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Author Topic: 2012-2013 Topic Process, Dates & Summer Meeting Information  (Read 9127 times)
stables
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« on: April 08, 2012, 10:45:27 PM »

I have included the updated guidelines and dates for the development of the 2012-13 topic.

The CEDA summer meetings are being hosted the University of Kentucky. The CEDA business meeting is on Friday, June 1st and the topic meetings take place from Saturday (June 2) through Monday morning (June 4). Our hosts have reserved a block at the Crowne Plaza-Campbell House at $79 per night, including parking and internet. You can make reservations by calling the hotel directly at (859) 255-4281.  Ask for the UK Debate group rate.  The group rate is good until Tuesday, May 1 at 5pm EST.  You can cancel up to 24 hours in advance without penalty. The hotel has a complementary shuttle from the Lexington airport. Everyone is welcome to attend the meetings

Please let me know if there are any questions. I also encourage individuals working on specific proposals to post that information on this thread.

Suggested Guidelines for Controversial Area Papers
By Gordon Stables
(Originally released June 2006, Modified March 2010, April 2012)

Introduction to Topic Paper Writing

Writing a topic paper can appear daunting, but is manageable if approached in several steps. The first part of the process takes place when someone decides that there is an issue that might make a valuable intercollegiate debate topic. The topic selection committee commissions a number of areas each year that might be valuable options, but these are designed to only ensure that some options exist. Each topic selection is improved by the addition of areas identified by the community.

In the last few years the writing process has been divided into two distinct papers: a controversy paper at the conclusion of the competition season and wording papers written after the first community ballot.  This process has helped lower the entry barrier for community development of papers and has reduced the burden on any single author. At the same time, the topic selection committee has also worked to produce wording options consistent with the topic area selected by community vote.

As much as these trends have improved the topic writing process, we are occasionally left with the problem of an area paper that is very conceptually broad, perhaps too broad to produce a range of expectations surrounding the upcoming topic. This may, in part, be due to the very nature of writing an ‘area’ paper. The general procedure has encouraged writing on a subject, such as a nation (like China) or a branch of government (the Supreme Court). In the interests of helping develop a process that is both accessible and predictable, beginning with the 2007-2008 process the chair of the topic selection committee would like to ask that the concept of ‘area’ papers be slightly adjusted toward individual controversies or controversial areas.

Each year the specific dates are adjusted to reflect the end of the competition season and the dates of the summer topic meetings. The 2012 schedule is:

•   Controversy Papers must be submitted by Monday, April 23rd, 2012.

•   The topic selection committee will review these papers and submit a ballot to the community. The ballot will be open for a minimum of 14 days. Our current target is a release of the ballot on Saturday April 28th and an a voting period that extends through Saturday, May 12th.

•   A community vote will determine the winning controversy paper. Any member of the community is then invited to submit wording papers. All wording papers must be submitted by Monday, May 28th, 2012.

•   The topic meetings run from Saturday June 2nd through Monday (morning) June 4th and are open to the public. We will also make efforts to provide regular information to the community not joining us in Lexington.

•   The wording ballot will be released after the meetings and be open for a minimum of 14 days. As per the CEDA Constitution, the winning wording will be announced on the 3rd Friday in July (Friday July 20th).

Why select controversies?

There is a tremendous amount of information discussion about the ‘best’ topics. It may be impossible to develop a consensus on such criteria, but it is not uncommon for some of the discussion about better topics to describe their coherence and the presence of a rich body of literature. It may be understood that some of the ‘better’ topics possess a vibrant dispute among interested parties. These ‘controversies’ may be understood as the specific theme of a topic. Anyone who has explained the topic to someone from outside the debate community may also recognize these themes as those brief summaries of the debate topic.

Asking for a central controversy in each ‘area’ paper can allow the community to vote on each area with a greater confidence. The last two topics, which featured extensive work by individual authors, provide some clear examples. Instead of listing the ‘China’ topic on the area ballot, we might have instead listed the controversy of trying to produce economic policy changes by the Chinese government. Alternately, the ‘court’ topic could have been listed as ‘reverse major Supreme Court cases.’ In both cases the precision of the specific wording is not a necessity. The next stage of the process will be tasked with that specific responsibility. The primary challenge for each author of a controversial area paper is to identify that policy concern.

