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Author Topic: Topic Committee Ballot  (Read 18191 times)
Jr. Member
Posts: 98

« on: November 30, 2012, 01:05:56 PM »


I'm on the ballot for topic committee rep.  I wanted to say a little bit about what my approach to the topic committee will be so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to vote for me.

While the topic committees of the past couple years have gotten many things right, there are some areas of improvement that could make the topics, and the following year of debates, a lot better.  Here are the primary approaches to the topic that I'd like to promote:

1) Ensure that the aff has the ability to effectively solve core advantage areas.  The democracy assistance topic is a clear example of what happens when this maxim is not put into place, as anybody who did aff work on that topic can attest to.  It was incredibly difficult to find solvency evidence and as a result most aff's had to rely on cards that were either only sort of/kind of about the aff, or also advocated 5 or 6 other non topical actions in addition to the aff.  We ended up with a topic that was very interesting and timely but centered around a lot of contrived advantage and solvency claims.  This year has been better, but still excludes some important mechanisms for enabling large scale change in energy production because they were rejected at the topic committee meeting.

One of the central reasons why this approach to the topic has not been fully embraced is rampant fear of random tiny aff's that are in reality not that big a deal.  A serious discussion occurred at this years topic meeting about the need to exclude a tornado power aff.  The previous year, one of the reasons given why democracy assistance was chosen over other phrases was the need to exclude aff's that invaded a country to promote democracy.  Sometimes the topic committee has made decisions based on a vaguely expressed belief that "there could be a lot of cases if we choose that wording" without further detail or reference.  

I do think it's important to prevent a very large unlimited topic, but I think we need to change our conception of what a very large and unlimited topic is.  To me, a very large unlimited topic is one where there are many different high quality topical aff's that people would actually run.  It does not mean a topic where there are some high quality topical aff's and the possibility for many different low quality aff's that people will probably not run, or if they do get run can be defeated easily with generic strategies.

2) Stem variety.  There was no stem variety on the democracy assistance ballot, the only difference between ballot options were the target countries.  There was very limited stem variety on this years ballot.  Ballot options 1-4 had the same stem and only differed in whether renewables were included and whether the phrase financial incentives were used.  Ballot options 5 - 6 were different but only kind of.  They mirrored much of the language from 1-4 and as a result those ballot options were a conceptual and grammatical disaster.  5 received the fewest number of votes and while 6 did well in the voting, my belief is that's because 5 and 6 were the only ballot options that allowed all renewables and 6 was less messy than 5.  I'd like to see topic ballots that offer legitimately different options which give the community a meaningful choice when deciding what topic should be selected.

Please feel free to ask me any questions on CEDA forums or privately at
« Last Edit: November 30, 2012, 01:09:53 PM by jonahfeldman » Logged
Full Member
Posts: 167

« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2012, 07:25:05 PM »

Thanks for the platform Jonah.  The topic committee balloted is stacked with a ton of great people.  As one voter, it'd be awesome if the other nominees could toss up a few paragraphs here so I could make my choice as informed as possible.
Posts: 33

« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2012, 09:08:40 PM »

Hi Jonah,

How do you feel about agentless topics and/or non-usfg topics?
Jessica Kurr
Jr. Member
Posts: 89

« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2012, 09:47:22 PM »

I agree with Jonah's two points about topic "size" and "stem" variety, but I'll offer two small distinctions between our positions. After that, I'll mention some things besides topic viewpoint that I think would be helpful in choosing a rep.

Topic Size
I think when we avoid the "large topic," as Jonah elucidates, due to the fear of unbeatable affs, the committee tends to make the solvency mechanism of the topic too small. This creates a problem where the affs aren't able to solve their advantages, which leads to the contrived nature of many immigration affs and democracy assistance affs.

I differ from Jonah in that I think there are affs that occasionally pop up that aren't solely dealt with by generics. However, I think those are probably good as long as they are predictable and do not produce an overbearing topic. Teams were prepared to deal with court affs on the immigration topic even though they were slightly different than the norm. If the MENA topic included the military "aid" aff, teams would be prepared for that. Specifically, for that topic, I didn't understand what the big deal was given that the generic K work for democracy assistance would have equally applied for the military side of the topic. The only difference is that perhaps the aff could actually solve some sort of Syria advantage.

