College Policy Debate Forums
December 18, 2018, 02:09:36 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
   Home   Help Search Login Register  
Pages: [1]
Author Topic: Undergrads on Committee (and grads)  (Read 8237 times)
kevin kuswa
Sr. Member
Posts: 346

« on: April 08, 2013, 03:34:32 PM »

Will undergrads seeking a position on the committee also be willing to talk a bit about topic views?

Also, the grad student posts are somewhat interesting, but do not seem to help the voting much.  Yes, we all want "good topics" and those usually differ from the squo, allow focus on the core of the issue, etc.  There isn't much to disagree with there, however, making the vote more about who you know and less about what they bring to the committee. 

You all can do better. 

What about some more distinct viewpoints and information?  How do you feel about alternative wordings, etc.?

The discussion among the potential CEDA reps was a bit more in-depth last time around.  For information/ideas on other aspects of the process to talk about, here's the thread:

Adam Symonds
Sr. Member
Posts: 354

« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2013, 05:08:11 PM »

I think WMJs post is actually quite helpful in delineating what he sees as functional mechanisms for topics.
Posts: 13

« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2013, 07:31:01 PM »

Since this was requested.....

I agree with most if not all that WMJ said about what makes for a good topic wording or bad topic wording. The controversy should focus on a specific mechanism, that generates fair ground for both sides and is a substantial change from the status quo. I obviously don't have as much experience on topics because I haven't been around as much, but of the topics i've seen (HS: Africa, Alt Energy, Poverty (eeeewwwww), Military Deployment (best topic, by far), Space (meh), and Transportation Infrastructure (meh) and College: Energy Policy), have given me an insight of how things might play out, even if it might not have a full picture because high school debate =/= college debate.

My role (as far as I know) is not to select the controversy, but to help create a wording that best represents the controversy and provides the best debates. My goal is to do that to the best of my abilities. In terms of alternate wordings (Passive action, agentless topics, etc....) I am open to them if they provide for good debates. I think this should at least be discussed at the meeting and if a good wording can be constructed, should make the final ballot. That is all up for discussion, though. I do think that substantially is not playing its intended role and there needs to be a better limit on the topic to require a large change from the status quo.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me (risaenz(at)gmail(dot)com) or pm me on the forums.

-Ricardo Saenz
Georgia Tech
Posts: 1

« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2013, 08:15:30 PM »

Hi everyone,

I'm a junior at USC going into my senior and final year of debate next year. I debated on the immigration, democracy assistance, and energy topics. I'm working on the federal definitions topic paper with some really awesome and crazy smart people. I only know the basics of how the wording process works, but I am willing to put in a lot of effort to make sure I can make meaningful contributions. I also think I would learn a lot being a part of the topic committee, which is sort of a selfish reason to want to be elected, but also shows that I wouldn't take this opportunity for granted. I think I'm creative and open to learning new things and listening to new ideas, which would make me a good representative.

If elected to the topic committee, my goal is to push for a variety of topic wordings. I know the topic committee does a lot of hard work selecting different wordings, but I would advocate to mix it up a little more this year. There have been a lot of discussions about passive voice or other wording options, and I would like to see some of those other options on the wording ballot. I think the community deserves many different options when deciding what our debates next year will look like. I would  be open to both a passive voice or a non-USFG agent resolution, especially if the controversy paper that is voted for seems like it would fit with a different agent and as long as there was a good literature base on both sides on whatever the controversy was. I'll make sure these ideas are raised at the meeting.

I also think broader community inclusivity in the wording process is important. I know some people follow the live broadcast and read the shared notes. I'm not actually sure how much input from outside the committee goes into the wording process during the meeting, but I would like to make sure there is a mechanism for students and coaches to share opinions during the process even if they aren't there. I would be happy to share any good questions or comments sent to me before or during the process with the committee. I also check CEDA forums pretty frequently and have been trying to keep up on the discussions going on, especially after the NDT. I think this will give me a good background on how the community is feeling leading up to the meetings that would help make my decisions more reflective of the community's sentiments.

I plan to do a good chunk of research when the controversy is selected so I will have a broad knowledge of the literature base going into the topic meetings and can contribute thoughtful and researched comments. I would be willing to take on whatever special assignments are given out before the meetings.