This also keeps our process consistent with the mandate of the CEDA constitution (Article 2), which describes the goals of debate including to “promote the value of argumentative discourse as a means of producing reasoned, measured, cooperative solutions to contemporary problems of social and political significance.”

The Elements of a Controversial Area Paper

A fully developed paper should include:

Mainstream options for policy change - The central task of these papers is to identify the most mainstream or central proposals for change within a given controversial area. This is often understood as identifying the few "middle of the road" affirmatives with evidence and cites for solvency advocates. These are the central issues at work in the larger controversy. The identification and citation of important authors can help guide the development of the topic wording and allow a common subject of community debate. The paper may also identify the central literature based arguments available to the negative, i.e., what are the major argumentative assets for opponents of change? For both sides, authors should consider traditional policy and critical literature that is relevant to this controversy. Solid work in this element is essential to ensuring that later wording options reflect the central argumentative controversies.

Unique educational opportunities - There are obviously argumentative strategies for both sides common to most topics, these papers should be primarily concerned with the unique opportunities provided by this controversy. The job of the topic selection process is not to produce a single type of arguments, but rather to help provide the playing field for arguments developed by each squad and team. These considerations may include the last time such areas were debated and how earlier topics overlapped (if at all) with these areas.

Papers should also consider the potential public benefits of potential topics. Does your controversy provide a way to access significant public policy debates? Are there ways that your paper could involve local communities? Remember that the winning controversy will govern how 100 universities and almost 3000 students research for an entire season. You may identify specific events that will help draw attention to this topic (such as debating the Arab Spring topic during the democratic revolutions or the Nuclear Posture Review during the 2009-10 season) that help to explain why this controversy is specifically valuable to debate during this specific season.

Potential directions for wording papers - These controversial area papers are not required to include specific wording recommendations, although authors may include these as suggestions. It is very important that authors provide suggestions for approaching the next phase of the process. The greatest value that authors can provide is preliminary analysis of the specific elements of this controversy.  Is there a debate about the best level of governmental response? Is there a general direction that new policies should follow? Are there certain agencies or interested parties that define the terms in specific and meaningful ways?

Keep in mind that the controversy paper is a starting point for the next phase of committee work. You may suggest a range of approaches or even a specific strategy for how to divide your proposal into 3-4 working groups to advance your work into a series of wording options. Author should not feel compelled to only provide one approach or one mechanism in their proposal. The best controversy paper identifies the general task that the committee and community will explore, not one that defines only a singular wording.

Recommendation of the author – It is of tremendous importance that each author treats their task as part of a due diligence on behalf of the larger community. It is important that interested parties work on these papers, but each author should also consider that there may be specific historical moments where some topics are better or worse suited for the intercollegiate community. This concern was voiced in the fall of 2001, when there was tremendous interest in selecting a topic that dealt with terrorism for 2002-2003. At that time, however, it was felt that the necessary literature might be ‘too ripe,’ that is not sufficiently explored in scholarly detail, to allow for the best possible topic. This concern was also raised in this last topic cycle, when some argued that there should be additional time to let the congressional debate on immigration policy settle before it was considered. An author of a paper develops additional insight into a controversy and the community would benefit from this moment of evaluation. Accordingly, we would ask that authors provide their recommendation of the topic’s inclusion on the upcoming ballot. Options for this recommendation include: strongly support, support with reservations, no opinion, oppose with reservation, strongly oppose.

Research Resources – We encourage authors to identify and share important research resources. Authors should specifically consider identifying and building bundles of RSS feeds that could be used by the entire community. In our new media environment, it is very important to identify important research materials that will allow the topic to develop over the course of the season.