Stem Variety
I'll just provide some examples of what I would aim for. The immigration topic seemed to have good variety. You had visas, albeit two visa resolutions seemed unnecessary, legal protection, and a combination of the two plus asylum. Nukes seemed a tad more too limited, but still produced a good resolution. You had disarm, disarm + restrict, and disarm + restrict + Russia + readiness. I completely agree with Jonah's assessment on MENA. I wondered why there wasn't some stem of non-military democracy assistance or just straight up democracy promotion. Finally for energy, this seemed to have the same problem as MENA. The differences in specifying the financial assistance were not meaningful distinctions.

Other Stuff

First, I'll just say I think everyone should vote for the graduate student amendment, as graduate students have a unique perspective given that they have recently debated in the past few years but also have a few years of coaching. Additionally, that amendment guarantees that type of multiple perspective would happen on the committee. I think thats also why I would make a good addition to the committee. I debated on immigration and have coached on MENA and energy.

Second, I'm very familiar with testing the boundaries of the topic. As a 2A, I read the asteroids aff and remove the umbrella over Japan and Taiwan on the nukes topic. I read an overrule the Chinese Exclusion case with racism/policy impacts and expand eligibility to child soliders on the immigration topic. Being able to recognize these boundaries and how debaters like myself would interpret these resolutions I think provides a more clear picture on what type of affs small schools will be able to research. If you think including those affs is problematic, then my perspective would help elucidate those affs and probably attribute them to specific wordings. Hence, even if you disagree with me on whether those affs should be included, at least there will be some clarity in which of the hopefully various stems would relatively allow more of those affs.
Full Member
Posts: 148

« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2012, 08:31:50 AM »

Reasons to vote for me for Topic Committee:

1) I believe people have the right to eat meat at debate tournaments, or any other time, without having debate coaches jack their speaker points.
2) Any other views I have on the topic process have been well (maybe not THAT well) articulated over the past twenty years of coaching, and ranting on edebate and ceda forums.
3) My vested interest in the topic process is that I have to spend between 9 and 18 weekends of my life listening to debates. Whent he topics suck, the debates tend to suck. I don't like judging debates that suck.
joe leeson-schatz
Full Member
Posts: 140

« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2012, 10:16:22 AM »

I agree with Jeff and Jonah about the way topics have been crafted over the past few years. The continual push to ensure neg ground and aff's have not produced better topics. It has only produced more wordy resolutions that haven't helped create better debates. People will always find a way to negate no matter how large the topic is since there is always some core neg ground that can be found. To me the most important thing about the topic process is selecting a topic that we can learn about and gives us access to unique literature that we would not explore otherwise. A topic rep looking to promote education first and foremost versus ground is very important. Teams will always find a way to push the package. A lengthy resolution wording to try and stop this doesn't actually help prevent it. The simpler the wording in my opinion the better.

And, from years of reading Elliot's posts and his civility in responding to others on a consistent basis, you can be assured he will not be receiving my vote, as much as I will be receiving his strike.
Jr. Member
Posts: 98

« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2012, 01:18:13 PM »

Hi Jonah,

How do you feel about agentless topics and/or non-usfg topics?

With all due respect to the court, I'm not going to respond to anonymous posters.

If an identifiable person would like to know this information please ask.

Jr. Member
Posts: 52

« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2012, 02:40:39 PM »

He said his name 2 days ago. I can understand not responding to ad homs from "anonymous69" but this is silly
kevin kuswa
Sr. Member
Posts: 347

« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2012, 02:58:58 PM »

those questions from chessman have merit.  In terms of laying out a platform for the topic committee, i'd like hear a few things in addition to the common views that...

1. the aff should have some flexibility,
2. the aff shold be able to solve the core problems,
3. we should have a diversity of topic options,
4. topic diversity also means different stems,
5. example views on previous topics.

