before the round starts.
I want everyone to feel safe and able to debate- this is my number one priority as a judge.
I don't run prep time while you email the speech doc. Put the whole speech into one speech doc.
I flow 1AC impact framing, inherency, and solvency straight down on the same page nowadays.
Speed is not an issue for me, but I will ask you to slow down (CLEAR) if you are needlessly sacrificing clarity for quantity--especially if you are reading T or theory arguments.
I will not evaluate evidence identifiable as being produced by software, bots, algorithms etc. Human involvement in the card’s production must be evident unique to the team, individual, and card. This means that evidence you directly take from open source must be re-highlighted at a minimum. You should change the tags and underlining anyways to better fit with your argument’s coherency.
I privilege technical debating and the flow. I try to get as much down as I possibly can and the little that I miss usually is a result of a lack of clarity on the part of the speaker or because the actual causal chain of the idea does not make consistent sense for me (I usually express this on my face). Your technical skill should make me believe/be able to determine that your argument is the truth. That means warrants. Explain them, impact them, and don't make me fish for them in the un-underlined portion of the six paragraph card that your coach cut for you at a camp you weren't attending. I find myself more and more dissatisfied with debating that operates only on the link claim level. I tend to take a formal, academic approach to the evaluation of ideas, so discussions of source, author intentions and 'true' meaning, and citation are both important to me and something that I hope to see in more debates.
The best debates for me to judge are ones where the last few rebuttals focus on giving me instructions on what the core controversies of the round are, how to evaluate them, and what mode of thinking I should apply to the flow as a history of the round. This means that I'm not going to do things unless you tell me to do them on the flow (judge kick, theory 'traps' etc.). When instructions are not provided or articulated, I will tend to use (what I consider to be) basic, causal logic (i.e. judicial notice) to find connections, contradictions, and gaps/absences. Sometimes this happens on my face--you should be paying attention to the physical impact of the content of your speech act.
I believe in the importance of topicality and theory. No affs are topical until proven otherwise.
Non-impacted theory arguments don't go a long way for me; establish a warranted theory argument that when dropped will make me auto-vote for you. This is not an invitation for arbitrary and non-educational theory arguments being read in front of me, but if you are going to read no neg fiat (for example), then you better understand (and be able to explain to me) the history of the argument and why it is important for the debate and the community.
Reading evidence only happens if you do not make the debate legible and winnable at the level of argument (which is the only reason I would have to defer to evidentiary details).
I find framework to be a boring/unhelpful/poorly debated style of argument on both sides. I want to hear about the ballot-- what is it, what is its role, and what are your warrants for it (especially why your warrants matter!). I want to know what kind of individual you think the judge is (academic, analyst, intellectual etc.). I want to hear about the debate community and the round's relationship within it. These are the most salient questions in a framework debate for me. If you are conducting a performance in the round and/or debate space, you need to have specific, solvable, and demonstrable actions, results, and evidences of success. These are the questions we have to be thinking about in substantial and concrete terms if we are really thinking about them with any authenticity/honesty/care (sorge). I do not think the act of reading FW is necessarily constitutive of a violent act. You can try to convince me of this, but I do start from the position that FW is an argument about what the affirmative should do in the 1AC.
If you are going to go for Fairness, then you need a metric. Not just a caselist, not just a hypothetical ground dispensation, but a functional method to measure the idea of fairness in the round/outside the round i.e. why are the internal components (ground, caselist, etc.) a good representation of a team's burden and what do these components do for individuals/why does that matter. I am not sure what that metric/method is, but my job is not to create it for you. A framework debate that talks about competing theories for how fairness/education should be structured and analyzed will make me very happy i.e. engaging the warrants that constitute ideas of procedural/structural fairness and critical education. Subject formation has really come into vogue as a key element for teams and honestly rare is the debate where people engage the questions meaningfully--keep that in mind if you go for subject formation args in front of me.
In-round Performance and Speaker Points:
An easy way to get better speaker points in front of me is by showing me that you actually understand how the debate is going, the arguments involved, and the path to victory. Every debater has their own style of doing this (humor, time allocation, etc.), but I will not compromise detailed, content-based analysis for the ballot.
I believe that there is a case for in-round violence/damage winning the ballot. Folks need to be considerate of their behavior and language. You should be doing this all of the time anyways.
While I believe that high school students should not be held to a standard of intellectual purity with critical literature, I do expect you to know the body of scholarship that your K revolves around: For example, if you are reading a capitalism K, you should know who Marx, Engels, and Gramsci are; if you are reading a feminism k, you should know what school of feminism (second wave, psychoanalytic, WOC, etc.) your author belongs to. If you try and make things up about the historical aspects/philosophical links of your K, I will reflect my unhappiness in your speaker points and probably not give you much leeway on your link/alt analysis. I will often have a more in-depth discussion with you about the K after the round, so please understand that my post-round comments are designed to be educational and informative, instead of determining your quality/capability as a debater.
I am 100% DONE with teams not showing up on time to disclose. A handful of minutes or so late is different than showing up 3-5 min before the round begins. Punish these folks with disclosure theory and my ears will be open.
CX ends when the timer rings. I will put my fingers in my ears if you do not understand this. I deeply dislike the trend of debaters asking questions about 'did you read X card etc.' in cross-x and I believe this contributes to the decline of flowing skills in debate. While I have not established a metric for how many speaker points an individual will lose each time they say that phrase, know that it is something on my mind. I will not allow questions outside of cross-x outside of core procedural things ('can you give the order again?,' 'everyone ready?' etc.). Asking 'did you read X card' or 'theoretical reasons to reject the team' outside of CX are NOT 'core procedural things.'
Do not read these types of arguments in front of me:
Arguments that directly call an individual's humanity into account
Arguments based in directly insulting your opponents
Arguments that you do not understand
Been involved with the game in some way since 2008, do as you wish and I shall evaluate it in the way that I feel requires the least interference from myself.
Put me on the chain please: firstname.lastname@example.org, for the most part I do not look at the documents other than some cursory glances during prep time if a card intrigues me. I still may ask for specific cards at the end of the debate so I do not need to sort through each document, I appreciate it in advance.
I believe that debate is a communication activity with an emphasis on persuasion. If you are not clear or have not extended all components of an argument (claim/warrant/implication) it will not factor into my decision.
I flow on paper, it is how I was taught and I think it helps me retain more information and be more present in debates. Given that I would appreciate yall slowing down and giving me pen time on counterplan texts and theory arguments (as well as permutations).
The most important thing in debates for me is to establish a framework for how (and why) I should evaluate impacts. I am often left with two distinct impacts/scenarios at the end of the debate without any instruction on how to assess their validity vis-à-vis one another or which one to prioritize. The team that sets this up early in the debate and filtering the rebuttals through it often gets my ballot. I believe that this is not just true of “clash” debates but is (if not even more) an important component of debates where terminal impacts are the same but their scenarios are not (ie two different pathways to nuclear war/extinction).
While I think that debate is best when the affirmative is interacting with the resolution in some way I have no sentiment about how this interaction need to happen nor a dogmatic stance that 1AC’s have a relation to the resolution. I have voted for procedural fairness and have also voted for the impact turns. Despite finding myself voting more and more for procedural fairness I am much more persuaded by fairness as an internal link rather than terminal impact. Affirmative’s often beat around the bush and have trouble deciding if they want to go for the impact turn or the middle ground, I think picking a strategy and going for it will serve you best. A lot of 2NRs squander very good block arguments by not spending enough time (or any) at the terminal impact level, please don’t be those people. I also feel as if most negative teams spend much time reading definitions in the 1NC and do not utilize them later in the debate even absent aff counter definitions which seems like wasted 1NC time. While it does not impact how I evaluate the flow I do reward teams with better speaker points when they have unique and substantive framework takes beyond the prewritten impact turn or clash good blocks that have proliferated the game (this is also something you should be doing to counter the blocktastic nature of modern framework debates).
It would behove many teams and debaters to extend their evidence by author name in the 2NR/2AR. I tend to not read a large amount of evidence and think the trend of sending out half the 1AC/1NC in the card document is robbing teams of a fair decision, so narrowing in and extending the truly relevant pieces of evidence by author name increases both my willingness to read those cards and my confidence that you have a solid piece of evidence for a claim rather than me being asked to piece together an argument from a multitude of different cards.