Final Thoughts

Writing topic papers at any stage is a process fraught with a tremendous amount of hard work and little thanks. The nature of the process ensures that every topic but one will be rejected each year. That seemingly cold fact should not dissuade potential authors. It is the process of identifying, comparing and ultimately voting for a specific area that helps to keep this process valuable. I mention this only to encourage people to work on these papers, but not to invest so much of themselves that it is difficult to handle the selection of another paper. For this process to work at its best, we need a number of committed community members to write these papers each year. They need not be longer than 10-15 pages if they follow these guidelines. Even if they are not selected, each author can share in the comfort that they are providing a valuable service to the community and that each controversial area may be considered in following years.

Thanks and please let me know if you have questions or suggestions.

Gordon Stables - Chair, CEDA Topic Selection Committee
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
stables
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« Reply #1 on: April 18, 2012, 12:27:07 PM »

Just a reminder that controversy papers need to be submitted by next Monday, 4/23. If you have ideas and are looking for feedback, feel free to post on the forum or email me directly stables at usc.edu
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
stables
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2012, 09:17:26 PM »

Just a quick update on the topic process -

The topic committee will begin reviewing the papers with the goal of determining which controversies will be placed on a ballot.  Remember one paper can suggest multiple controversies for the ballot. We are also not obligated to place one controversy from each paper on the ballot, but we approach a completed paper as presumptively included. The constitutional language for our charge is limited: present at least three topics to the CEDA Executive Secretary (Jeff Jarman) to be placed on a ballot open for at least 14 days.

What this means in practice is that we should be reviewing each paper to determine if there is a controversy (or controversies) from each paper that should be placed on the ballot. We have an important responsibility to make sure that we feel each controversy is sufficiently prepared to allow us to move forward if it is selected by the community. The controversy guidelines state that a completed paper will be presumptively considered for placement  of a controversy on the ballot. We are very careful when making the decision to exclude a controversy from the ballot. If the community follows our guidelines and prepares a workable controversy option, it should be something the community should vote on.

I have targeted the release of the ballot for this upcoming weekend. The earlier we can submit the ballot, however, the more time we will have to complete wording work. We welcome community feedback, so please post your reactions to any of the papers on their individuals threads.

Thanks again. It is remarkable to have so much community participation already in the process. Having 10 papers to review is a wonderful index of community involvement. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Gordon
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
Hester
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« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2012, 09:26:06 AM »

i have a math question (yes, yes, i know, you were told there weren't going to be any math questions).

Does the voting system we use for selecting a topic area (and later a resolution) lend itself to creating certain kinds of ballots?

i'll use an example to explain the scenario i'm talking about. under a voting system where only your 1st choice "counts," having a Tax Code Reform topic area AND a Targeted Tax Increases area on the ballot would run the risk of "splitting" the votes of those constituencies that really want to debate taxes. But as i understand it, the system we use avoids that problem because every ranking on your ballot "counts" - i.e., the pro-tax folks could rank these two choices as 1-2 and ensure that their chances to debate at least one of the tax topics are maximized because once their first choice is eliminated, their 2nd choice becomes their default (until it were to also be eliminated).

so that's the math-y part of my question - isn't this the benefit of using the system that we use? it solves for the problem of vote-splitting (except where the 'first ballot' counting results in one area/resolution receiving 50%+1 of the vote).

if my understanding is correct, then the larger question is this: if the system we currently employ (where rankings of ALL choices means even if your first choice isn't going to be the one, your vote still affects the outcome) solves for the problem of certain choices "trading off" with each other, then why is it necessary to limit the number of choices on the ballot? what problems are created by including every area for which a topic proposal paper has been turned in? i'm not saying there aren't any, just curious since it seems like our method of voting addresses the primary difficulty of "too many choices."
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ScottElliott
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« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2012, 09:50:06 AM »

Not being critical, just trying to offer a solution. Perhaps, in the case of taxation, there can be just one slot on the ballot for 'Taxes." Then the Topic Committee can offer versions of those subtopics as resolutions to be voted on.