These are all well and good opinions, but from my limited experiences, the topic committee is not really about large visions of the ideal topic wording-- a lot of that is within the topic paper and the various wording papers.  A lot of committee work then becomes research-driven, checking particular phrases against others in the literature to try to represent a certain view (even if contested) of the topic paper and what we call affirmative "ground."  with that in mind, some other questions come to mind that might help differentiate a slate of truly great nominees:

--echoing joe's query, what is your view of the role of education in this process?  If something that seems more important to the educational process (assuming the topic wording can connect to pedagogy) but is not directly outlined in the topic paper, how much support/legitimacy would you afford that initial direction?

--in what ways is diversity important to you in the debate community and how do you define that?  Do you believe the topic area or even wording has an effect on diversity of any form in the debate community?  If not, what role does the topic/wording play?  If so, how?

--what is a wording risk you would be willing to take (with the agent for example)?  What "tried and true" wording options are you wedded to?  In other words, if something needs to be big, do you default to "substantially" or would you be willing to thing about other options, even options that do not appear in a lot of previous topics.

--how much stock to you put in the list of previous college policy debate resolutions?  Would you also look at previous highschool topics for insight? Previous LD topics?  What is your impression of the tendency and direction of college policy topics since 1940?

--How much research do you plan to do if voted to the committee?  Are you planning to write a topic paper or wording paper or both?  Have you participated in that kind of research and writing in the past?  What value do you put on "cards" vs. opinion of the debate community members/committee members?

--How much time and energy would you put into investigating an argument or wording option from an member of the community posted here on CEDA Forums during the committee meeting?

--If confronted with a choice between broad topics with fewer descriptors and more space for evolution vs. a topic with more specificity, more words, and a narrow conception of topical action, where do you stand?  Should that view influence the slate of wordings overall?  If the community tends to vote for the smaller version of a series of similar topics, how do you propose we provide a diverse set of wordings with meaningful choice?  Would passive voice be a good way to enhance that choice?

--What did you think of the IMF agent proposal a few years back?  What was the worst topic wording you can think of and why?  How important is topicality as a negative argument in your worldview?  Do you generally support Word PICS and how does that influence a choice between something like "domestic energy production" and "energy production in the US."

--How important is grammar to you when constructing a topic and do you consider yourself an expert (or highly qualified) in sentence construction.  What are your unique perpectives and areas of expertise that might not be present otherwise on the committee?  What are your favorite areas to research?

--When you do debate research, do you have any tips on how to get an assignment done?  Do you usually work on your own or with other debaters--how does the collaboration process work for you?

--Could give an example of a future topic that would work for you, or perhaps an example of what you would consider a Legal Topic.  What is your view on the topic rotation that you will be a part of implementing and do you have a clear sense of the differences between the three types of topics?

--Do you typically teach classes over the first part of the summer or do a lot of research for a high school workshop?

Obviously these are just some open-ended areas and I wouldn't expert the nominees to go into depth on all of these questions, but there is some merit in tacking at least a few of these and maybe that will help create some differences in the approaches.

Thanks much, Kevin
« Last Edit: December 01, 2012, 03:03:00 PM by kevin kuswa » Logged
Adam Symonds
Sr. Member
Posts: 356

« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2012, 04:32:22 PM »

I am also on the topic committee ballot - here are my thoughts about the role of the committee.

1. I think being appointed to the topic committee means dedicating yourself to an incredible, exhaustive amount of research in the controversy area before the topic committee meets. A fundamental truth of debate is that specificity wins; our conversations about the effect of certain mechanism and word choices should be incredibly specific to the literature that will make up the next year's topic. I admire the extensive research effort that Adrienne manages each year, and I think all of our committee members should be aspiring toward that level of effort and effectiveness. The more folks on the committee that have this sort of dedication to research in the few weeks between controversy selection and topic committee meeting, the better our process will play out.

2. I favor resolutions (and topics really) that target a core controversy. I think the committee's job is to read the literature in the controversy field in order to craft resolutions that address that core in ways that are balanced for aff and neg teams to debate. Sometimes, I think what has been produced is something debatable that is tangential to the real controversy in the literature. I still believe in the educational function of changing the resolution every year. Toward that end, tasking the committee with starting with a real controversy at the center of the resolution and making that debatable appeals to my sensibilities more than seeking debatability first, core controversies second. Resolutions that I think captured controversies that were debatable: Nuclear weapons, Constructive Engagement (2007-8 as well as 1999-2000), Energy (2004-5). Resolutions that I think have missed the core of the controversy areas: This year's topic (the controversy is not whether or not we should increase domestic energy production, it's HOW to do it), Visas (largely wasn't about immigration), Democracy assistance (mechanism was so limited that it missed the core of the debate), Subsidies (again, most of the left and right want subsidies gone, the question should have been about HOW to do it).