Prep time ends when the email has been sent (if for some reason you still use flash drives then when the drive leaves the computer). In the past few years so much time is being spent saving documents, gathering flows, setting up a stand etc. that it has become egregious and ultimately feel limits both decision time and my ability to deliver criticism after the round. Limited prep is a huge part of what makes the activity both enjoyable and competitive. I said in my old philosophy that policing this is difficult and I would not go out of my way to do it, however I will now take the extra time beyond roadmaps/speech time into account when I determine speaker points.
I find myself frustrated in debates where the final rebuttals are only about theory. I do not judge many of these debates and the ones I have feel like there is an inevitable modicum of judge intervention. While I have voted for conditonality bad several times, personally my thought on condo is "don't care get better."
Plan-text writing has become a lost art and should invite negative advocacy attrition and/or substantive topicality debates.
Feel free to email or ask any questions before or after the debate. Above all else enjoy the game you get to play and have fun.
Competitor-- Winston Churchill (2008-2012)
Past: Jenks (2012-2015) Reagan (2015-2017) Winston Churchill (2018-2023)
Currently: Texas (2017-present)
I debated at Blue Valley North and at the University of Kentucky.
For online debate, please turn your cameras on.
I would prefer if you went slightly slower than what you usually debate.
Topicality: I view topicality as a strategic argument on the same level as any other off-case position, I think it is incredibly valuable to debate. I don't think limits are the only impact but it is probably the best one. Instead of listing a lot of cases that exist under interpretations, I would prefer a smaller amount with a little explanation for each one. If reasonability is a big push, explain what you want me to understand when you say reasonability because I won't automatically understand how you are using it.
Disads: I will care a lot about smart turns case arguments especially ones that have cards.
Counterplans: I won't judge kick unless you say something. This isn't a statement about how I believe conditionality interacts with judge kick or whatever, but more of if it's something you wanted me to do you should have the strategic thought to say it. I don't have any negative thoughts towards any types of counter-plans, but I would not say I am a strong judge for debates that would center around counterplan competition.
FW: I think fairness is an impact. However, I think that the magnitude of that impact depends on your explanation of how you get there and what fairness itself means. I know that just describes doing impact calculus, but I always thought that doing impact calculus in framework debates was the most interesting kind of impact calculus because it has the most real-world implication. You are having a debate about debate so I think clearly framing impact calculus in a way that shows you have thought about how and why debate would get worse without just reading a super old script. For AFF teams, I haven't judged a lot of the debates to know my preferred aff strategy. I think it would be helpful to know I think debate is a game, I will only evaluate what's happening in the debate in front of me, and that being topical in some sense is important. I used to read a lot of racial capitalism books in high school.
Kritiks: I think that everyone gets their arguments in these debates. I do not enjoy it when people make framework arguments with no clear purpose and strategy and it is very easy to tell when you are just reading it just because you have a block. I like relevant historical examples and descriptions of impacts as supposed to generic descriptions. I research and read arguments about capitalism and biopolitics. I debated, judged, and coached about arguments centering around most other things.
Other general stuff:
I don't have a lot of particularly strong thoughts about debate so I will not automatically assume a lot of things that other judges might for you. That should hopefully give you a lot of creative autonomy in how you want to debate if you really guide me through how you want me to judge your arguments.
I think cross-ex is one of the most important parts of the debate and will pay attention to it and factor it into my points.
Evidence quality is really important and should be the main focus of final rebuttals and cross-ex. Even if people don't talk about evidence, I will read it and will inevitable have perceptions about them so reading good cards is important.
When reinserting ev if you just highlight the parts you want me to look at and paraphrase what you are trying to say that should be fine. You don't have to reread a tiny line to say what you already said.
Presumption/zero risk of something based on it literally making no sense or garbage evidence is something I will vote on.
I don't think conditionality is the only plausible to reason to reject the team.
If an argument is particularly stupid -- you should just ignore it.
Debated for UWG ’15 – ’17; Coaching: Notre Dame – ’19 – Present; Baylor – ’17 – ’19
"Can I get a marked doc?" / "Can you list the cards you didn't read?" when one card was marked or just because some cards were skipped on case. Flow or take CX time for it.
I prefer K v K rounds, but I generally wind up in FW rounds.
K aff’s – 1) Generally have a high threshold for 1ar/2ar consistency. 2) Stop trying to solve stuff you could reasonably never affect. Often, teams want the entirety of X structure’s violence weighed yet resolve only a minimal portion of that violence. 3) v K’s, you are rarely always already a criticism of that same thing. Your articulation of the perm/link defense needs to demonstrate true interaction between literature bases. 4) Stop running from stuff. If you didn’t read the line/word in question, okay. But indicts of the author should be answered with more than “not our Baudrillard.”
K’s – 1) rarely win without substantial case debate. 2) ROJ arguments are generally underutilized. 3) I’m generally persuaded by aff answers that demonstrate certain people shouldn’t read certain lit bases, if warranted by that literature. 4) I have a higher threshold for generic “debate is bad, vote neg.” If debate is bad, how do you change those aspects of debate? 5) 2nr needs to make consistent choices re: FW + Link/Alt combinations. Find myself voting aff frequently, because the 2nr goes for two different strats/too much.
Special Note for Settler Colonialism: I simultaneously love these rounds and experience a lot of frustration when judging this argument. Often, debaters haven’t actually read the full text from which they are cutting cards and lack most of the historical knowledge to responsibly go for this argument. List of annoyances: there are 6 settler moves to innocence – you should know the differences/specifics rather than just reading pages 1-3 of Decol not a Metaphor; la paperson’s A Third University is Possible does not say “State reform good”; Reading “give back land” as an alt and then not defending against the impact turn is just lazy. Additionally, claiming “we don’t have to specify how this happens,” is only a viable answer for Indigenous debaters (the literature makes this fairly clear); Making a land acknowledgement in the first 5 seconds of the speech and then never mentioning it again is essentially worthless; Ethic of Incommensurability is not an alt, it’s an ideological frame for future alternative work (fight me JKS).
General: 1) Fairness is either an impact or an internal link 2) the TVA doesn’t have to solve the entirety of the aff. 3) Your Interp + our aff is just bad.
Aff v FW: 1) can win with just impact turns, though the threshold is higher than when winning a CI with viable NB’s. 2) More persuaded by defenses of education/advocacy skills/movement building. 3) Less random DA’s that are basically the same, and more internal links to fully developed DA’s. Most of the time your DA’s to the TVA are the same offense you’ve already read elsewhere.
Reading FW: 1) Respect teams that demonstrate why state engagement is better in terms of movement building. 2) “If we can’t test the aff, presume it’s false” – no 3) Have to answer case at some point (more than the 10 seconds after the timer has already gone off) 4) You almost never have time to fully develop the sabotage tva (UGA RS deserves more respect than that). 5) Impact turns to the CI are generally underutilized. You’ll almost always win the internal link to limits, so spending all your time here is a waste. 6) Should defend the TVA in 1nc cx if asked. You don’t have a right to hide it until the block.
Theory - 1) I generally lean neg on questions of Conditionality/Random CP theory. 2) No one ever explains why dispo solves their interp. 3) Won’t judge kick unless instructed to.
T – 1) I’m not your best judge. 2) Seems like no matter how much debating is done over CI v Reasonability, I still have to evaluate most of the offense based on CI’s.
DA/CP – 1) Prefer smart indicts of evidence as opposed to walls of cards (especially on ptx/agenda da's). Neg teams get away with murder re: "dropped ev" that says very little/creatively highlighted. 2) I'm probably more lenient with aff responses (solvency deficits/aff solves impact/intrinsic perm) to Process Cp's/Internal NB's that don't have solvency ev/any relation to aff.
Case - I miss in depth case debates. Re-highlightings don't have to be read. The worse your re-highlighting the lower the threshold for aff to ignore it.
All of my thoughts on policy apply, except for theory. More than 2 condo (or CP’s with different plank combinations) is probably abusive, but I can be convinced otherwise on a technical level.
Not voting on an RVI. I don’t care if it’s dropped.
Most LD theory is terrible Ex: Have to spec a ROB or I don’t know what I can read in the 1nc --- dumb argument.
Phil or Tricks (sp?) debating – I’m not your judge.
Yes, I want to be on the email chain, please put both emails on the chain.
I attempted to resist the point inflation that seems to happen everywhere these days, but I decided that was not fair to the teams/debaters that performed impressively in front of me.
27.7 to 28.2 - Average
28.3 to 28.6 - Good job
28.7 to 29.2 - Well above average
29.3 to 29.7 - Great job/ impressive job
29.8 to 29.9 - Outstanding performance, better than I have seen in a long time. Zero mistakes and you excelled in every facet of the debate.
