Author Topic: On the exclusion of the TI paper from the ballot.  (Read 288 times)

RobGlass

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On the exclusion of the TI paper from the ballot.
« on: April 28, 2020, 09:47:52 AM »
This is a cross-post from the Facebook Topic Discussion group. I post it here knowing that there are a couple of people who do check here but don't read facebook.

Originally I was going to try and take the disappointment of having my topic paper rejected with a degree of sanguinity but I have received a behind the scenes push from a number of people on this to discuss my issues with the ballot selection publicly. So, I’d like to air some concerns:

1. I (like most 1Ns) will start with the most petty complaint. I know the job of being on the TC is thankless, but the act of writing a topic paper is nothing short of masochistic. The TC begins their statement towards the author (and there is but one) of the paper with a note of respect and thanks. I will note that I found out my topic paper was rejected in the late afternoon/early evening via a facebook message while trying to find out where our ballot was. I will also note that most (if not all) of the concerns raised in the TC’s note on my paper could have been addressed before the topic ballot came out by asking for a few pages of extra definitions and/or resolutions (an act with no global harm considering the paucity of topics.) Whatever the rationale for the decision the way this process was carried out was ill-considered and should have been handled in a better way.

2. The front end of the decisions is that the “members of the committee (and others in the community as a whole) consider as they evaluate the appropriateness of a proposed topic area”. Which seems to indicate a consensus that my paper was somehow inappropriate or not worthy of discussion. I have been running a poll on the consensus of the community topics (see, here: https://forms.gle/fqpa3HQktbgJ1ri69 ) and this does not reflect the democratic consensus of the community. Without revealing too much about the polling data (as I promised I would not), I will say that the TI topic was one of the very few that had a serious chance of winning and was well in the top half of the topics being considered. If the topic committee gets its legitimacy from its democratic nature then I wonder how it squares this circle, if it has a broader consensus to impose then I think there should be a more fleshed out explanation as to why this was rejected than such a hollow invocation.

3. This was said in another thread, but it’s worth restating. The topic committee stresses that their guidelines are just that, guidelines, and not mandates. And then dings me for not meeting their guidelines. The topic committee has the right to impose whatever mandates it wants on Topic Papers but it is unfair to writers of papers to retroactively assert restrictions on papers without warning. If you want to prevent an idiosyncratic paper from being submitted in the future, that’s a fine concern. But do that for the future, not the past.

4. I also have deep concerns about the things that the topic committee highlights as the concerns raised with my paper. At one point it says the paper overfocuses on the question of who would engage in infrastructure development while in another it says that it lacks counter-plan ground. It stresses that 2020 is a thumper while the section of my paper on 2020 is over many times longer than the entirety of the non-pro forma rejection. I think a more detailed rejection of the warrants is in order than this.

5. There is overlap with the last point, but I think it’s worth highlighting. The rejection highlights a lack of ground. The main thesis of my argument for the TI area is that it has such a tremendously rich vein of academic production that it cannot be condensed down to a paper in a way that is in anyway representative of the litany of controversies that lie beneath it. To be blunt, my concern was always that there was _too much_ ground, not too little, as was aired to me multiple times. I also wonder how this is squared with the inclusion of some of the other topics which have had multiple public concerns raised about a lack of ground division on either the affirmative or negative side. This strikes me as a rejection based on style and not substance which, in theory, is anathema to our form of debate.

6. All of this occurs in the context of a undeniable proof of concept from the previous HS topic, and multiple links to files proving the viability of an entire year spent on this topic. For the Topic Committee to represent this as historical ‘fondness’ and not an independent warrant in its own right for the controversy strikes me as dismissive in the extreme.

In other contexts I think I would stay quiet about this out of respect for a horse that has bolted the stables. However, every Director I have talked to and seen post publicly about this has reported the same thing: the topic ballot has been flagged as spam or auto-deleted by e-mail filters. The troubling nature of that metaphor aside (and, yikes…), I think this offers a simple solution for the topic committee here. Resend the ballot in a way that we know will get to every school, and not just to the schools that have been prompted to check on the topic via Facebook and back-channeled discussions and include TI on it. (We all know multiple directors who this would fall under.) This is something that needs to be done anyway given the lack of communication (and missed deadline), and allows for an easy remedy of the problem above.

I also wonder, explicitly, what the disad is to including the TI topic for democratic consideration? So far as I can tell, there is none.