3. I think we need more affirmative flexibility and fears of boundless of topics are overblown. One area we could use greater aff diversity is in the available advantage areas in a given resolution. Visas, democracy assistance, and this year's topic can largely be grouped as "different mechanism, same advantages" in each debate. A second area that could use more aff flexibility is in the available mechanisms. There were many types of democracy assistance. They were all fundamentally civil society approaches with the same outcomes (and therefore same advantages). We do have a large community and it can be difficult for the negative to prepare against a vast array of affirmatives, I get that impulse. On the other hand, without the ability to point to the "good affs," as Jonah puts it, that are let in by employing a certain term or phrase, I think the fear of unpredictable affirmatives is a red herring. Again, the ability to point to specific literature bases that let in great affs that will shift the topic in directions we don't want is vastly more persuasive than nebulous "big topic" fears. Any resolution on the ballot should offer sufficient action by the affirmative to solve. I think it's possible that more extensive research into democracy assistance's functions before the committee meeting may have produced more support for greater aff range of action on that topic. How does one attempt to balance the aff innovation and neg predictability? One approach I favor is a lesson I think we learned, but perhaps lost, from the 1999-2000 sanctions topic: employ a floor of mandatory action and a ceiling for aff innovation. In that topic, affs had to engage in "constructive engagement," which is quite broad, but they were required to eliminate sanctions on the target country as part of their constructive engagement. Core negative link arguments stemmed from removing sanctions. The best solvency claims for most of the countries in that topic (excluding Iraq) were about constructive engagement. Some of our recent topics are more analagous to a "remove sanctions only" topic. Perhaps Democracy Assistance could have been a mandatory part of a broader Democracy Promotion mechanism. Most of the reduce restrictions affs on this topic are solvency challenged, but could have functioned in as a mandatory part of a topic that asked the aff to establish an energy policy.

4. Topicality ought to be an argument in debates, not a foregone conclusion after the topic is released. I'm not saying we should have "resolved: energy," but I am not a fan of extensive lists that are designed to force only 5 affs on the topic. Topicality debates are becoming (have already become?) a lost art. Very few of us are going to wind up debating T in front of the Supreme Court, but anyone who saw Lindsay's speech should realize that the ability to skillfully wield definitions may be important situations we (and our students) may not yet fathom. At any rate, what is the harm in teaching the debaters how to debate topicality? If affs push the envelope, this is the ultimate equalizer.

5. There ought to be meaningful, diverse choice on the slate of resolutions that we produce on the final ballot. In my view, the committee is tasked with making debatable resolutions, not selecting the topic by default. I see no reason that we should not be offering real choice for the community to decide on. The Visas topic had a wide range of such resolutions. Democracy Assistance and Energy largely did not. Nukes could have been broader (although I thought the final topic was fine).

6. Since there have been questions about passive voice, non-USFG action, here's my thought on that: I think creativity in our topic actors is a good idea. I liked Galloway's IMF paper. I don't think we always need to debate the USFG; this is clearly an area where we are stagnant. I can see situations where passive voice would be a fruitful way to frame the topic. However, in both non-USFG and passive voice situations, I think we are substantially raising the bar for the mechanism/controversy. In order to sustain a new actor or an agentless topic, the mechanism would become all important - if we flub the choice of mechanism, there's no safety net.
Jr. Member
Posts: 98

« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2012, 05:06:48 PM »

Hey Christian, I missed your clarification on the Animals/Allies thread.  I'm happy to answer your question and I apologize for the misunderstanding.  I wasn't trying to duck your question, I just don't think it's a good idea to respond to anonymous posters because it encourages trolls and inhibits the best forms of community engagement.  I can go more in depth on that if necessary, but it seems tangential to this discussion.