Scott
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andreareed
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« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2012, 10:16:13 AM »

Just a reminder that the group rate for the hotel for the topic meeting expires in a week (May 1).  If the block is full, let me know and I'll have them add more rooms.
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jamesherndon3
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« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2012, 10:19:18 AM »

Agree with Hester, why are the options being limited before we vote on them?  Is it possible that they don't have to be, or is it some sort of amendment with which I'm unfamiliar?
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stables
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« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2012, 10:24:08 AM »

Mike - Nice summary of the way our voting system works.  You did a great job explaining it and this does create a nice foundaton for why vote splitting isn't a primary concern.

Two reasons for why the committee doesn't just write the ballot today.

First, the relationship between a paper and a controversy. We have not yet seen it, but our procedures allow one paper to submit multiple controversies. We have to assess which best belong on the ballot. We also sometimes have to work with the authors to make sure their single controversy is clearly expressed on the ballot.

Second, and far more importantly, there is a safety valve built in to prevent fundamentally flawed or incomplete proposals from appearing on the ballot. The committee has always had the singular authority to write this ballot and, at times, didnt even to have papers for each submission. Today we are not looking for our personal favorites, just to make sure each meets the minimum standards in the guidelines.

For older folks you can recall a couple of great students submitting an incomplete China paper about a decade ago. The idea was great, so was a lot of their work, but the fundamental project wasn't finished. We didn't have these guidelines in place at that time, but if we did I would have argued that the committee exclude it. Last year, in a very rare move, we excuded the Failed States paper. This was very tough. The authors did a ton of great work and were very creative in their approach. I posted a long public explanation of the rationale for this action.

In both of these cases there is the hard reality that the committee has a very narrow window to work after the controversy ballot is voted on. If we place an incomplete or structurally weak paper on the ballot we may not have the time to get everything resolved in time. We stumbled onto the wording for the China topic late and ddidn't provide all of the vetting we needed. Great people can do good work, but if it isn't ready to be effectively converted into wordings in just a few weeks we need to leave it off that ballot. This is far from our judgment that a certain topic can't be debated - far from it - just that we need the kind of work that should be done for the next topic cycle.

In all fairness, if the committee abused this safety valve I would be one of the loudest complaing voices. Authors do a lot of great work and Mike is right, there is no ceiling on the number of proposals. I feel the current system, which includes almost all submitted controversies, is validiating community participation.

Scott - The committee will make this decision, but we are very much considering each tax papers as seperate at this point. Each set of authors seemed to have distinct ideas and, as Mike explained better than I can, there is not a concern about vote splitting.

Thanks. Keep the questions coming!

Gordon
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
Adam Symonds
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« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2012, 10:57:14 AM »

Not being critical, just trying to offer a solution. Perhaps, in the case of taxation, there can be just one slot on the ballot for 'Taxes." Then the Topic Committee can offer versions of those subtopics as resolutions to be voted on.

Scott

While there is some overlap, the Tax Reform and Targeted Taxes topics are conceptually very distinct. Tax Reform is fundamentally about what the entire tax system should look like. The Targeted Taxes topic just forces the aff to increase taxes to achieve other policy objectives. Hopefully folks realize they are very different.
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Whit
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2012, 05:08:09 PM »

If you have a reservation in the room block that you aren't going to use, please let me know so I can takeover the reservation.

Thanks,

Whit
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SHolbrook
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2012, 08:32:08 PM »

I have an extra room available at the topic meeting, double double for the 1st - 4th at the block rate. Whit, email me if you still need a room or anyone else still looking. I'll cancel it friday if I haven't heard from anybody who needs it.
sholbrook.debate at gmail

Sarah Lundeen
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 08:34:07 PM by SHolbrook » Logged
SHolbrook
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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2012, 11:29:39 AM »

room taken, thanks
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stables
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Posts: 334


« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2012, 03:54:42 PM »

Voting reminder - ballots are due by tomorrow night at midnight (central). The ballot contains the topic vote and votes for the topic rotation amendment.

If you have trouble accessing the ballot, please contact Jeff (jeffrey.jarman@wichita.edu).

Email me at stables@usc.edu if you have another questions.

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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
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