NDCA Ethics Statement

So recently an ethics statement produced by the NDCA failed to get passed by a pretty large margin. It seems fairly obvious that counting people not voting as a no vote was the cause here (despite arguments made to the contrary…) so I think either people just didn’t know about it or didn’t care enough to vote. Below I have gone through some of the provisions and given thoughts and then suggested some ways the statement could be improved.

“Debaters may not alter the content of evidence by adding or deleting words without explicitly noting what the original said and what has been replaced.”

This seems troubling. Why should debaters ever be deleting or adding words? I assume they are referring to g-lang or something similar, but it seems a policy of no evidence tampering period would be much better than this. If you don’t agree with the language choice of a card

A. Read a different card

B. Don’t read that part

C. Erasure

I don’t know why changing the words is acceptable as long as you leave a trail.

“If debaters find it easier to read evidence with ellipses, they must have complete copies of the evidence that they automatically give to judges and the other team. The version with ellipses should be for debaters to read aloud only.”

I actually kind of agree with this one. I think ellipses in debate are similar to guns in real life. People who want to cheat/obfuscate issues with ellipses have been doing it for a long time and continue to do it. A norm against ellipses means  that people who don’t do that have to print 5 page long cards. People clearly shouldn’t be omitting sentences or 1 paragraph that says the opposite of what they want to say in the card, but I am back in the camp of thinking its better to pit (continues) then include 20 paragraphs of size 5 font. Bottom line- there is nothing that prevents you from just reading 2 separate cards that way- so the ellipses just omits the tag of the 2nd.

“If the information is available, the author’s full name, title of the work, complete date, complete web address (if applicable), and page numbers (from books) should be listed on each piece of evidence. Accurate qualifications must also be included. If no qualifications are available, that should also be noted.”

This one I have some minor qualms with

-page numbers are not just for books-I’d much rather have the page numbers for a journal article than the title

-requiring you to note an absence is silly

Some omissions that should be added

-Page numbers- always. A database is not a page number.

-Journal issue and Number

-Editor for books

-edition if applicable

“If a debater reads quotations that are embedded and article that is not from the author of the article, the author of the quotation should be cited (unless the author of the article notes the source within the text of the card). Similarly, if a debater reads a comment posted by someone else at the end of an article, it needs to be cited as a comment by a different author, not as part of the article.”

I disagree with this in 2 ways.

A. If you are reading a quote in an article, you should not just assume the person claimed to have said it in fact said it and cite it as such. You should either look up the original quote to verify and cut from the original source material, or cite it as the author of the article and include an internal attribution. This is how it works in academia (with the former being done much more than the later). It’s possible whoever wrote this just means “make sure you also make clear who is saying the internal quote” but the language is unclear.

B.  I don’t think people should read comments ever. I’m sure there is some website where the commentors are super qualified and blah blah blah but that is an extreme minority.  Allowing comments to be read as evidence seems to be a terrible idea- again think of academia.

Things I would like to see added/discussed in an ethics “document”- a title which I find more than a little annoying/imprecise/silly. I will say at the get go I find this thing a little puzzling, its like “these aren’t rules but things we think should happen… we don’t discourage or encourage x we just want to regulate it… don’t cut out sentences but ellipses are fine if you have a full copy”- the whole thing is pretty wishy washy.  But assuming its true that this thing would lead to norms which would be followed:

Roman Numearal 1: Disclosure

-should occur by the affirmative within 5 minutes of a pairing being released. No more “we gotta get our tubs first” or “let us talk to our coaches” – do that in 5 minutes and get it done. If you were too busy doing something else when the pairing came out then you have given up your time to talk to your coach, you shouldn’t get to take that out of the negs pre round prep causing them to wine for a moved start time and then all of a sudden we have 2 round tournaments

-If the debate is flip for sides elims within5 minutes of the judges being known/after strike cards are done or whatever

-proper aff disclosure is one of the following

A. We will read the same aff as in X previous aff debate- here is the full plan text and list of claimed advantages to said plan

B. We will read a similar aff to previous X aff debate- either the plan will have a meaningful change and therefore we will not be revealing it, or our advantages will change- we will read XYZ advantages we have read prior and then advance new arguments in favor of our plan

C. We will read an affirmative that we have not read previously

Inappropriate answers include

A. We will read X or Y or Z

B. We will read X plan and some of the advantages on the following list and maybe a new advantage

C. This is the last thing we have read- we have no idea if it is what we will be reading in this debate

-the affirmative should have their act together and disclose properly- they should not need multiple later clarifications of what they are reading

Roman Numeral 2- Flips

-know your side preference before you flip, after the flip immediately chose, that choice is binding. If you need to ask questions to be ready do so before the flip takes place. Flips should occur within 5 minutes as per above

-One member from school A flips a coin that they own, one member from school B calls it. The coin is allowed to land on the ground. This means it doesn’t matter what coin is used or if it has 2 sides that are heads etc. How this isn’t established procedure and some flips still take forever is beyond me.

