College Policy Debate Forums

DISCUSSION => Open Topic -- Any issue => Topic started by: sharris on November 12, 2016, 01:48:52 AM

Title: Out of context Wilderson evidence—A warning and an apology
Post by: sharris on November 12, 2016, 01:48:52 AM
It has come to my attention that there is a piece of evidence from Wilderson that may be widespread in the college and high school debate community that does not represent accurately the words written by Wilderson himself. Kansas has been reading versions of this evidence in multiple debates and this evidence is blatantly out of context.  This message has two purposes. First, to warn schools that may have this evidence or who read the evidence that they may have a version that is not accurate and I assume they are not aware of this fact. Second, to apologize to the community and to teams we have read this evidence against.

It appears that there may be at least two versions of this evidence on the circuit, each of which does not accurately represent the words Wilderson wrote in his autobiography. If you are reading a quote from pages 406-411 of Wilderson’s book Incognero: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid and the card is directly saying [debate] is racist and/or [America] is racist that evidence does not represent the words Wilderson wrote and is out of context. The original words of Wilderson and the different versions of the evidence that appear to be present in files on the high school and college circuit are in the attached document. It should be fairly obvious that this evidence is badly out of context. I do not know how this evidence came to be such a misrepresentation of what Wilderson wrote, or who made these changes to the text of the evidence and passed them along but it appears that many people have inaccurate version of this evidence. I believe that the flawed versions may have been included in some summer camp files as well. People should go back to the original and re-cut the evidence and stop reading the versions that change the words Wilderson wrote. The Wilderson evidence can be recut as a useful piece of evidence but it should use the words Wilderson wrote rather than adding or subtracting words as the versions in circulation have done.

I want to apologize to the entire debate community and to teams that we read this evidence against. I know that Kansas read versions of this evidence against the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. I apologize to the debaters and coaches of these schools for our reading of unethical evidence against you. This apology cannot rectify damage done to you in those debates but we do sincerely apologize. If there are other schools we have read this evidence against I apologize to those schools as well. I apologize to judges who read this evidence while judging us in debates. I apologize to the entire community for our use of this evidence and for spreading it further in circulation as other schools may have picked it up from Kansas reading it. It appear that we took a version of this evidence from another school’s speech documents and we compounded the problem by reformatting the evidence and with new hi-lighting of the evidence. The fact that we did not begin the perversion of the quotation is not intended to be a defense. We are responsible for the evidence that we read in debates and we take full ownership and responsibility for using/misusing this evidence in debates.

I want to thank the Michigan State coaching staff for calling to our attention that we were reading evidence that was blatantly out of context. The MSU coaching staff was beyond professional in their management of this situation. They could have chosen to wait for a debate to spring this information. Were this to have been pointed out in a debate I have no doubt it would lead to 0 points and a loss. Instead MSU took the approach of wanting to make sure the community took this evidence out of circulation in the version it is in. I am extremely embarrassed that we were reading evidence that was so egregiously out of context and we will have long discussions reexamining our practices for handling evidence in our program. We have announced a new policy to the KU squad this week which bans the practice of taking evidence from other team’s speech docs as a first step. We will be talking about the ethical cutting and use of evidence from the ground up.

The various versions of the evidence are in the attached document

Title: Re: Out of context Wilderson evidence—A warning and an apology
Post by: sharris on November 12, 2016, 10:12:49 AM
I want to be perfectly clear that the KU debaters who read this evidence had no idea they were reading flawed evidence when they read it. The evidence was taken from another teams speech doc by a member of the coaching staff and the KU debaters used it with no knowledge of the fact that it did not represent an accurate representation of the evidence. My apology for the fact that we used this evidence should not be used to cast any aspersions on KU debaters. They had no knowledge of the fact that this evidence was flawed nor did the coach who passed it to them.

Title: Re: Out of context Wilderson evidence—A warning and an apology
Post by: sharris on November 12, 2016, 03:11:13 PM
Apparently there is some confusion about what I meant to say so let me clarify in some bullet points.

1. No KU student or coach knew that this evidence was flawed at the time we read it.

2. KU did not cut this evidence but the coaching staff took it from another team's speech docs.

3. Now that we know this evidence is flawed we will not read it in debates and we apologize for having read it without knowing that it was flawed.

4. Apparently this evidence has been used widely on the high school and college circuits for several years and has appeared in camp files. We hope to help people identify this evidence and encourage others not to read it in these flawed forms.

5. This apology is from the coaching staff because the debaters simply read evidence given to them by their coaches something that happens in almost every debate. The apology is from me because this is my responsibility.

6. This apology has nothing to do with the outcome of debates. I have apologized to teams from rounds that we won and rounds that we lost. This apology should not be read in anyway to conclude that Kansas did not deserve to win rounds we won. It is simply an apology for having read flawed evidence in those debates.

7. This apology does not mean that KU teams will not continue to make similar arguments against framework. I will in fact re-cut this Wilderson evidence to be true to the words Wilderson wrote. The words [debate] and [America] do not have to be in this evidence for it to make a strong argument about fairness. Wilderson's arguments about what happened at Cabrillo College make a strong argument that stands on its own without embellishment.

Title: Re: Out of context Wilderson evidence—A warning and an apology
Post by: JustinGreen on November 16, 2016, 10:11:27 AM
I want to chime in as well...

Wake Forest NW also read a version of this evidence that was inappropriately modified and done so without notation against MSU BR.  This card was taken from a HS file and was not distributed among our squad.  Our debaters did not read the modified versions of the evidence; they did introduce it to a debate.  We would like to echo a few of Professor Harris' sentiments and chime in with a couple of our own.

1-We would like to publicly thank the Michigan State coaching staff for their professionalism.  Every part of the conversation was carried out in a way that put care for the students and the academic ethics of the community first.  They could have waited for a big debate to hit the other team with a slam dunk ethics challenge; they didn't.  It was clear the mission is good pedagogy, not merely good trophies.

2-We would like to apologize to MSU BR and anyone else this evidence was read against.  We believe the initial modification was not appropriate, the fact that we read a modified card without acknowledging it makes it worse.  We have revisited discussion how and when, if ever, to modify evidence and the need to separate high school from internally produced evidence.  It turns out Wake Forest already possessed a proper cutting of the evidence that was read 2 years before by Athanasopolous and Dean. 

3-We have reminded our debaters that opensource is for scouting.  We should cut our own cards.

Thank you again to MSU and to Dr. Harris for his words of reflection,
Justin Green