I would like to see a broad topic over a narrow topic, although I would make sure both were included on the ballot, and not just by changing the number of items in a list. I think hard debates are better than stale debates. I think one way to broaden the topic is by having wording options that aren't just a list (although this may be hard to do with some of the topic papers people are working on).

If there are other questions you have that I haven't answered, let me know and I'll do my best to address them.


Clara Purk

« Last Edit: April 08, 2013, 08:17:02 PM by ClaraP » Logged
kevin kuswa
Sr. Member
Posts: 346

« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2013, 09:17:15 PM »

fair enough, adam.  I thought will's was good, had a few real flashes as did the others who posted (particularly jeff k's).  was just hoping for a bit more overall before voting.  the recent posts are quite good and starting to push things forward.  thanks!!
Posts: 25

« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2013, 11:20:28 PM »

After reading over what I wrote, I completely agree with you. In my hesitance to not write a book about my beliefs on how the topic should be crafted, I neglected to point on exactly what my views "bring to the table."

Here is a more extensive list. I apologize for length.

Size of topics
I believe that too often resolutions put affirmatives in a very tenuous position of finding creative/innovative affirmatives. This could be how I slightly differ from some of the other candidates. I am in favor of broader resolutions for affirmative flexibility that also have workable terms of arts to protect the negative from completely unpredictable advocacies. Too often the community pushes for list topics with mechanisms that don't address core problems of the intended topic. That places the heart of the issue at the periphery of the resolution (i.e. the immigration topic where it was hard to argue for Latin American immigration because H-2A visas didn't have a cap and beneficiary eligibility was rather open beyond the "portability" issue with those visas). My goal as the representative would be to use my research skills to ensure that the mechanism allowed better affirmative creativity and innovation, while also giving the negative good enough ground (addressed below as well).

Direction of Topics
One idea that I agree with, however, is that topics should attempt to move away from the status quo. This is where I see potential resolutions like affirmative action, my intellectual property/patents proposal, and treaties being the most favorable for debate. All of these would have a substantial change in the status quo. They are also grounded in core timely controversies (affirmative action is currently a Supreme Court issue, patents are also being discussed in the courts, and treaties have constantly been mentioned by the President and other Congresspeople this year). I differ from will in this sense, because I believe that debating topics that are very timely are probably the most interesting and educational. Also, most concerns about unwieldiness because of timeliness are resolved if the mechanisms are crafted correctly (see above). Along with ensuring good mechanisms for the affirmative, I believe that actions should be taken to ATTEMPT to ensure that the topics being debated will allow for ground on both sides. Obviously 50/50 aff/neg ground can never be completely realized, but we should not jump to debate issues that do not have enough literature, despite how compelling they may be. I think that the test that was proposed (by Ryan Galloway, I believe) to make sure that the resolution has a general disad that would apply makes complete sense. This obviously requires research that is targeted beyond answering "does the mechanism have solvency advocates?" It requires research to guarantee that the mechanism is debated enough in the literature to have generic disad links, generic counter plans that use another debated mechanism, and kritik links specific to the direction of the mechanism. I think a good example of a resolution that passed this test was the nuclear weapons topic (deterrence disads, nuclear k's, covert dealert cps, condition on russia cps, and generic process cps like NPR made that topic very debatable for the negative - and the amount of big stick affirmative options gave the aff just as much possibilities on that topic).

Alternate Actors
Here is an issue that I will admit I am having a hard time resolving. For example, with some topics an actor other than the USFG simply doesn't make as much sense. If we are debating a topic like treaties, it makes the most sense for the community to use the "USFG" as an actor. However, if a topic like affirmative action wins, I definitely see how different actors could come into play and would not be opposed to them. Debate is an evolving activity, and we as a community should not attempt to stifle that innovation. On the other hand, even with this innovation we may want to apply certain limits to how that comes into play. For example, I still believe that education on large scale political action is generally a good thing. Therefore, we should not push for topics that would also exclude that. I would be more in favor of a middle ground approach that attempts to move forward to allow broader educational inclusion while upholding the educational values that come out of learning about governmental actions. I think that this can be achieved by possibly using an agency or even an international actor if the topic choice would allow for that. Ultimately, however, my views play less into this than the community norms. If elected as the representative, I would be in favor of including a choice for an alternate actor and allowing the community to decide if that would be best for the topic.

Other random facts:
I attended GMU's law school this year, so if a legal topic wins I'm the rep for you. Legal research is something I have a ton of experience in, so I can bring educated understanding of the legal process to the table for the wording of the topic.

