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Author Topic: Working Document for Proposed Reforms to the Topic Process  (Read 14300 times)
stables
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« on: June 02, 2012, 01:58:18 PM »

We are discussing revisions to the topic selection process.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QY0KDak9_vqwMN6LObXYNDrur6IUaZNXnGHahFcvOJM/edit
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Gordon Stables
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Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
DarrenElliott
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2012, 03:52:38 AM »

The only thing I see as problematic, is the move of the Topic Meeting on top of a National Holiday. 
Travel rates will be higher.  (Gas, Hotel, Airfare--all expenses incurred by either CEDA or the individual are not optimal over a Holiday)
Forces people to choose between family/holiday and debate, and I think we spend 8 months out of the year already forcing that choice.  Let's avoid doing it one more time if at all possible.
Granted, maybe not everyone celebrates America's birthday.  To you I say, you're either with Merica or you're with the terrorists.  We don't want the Topic Committee to be terrorist sympathizers do we?  Huh?  Huh?  I didn't think so.

(Seriously the travel costs and choice between debate and family on one more holiday stinks)

chief
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Malgor
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2012, 11:22:25 AM »

was there any discussion of my amendment to remove the CEDA officers from the topic committee entirely and replace them with at-large? 

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paulmabrey
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« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2012, 08:04:00 PM »

Yes, there was discussion but likely not satisfying the intent of your amendment. Wholesale adoption of your amendment, as was explained you had further amended in Norman, did not seem to have traction. Your amendment was explained as not totally getting rid of the current nine but as a compromise you had agreed to; seven at-large plus NDT and ADA rep.

Two themes emerged that were thought might be a compromise:
1. Replace undergraduate student rep with graduate student rep.
2. Give the CEDA President the option each year to have only two of the three CEDA officers serve on the topic committee and instead have an additional at large rep for that year's topic committee.

I believe someone is working on the language for those two themes.


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gabemurillo
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2012, 08:23:11 AM »

Is there a reason for keeping the number of people on the topic committee at current levels? The best compromise might be to include a graduate assistant instead of taking away an undergraduate students position on the committee, add more at-large members instead of taking away CEDA positions on the committee, etc.
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bk2nocal
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2012, 09:18:03 AM »

I may be wrong about this, but I thought back in the day the topic meeting was later and there were problems with it being scheduled on top of the myriad of high school camps happening across the nation.  So, it seems like we will once again run into that problem if we move it to July.  And that is in addition to the problems that Chief identified with the holiday date. 

In addition, it seems to me that we have taken the process to a new height of complexification (I don't think that's a word, but you all get what I'm saying).  I love the democratic nature of the process.  I have participated on just about every level - contributing to topic papers, working on wording papers, going to the meeting, and watching the meeting from afar...and it seems to me that, using my limited knowledge of the group process learned from my undergraduate Small Group Communication textbook, we need to narrow down the participants at some point in order for this to produce the best results.  I just think we've gotten to a point where we have "too many cooks in the kitchen" and the product is ending up as a compromised product (compromise is good early on - contribution is good early on - the more ideas the better early on, but at some point, we need to have a decision-making team that is smaller and more able to narrow down the choices we produce in the early process). 

I feel like we are a group of people (as a national body) who have many different philosophies on what this activity should entail and many different argumentative likes and dislikes...and I feel like the topic committee meetings have become a battle ground where the goal is to insure that those beliefs take shape in the form of the resolution.  This used to take shape in the form of a debate - in the form of a plan text - in the form of an affirmative case or a negative strategy, but now I feel like the goal is to have the resolution make those decisions for us as participants.  And I feel like what ends up happening is we take something that many of us are excited about the prospect of debating (immigration, energy, etc.) and we turn it into something that NO ONE is excited about debating (visa policy, grants for coal and oil production, etc.) because when no one is happy, we're all "even".  I would like to get back to a place where a majority of people are happy with the resolutions, even if it means that we aren't all "even" - so, maybe some years, I'm unhappy with the topic, but a majority of people are happy.  Maybe other years, I'm with the majority but a few other people aren't.  That seems like a better prospect to me than years where we have no one who is really happy with the product from the topic meeting.

I could be totally off-base about this - maybe a majority of you out there are totally happy about the resolution choices.  If so, I will slink away quietly believing the majority has spoken, as it should be.  But, I feel like there has to be SOME disappointment that an "energy policy" topic resulted in the grammatically complex and limited resolutions that are on the ballot. 

Again, I want to make clear that this is in NO WAY an insult thrown at the topic committee - their job is a thankless one every year.  But, it is a question about the PROCESS in which they are placed and the soundness of the process from a communication, productivity and creative problem-solving standpoint.
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Kathryn Rubino
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2012, 09:26:43 AM »

One of the major arguments for not expanding the number of committee members is cost.  Ceda pays for the topic committee members to attend the meeting (with the exception of the NDT/ADA reps who receive funding from their organizations). The summer meeting is already the largest expenditure that Ceda makes on an annual basis and the organization has declining membership numbers (and the income associated with those membership dues).  Personally, I am not comfortable saying that Ceda is in a financial position to increase the size of the committee.