30 - I have not given a 30 in years and years, true perfection.
I am willing to listen to most arguments. There are very few debates where one team wins all of the arguments so each of you must identify what you are winning and make the necessary comparisons between your arguments and the other team's arguments/positions. Speed is not a problem although clarity is essential. If I think that you are unclear I will say clearer and if you don't clear up I will assign speaker points accordingly. Try to be nice to each other and enjoy yourself. Good cross-examinations are enjoyable and typically illuminates particular arguments that are relevant throughout the debate. Please, don't steal prep time. I do not consider e-mailing evidence as part of your prep time nonetheless use e-mailing time efficiently.
I enjoy substantive debates as well as debates of a critical tint. If you run a critical affirmative you should still be able to demonstrate that you are Topical/predictable. I hold Topicality debates to a high standard so please be aware that you need to isolate well-developed reasons as to why you should win the debate (ground, education, predictability, fairness, etc.). If you are engaged in a substantive debate, then well-developed impact comparisons are essential (things like magnitude, time frame, probability, etc.). Also, identifying solvency deficits on counter-plans is typically very important.
Theory debates need to be well developed including numerous reasons a particular argument/position is illegitimate. I have judged many debates where the 2NR or 2AR are filled with new reasons an argument is illegitimate. I will do my best to protect teams from new arguments, however, you can further insulate yourself from this risk by identifying the arguments extended/dropped in the 1AR or Negative Bloc.
GOOD LUCK! HAVE FUN!
LD June 13, 2022
A few clarifications... As long as you are clear you can debate at any pace you choose. Any style is fine, although if you are both advancing different approaches then it is incumbent upon each of you to compare and contrast the two approaches and demonstrate why I should prioritize/default to your approach. If you only read cards without some explanation and application, do not expect me to read your evidence and apply the arguments in the evidence for you. Be nice to each other. I pay attention during cx. I will not say clearer so that I don't influence or bother the other judge. If you are unclear, you can look at me and you will be able to see that there is an issue. I might not have my pen in my hand or look annoyed. I keep a comprehensive flow and my flow will play a key role in my decision. With that being said, being the fastest in the round in no way means that you will win my ballot. Concise well explained arguments will surely impact the way I resolve who wins, an argument advanced in one place on the flow can surely apply to other arguments, however the debater should at least reference where those arguments are relevant. CONGRATULATIONS & GOOD LUCK!!!
LD Paradigm from May 1, 2022
I will update this more by May 22, 2022
I am not going to dictate the way in which you debate. I hope this will serve as a guide for the type of arguments and presentation related issues that I tend to hear and vote on. I competed in LD in the early 1990's and was somewhat successful. From 1995 until present I have primarily coached policy debate and judged CX rounds, but please don't assume that I prefer policy based arguments or prefer/accept CX presentation styles. I expect to hear clearly every single word you say during speeches. This does not mean that you have to go slow but it does mean incomprehensibility is unacceptable. If you are unclear I will reduce your speaker points accordingly. Going faster is fine, but remember this is LD Debate.
Despite coaching and judging policy debate the majority of time every year I still judge 50+ LD rounds and 30+ extemp. rounds. I have judged 35+ LD rounds on the 2022 spring UIL LD Topic so I am very familiar with the arguments and positions related to the topic.
I am very comfortable judging and evaluating value/criteria focused debates. I have also judged many LD rounds that are more focused on evidence and impacts in the round including arguments such as DA's/CP's/K's. I am not here to dictate how you choose to debate, but it is very important that each of you compare and contrast the arguments you are advancing and the related arguments that your opponent is advancing. It is important that each of you respond to your opponents arguments as well as extend your own positions. If someone drops an argument it does not mean you have won debate. If an argument is dropped then you still need to extend the conceded argument and elucidate why that argument/position means you should win the round. In most debates both sides will be ahead on different arguments and it is your responsibility to explain why the arguments you are ahead on come first/turns/disproves/outweighs the argument(s) your opponent is ahead on or extending. Please be nice to each other. Flowing is very important so that you ensure you understand your opponents arguments and organizationally see where and in what order arguments occur or are presented. Flowing will ensure that you don't drop arguments or forget where you have made your own arguments. I do for the most part evaluate arguments from the perspective that tech comes before truth (dropped arguments are true arguments), however in LD that is not always true. It is possible that your arguments might outweigh or come before the dropped argument or that you can articulate why arguments on other parts of the flow answer the conceded argument. I pay attention to cross-examinations so please take them seriously. CONGRATULATIONS for making it to state!!! Each of you should be proud of yourselves! Please, be nice in debates and treat everyone with respect just as I promise to be nice to each of you and do my absolute best to be predictable and fair in my decision making. GOOD LUCK!
Email chain: email@example.com
- Currently based in Taiwan and coaching debate for the ADL. That means I am staying up all night when I judge at US tournaments. Please pref accordingly
- Debated in college at the University of Kansas, 2017-2022 (Healthcare, Executive Authority, Space, Alliances, Antitrust). I majored in math and minored in Russian if that matters.
- Debated in high school at Shawnee Mission Northwest, 2013-2017 (Latin America, Oceans, Surveillance, China).
- If I can tell that you are not even trying to flow (eg you never take out a piece of paper the entire debate, you stand up to give your 2NC with just your laptop and no paper) your speaks are capped at 27.
- Please don't call me "judge." It's tacky. My name is Lily. Note that this does not apply to saying "the role of the judge."
- Cross-x isn't "closed," nobody ever "closed" it... BUT each debater should be a primary participant in 2 cross-xes if your goal is to avoid speaker point penalties.
- I would prefer to not judge death/suffering/extinction good arguments or arguments about something that happened outside the debate.
- I might give you a 30 if I think you're the best debater at the tournament.
- High schoolers are too young to swear in debates. It makes me feel awkward.
- Don't just say words for no reason - not in cross-x and certainly not in speeches.
- If you are asking questions like "was x card read?" a timer should be running. Flowing is part of getting good speaker points.
- The word "nuclear" is not pronounced "nuke-yoo-ler." If you say this it makes you sound like George Bush.
- Shady disclosure practices are a scourge on the activity.
- I judge a lot of clash debates. I'm more likely to vote aff on impact turns than most policy judges, but I do see a lot of value in the preservation of competition. Procedural fairness can be an impact but it takes a lot of work to explain it as such. Sometimes a clash impact is a cleaner kill.
- TVAs don't have to solve the whole aff. I like TVAs with solvency advocates. I think it's beneficial when the 2NC lays out some examples of neg strategies that could be read against the TVA, and why those strategies produce educational debates.
Topicality vs policy affs:
- Speaker point boost if your 2NC has a grammar argument (conditional on the argument making sense of course).
- If you're aff and going for reasonability, "race to the bottom" < debatability.
- Case lists are good.
- The presence of other negative positions is not defense to a ground argument. The aff being disclosed is not defense to a limits argument. This also goes for T-USFG.
- When people refer to counterplans by saying the letters "CP" out loud it makes me wish I were dead.
- As a human I think counterplans that advocate immediate, indefinite, non-plan action by the USFG are legit, but as a judge I'm chaotic neutral on all theory questions.
- Conditionality: I'll give you a speaker point boost if you can tell me how many 2NRs are possible given the number of counterplan planks in the 1NC.
- Read them
- Politics DAs are fun. Make arguments about polling methodology.
- I feel like I have a higher threshold for Ks on the neg than some. I'm not a hack and I will vote for your K if you do the better debating, but I also think arguments that rely on the ballot having some inherent meaning are
- I dislike lazy link debating immensely, primarily because it makes my life harder. Affs hoping to capitalize on this REALLY ought to include a perm/link defense in the 2AR.
- Explain how the alt solves the links and why the perm doesn't.
- Affs should explain why mooting the 1AC means that the neg's framework is anti-educational. Negs should explain why the links justify mooting the aff.
- Case outweighs 2ARs can be very persuasive. The neg can beat this with discrete impacts to specific links+impact framing+framework.
- Speaker point penalty if the 1AR drops fiat is illusory - at the very least your framework extension needs an education impact.
- If there is no net benefit to a counterplan, presumption flips aff automatically.
- I do not think permutations are cheating.
- An argument is a claim and a warrant. If you say something that does not contain a warrant, I will not necessarily vote on it even if it's dropped. In the interest of preventing judge intervention, please say things that have warrants.
- Most neg theory arguments I've watched would go away instantly if affs said "counter interpretation: we have to be topical."