You asked how I felt about agentless topics and non-usfg topics.  I'd like to separate out the question of "how I feel" from how I would deal with it as a member of the topic committee.  If I am fortunate enough to be a representative on the topic committee, than I see my obligation as providing the community with a diverse set of quality ballot options and not necessarily enforcing my own feelings about the topic across the board.

How I feel -

I'm skeptical of the ability of agentless topics to create the foundation for a years worth of high quality debates.  I'm intrigued by the possibility of a non-usfg topic and I think that international agents in particular, like the UN and the IMF, could be a nice twist.  I hope somebody writes a solid non-usfg topic so we can start thinking in more detail about how debates under that kind of topic would operate.  I'm not totally convinced that it's feasible but it seems healthy for us to explore the possibility.

How I would act as a topic committee representative -

If the winning topic paper was written with a non-traditional resolution as a clear objective (agentless, non-usfg, negative action, etc) then I would maintain fidelity to what the community was voting for when it voted for that topic.  I would see myself as a representative of community interests and would not try to derail a topic that moved in a direction different from my own views.  I think authors of topic papers can help the committee out by being explicit in their vision of the topic to ensure that the vote establishes a mandate.

Even if the winning topic paper did not clearly establish a non-traditional resolution I might still consider support for one of the options on the ballot being non-traditional if it made sense with the topic the committee was grappling with.  In that instance I would be more likely to support a sensible non-usfg option than an agentless option which I don't think I could get behind unless it was clear that that's what the community had voted for.

Please ask any further questions about this issue or others.

Kevin, why don't you choose your top two questions and I will offer a detailed response

kevin kuswa
Sr. Member
Posts: 347

« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2012, 06:15:31 PM »

thanks, Jonah.  a couple i think might help draw some variation to the surface:

If the community tends to vote for the smaller version of a series of similar topics, how do you propose we provide a diverse set of wordings with meaningful choice?

And, could you talk about your sense of the differences between the three types of topics in the four-year rotation?
Ryan Galloway
Full Member
Posts: 121

« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2012, 08:56:56 PM »

Here are my thoughts on topic construction/my role on the committee:  Iíll start with broad principles, and then discuss criterion for topic/resolutional wordings.

Broad Principles:

1)   The first debate is as important as the last.  The first novice debate at the first tournament of the season is as important as the last elimination round of the NDT or CEDA nationals.  Topics must be accessible, relevant, and manageable for squads of different sizes, ideologies, and purposes.  Iíve worked at squads that were gunning to win the NDT and squads that had everyone who started as a novice. 
2)   Education and ground are both important.  We should be striving to learn about relevant, contemporary, controversial issues.  Topics should be constructed so we learn more about the core of controversies.  I miss the big stick AFFís.  I think open the borders should have been a topical AFF on immigration.  Resolutions should allow affirmatives to access central literature on a question and not be cordoned off to esoteric issues.  At the same time, topics should be fair for schools of all sizes and ideological stripes.  One segment that seems to get left out of the discussion is the small policy school.  In addition to worrying about the critical side of the equation (and I support resolutions that allow critical AFF ground), I also think the topic should be manageable for small policy squads.  Mechanism stability is a critical component of this equation.
3)   What we do should be important outside of the four walls of debate.  Our topics should be relevant to our everyday lives.  We should be learning advocacy skills that help us in the real world.  That world includes academia, activism, and everyday discussions.  Debate ought to help us discuss real world controversies in the public sphere.  This is why I feel we should craft topics that get to the center of relevant controversies and not try so hard in our effort to create balance to cordon off small and esoteric areas to debate. 

Criterion for topics:

I prefer Ziegelmueller & Kay's definition of a good proposition (George W. Ziegelmueller & Jack Kay, Argumentation Inquiry & Advocacy, Third Edition, 1997, pg. 21-24).  There are three criteria I find particularly important.

Under the title "Phrasing Propositions"

Criterion 1:  "Change from Existing Beliefs or policies.  The proposition should be phrased to indicate a change from present beliefs or policies...There is no reason for inquiry or advocacy if everyone is content with existing beliefs and policies" (Z& K, 1997, pg. 21-22).