Additionally, as someone ending my term on the committee I will say Gordon has a thankless task trying to wrangle 9 members into any form of consensus and I can only imagine it would be harder if the committee were 11 or 13 members (there is also a good reason to keep the committee as an odd number as quite a few things during the course of the meeting come down to a vote).


-Kathryn
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paulmabrey
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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2012, 09:27:15 AM »

The current reason is cost. Currently CEDA reimburses topic committee members for their participation in the meetings (travel, food and lodging) because the topic deliberation process is hosted by and through CEDA. My understanding is that CEDA's ownership of the topic process was part of the post-merger compromise?

I do not believe CEDA can afford to grow the topic committee membership without getting more money. Maybe if folks wanted to pay their own way and/or have other organizations pay for their topic committee member, the number of members could grow. Perhaps we could even have sponsorships; the D3 (ceda/ndt irony intended) topic committee rep paid for by D3 schools or the K4Lyfe rep paid for by the, well, multitude. Seriously though, maybe have ADA/NDT pay for their own reps and free up 2 more spots? Though if conferences passes, maybe we want to move toward each conference having their own sponsored rep?  

Another issue for keeping at nine might be too many cooks in the kitchen? Separately, the supreme court has nine, shouldn't we?

I really like the idea of including a graduate student rep, even perhaps at the expense of the undergrad student rep for many of the reasons given at the meetings. Professional development, same on the ground and recent competitor insight and to this point, the undergraduate student rep has never, if rarely, made significant topic changing contributions. Not that one couldn't, the consensus was they just had not in the history of undergrad student reps. Now, it was pointed out that maybe one undergrad student debater, Eric Suni I believe, did change the direction of the topic at the meetings but did so as a non-committee member participant.  

Not necessarily opposed to Malcom's original amendment but still struggling to figure out exactly what the intent was. I know it was to de-link topic committee from organizational governance but for what purpose? Officers who don't know how or won't commit to working on the topic? Officers to removed from the game of debate? Or officers who don't share a particular view on the process of crafting a specific kind of topic?

If the latter, it does not seem that officers are the issue. But rather the issue is the ideological make-up of the committee. I saw somewhere that maybe officers and/or topic committee reps should be asked to disclose their views on topics and the topic process. Nothing has stopped this from happening now. No one has asked folks running for election to have platforms, debates etc. In fact, think I remember a number of years ago that debates were asked for and maybe even had...

Again, not opposed to the spirit of the amendment or even necessarily what I read as an impetus for the amendment (the call for a more broad topic). I know many were open to discussing and changing the topic committee membership.

And to me, one of the more exciting discussions was changing the process itself. Moving it back; giving the community more time without any topic (read vacation time) and less time with a slate of resolutions they know but no actual resolution (read more productive preparation time).
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paulmabrey
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2012, 09:30:55 AM »

Regarding CEDA paying for NDT and ADA topic committee reps, I will default to Rubino's knowledge. I thought each organization paid for their rep but double-checked the anticipated CEDA budget and we had budgeted for 9 individuals.
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gabemurillo
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« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2012, 09:55:24 AM »

Let me reform my "compromise" maybe one of the CEDA-elected positions should go to a graduate student as opposed to removing an undergraduate student? I am very uncomfortable about the idea that the undergraduate spot hasn't been "productive" enough in the topic to deserve to be there, this seems like a reason for the topic committee to take an educators role and be proactive about getting the student representative more involved, not less. After all the process is already quite a bit removed from the debaters themselves, removing their one representative seems to only make this worse. I was not present for the discussions that took place at the meeting so please forgive me if I'm "behind the times" on this question.
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stables
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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2012, 10:10:02 AM »

Sue's email is great at so many levels. My quick thoughts are:

We are dealing with what norms people would support for a topic in our current era of policy information and news. What is ironic is that while I know there are many who support the view of simpler, more elegant topics much of the previous discontent on this forum is ironically expressing a very distinct view. Your discussion of changing the process to have less cooks in the kitchen (in some way) is interesting because it would reduce individual input, but it might make the topics more representative of individual ideological factions, if they could must support from their representatives. You can see why if this is supported it should come from the community.

As far as the later schedule is concerned. We had been playing with some dates and the 4th of July meeting is just where the calendar fell once you backtrack from the other dates. We discussed and identified the problems, primarily about the cost of trying to encourage travel on the 4th. I think you would more likely see it later that week.

To the workshop question - this is the competing value. The rationales for the shift are:

a) a longer offseason (no papers would be due until late May/early June)
b) more  time for the controversy paper writing
c) more time between the winning controversy paper and the topic meetings (which might help many concerns here) and
d) less time between the wording meetings and the topic announcement  

The tradeoff comes from time and folks at summer workshops. I have seen this dilemma for years and I don't how we balance it otherwise. I do think it could be hosted at a workshop, which might increase the incentives for folks to host it.