I do a ton of topic research every year, and am submitting one of the topic proposals. I can promise that I won't just be a useless person during the topic committee meetings. Besides, if intellectual property wins, it might be a good idea for me to be on that committee Tongue

TLDR: I may lean affirmative a little, but I promise I won't screw negs over.

Sorry again for the length,
Jackie Poapst
Posts: 25

« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2013, 08:55:25 AM »

I want to make a quick endorsement for Jackie Poapst. Jackie is one of GMU's top researchers, takes a thorough approach to topic research, and has been eagerly doing work on the IPR topic paper. Jackie would make a great representative to the topic committee and deserves your vote.

kevin kuswa
Sr. Member
Posts: 346

« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2013, 10:04:27 AM »

thanks, jackie!  smart post and best of luck in your grad studies and legal studies.  the law school background does not hurt.  i especially like your treatment of alternate agents--shows you are open to innovation but you are very fair on your desire to strive for balance.

this is a tough decision with a number of really strong choices--so glad we opened this to grad students!
Jessica Kurr
Jr. Member
Posts: 89

« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2013, 02:24:34 PM »

"Timeliness" of Topics

I think topics can easily be too "timely." Democracy Assistance was too timely for my tastes especially given the weak mechanism. That made uniqueness for disads terrible. The Energy topic operated very similarly. Obama was increasing production of gas, renewables, and nuclear to some degree.

As I mentioned before, the difference for me for these topics was mostly the slate of resolutions the community could vote on. There wasn't any variety in the wordings of the past two years. You had different countries, specified financial incentives, and the inclusion of renewables. On the other hand, the Nukes topic had a variety in selection, as did immigration and ag. While many people didn't like immigration and ag, I'm not sure that was a problem of the resolution but more with the topic paper itself. For example, the topic paper for immigration recommended against CIR even though a bidirectional topic would have been more interesting. The subsidies topic was similarly limited.

Hence, if elected, I would push for a broad topic in order to produce a variety of ground and a mechanism that doesn't fall apart due to evolving circumstances. That seems to be the best topic in my mind.

How do you feel about alternative wordings, etc.?

If the topic paper suggests using alternative phrasing, I think its something need to include. For example, the IMF/World-Bank paper and the economic inequality paper used alternative agents and phrasing. If I was on the topic committee and those papers were selected, I would make sure we maintained the IMF agent and the passive voice respectively. However, if the community votes for another USFG-agent tied to treaties, I don't feel comfortable with the topic committee saying "Let's do non-USFG for treaties" because I think it undercuts the importance of voting for a topic paper.

More importantly, I think the topic committee should strive for a broad topic in order to ensure a variety of aff ground. If the Ag topic didn't have CAFOs, a very popular critical aff would have been lost. The Nukes topic had plenty of negative state action (you could disarm the USFG).  Same for family visa eligibility and the laundry list of inadmissibility affs on Immigration. I'm not sure if there's a similar example on Democracy Assistance aside from the "internet" affs.

Legal Topic (because Jackie mentioned it)

I'm not a law student, but I did read a court aff my senior year and was responsible for much of our court work this year. I'm fairly familiar with how legal topics get applied in a debate sense even though I'm only a Comm student  Wink
« Last Edit: April 09, 2013, 03:05:51 PM by Jeff K » Logged
Posts: 3

« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2013, 03:38:35 PM »

I was just updated on the need to write one of these so here it is.


Im going into my final year of debate at the University of North Texas. Ive debated in college since the Nukes topic.  I dont know exactly how the topic wording process goes but I will certainly go into the meeting with an open mind after having put in the time to extensively research the topic area in order to make sure my last debates are interesting ones.

As far as topic size goes I think that the problem may not be that the topic is too broad or limited but that the wording arbitrarily limits out some core problems inherent to the controversy area chosen.  I agree with Jackie here when she says that it was unfortunate that we debated an immigration topic that had little to do with Latin America.  I think the problem (if it is actually a problem) of affs attempting to find creative and innovative small affirmatives that avoid the core of the topic will exist any way the topic is written.  The real question is to ensure that the neg has enough core ground to deal with affs like that.  A good example would be the Democracy Assistance topic, affs could find one thing wrong in one area and say that there is a lot of assistance now but not the right kind.  Maybe a better mechanism would have ensured the negative some unique generic ground.