Ryan comments:  I am concerned about topics that move too far in the direction of the status quo.  Link uniqueness thumpers on the topic make it difficult to debate the core controversy at hand.  In terms of topic choices, this is one of the primary reasons I supported treaties and the taxation topic.  If the community selects a topic area in the direction of the status quo, I would be in favor of resolutional wordings that force the affirmative into more radical changes.  We should look for alternatives to ďsubstantiallyĒ to force the AFF to make a more significant change and not non-unique every disadvantage by pointing out that the status quo is moving in the direction of the AFF more than the AFF does.

Criterion 2:  "Nature and Direction of the Change.  The statement of the proposition should indicate both the nature and direction of the change desired.  A proposition should identify the kind of change in belief or action being proposed, and it should indicate the philosophical or political movement away from the present belief or policy" (p. 22).

Ryan comments:  Bidirectional topics with more than one mechanism fail to identify the nature and direction of the change desired.  In particular, I oppose the recent move toward bifurcated mechanisms (reduce restrictions and/or increasing financial incentives as an example).  Not only do I feel these bifurcated mechanisms lead to incoherent learning about the controversy, it is particularly difficult for the small policy school to develop a coherent approach to the topic when faced with such bifurcated mechanisms.  Our squad struggled mightily to come up with  coherent links for our disadvantages before GSU.

The size of the topic is less important than the stability and the strength of the mechanism.

Criterion 3:  "One Central Idea.  The statement of the proposition should contain one central idea.  Inquiry and advocacy are easier and clearer when a single topic is considered at a time.  Inclusion of more than one primary idea in a resolution encourages confused, contradictory, and superficial analysis" (p. 23).

Ryan comments:  Mechanism stability is crucial to create a topic with one central idea.  I oppose what I call ďsprawling listĒ topics.  A sprawling list topic is one with different mechanisms under each sub-area (see Europe topic).  When I was at Augustana, it was incredibly difficult to coach a small squad of relatively inexperienced debaters to debate barriers to Iraq stability and DNA harmonization with Europe on the same topic (as well as all the other unrelated areas).

Meanwhile, the energy topic of the next year was a great topic.  We could channel our research through the mechanism of restrictions that required a decrease in fossil fuel consumption.  We could craft voluntary counterplan strategies with specific net benefits to the specific fossil fuel we were debating.  I was particularly proud of our work before districts that year, where we could funnel specific research through the prism of the mechanism.  A list is fine if it contains a coherent mechanism.

A brief comment about lists.  Lists can be a useful way to create a topic.  I supported them on sanctions, treaties, and courts because of the mechanism stability.  I oppose them in other instances.  I am fine with a list option on the topic ballot, but I think the ballot should provide topic size diversity, topic mechanism diversity, and issue diversity.  I think the nuclear weapons topic ballot did this best (a broad topic with mechanism diversity, a hybrid of role/missions, and then a list).  The community can then decide which of those options it likes best in the voting phase. 

I am also hawkish on the idea that every term in the resolution should be thoroughly researched and explored.  Adding in dozens of words and phrases on day three of the meeting is a recipe for topic chaos. 

I support a diversity of cases under each resolution and I support a diversity of resolutional choices on the ballot.  This does not mean I think debate should be a free for all, and I think the topic should provide limiting parameters to ensure evidenced clash on areas of core controversy.  I am in favor of topic innovation if it serves a relevant educational purpose.  This does not mean I support innovation merely for the sake of innovation.  If a topic merits a non-USFG agent, I could support this.  This was one of the reasons why I wrote the IMF topicóto challenge the assumption that the USFG always had to be the agent of action.  However, I question innovation merely to do something different, and would need to be persuaded of the education and ground reasons for radical deviation in topic construction. 

I would be happy to address any questions about my role and function as a representative.  Feel free to ask me any questions on this forum or to backchannel me at  I would be proud to serve on the committee and promise to work hard and be open to input.
Full Member
Posts: 138

« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2012, 08:12:10 AM »

Hereís how Iíd approach my duties as topic representative.

