Author Topic: Graduate student position on the topic commitee  (Read 8167 times)


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Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« on: April 02, 2013, 02:40:57 PM »
I am unsure how this balloting/selection process works for the graduate student position on the topic committee, and since I am on the ballot, I thought it would be helpful for me to give some background about myself.

I debated for four years at Emporia, coached there for a year, and have been a full-time coach at the University of Central Oklahoma for the past two years. This past fall I began going to school full-time studying public administration.

Over the past three years I have judged close to 300 debates. These include policy v policy, k v k, and way too many “clash of civilizations” debates. I have also done a wide array of research, ranging from politics to poetry.

I like the idea of broad topics, I would hate to have another year of H1Bs and SMRs, but understand that those are probably inevitable.

I know little about what the post entails; however, I am certain that the other people who have been nominated would also do a fantastic job.

If anyone has any questions for me, feel free to email me at or just reply to this post. Thanks for your consideration. 


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Re: Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2013, 03:36:06 PM »
Hey, Kurt.
For the sake of not flooding the topic with new threads, I'm just going to post my spiel here. I promise, not trying to steal your thunder.  ;)

I'm Andy Montee. I debated at KCKCC and the University of Texas at San Antonio for 5 years. I'm now at the University of Florida for grad school.

I debated in D3 and now reside in D6, so I've seen and judged various flavors and varieties of debate. Having come out of a community college and now working with a program of younger debaters, I understand the careful balance that needs to be struck between topics that benefit small schools as well as larger programs. I'm aware that the topic selection committee is more concerned with mechanically narrowing the controversy area we communally select. Unfortunately, bad wordings can torpedo good issues. I want to play a role in preventing that.   

I appreciate the nomination and would be glad to serve on the committee if selected. I can be reached at . Thanks


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Re: Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2013, 05:08:22 PM »
I think Kurt's thread gives the Graduate Student Rep nominees a really great opportunity to share their views. (Sorry for co-opting your thread, Kurt) This year, the community has some awesome potential Graduate Student representatives. Looking over that list, I know that we will not suffer under any choice.

Graduate Students, I believe, are the most important people to the topic process. Not only do we often do a significant amount of research for each year's topic, but we are recently graduated debaters. Therefore, we are more likely to understand what the current desires of debaters in the community are for the topic, but less likely to make choices based upon our own argument preference.

Since I was a debater, I have tried to devotedly follow the topic process. In 2011-2012, I led the writing of the failed states topic proposal (sadly, it was removed from the ballot in favor of Democracy Assistance). This year, I will be submitting an intellectual property paper. I love research, and would be honored to use that love of research to help craft a set of topic wordings that would enable to community to have a great debate year.

Beyond that, I think that the Topic Committee should endeavor to keep wordings as close to the original paper's intent as possible. Too often, wordings from the topic process distort the intent of the original paper. While I understand most of this cannot be helped, I will strive to help the wording reflect the wishes of the community.

Jackie Poapst
Any questions, feel free to email at

Jessica Kurr

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Re: Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2013, 06:14:54 PM »
I'm very glad that this graduate student specific spot has opened up, as I mentioned when the amendment was being debated in November. I've pasted below what I originally wrote for the topic committee position that was voted on late last year.

Topic Size

I think when we avoid the "large topic" 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.

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 thought MENA could have used more stem variety instead of just country variety. 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

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.

William Mosley-Jensen

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Re: Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2013, 11:22:40 AM »
I debated for 5 years at the University of Wyoming and have been a graduate assistant coach at the University of Georgia for the past 5 years, with one more year until I finish the PhD. 

The past decade I have spent in college debate has seen some excellent topics (fossil fuels, constructive engagement, nukes) some mediocre topics (democracy assistance, immigration, ag, China) and some topics that left a little to be desired (courts, Europe, energy production). Bad topics tend to be too limiting (courts), too dynamic (democracy assistance), lack solvency literature (China), differ little from the status quo (energy production), have no unifying mechanism (Europe), or avoid the central debates about the controversy (immigration).

Three characteristics that good topics have in common are a strong central mechanism, uniqueness direction away from the status quo, and a stable literature base.

Central mechanism

Good topics have a unifying mechanism that provides direction of affirmative solvency and a predictable literature that supports that mechanism. There is also debate about the desirability of that mechanism in the literature. The best topics include this as a term of art (constructive engagement), and may even provide a healthy topicality debate about how that phrase is defined. A strong mechanism also facilitates debating a topic disadvantage (deterrence on nukes), and a number of topic relevant counterplans.


It is hard to understate the importance of a topic mandating a departure from existing policy. It encourages affirmatives to avoid torturous solvency claims (there are lots of incentives now, ours are different) and provides the negative with a clearer perspective on preparing core negative generics against the topic. Failure to proscribe a topic contra to the status quo creates incentives to debate and prepare hyper-generics (process cps, etc.) because of their catch-all nature. This can in turn fuel the creation of ever smaller and more contrived affirmatives.

Stable literature base

There should be defenders of the topic that is chosen as well as detractors. The more a topic is controversial, the better that debates are likely to be about that topic. Good topics all tap into some larger public policy controversy around which revolves a number of possible arguments on both sides. Bad topics either lack a core literature (democracy assistance) because they are too dynamic or avoid the central controversy that dominates public dialogue about an issue (immigration). Relating to, rather than scrupulously dodging, the central controversy makes the topic both more likely to be discussed and more rewarding to debate.