- RVIs are not persuasive to me. Being topical is never an independent reason to vote affirmative. The fact that a counterplan is conditional is never offense for the negative.
Updated for Economic Inequality Topic
E-Mail Chain: Yes, add me (firstname.lastname@example.org) & email@example.com. I do not distribute docs to third party requests unless a team has failed to update their wiki.
Experience: Damien 05, Amherst College 09, Emory Law 13L. This will be my seventh year as the Assistant Director at Damien, and my second year as Director at St. Lucy's Priory. I consider myself fluent in debate, but my debate preferences (both ideology and mechanics) are influenced by debating in the 00s.
This Year's Topic: I generally believe that the point of the resolution is to force debaters to learn about a different topic each year. So I think that debaters who develop good topic knowledge -- i.e., debaters who understand economics as a complex field of academic study and can analyze how different policies would affect the economy at different levels -- will have a massive advantage on internal link debating.
Debate: I am open to voting for almost any argument or style so long as I have an idea of how it functions within the round and it is appropriately impacted. Debate is a game. Rules of the game (the length of speeches, the order of the speeches, which side the teams are on, clipping, etc.) are set by the tournament and left to me (and other judges) to enforce. Comparatively, standards of the game (condo, competition, limits of fiat) are determined in round by the debaters. Framework is a debate about whether the resolution should be a rule and/or what that rule looks like. Persuading me to favor your view/interpretation of debate is accomplished by convincing me that it is the method that promotes better debate, either more fair or more pedagogically valuable, compared to your opponent's. My ballot always is awarded to whoever debated better; I will not adjudicate a round based on any issues external to the round, whether that was at camp or a previous round.
I run a planess aff; should I strike you?: I have a ideological predisposition to the neg, but I try to leave bias at the door. I do end up voting aff about half the time. I will hold a planless aff to the same standard as a K alt; I absolutely must have an idea of what the aff (and my ballot) does and how/why that solves for an impact. If you do not explain this to me, I will "hack" out on presumption. Performances (music, poetry, narratives) are non-factors unless you contextualize and justify why they are solvency mechanisms for the aff in the debate space.
Evidence and Argumentative Weight: Tech over truth, but it is easier to debate well when using true arguments and better cards. In-speech analysis goes a long way with me; I am much more likely to side with a team that develops and compares warrants vs. a team that extends by tagline/author only. I will read cards as necessary, including explicit prompting, however I read critically. For me, cards are only as good as their highlighted warrants so you are better off with fewer well-highlighted cards than multiple under-highlighted cards. Well-explained logical analytics, especially if developed in CX, can beat bad/under-highlighted cards.
Debate Ideologies: I think that judges should reward good debating over ideology, so almost all of my personal preferences can be overcome if you debate better than your opponents. You can limit the chance that I intervene by 1) providing clear judge instruction and 2) justifications for those judge instructions; the 2NR and 2AR are competing pitches trying to sell me a ballot.
Accommodations: Please email me ahead of time if you believe you will need an accommodation that cannot be facilitated in round so that I can work with tab on your issue. Any accommodation that has any potential competitive implications (limiting content or speed, etc.) should be requested either with me CC'd or in my presence so that tournament ombuds mediation can be requested if necessary.
Argument by argument breakdown below.
Debating T well is a question of engaging in responsive impact debate. You win my ballot when you are the team that proves their interpretation is best for debate -- usually by proving that you have the best internal links (ground, predictability, legal precision, research burden, etc.) to a terminal impact (fairness and/or education). I love judging a good T round and I will reward teams with the ballot and with good speaker points for well thought-out interpretations (or counter-interps) with nuanced defenses. I would much rather hear a well-articulated 2NR on why I need to enforce a limited vision of the topic than a K with state/omission links or a Frankenstein process CP that results in the aff.
I default to competing interpretations, but reasonability can be compelling to me if properly contextualized. I am more receptive when affs can articulate why their specific counter-interp is reasonable (e.g., "The aff interp only imposes a reasonable additional research burden of two more cases") versus vague generalities ("Good is good enough").
I believe that many resolutions (especially domestic topics) are sufficiently aff-biased or poorly worded that preserving topicality as a viable generic negative strategy is important. I have no problem voting for the neg if I believe that they have done the better debating, even if I think that the aff is/should be topical in a truth sense. I am also a judge who will actually vote on T-Substantial (substantial as in size, not subsets) because I think there should be a mechanism to check small affs.
Fx/Xtra Topicality: I will vote on them independently if they are impacted as independent voters. However, I believe they are internal links to the original violation and standards (i.e. you don't meet if you only meet effectually). The neg is best off introducing Fx/Xtra early with me in the back; I give the 1ARs more leeway to answer new Fx/Xtra extrapolations than I will give the 2AC for undercovering Fx/Xtra.
Framework / T-USFG
For an aff to win framework they must articulate and defend specific reasons why they cannot and do not embed their advocacy into a topical policy as well as reasons why resolutional debate is a bad model. Procedural fairness starts as an impact by default and the aff must prove why it should not be. I can and will vote on education outweighs fairness, or that substantive fairness outweighs procedural fairness, but the aff must win these arguments. The TVA is an education argument and not a fairness argument; affs are not entitled to the best version of the case (policy affs do not get extra-topical solvency mechanisms), so I don't care if the TVA is worse than the planless version from a competitive standpoint.
For the neg, you have the burden of proving either that fairness outweighs the aff's education or that policy-centric debate has better access to education (or a better type of education). I am neutral regarding which impact to go for -- I firmly believe the negative is on the truth side on both -- it will be your execution of these arguments that decides the round. Contextualization and specificity are your friends. If you go with fairness, you should not only articulate specific ground loss in the round, but why neg ground loss under the aff's model is inevitable and uniquely worse. When going for education, deploy arguments for why plan-based debate is a better internal link to positive real world change: debate provides valuable portable skills, debate is training for advocacy outside of debate, etc. Empirical examples of how reform ameliorates harm for the most vulnerable, or how policy-focused debate scales up better than planless debate, are extremely persuasive in front of me.
I think that debate's largest educational impact is training students in real world advocacy, therefore I believe that the best iteration of debate is one that teaches people in the room something about the topic, including minutiae about process. I have MUCH less aversion to voting on procedurals and theory than most judges. I think the aff has a burden as advocates to defend a specific and coherent implementation strategy of their case and the negative is entitled to test that implementation strategy. I will absolutely pull the trigger on vagueness, plan flaws, or spec arguments as long as there is a coherent story about why the aff is bad for debate and a good answer to why cross doesn't check. Conversely, I will hold negatives to equally high standards to defend why their counterplans make sense and why they should be considered competitive with the aff.
That said, you should treat theory like topicality; there is a bare amount of time and development necessary to make it a viable choice in your last speech. Outside of cold concessions, you are probably not going to persuade me to vote for you unless you have done actual line-by-line refutation and you have formed a coherent abuse story that is solved by your interpretation.
Also, if you go for theory... SLOW. DOWN. You have to account for pen/keyboard time; you cannot spread a block of analytics at me like they were a card and expect me to catch everything. I will be very unapologetic in saying I didn't catch parts of the theory debate on my flow because you were spreading too fast.
My defaults that CAN be changed by better debating:
- Condo is good (but should have limitations, esp. to check perf cons and skew).
- PICs, Actor, and Process CPs are all legitimate if they prove competition; a specific solvency advocate proves competitiveness but the lack of specific solvency evidence indicates high risk of a solvency deficit and/or no competition.
- The aff gets normal means or whatever they specify; they are not entitled to all theoretical implementations of the plan (i.e. perm do the CP) just because they do not specify.
- The neg is not entitled to intrinsic processes that result in the aff (i.e. ConCon, NGA, League of Democracies).
- Consult CPs and Floating PIKs are bad.
My defaults that are UNLIKELY to change or CANNOT be changed:
- CX is binding.
- Lit checks/justifies (debate is primarily a research and strategic activity).
- OSPEC is never a voter (except fiating something contradictory to ev or a contradiction between different authors).
- "Cheating" is reciprocal (utopian alts justify utopian perms, intrinsic CPs justify intrinsic perms, and so forth).
- Real instances of abuse justify rejecting the team and not just the arg.
- Teams should disclose previously run arguments; breaking new doesn't require disclosure.
- Real world impacts exist (i.e. setting precedents/norms), but specific instances of behavior outside the room/round that are not verifiable are not relevant in this round.
- Condo does not automatically allow severance of the discourse/rhetoric attached to the offcase. You can win severance of your reps, but it is not a default entitlement from condo. There is a difference between testing the aff from multiple perspectives, and severing your reps.