In that sense I believe that as a member of the topic committee my job will be focused on understanding the core of the controversy area chosen and coming up with a variety of different wordings.  I agree with what many others have said in that some of the past few topics the variety has come in the form of different countries in a list instead of different mechanisms (democracy promotion vs. assistance for example).  Addressing the core of the topic and coming up with a mechanism that provides stable neg ground while allowing for creativity from the aff is crucial.

As far as non-USFG/alternate wordings go I am open to discussion.  I think much of this is dependent, however, on the controversy area chosen.  It wouldnt make much sense if the treaties area is chosen to exclude the USFG or use passive voice since it is the USFG that has to ratify treaties.  I think that context matters to the way the topic is written.  I have kept up with the discussions post-NDT that have happened on facebook and these forums as well and think this is certainly a discussion worth having.  I also agree with Clara that we need to have some form of outside input which will be able to better inform this discussion while it is occurring during the topic meetings.

If you need to know more Ill be happy to answer any further questions

Colin Quinn
Full Member
Posts: 220

« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2013, 03:39:21 PM »

this road sounds very familiar. to be fair to the candidates, I'm glad that's what you all want and I think each person's elaboration on those themes IS helpful to a degree.

pretty much everyone wants a topic that has diverse affirmative ground, that diverges from the status quo, and that preserves a 'unified mechanism' for the negative.  that seems to be a common theme each of the last 3 years.  it should be a theme EVERY year bc it's another way of saying "i want a topic with good aff and neg ground and a diversity of arguments."  well i hope we all want that.....  

yet when you look at the ballot of resolutions we receive, they rarely reflect all 3 of these.  That's not all on the topic comm, either, as it's quite a challenge to balance those 3 needs especially in a system of democratic compromise.  Sometimes the committee is hamstrung by a controversy that violates one of the big 3 principles (energy production: too small a change from squo). Most often, there is a conflict between these goals.  

What ends up happening is the neg ground trumps the other 2, specifically neg ground under the "stable mechanism" part of the topic.  This has become a bit of an obsession, and it's no doubt important, but over and over again the mechanism dictates everything.  It doesn't matter of the mechanism is too small (dem asst or visas) or not enough a deviation from the status quo (energy production or dem asst).

So I would like a clarification- what are you priorities among the goals?  Is there anyone willing to say that they prioritize the size of aff ground even in the face of a mechanism that isn't concise?  Anyone willing to make it a priority to have a large, substantial deviation from the status quo EVEN IF (gasp!) the topic committee can't map out every last negative and affirmative argument in advance?  Anyone willing to write a resolution about a controversy instead of a list of specific proposals?  
Posts: 13

« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2013, 04:21:17 PM »

@Malgor -

I prefer a resolution that is concise statement rather than the paragraphs we have seen with large splices of and/or and lists of topical affirmatives. I would prefer precise and well-defined language that invites a great topicality debate that dictates ground rather than a list within the topic. I guess to answer your questions, my priority would be to have a substantial deviation from the status quo.

The only disad on the topic shouldn't be politics (because it is terrible) and having something like the deterrence DA available would make debates better and resolve a large amount of the neg ground concerns.

That being said, if the topic area that is voted on calls for a different priority (a list because it would be massive or a change in mechanism because it is too new etc....) my priority would shift based on that topic area.

It is also important to note that I am someone that cares about grammar and would make sure the options submitted make grammatical sense.

Posts: 3

« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2013, 04:30:29 PM »

I don't think that it is necessary or even the committee's job to map out every last aff and neg argument there is.  I think the discussion should be about a mechanism that provides robust change from the status quo.  Democracy Assistance was too small and also not a large change from the squo I think that some of the problem may be in the controversy area chosen but democracy assistance could have been replaced by something like democracy promotion which would have resolved the small nature of that topic (although the gov't was still providing a lot of aid, i guess that plays into the whole timeliness debate).  

I think that aff and neg ground stem from a mechanism that is a substantial change from the status quo, neg and aff creativity will happen throughout the year regardless of what the topic is and there will be affs read that no one (maybe just me) would have predicted at the topic meeting but having a consistent and substantial change enables the negative to generate creative ground and enables debate to be less stale throughout the year.  
Posts: 4

« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2013, 07:27:31 PM »

I dont post on ceda-forums very much so forgive me for being a little late to this discussion. I debated for 5 years at Gonzaga University and I am in my first year of my MA in Communication at Wake Forest.  I have attended the topic meeting once (agriculture) and watched from afar for the past 3 years so I have a pretty well developed idea of how the topic process works.