Roman Numeral the Third- Post Rounds

-coaches of participants should not be allowed to speak during these. Oh yeah I went there. When has this ever helped learning/been positive in any way? The post round is about the judge explaining to the students how they saw the round. If you want to make your own comments about the round or ask the judge questions you can do so at a later date.

-for panels the dissenting judge (if any) should speak first and address criticism to the team advancing. I didn’t used to think this was controversial but recently I have seen this alleged norm transgressed frequently. I think the logical basis for this is sound- the team advancing needs to prepare, get it out of the way so they can move on.

Will edit to add more later

7 thoughts on “NDCA Ethics Statement

  1. Scu

    I need to finish reading this later, but thoughts why I am still here.

    On the first point, I think that added words in brackets (like [sic.]) may be okay.

    On the third point, I agree that we need far more information with citations, and I don't think the original guideline goes far enough.

  2. Scu

    Oh, one more thing. I like the idea of everything going smoothly enough that you can decide and disclose within five minutes, but I have been around plenty of times when that isn't practical. (Like, when I was the only coach and I had 5 teams breaking, and some of those weren't even in the same building, and sometimes the novices decided to leave their evidence clear across campus, and etc). There is just no way I can coordinate with five teams, get the information from the other five teams, and chat with each of the five teams to see if they agree with my suggestions about what they should do, all in five minutes of finding out panels and who is hitting whom.

  3. Scott Phillips

    Its great when school A has a lot of success and clears 5 teams, but why should school B who only cleared one get less prep time knowing their side because of it?

  4. Scu

    Well, school B has the same amount of prep time as school A, so it is not unfair, per se. And, I am not sure why a school should be punished for success. I don't mind flips happening within five minutes, but I think five minutes is just unreasonable to assume all information to be conveyed. 15 minutes most certainly, and ten minutes probably.

  5. Scott Phillips

    They do have the same amount, but B has to wait around for A which means they are not getting as much prep as teams in a debate not involving a team from school A. You cannot make a "norm" based on B, since clearing 1 team is a logical prereq to clearing 5. If you cleared 5 teams you had a great tournament- it makes more sense to make the huge squad with lots of good debaters take the hit then to disadvantage team B because of another teams success no? You say "why punish us for success", why punish others for your success?

  6. Scu

    TO answer your last point: Because this is a competitive activity, and we should not be in the habit punishing people for succeeding.

    Now, the squad that broke one team (I am not making a call here about sizes of squads, just the size of numbers broken) is not disadvantaged, they are not taking a hit. They have the same amount of prep time as the other team they are hitting, which means things on pre-round prep wise is equal. The only team that would take a hit would be the one that takes longer than five minutes after it was all announced (no excuses).

    Furthermore, this wouldn't hurt squads with multiple coaches, but would encourage successful squads with small coaching staffs to bring less teams to tournaments, which would result in less resources for people debating. And would unfairly hurt teams that have managed to do more with less. That seems like a bad thing to me. Especially compared the annoyance (but not, unfairness) of having equal but shorter pre-round prep.

    I am not opposed to setting a time, I am opposed to setting an unreasonable time limit, and I have been in lots of situations where five minutes would just be impossible/unreasonable. Not just the lots of squads to prep out.

  7. Roy Levkovitz

    I'm generally a fan of the St. Mark's Policy on the time constraints issue. St. Mark's sets a time 10-15 mins after the pairings are released for elims in which the teams must have flipped and decided sides. If one team is not in the room and there has not been a flip the team in the room gets to decide their side. While I am not sure this has ever needed to happen the threat deters it.

    This problem seems to happen more with morning debates on elim day where people show up late and delay the whole process. An elim debate at the NDCA a couple years ago (which might have sparked the St. Mark's policy) comes to mind. In generally this doesn't seem to be too controversial.

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