- ASPEC is checked by cross. The neg should ask and if the aff answers and doesn't spike, I will not vote on ASPEC. If the aff does not answer, the neg can win by proving abusive ground loss via moving target or spikes.
TL;DR: I would much rather hear a good K than a bad politics disad, so if you have a coherent and contextualized argument for why critical academic scholarship is relevant to the aff, I am fine for you. If you run Ks to avoid doing specific case research and brute force ballots with links of omission or reusing generic criticisms about the state/fiat, I am a bad judge for you. If I'm in the back for a planless aff vs. a K, reconsider your prefs/strategy.
A kritik must be presented as a comprehensible argument in round. To me, that means that a K must not only explain the scholarship and its relevance (links and impacts), but it must function as a coherent call for the ballot (through the alt). A link alone is insufficient without a reason to reject the aff and/or prefer the alt. I do not have any biases or predispositions about what my ballot does or should do, but if you cannot explain your alt and/or how my ballot interacts with the alt then I will have an extremely low threshold for treating the K as a non-unique disad. Alts like "Reject the aff" and "Vote neg" are fine so long as there is a coherent explanation for why I should do that beyond the mere fact the aff links (for example, if the K turns case). If the alt solves back for the implications of the K, whether it is a material alt or a debate space alt, the solvency process should be explained and contrasted with the plan/perm. Links of omission are very uncompelling. Links are not disads to the perm unless you have a (re-)contextualization to why the link implicates perm solvency. Ks can solve the aff, but the mechanism shouldn't be that the world of the alt results in the plan (i.e. floating PIK).
Affs should not be afraid of going for straight impact turns behind a robust framework press to evaluate the aff. I'm more willing than most judges to weigh the impacts vs. labeling your discourse as a link. Being extremely good at historical analysis is the best way to win a link turn or impact turn. I am also particularly receptive to arguments about pragmatism on the perm, especially if you have empirical examples of progress through state reform that relates directly to the impacts.
I think that research is a core part of debate as an activity, and good counterplan strategy goes hand-in-hand with that. The risk of your net benefit is evaluated inversely proportional to the quality of the counterplan is. Generic PICs are more vulnerable to perms and solvency deficits and carry much higher threshold burden on the net benefit. PICs with specific solvency advocates or highly specific net benefits are devastating and one of the ways that debate rewards research and how debate equalizes aff side bias by rewarding negs who who diligent in research. Agent and process counterplans are similarly better when the neg has a nuanced argument for why one agent/process is better than the aff's for a specific plan.
- Process CPs: I am extremely unfriendly to process counterplans where the process is entirely intrinsic; I have a very low threshold for rejecting them theoretically or granting the aff an intrinsic perm to test opportunity cost. I am extremely friendly to process counterplans that test a distinct implementation method compared to the aff. Intentionally vague plan texts do not give the aff access to all theoretical implementations of the plan (Perm Do the CP). The neg can define normal means for the aff if the aff refuses to, but the neg has an equally high burden to defend the competitiveness of the CP process vs. normal means. There are differences in form and content between legislative statutes, administrative regulations, executive orders, and court cases; I will vote aff on CP flaws if the neg's attempt to hot-swap between these processes produces a structural defect.
I do not judge kick by default, but 2NRs can easily convince me to do so as an extension of condo. Superior solvency for the aff case alone is sufficient reason to vote for the CP in a debate that is purely between hypothetical policies (i.e. the aff has no competition arguments in the 2AR).
I am very likely to err neg on sufficiency framing; the aff absolutely needs either a solvency deficit or arguments about why an appeal to sufficiency framing itself means that the neg cannot capture the ethic of the affirmative (and why that outweighs).
I value defense more than most judges and am willing to assign minimal ("virtually zero") risk based on defense, especially when quality difference in evidence is high or the disad scenario is painfully artificial. Nuclear war probably outweighs the soft left impact in a vacuum, but not when you are relying on "infinite impact times small risk is still infinity" to mathematically brute force past near zero risk. I can be convinced by good analysis that there is always a risk of a DA in spite of defense.
Speaker Point Scale: I feel speaker points are arbitrary and the only way to fix this is standardization. Consequently I will try to follow any provided tournament scale very closely. In the event that there is no tournament scale, I grade speaks on bell curve with 30 being the 99th percentile, 27.5 being as the median 50th percentile, and 25 being the 1st percentile. I'm aggressive at BOTH addition and subtraction from this baseline since bell curves are distributed around the average. Elim teams should be scoring above average by definition. The scale is standardized; national circuit tournaments will have higher averages than local tournaments. Points are rewarded for both style (entertaining, organized, strong ethos) and substance (strategic decisions, quality analysis, obvious mastery of nuance/details). I listen closely to CX and include CX performance in my assessment. Well contextualized humor is the quickest way to get higher speaks in front of me, e.g. make a Thanos snap joke on the Malthus flow.
Delivery and Organization: Your speed should be limited by clarity. I reference the speech doc during the debate to check clipping, not to flow. You should be clear enough that I can flow without needing your speech doc. Additionally, even if I can hear and understand you, I am not going to flow your twenty point theory block perfectly if you spit it out in ten seconds. Proper sign-posted line by line is the bare minimum to get over a 28.5 in speaks. I will only flow straight down as a last resort, so it is important to sign-post the line-by-line, otherwise I will lose some of your arguments while I jump around on my flow and I will dock your speaks. If online please keep in mind that you will, by default, be less clear through Zoom than in person.
Cross-X, Prep, and Tech: Tag-team CX is fine but it's part of your speaker point rating to give and answer most of your own cross. I think that finishing the answer to a final question during prep is fine and simple clarification and non-substantive questions during prep is fine, but prep should not be used as an eight minute time bank of extra cross-ex. I don't charge prep for tech time, but tech is limited to just the emailing or flashing of docs. When you end prep, you should be ready to distribute.
Strategy Points: I will reward good practices in research and preparation. On the aff, plan texts that have specific mandates backed by solvency authors get bonus speaks. I will also reward affs for running disads to negative advocacies (real disads, not solvency deficits masquerading as disads -- Hollow Hope or Court Capital on a courts counterplan is a disad but CP gets circumvented is not). Negative teams with case negs (i.e. hyper-specific counterplans or a nuanced T or procedural objection to the specific aff plan text) will get bonus speaks.
Debate for me first and foremost is an educational tool for the epistemological, social, and political growth of students. With that said, I believe to quote someone very close to me I believe that it is "educational malpractice" for adults and students connected to this activity to not read.
T/ and framework are the same thing for me I will listen AND CAN BE PERSUADED TO VOTE FOR IT I believe that affirmative teams should be at the very least tangentially connected to the topic and should be able to rigorously show that connection.
Also, very very important! Affirmatives have to do something to change the squo in the world in debate etc. If by the end of the debate the affirmative cannot demonstrate what it does and what the offense of the aff is T/Framework becomes even more persuasive. Framework with a TVA that actually gets to the impacts of the aff and leverages reasons why state actions can better resolve the issues highlighted in the affirmative is very winnable in front of me.
DA'S- Have a clear uniqueness story and flesh out the impact clearly
CP's- Must be clearly competitive with the aff and must have a clear solvency story, for the aff the permutation is your friend but you must be able to isolate a net-benefit
K- I am familiar with most of the k literature
CP'S, AND K'S- I am willing to listen and vote on all of these arguments feel free to run any of them do what you are good at
In the spirit of Shannon Sharpe on the sports show "Undisputed" and in the spirit of Director of Debate at both Stanford and Edgemont Brian Manuel theory of the TKO I want to say there are a few ways with me that can ensure that you get a hot dub (win), or a hot l (a loss).