In general I think that the job of the topic committee is very tough its hard to get a lot of people to agree so there will always be complaints. Here are my two-cents on the process:  

1. Fidelity to the paper - I really think the topic committee should strive to be as close to the winning paper as possible. I think people have gotten the most worked up when they vote for one thing and the resolution turns out completely different. This is obviously a really research intensive process. It requires a close reading of the controversy paper and some really meticulous research to figure out what parts of the paper are viable enough to have great debates for an entire year. Im really good at research (and I dont mind doing tedious work) so I think Im perfect for this.

I also think fidelity to the paper handles my opinions on alternative agents. I think if a paper strongly recommends a non-usfg agent than it is really not my place to say that we should revert to the USFG (example: IMF paper) but I equally think that if something like treaties wins then I would have a hard time saying that we should not have the USFG be the agent of that topic. I understand that my approach puts a lot of the burden on the folks that wrote the controversy paper but I think that what agent should we use is a question that should be discussed in the paper not constructed at the topic meeting. The voters should know what they are getting.

2. Variety of Ballot Options I think that there should be variation that expands beyond just changing the items in a list. There should be some choice involved (avoid what happened on Arab Spring). The more distinct options the better. The past few years has proven that some pretty smart debates about the resolution happen in the days AFTER the topic committee releases the ballot. Were a community full of researchers so I think the topic committee should strive to create a plethora of viable options and then people should research and discuss on the forums after the ballot which of those are the best options.
Ive tried to avoid the generics but:

- I think that weve been worried so much about the aff having too much ground that it has led to some hopelessly stale debates by the end of the year.

- I think that we need to be incredibly concerned about the direction of uniqueness. I think that there is such a thing as a topic being too timely (arab spring) and I think that we should strive to have a noticeable change from the status quo (parts of energy)

- Topics have gotten too wordy. There has to be a healthy medium between the high-schoolesque sentence (which I think is too broad) and the really clunky-multiple-and/ors of years past. I understand for programs with novices its hard to get people hooked when the resolution seems really hard to digest. I am not exactly sure what the healthy medium is between these two but if one gets proposed I would absolutely throw my support behind it.    

I've always wanted to serve on the topic committee - so it would be a big honor to get elected.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2013, 07:29:34 PM by leahmoczulski » Logged
Posts: 5

« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2013, 06:26:36 PM »

Hello everyone, sorry about the delay in posting here (first post on ceda forums though!) -- Hope this can re-start some discussion or provide some insight into people's ballot decisions

1) Role/mechanism as an undergraduate topic committee representative:
To me it seems that we're here to represent the diverse and complex thoughts from our undergraduate debate body. It would be an understatement to suggest that people have suggested and even initiated research into non-USFG related topics (Zane, looking at you). More to be discussed below. My role would be to best facilitate the dialogue between our debaters and the coaches who end up voting on the topic so that our voices have meaningful impacts throughout the discussion.

It's unfortunate that more people can't participate in the committee, but I honestly believe we can best overcome these barriers with continued dialogue. I know I need to improve reaching out to more people and this will represent my core philosophy in and out of the committee. Next, research is a must. Whatever the source of controversy, I will ensure that I discipline myself to the strictest standards getting the appropriate research in so that we get the resolution with the most controversy. I think a large change from the status quo is critically important so my research will hold topic papers to that standard.

2) Topic proposal thoughts: (more ranty than organized, but I've got some thoughts)
People have brought up the possibility of non-usfg debating/alternative phrases: I think I'm here to affirm what other people believe in and therefore it's up to the student body and the controversy paper to guide where I focus my research and advocacy on. To do otherwise would force (already enough) further bias into the process when our representatives should be striving to maximize , not their individual goals. Again, context defines how the topic should look like.

List formats (if done poorly) are kind of getting stale and narrows down the topic in a weird/arbitrary way and leaves affs boring and negs without much ground. We can remedy this concern not by worrying about all the individual affs that might get justified, but by starting our concern for clash (certainly raises a chicken-egg dilemma, but one that I think can be overcome).

Please contact me for any other thoughts/questions that I can respond to! Thanks again - it would be amazing to provide my contributions and help serve on the committee Smiley

-Jeff Min
Pages: [1]
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!