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Author Topic: Topic Voting Process  (Read 1851 times)
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Posts: 165

« on: May 16, 2016, 02:47:29 PM »

As promised here is an attempt at explanation of my process for reading and voting on topic papers. Two important caveats:

1)   This post is just about my thought process and my vote and does not represent the topic committee as a whole.
2)   I worry some about posting too frankly about my no votes. I want to be sure to say that I greatly appreciate all of the folks who wrote topic papers, it’s a very difficult task. I hope that my frankness is seen as an attempt at transparency in my process, and not anything negative against the authors.
I will start with my general criteria for voting on topic papers and then explain my specific no votes for the 2016-2017 topic papers.

Completeness of paper:

Does the paper present all necessary components of an argument that the topic is sustainable and centered on a sufficient amount of controversy to produce quality debates across the argument spectrum.

IF YES: Then I continue to evaluate the paper.

IF NO: I ask myself how much work would be required to make the paper complete, and if that amount of work is a reasonable expectation of the topic committee given time constraints between the topic vote and the topic meeting. If I decide it is workable I continue to evaluate the paper.

The obvious follow up is “what are the necessary components to prove that a topic is sustainable and sufficiently controversial”. While I will admit this is not an exact science the following are examples (but not a complete list) of things I consider:
•   Defense of an agent
•   Timeliness and specificity of the topic controversy  
•   Inherency / Negative uniqueness
•   Quality topic disadvantages that are balanced with affirmative advantage areas
•   Germane counterplans that center around the controversy of the topic paper
•   Negative and affirmative arguments from a wide variety of argumentative perspectives

“Non-Negotiable” components of the paper:

While I believe that it is perfectly reasonable for the topic committee to “perfect” ideas in topic papers by adding ideas, limiting certain options on the final resolution ballot etc., I also believe that the topic committee should maintain fidelity to ultimatums made in topic papers. After evaluating the completeness of the paper I look to see if the paper establishes non-negotiable conditions for the controversy area and if I believe those ultimatums are workable from the topic committees perspective.  

Topic rotation:

Pretty self explanatory, does the topic paper meet the requirements of topic rotation. If I don’t believe that it does has the topic paper done sufficient work to overcome my interpretation of topic rotation.

Topic Repetition:

If the topic paper is similar to a previous topic I evaluate two things, has enough time passed to “reset” on the topic area or has the paper proven that the controversy area has altered enough to consider revisiting the topic area.

Using that process, I voted no on space, wealth distribution, and policing.


I felt the paper was incomplete. I felt it lacked compelling negative arguments, in particular counterplans that were centered in the literature about space exploitation. This made me worry that negatives would be encouraged to focus on non-topic related process and agent counterplans to compete against large impact affirmatives. I also had concerns about the timeliness, I was not convinced that the controversy area had developed sufficiently since the last time debaters debated space.

While I didn’t “vote on T: domestic” I do think that question weighed on some topic committee member’s minds. I think there is an argument why a space topic could meet T: domestic, I do not think that this topic paper strongly makes that argument. I think stronger definitional and evidence based support would have helped immensely.

Wealth Distribution:

I felt this paper was incomplete. I was not confident that the explanation of negative arguments on the topic was sufficient to sustain a year of debate. I thought for a long time about whether I thought there was sufficient time to complete the negative on this topic. I was unfortunately not sure enough to vote yes. As a side note I love this controversy area, and if the poverty topic wins I plan on exploring this area as a wording paper because I think this would be a great topic, but cannot be confident without investing time in independent research.


I thought this paper was complete. I had some concerns about the agent but overall thought it could be workable. My concern was with the non-negotiable elements of this paper. I read the paper as demanding two things that worried me: that the resolution be constructed to force the affirmative to defend the institution of policing, and that the resolution be bi-directional. The former worried me because I thought it over-limited affirmative approaches to transformation, and made the “abolish policing” CP too powerful against large portions of the topic papers affirmative arguments. The latter worried me because I don’t think the topic paper established sufficient uniqueness for a topic that allowed affirmatives to increasing policing.  

Two FWIW’s about this topic paper: First, I believe I was the only no vote on the policing paper. I’m fine with that, but wanted to make clear that I was in the extreme minority on the topic paper on this vote. Second, I think that this controversy area was addressed strongly in the policing section of the anti-racism paper, so I did not think of my vote against this topic as much as a vote against the controversy, but a fear that the non-negotiable components worried me about the workability of the topic.  


« Last Edit: May 17, 2016, 08:35:01 AM by gabemurillo » Logged
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