First let me explain how to get a Hot L:
So first of all saying anything blatantly racist things ex. (none of these are exaggerations and have occurred in real life) "black people should go to jail, black death/racism has no impact, etc" anything like this will get you a HOT L
THE SAME IS TRUE FOR QUESTIONS RELATED TO GENDER, LGBTQ ISSUES ETC. ALSO WHITE PEOPLE AND WHITENESS IS NOT THE SAME THING
Next way to get a HOT L is if your argumentation dies early in the debate like during the cx following your first speech ex. I judged an LD debate this year where following the 1nc the cx from the affirmative went as follows " AFF: you have read just two off NEG: YES AFF: OK onto your Disad your own evidence seems to indicate multiple other polices that should have triggered your impact so your disad seems to then have zero uniqueness do you agree with this assessment? Neg: yes Aff: OK onto your cp ALL of the procedures that the cp would put into place are happening in the squo so your cp is the squo NEG RESPONDS: YES In a case like this or something similar this would seem to be a HOT L I have isolated an extreme case in order to illustrate what I mean
Last way to the HOT L is if you have no knowledge of a key concept to your argument let me give a few examples
I judged a debate where a team read an aff about food stamps and you have no idea what an EBT card this can equal a HOT L, in a debate about the intersection between Islamaphobia and Anti-Blackness not knowing who Louis Farrakhan is, etc etc
I believe this gives a good clear idea of who I am as judge happy debating
This is my twenty sixth year as an active member of the policy debate community. After debating in both high school and college I immediately jumped into coaching high school policy debate. I have been an argument coach, full time debate instructor, program director, and argument coach again for Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, FL for the past seventeen years.
I become more convinced every year that the switch side nature of policy debate represents one of the most valuable tools to inoculate young people against dogmatism. I also believe the skills developed in policy debate – formulating positions using in depth research that privileges consensus, expertise, and data and the testing of those positions via multiple iterations—enhance students’ ability to think critically.
I am particularly fond of policy debate as the competitive aspect incentivizes students to keep abreast of current events and use that information to formulate opinions regarding how various levels of government should respond to societal needs.
Equipping students with the skills to meaningfully engage political institutions has been incredibly valuable for me. Many of my debate students have been Latina/Latinx. Witnessing them develop an expert ability to navigate institutions, that were by design obfuscated to ensure their exclusion, continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I am constantly grateful for that privilege.Delivery and speaker points
I am deeply concerned by the ongoing trend toward clash avoidance. This practice makes debate seem more trivial each year and continues to denigrate our efforts in the eyes of the academics we depend on for funding and support.
Affirmatives continue to lean into vague plan writing and vague explanations of what they will defend. This makes for late breaking and poorly developed debates. I understand why students engage in these practices (the competitive incentive I lauded above) I wish instructors and coaches understood how much more meaningful their contributions would be if they empowered students to embrace clash over gimmicks.
I will be less persuaded by your delivery if you choose to engage in clash avoidance. Actions such as deleting analytics, refusal to specify plans, cps, and K alts, allowing your wiki to atrophy, and proliferating stale competition style and Intrinsicness arguments will result in my awarding fewer speaker points.
Remember your friends’ hot takes and even your young coaches/lab leaders’ hot takes are just that – they are likely not the debates most of your critics want to adjudicate.
If you are not flowing during the debate, it will be difficult to persuade me that you were the most skilled debater in the room.
Be “on deck.” By that I mean be warmed up and ready for your turn at bat. Have your table tote set up, the email thread ready, you pens/paper/timer out, your laptop charged, go to the restroom before the round, fill up your water bottle, etc. I don’t say all this to sound like a mean teacher – in fact I think it would be incredibly ableist to really harp on these things or refuse to let students use the facilities mid-round – but being ready helps the round proceed on time and keeps you in the zone which helps your ability to project a confident winning persona. It also demonstrates a consideration for me, your opponents, your coaches and teammates and the tournament staffs’ time.
Be kind and generous to everyone.Argument predispositions
You can likely deduce most of this from the discussion of clash avoidance and why I value debate above.
I would prefer to see a debate wherein the affirmative defends the USFG should increase security cooperation with the NATO over AI, Biotech, and/or cybersecurity.
I would like to see the negative rejoin with hypothetical disadvantages to enacting the plan as well as introducing competing proposals for resolving the harms outlined by the affirmative.
One of the more depressing impacts to enrolling in graduate school has been the constant reminder that in truth impact d is >>> than impact ev. A few years ago, I was increasingly frustrated by teams only extending a DA and impact defense vs. the case – I thought this was responsible for a trend of fewer and fewer affirmatives with intrinsic advantages. I made a big push for spending at least 50% of the time on each case flow vs the internal link of the advantage. My opinion on this point is changing. Getting good at impact defense is tremendously valuable – you are likely examining peer reviewed highly qualified publications and their debunking of well…less than qualified publications.
I find Climate to be one of the most strategic and persuasive impacts in debate (life really). That said, most mechanisms to resolve climate presented in debates are woefully inadequate.
I am not averse to any genre of argument. Every genre has highs and lows. For example, not all kritiks are generic or have cheating alternatives, not all process counterplans are unrelated to the topic, and not all politics disadvantages are missing fundamental components but sometimes they are and you should work to avoid those deficiencies.Like minds
The folks with whom I see debate similarly:
Dr. Brett Bricker
Pronounced phonetically as DEB-nil. Not pronounced "judge", "Mister Sur", or "deb-NEIL".
Policy Coach at Lowell High School, San Francisco
Email: lowelldebatedocs [at] gmail.com for email chains. If you have my personal email, don't put it on the email chain. Sensible subject please.
Lay Debate: If we are in a primarily lay setting (really just at GGSA or CHSSA), I'll evaluate the debate as a lay judge unless both teams ask for a fast debate. Some degree of technical evaluation is inevitable, but please don't spread. In a split setting, please adapt to the most lay judge in your speed and explanation. I won't penalize you for making debate accessible.
Resolving Debates: Above all, tech substantially outweighs truth. The below are preferences, not rules, and will easily be overturned by good debating. But, since nobody's a blank slate, treat the below as heuristics I use in thinking about debate. Incorporating some can explain my decision and help render one in your favor.
I believe debate is a strategy game, in which debaters must communicate research to persuade judges. I'll almost certainly endorse better judge instruction over higher quality yet under-explained evidence. I flow on my laptop, but I only look at the speech doc when online. I will only read a card in deciding if that card was contested by both teams or I was told explicitly to and the evidence was actually explained in debate.
I take an above-average time to decide debates. My decision time has little relationship with the debate's closeness, and more with the time of day and my sleep deprivation. I usually start 5-10 minutes after the 2AR, so I can stretch my legs and let the debate marinate in my head. Debaters work hard, and I reciprocate that effort in making decisions. My decisions themselves are quite short. Most debates come down to 2-4 arguments, and I will identify those and explain my resolution. You're welcome to post-round. It can't change my decision, but I want to learn and improve as a judge and thinker too.
General Background: I work full-time in tech as a software engineer. In my spare time, I have coached policy debate at Lowell in San Francisco since 2018. I am involved in strategy and research and have coached both policy and K debaters to the TOC. I am, quite literally, a "framer", as a member of the national topic wording committee. Before that, I read policy arguments as a 2N at Bellarmine and did youth debate outreach (e.g., SVUDL) as a student at Stanford.
I've judged many excellent debates. Ideologically, I would say I'm 60/40 policy-leaning. I think my voting records don't reflect this, because K debaters tend to see the bigger picture in clash rounds.
Topic Background: I judge and coach regularly and am fully aware of national circuit trends. I'm less in the weeds as many other coaches. I don't cut as many cards as I did in the pandemic years, and I don't work at debate camp.
If you're reading the web3 UBI affirmative, I implemented one of the first CBDC pilots back in 2018/19. If you know what you're talking about, I'm the best possible judge. But if you don't, I'll be much more easily persuaded by the negative, especially on the case debate.
Voting Splits: As of the end of the water topic, I have judged 304 rounds of VCX at invitationals over 9 years. 75 of these were during college; 74 during immigration and arms sales at West Coast invitationals; and 155 on CJR and water, predominantly at octafinals bid tournaments.
Below are my voting splits across the (synthetic) policy-K divide, where the left team represents the affirmative, as best as I could classify debates. Paradigm text can be inaccurate self-psychoanalysis, so I hope the data helps.
I became an aff hack on water. Far too often, the 2AR was the first speech doing comparative analysis instead of reading blocks. I hope this changes as we return to in-person debate.
Policy v. Policy - 18-13: 58% aff over 31 rounds
Policy v. K - 20-18: 56% aff over 38 rounds
K v. Policy - 13-8: 62% aff over 21 rounds
K v. K - 1-1, 50% aff over 2 rounds
Policy v. Policy - 67-56: 55% for the aff over 123 rounds
Policy v. K - 47-52: 47% for the aff over 99 rounds
K v. Policy - 36-34: 51% for the aff over 70 rounds
K v. K - 4-4: 50% for the aff over 8 rounds
1. I'd prefer your camera on, but won't make a fuss.
2. Please check verbally and/or visually with all judges and debaters before starting your speech.
3. If my camera's off, I'm away, unless I told you otherwise.
Speaker Points: I flow on my computer, but I do not use the speech doc. I want every word said, even in card text and especially in your 2NC topicality blocks, to be clear. I will shout clear twice in a speech. After that, it's your problem.