Finally, I would like to encourage everyone to consider the possibility of an energy topic, not just the traditional decrease fossil fuels/ increase renewables topic. I know there are concerns about the wordings themselves, but I also feel that some of the push back comes from  the notion that we are really debating encouraging more energy. At the meeting we discussed how just about everyone in the room had been part of the traditional way to approach, but no one could ever recall being involved in this other approach. If we wanted to debate about the same things in the same way over and over that is your choice, but we tried to uphold the idea of something distinct. I guess I would be less  frustrated if many of the concerns (not Sue's) are about being able to debate the same arguments in the same ways again. I am not saying that is the only complaint, but it is a strong theme.

I am going to not be able to spend a ton of time on this thread, but I hope folks can appreciate why I can't devote every day to the topic process after the meetings end.  The important recognition is that you, not me, are in charge of all of this.

The community runs this process, sets constitutional dates,  and elects its representatives. Anyone can submit amendments, but (like the topic wording) the challenge is getting other people to agree with your ideas. I encourage folks to float suggestions, get feedback and then perhaps some community consensus can be generated about what course of action is best in the future.


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Gordon Stables
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Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
ScottElliott
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« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2012, 10:17:24 AM »

First a couple of the resolutions proposed are not that bad. That being said, I think Kuswa is being Panglossian about the status of resolutions and the Topic Committee Process. Visas sucked. Democracy assistance sucked--for the very reasons I pointed out during the TC meetings.

I think the Topic Committee should model the emerging peer review process in chemistry and physics. What is that? Well, some of the major journals now post drafts of authors works on-line for 3 to 6 months for review, comment and debate (God I hope I put the comma in the right spot). Then, the orginal author takes those comments, revises the article and it is submitted into its final form as "published."

I don't understand why people think a mad dash to jam out five resolutions can ever result in a good work product. Some reflective thoguht is needed. There is no reason why the TC could not put out a proposed lsit of resolutions in June, give the community a month to respond, draft better versions of the resolutions, then have the TC meet electronically to make final revisions and/or changes to produce a final slate of resolutions to be voted on by the end of July.


Scott
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tcram
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« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2012, 11:26:53 AM »

Maybe those more intimately involved with the stage of the topic process at the level of moving topic choices from the ether onto the ballot can clarify, but are there any normative criteria for what a final ballot should look like?  We have a set of guiding principles for what is considered a good controversy paper, but what about this later stage?  I ask because my primary frustration with the end product this past few years (of course recognizing that Gordon rocks, the committee has a thankless task, and I haven't managed to contribute either at the paper process or meetings) is that there is a fundamental lack of choice.  Democracy assistance boiled the vote down to 'which permutation of countries would you like to debate about?' and this ballot suffers from some of the same problems in my opinion.  The only real choice seems to be whether to include renewables or not.  After that, the only questions are 'how specific do you want your restrictions and incentives to be'?  Perhaps my opinion is idiosyncratic, but a ballot that offers substantive choices about both mechanisms and objects (whether its countries, fuel sources, etc) would be refreshing.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2012, 11:36:39 AM by tcram » Logged
kelly young
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« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2012, 11:51:28 AM »

Three quick thoughts on this thread:

1. If cost is the overriding concern, is there a reason why this meeting cannot be done primarily online rather than at a physical site? If we can now debate online, seems like we should be able to meet online with a relatively or free online platform. Gordan has already done a lot of this work both with USC's online debates and the use of Google Docs. We can expand the committee, meet more than once, etc.

I believe this puts me in somewhat agreement with part of Scott Elliott's post, which means I am already somewhat souring to the idea...

2. I agree with Gabe that we should not eliminate the undergrad position. As Gabe suggests, perhaps we need more mentioning of undergrads to bolster their position, but I enjoyed the input from the two undergrad reps during my 2 years on the committee. And given Gordon's efforts to enhance the transparency and input into process by anyone willing to participate, undergrad, grads, and anyone else has decent opportunities for input now, just not a formal vote on the TC.

3. Ballot options - seems like TCram's complaints - which are certainly valid - are more of a product of the community frequently (if not always) selecting the smallest topic possible. As a result, the TC often has to produce similar sized topics in response, which substantially narrows the variations between topics and leaves you deciding a list of countries, objects, or mechanisms. Seems very difficult to produce 3-4 or more equally sized topics every session with tremendous variation in wording as the smallest of the topics largely becomes the default resolution. To be clear, I'm not disagreeing with Tcram or anyone else and I am happy to hear other's ideas on this part of the process, but I think this causes a lot of the narrowing of options.

- Kelly
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Whit
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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2012, 12:31:51 PM »

I guess I don't see what additional choices the community is looking for. Starting from the premise that the community voted for a topic that said "we should increase domestic energy production," there isn't much room for choices/options.

It seems that the only two questions are "what form of energy?" and "how is the increase achieved?"

What other choices do you feel were left open by the wording paper that could have been given to the community on the ballot?

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