If I had to say that I have a general philosophy about the topic it would be that the creators of the topic should seek to write a resolution that invites debate about its core terms, efficacy, costs/benefits, and alternatives rather than making their primary purpose constraining arguments (both aff and neg). If a topic is bad or poorly constructed that simply means that negatives are likely to rely (more) on their QER counterplans, politics disads, and big premise Ks, and affirmatives are likely to carve out more narrow areas in attempting to deal with those hyper-generics. I would hope to participate in the construction of a topic that promoted debates about an interesting controversy, rather than overly limiting debates to a meaningless subsection of that controversy or an underexplored area with a dearth of literature on both sides.



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Re: Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2013, 09:08:57 AM »
I will try to nuance my views in this post, but it is difficult for me to distinguish my views from the other candidates. I wholeheartedly agree with Jeff about the stem of the topic, Jackie about the size and direction of the topic, and I generally think Will is brilliant.

I feel debate has gotten dull over the last few years. The resolutions have been too topical, allowing the affirmative with uniqueness tricks, and leaving the negative with the politics disad and the cap K. Topicality debates have been over procurement vs. PPAs, and how limiting “democracy assistance” is; in short, boring.

It would be nice if the resolution was written in a way that gave K teams different access to the topic than in years past. Sure, the cap K is going to be ran, but it would be great if the K had a chance to innovate rather than be generic. Critical affirmatives should also be considered in the writing on the resolution, but specifics are hard to discuss without a topic area.

The resolution should be written in a way that allows for the topic to change with time, but not be impacted by the constant changes political situations (Arab Spring, the largest wind farm being replaced by another one). May I recommend just bringing back the nuclear weapons topic?

I have not followed much of the discussion on the forum post the NDT, but have heard about the possibility of a non-USFG topic, etc… I am in favor of our community trying something different, but much of that decision making will occur in the selection of the topic area.

And, whatever happened to actual PICs?

kevin kuswa

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Re: Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2013, 10:07:39 AM »
Kurt, good comment on the cap K.  this seems like something that should be brought out into the light to face the rigor of specificity.  You are tongue and cheek with the nukes topic, but let's not even joke about bringing that back, just thinking about what the committee did with "roles and missions" causes a deep shudder.  k


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Re: Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2013, 11:57:00 AM »
Lately it seems like the logic towards the K is, "they'll find ground, they always do." And then come October, everyone is complaining about the number of Zizek debates they've been involved in. Without much interrogation of what ground the K will have, there is a good chance that generics will be forced to prevail.


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Re: Graduate student position on the topic commitee
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2013, 10:18:45 PM »

My name is Sam. I am a graduate student at the University of Wyoming.

The construction of the topic takes place after the selection of the controversy. The controversy selected should be the centrally guiding factor in the types of bifurcations the resolution should force on affirmative and negative teams.

Ground/Limits. Construction of the topic should force the affirmative to defend a "doctrinal shift" that ensures affirmatives can solve meaningful internal links to core advantages and provides unique negative links to a core disadvantage beyond the fiscal and political costs of enacting a policy. Process counterplans/politics, small affs with uniqueness tricks, and the security K will be back next year, the topic construction should attempt to isolate how to make the selected controversy area more appealing than the strategic advantage in primarily producing those strategies. I emphasize doctrine shift because it seems to have had the best ground division on past topics. The last two topics would not meet this burden because increase in democracy assistance and increased energy production are already the USFG policy ideal norms. 'Roles and Missions' for nukes, 'Constructive Engagement' with Middle East, and even 'Diplomatic and Economic Pressure' on PRC would be examples of doctrine changes that I think made for more engaging debates.

Mechanism. Mechanism selections should make it a top priority to use  a term of art that is easily identified in a variety of public policy research areas. Mechanism construction should reflect a meaningful bifurcation in the controversy area. The mechanism is only going to be viable if it has literature that intersects it specifically with the topic areas selected and research efforts should reflect those priorities. A unified mechanism that relates to a broad array of the central controversies within the controversy selected has, in my experience, provided the most debates that are not super generic. I like the lists and think the lists of intersecting controversy areas should be left long - the key is to make sure the selected mechanism has a relevant effect on those areas. The selection of the mechanism should almost certainly not be determined by those constructing a resolution. Competing and complementary mechanisms should be researched and presented for choice by community selection.

USFG agent. I think that discussion of non specified actor resolutions should be part of any future resolution construction. Making policies that implicate others lives comes from a wide variety of avenues and if they match up well with the selected controversy area would offer valuable/practical education for students. Research should be devoted to exploring the literature that grounds other agents relationships to the controversy area. If such research bears any fruit it should be placed as an option on the ballot.

Critical affirmatives. The controversy area selected seems more likely to either encourage new philosophical impulses or not. Constraints by mandated agents and mechanisms that emphasize limited processes rather than doctrine change will make 'non topical' critical affirmatives an inevitability.

We are a community of strong researchers but there are material limitations on the work that can be accomplished in the brief time we have together to produce a resolution. In order to offer the community the best slate of resolutions, research should be focused on defining mechanisms of policy change and their relevance to a broad swath of controversial aspects within the controversy area. I would be interested in primarily working on this part of the resolution construction. I work hard, research well, and would be excited about being a direct part of the construction of the resolutions for the community.

Sorry this is short notice. Thanks for your consideration.