Note that this assessment is done per-tournament: for calibration, I think a 29.3-29.4 at a finals bid is roughly equivalent to a 28.8-28.9 at an octos bid.
29.5+ — the top speaker at the tournament.
29.3-29.4 — one of the five or ten best speakers at the tournament.
29.1-29.2 — one of the twenty best speakers at the tournament.
28.9-29 — a 75th percentile speaker at the tournament; with a winning record, would barely clear on points.
28.7-28.8 — a 50th percentile speaker at the tournament; with a winning record, would not clear on points.
28.3-28.6 — a 25th percentile speaker at the tournament.
28-28.2 — a 10th percentile speaker at the tournament.
K Affs and Framework:
1. I have coached all sides of this debate.
2. I will vote for the team whose impact comparison most clearly answers the debate's central question. This typically comes down to the affirmative making negative engagement more difficult versus the neg forcing problematic affirmative positions. You are best served developing 1-2 pieces of offense well, playing defense to the other team's, and telling a condensed story in the final rebuttals.
3. Anything can be an impact---do what you do best. My teams typically read a limits/fairness impact and a procedural clash impact. From Dhruv Sudesh: "I don't have a preference for hearing a skills or fairness argument, but I think the latter requires you to win a higher level of defense to aff arguments."
4. Each team should discuss what a year of debate looks like under their models in concrete terms. Arguments like "TVA", "switch-side debate", and "some neg ground exists" are just subsets of this discussion. It is easy to be hyperbolic and discuss the plethora of random affirmatives, but realistic examples are especially persuasive and important. What would your favorite policy demon (MBA, GBN, etc.) do without an agential constraint? How does critiquing specific policy reforms in a debate improve critical education? Why does negative policy ground not center the affirmative's substantive conversation?
5. As the negative, recognize if this is an impact turn debate or one of competing models early on (as in, during the 2AC). When the negative sees where the 2AR will go and adjusts accordingly, I have found that I am very good for the negative. But when they fail to understand the debate's strategic direction, I almost always vote affirmative. This especially happens when impact turning topicality---negatives do not seem to catch on yet.
6. I quite enjoy leveraging normative positions from 1AC cards for substantive disadvantages or impact turns. This requires careful link explanation by the negative but can be incredibly strategic. Critical affirmatives claim to access broad impacts based on shaky normative claims and the broad endorsement of a worldview, rather than a causal method; they should incur the strategic cost.
7. I am a better judge for presumption and case defense than most. It is often unclear to me how affirmatives solve their impacts or access their impact turns on topicality. The negative should leverage this more.
8. I occasionally judge K v K debates. I do not have especially developed opinions on these debates. Debate math often relies on causality, opportunity cost, and similar concepts rooted in policymaking analysis. These do not translate well to K v K debates, and the team that does the clearest link explanation and impact calculus typically wins. While the notion of "opportunity cost" to a method is still mostly nonsensical to me, I can be convinced either way on permutations' legitimacy.
1. I do not often coach K teams but have familiarity with basically all critical arguments.
2. Framework almost always decides this debate. While I have voted for many middle-ground frameworks, they make very little strategic sense to me. The affirmative saying that I should "weigh the links against the plan" provides no instruction regarding the central question: how does the judge actually compare the educational implications of the 1AC's representations to the consequences of plan implementation? As a result, I am much better for "hard-line" frameworks that exclude the case or the kritik.
3. I will decide the framework debate in favor of one side's interpretation. I will not resolve some arbitrary middle road that neither side presented.
4. If the kritik is causal to the plan, a well-executing affirmative should almost always win my ballot. The permutation double-bind, uniqueness presses on the link and impact, and a solvency deficit to the alternative will be more than sufficient for the affirmative. The neg will have to win significant turns case arguments, an external impact, and amazing case debating if framework is lost. At this point, you are better served going for a proper counterplan and disadvantage.
5. I will not evaluate non-falsifiable statements about events outside the current debate. Such an evaluation of minors grossly misuses the ballot. Strike me if this is a core part of your strategy.
1. This is about the plan text, not other parts of the 1AC. If you think the plan text is contrived to be topical, beat them on the PIC out of the topic and your topic DA of choice.
2. This is a question of which team's vision of the topic maximizes its benefits for debaters. I compare each team's interpretation of the topic through an offense/defense lens.
3. Reasonability is about the affirmative interpretation, not the affirmative case itself. In its most persuasive form, this means that the substance crowdout caused by topicality debates plus the affirmative's offense on topicality outweighs the offense claimed by the negative. This is an especially useful frame in debates that discuss topic education, precision, and similar arguments.
4. Any standards are fine. I used to be a precision stickler. This changed after attending topic meetings and realizing how arbitrarily wording is chosen.
5. From Anirudh Prabhu: "T is a negative burden which means it is the neg’s job to prove that a violation exists. In a T debate where the 2AR extends we meet, every RFD should start by stating clearly what word or phrase in the resolution the aff violated and why. If you don’t give me the language to do that in your 2NR, I will vote aff on we meet." Topicality 101---the violation is a negative burden. If there's some uncertainty, I almost certainly vote aff with a decent "we meet" explanation.
1. As with other arguments, I will resolve this fully technically. Unlike many judges, my argumentative preferences will not implicate how I vote. I will gladly vote on a dropped theory argument---if it was clearly extended as a reason to reject the team---with no regrets.
2. I'm generally in favor of limitless conditionality. But because I adjudicate these debates fully technically, I think I vote affirmative on "conditionality bad" more than most.
3. From Rafael Pierry: "most theoretical objections to CPs are better expressed through competition. ... Against these and similar interpretations, I find neg appeals to arbitrariness difficult to overcome." For me, this is especially true with counterplans that compete on certainty or immediacy. While I do not love the delay counterplan, I think it is much more easily beaten through competition arguments than theoretical ones.
4. If a counterplan has specific literature to the affirmative plan, I will be extremely receptive to its theoretical legitimacy and want to grant competition. But of course, the counterplan text must be written strategically, and the negative must still win competition.
1. I'm better for strategies that depend on process and competition than most. These represent one of my favorite aspects of debate---they combine theory and substance in fun and creative ways---and I've found that researching and strategizing against them generates huge educational benefits for debaters, certainly on par with more conventionally popular political process arguments like politics and case.
2. I have no disposition between "textual and functional competition" and "only functional competition". Textual alone is pretty bad. Positional competition is similarly tough, unless the affirmative grants it. Think about how a model of competition justifies certain permutations---drawing these connections intelligently helps resolve the theoretical portion of permutations.
3. Similarly, I am agnostic regarding limited intrinsicness, either functional or textual. While it helps check against the truly artificial CPs, it justifies bad practices that hurt the negative. It's certainly a debate that you should take on. That said, if everyone is just spreading blocks, I usually end up negative on the ink. Block to 2NR is easier to trace than 1AR to 2AR.
4. People need to think about deficits to counterplans. If you can't impact deficits to said counterplans, write better advantages. The negative almost definitely does not have evidence contextualizing their solvency mechanism to your internal links---explain why that matters!
5. Presumption goes to less change---debate what this means in round. Absent this instruction, if there is an advocacy in the 2NR and I do not judge kick it when deciding, I'm probably not voting on presumption.
6. Decide in-round if I should kick the CP. I'll likely kick it if left to my own devices. The affirmative should be better than the status quo. (To be honest, this has never mattered in a debate I've judged, and it amuses me that judge kick is such a common paradigm section.)
1. There is not always a risk. A small enough signal is overwhelmed by noise, and we cannot determine its sign or magnitude.
2. I do not think you need evidence to make an argument. Many bad advantages can be reduced to noise through smart analytics. Doing so will improve your speaker points. Better evidence will require your own.
3. Shorten overviews, and make sure turns case arguments actually implicate the aff's internal links.
4. Will vote on any and all theoretical arguments---intrinsicness, politics theory, etc. Again, arguments are arguments, debate them out.
1. Cheating means you will get the lowest possible points.
2. You need a recording to prove the other team is clipping. If I am judging and think you are clipping, I will record it and check the recording before I stop the debate. Any other method deprives you of proof.
3. If you mark a card, say where you’re marking it, actually mark it, and offer a marked copy before CX in constructives or the other's team prep time in a rebuttal. You do not need to remove cards you did not read in the marked copy, unless you skipped a truly ridiculous amount. This practice is inane and justifies debaters doc-flowing.