Initially, a realistic caveat.  Process matters more than particular substantive commitments.  I can outline ideas about the relative scope and complexity of my Platonic topic ideal, but you might be disappointed if you presume Iím able to engineer specific outcomes within a group decisionmaking body.  Thatís not a sexy position, but itís true.  Committees and voting are necessarily imperfect procedures.  No committee member gets to be a philosopher king.

That said, I can undertake some concrete commitments that I hope will improve the process.  Iíve been to three topic meetings (nukes, MENADA, energy production.)  The TC deserves more credit than it receives - but we can always improve.

1.  Iíd write a complete topic paper.  The topic committee currently divides research by assigning people to individual words, phrases, or sections.  We then reconvene to hear everyone describe their part of the elephant.  Itís really difficult to account for all the interactions between different stems and important noun categories within the allotted time if weíre starting from scratch on terms of art during evenings.   We could improve our vetting and troubleshooting if more of the meeting dealt with specific community concerns, as opposed to spot research.

My research record at meetings is solid, so I hope this reads as a real commitment.  We need topic philosophizing, but we also need people to just grind it out.  I've been grinding at this for a while - multipage comma report available on request for grammar aficionados and/or the insomniac.
2.   Iíd improve transparency.  I want yíall to know what Iím going to put out there as a potential range of ballot options well before the party starts.  Broadcasting meetings is great, but doesnít allow interested parties enough time to gather their thoughts and intervene when and where they feel itís appropriate.  I know a few people were desperately texting and calling during the energy production meeting, trying to communicate their viewpoints.  Itís good that they got through, but no one should have to rely on a buzzer beater to be heard.

Publishing my research work in progress on an open google document and/or word doc would go a long way toward opening up at least my part of the topic black box.

3.   I want voters to have real choices.   I may have a lot of thoughts on how topics should be constructed.  Iíll certainly steer some topics in that direction.  Many voters, however, currently seem to feel that theyíre playing a rigged game.  Identifying core controversies and making sure voters have the chance to decide between meaningfully different visions trumps my desire for perfection.

Two examples, from very different locations on debateís ideological map:
a.   I donít care for list topics.  I think debaters should be able to write their own aff.  Still, there appears to be a significant constituency for very narrow topics.  If that constituency appears large enough, and says stuff to me about it, I should make sure that thereís a list-y option on the ballot, even if itís not my jam.
b.   Iím comfortable writing USFG resolutions.  Iím accustomed to it, and I donít think that it places me in any particular ethical quandary.  A large interest group within debate disagrees, though, and wants to pursue non-USFG options.  If Iím convinced that thereís an adequate literature base for a particular non-USFG option within the problem area, Iím happy to push for the inclusion of a non-USFG option.  

My personal preference for resolutions:

-- Unified central mechanism
-- Ongoing current controversy that allows the aff to run the biggest aff (MENADA was likely under-ripe, immigration was likely too narrow)
-- Elegance > Precision.  Debaters should debate topicality, instead of choosing off a menu.  I'd also prefer not to torture grammar until it screams.

My email is  
My gmail is  I'm often available on gchat for any live questions.
My Twitter is (embarrassingly) NoochFever.**  
Iím happy to answer any and all questions posed in this or any forum.  Backchannels will be answered.

Thanks for reading.  I'd consider serving on the committee an honor, a privilege, and, perhaps oddly, a bushel of fun.

** In my defense, I chose this before I realized that Twitter was a real thing and not just a stream of quotes from professional athletes.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2012, 09:25:22 AM by antonucci23 » Logged
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Posts: 138

« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2012, 08:20:01 AM »

Hi Jonah,

How do you feel about agentless topics and/or non-usfg topics?

I'll give my answer as well, as a late arrival to the thread.

Agentless: bad.  Nah.  Agency's really important.  It grounds literature bases.  It's a core part of what we do.  We teach decisionmaking, ultimately, and decisionmaking requires a decisionmaker.

Non-USFG: potentially good.  I think there's a large enough constituency for this possibility that I want to
a. remain faithful to any non-USFG topic paper that wins
b. work hard for the inclusion of a non-USFG option within more mainstream topics - provided that the non-USFG option is the subject of a meaningful controversy within an identifiable literature base

« Last Edit: December 02, 2012, 08:29:18 AM by antonucci23 » Logged
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