4. Emailing isn’t prep. If you take too long, I'll tell you I'm starting your prep again.
5. If there is a different alleged ethics violation, I will ask the team alleging the violation if they want to stop the debate. If so, I will ask the accused team to provide written defense; check the tournament's citation rules; and decide. I will then decide the debate based on that violation and the tournament policy---I will not restart the debate---this makes cite-checking a no-risk option as a negative strategy, which seems really bad.
IMPORTANT: I will only vote on an ethics violation about previously-read evidence (missing an author, missing a year, paragraph missing but no distortion, etc) if the team alleging the violation has evidence that they contacted the other team and told them about the issue. Clearly, you had the time to look up the article. As a community, we should assume good faith in citation, and let the other team know. And people should not be punished for cards they did not cut. But if they still are reading faulty evidence, even after being told, that's certainly academic malpractice.
Note that if the ethics violation is made as an argument during the debate and advanced in multiple speeches as a theoretical argument, you cannot just decide it is a separate ethics violation later in the debate. I will NOT vote on it, I will be very annoyed with you, and you will probably lose and get 27s if you are resorting to these tactics.
6. The closer a re-highlighting comes to being a new argument, the more likely you should be reading it instead of inserting. If you are point out blatant mis-highlighting in a card, typically in a defensive fashion on case, then insertion is fine. I will readily scratch excessive insertion with clear instruction.
1. I'll only evaluate highlighted warrants in evidence.
2. Dropped arguments should be flagged clearly. If you say that clearly answered arguments were dropped, you're hurting your own persuasion.
3. Please send cards in a Word doc. Body is fine if it's just 1-3 cards. I don't care if you send analytics, though it can help online.
4. Unless the final rebuttals are strictly theoretical, the negative should compile a card doc post 2NR and have it sent soon after the 2AR. The affirmative should start compiling their document promptly after the 2AR. Card docs should only include evidence referenced in the final rebuttals (and the 1NC shell, for the negative)---certainly NOT the entire 1AC.
5. As a judge, I can stop the debate at any point. The above should make it clear that I am very much an argumentative nihilist---in hundreds of debates, I have not come close to stopping one. So if I do, you really messed up, and you probably know it.
6. I am open to a Technical Knockout. This means that the debate is unwinnable for one team. If you think this is the case, say "TKO" (probably after your opponents' speech, not yours) and explain why it is unwinnable. If I agree, I will give you 30s and a W. If I disagree and think they can still win the debate, you'll get 25s and an L. Examples include: dropped T argument, dropped conditionality, double turn on the only relevant pieces of offense, dropped CP + DA without any theoretical out.
Be mindful of context: calling this against sophomores in presets looks worse than against an older team in a later prelim. But sometimes, debates are just slaughters, nobody is learning anything, and there will be nothing to judge. I am open to giving you some time back, and to adding a carrot to spice up debate.
7. Not about deciding debates, but a general offer to debate folk reading this. As someone who works in tech, I think it is a really enjoyable career path and quite similar to policy debate in many ways. If you would like to learn more about tech careers, please feel free to email me. As a high school student, it was very hard to learn about careers not done by my parents or their friends (part of why I'm in tech now!). I am happy to pass on what knowledge I have.
8. RIP Brian McBride. An icon of West Coast debate. In addition to all of his argumentative innovation, he created some truly beautiful music -- check out Stars of the Lid for a calming and introspective break from the craziness of this activity.
Above all, be kind to each other, and have fun!
1. Offense-defense, but can be persuaded by reasonability in theory debates. I don't believe in "zero risk" or "terminal defense" and don't vote on presumption.
2. Substantive questions are resolved probabilistically--only theoretical questions (e.g. is the perm severance, does the aff meet the interp) are resolved "yes/no," and will be done so with some unease, forced upon me by the logic of debate.
3. Dropped arguments are "true," but this just means the warrants for them are true. Their implication can still be contested. The exception to this is when an argument and its implication are explicitly conceded by the other team for strategic reasons (like when kicking out of a disad). Then both are "true."
1. Conditionality bad is an uphill battle. I think it's good, and will be more convinced by the negative's arguments. I also don't think the number of advocacies really matters. Unless it was completely dropped, the winning 2AR on condo in front of me is one that explains why the way the negative's arguments were run together limited the ability of the aff to have offense on any sheet of paper.
2. I think of myself as aff-leaning in a lot of counterplan theory debates, but usually find myself giving the neg the counterplan anyway, generally because the aff fails to make the true arguments of why it was bad.
1. I don't think I evaluate these differently than anyone else, really. Perhaps the one exception is that I don't believe that the affirmative needs to "win" uniqueness for a link turn to be offense. If uniqueness really shielded a link turn that much, it would also overwhelm the link. In general, I probably give more weight to the link and less weight to uniqueness.
2. On politics, I will probably ignore "intrinsicness" or "fiat solves the link" arguments, unless badly mishandled (like dropped through two speeches). Note: this doesn't apply to riders or horsetrading or other disads that assume voting aff means voting for something beyond the aff plan. Then it's winnable.
1. I like kritiks, provided two things are true: 1--there is a link. 2--the thesis of the K indicts the truth of the aff. If the K relies on framework to make the aff irrelevant, I start to like it a lot less (role of the ballot = roll of the eyes). I'm similarly annoyed by aff framework arguments against the K. The K itself answers any argument for why policymaking is all that matters (provided there's a link). I feel negative teams should explain why the affirmative advantages rest upon the assumptions they critique, and that the aff should defend those assumptions.
2. I think I'm less technical than some judges in evaluating K debates. Something another judge might care about, like dropping "fiat is illusory," probably matters less to me (fiat is illusory specifically matters 0%). I also won't be as technical in evaluating theory on the perm as I would be in a counterplan debate (e.g. perm do both isn't severance just because the alt said "rejection" somewhere--the perm still includes the aff). The perm debate for me is really just the link turn debate. Generally, unless the aff impact turns the K, the link debate is everything.
3. If it's a critique of "fiat" and not the aff, read something else. If it's not clear from #1, I'm looking at the link first. Please--link work not framework. K debating is case debating.
1. I'm *slightly* better for the aff now that aff teams are generally impact-turning the neg's model of debate. I almost always voted neg when they instead went for talking about their aff is important and thought their counter-interp somehow solved anything. Of course, there's now only like 3-4 schools that take me and don't read a plan. So I'm spared the debates where it's done particularly poorly.
2. A lot of things can be impacts to T, but fairness is probably best.
3. It would be nice if people read K affs with plans more, but I guess there's always LD. Honestly debating politics and util isn't that hard--bad disads are easier to criticize than fairness and truth.
Versus the K:
1. If it's a team's generic K against K teams, the aff is in pretty great shape here unless they forget to perm. I've yet to see a K aff that wasn't also a critique of cap, etc. If it's an on-point critique of the aff, then that's a beautiful thing only made beautiful because it's so rare. If the neg concedes everything the aff says and argues their methodology is better and no perms, they can probably predict how that's going to go. If the aff doesn't get a perm, there's no reason the neg would have to have a link.
Topicality versus plan affs:
1. I used to enjoy these debates. It seems like I'm voting on T less often than I used to, but I also feel like I'm seeing T debated well less often. I enjoy it when the 2NC takes T and it's well-developed and it feels like a solid option out of the block. What I enjoy less is when it isn't but the 2NR goes for it as a hail mary and the whole debate occurs in the last two speeches.
2. Teams overestimate the importance of "reasonability." Winning reasonability shifts the burden to the negative--it doesn't mean that any risk of defense on means the T sheet of paper is thrown away. It generally only changes who wins in a debate where the aff's counter-interp solves for most of the neg offense but doesn't have good offense against the neg's interp. The reasonability debate does seem slightly more important on CJR given that the neg's interp often doesn't solve for much. But the aff is still better off developing offense in the 1AR.
1. I've been judging LD less, but I still have LD students, so my familarity with the topic will be greater than what is reflected in my judging history.
2. Everything in the policy section applies. This includes the part about substantive arguments being resolved probablistically, my dislike of relying on framework to preclude arguments, and not voting on defense or presumption. If this radically affects your ability to read the arguments you like to read, you know what to do.
3. If I haven't judged you or your debaters in a while, I think I vote on theory less often than I did say three years ago (and I might have already been on that side of the spectrum by LD standards, but I'm not sure). I've still never voted on an RVI so that hasn't changed.
4. The 1AR can skip the part of the speech where they "extend offense" and just start with the actual 1AR.