Amanda Soczynski ParadigmLast changed 10/17 5:58P CST
Amanda Soczynski’s Judge Philosophy
A little about myself; I have been involved with forensics for 16 years as a student, judge, and coach. I am currently in my 5th year as the congressional debate coach at Edina High School. My background was originally in speech where I competed and coached. In High School, I learned policy debate as a class rather than competition on a local level. I have been judging debate for the last 12 years, in all categories. I judged CX for the beginning years and the last 5 in LD, PF and Congress. I graduated with a Mass Comm degree from University of Minnesota School of Journalism and a J.D. graduate from William Mitchell College of law in 2014. I work at Thomson Reuters on legal software & research, as a content expert.
I have a congress paradigm and CX,LD,PF one included in here.
One thing to remember - judging congress is hard! It's just as exhausting for us as it is for you. We're trying really hard to compare a lot of people who have vastly different styles! I try to write as much as I can, but I spend a lot of time listening, so sometimes my comments can be lite at times. I'm working on that, the three mins go so fast. I'm hoping this will help shed some light on how I evaluate debaters.
When it comes to national level tournaments, at this point, almost everyone is a proficient speaker, so I really focus on the quality of arguments. I really am looking for Clash - probably more than anything. There is a reason this is a debate category and not a speech event. Make sure you are listening and not rehashing, if you're doing a rebuttal make sure you are extending or further attacking an argument.
I REALLY APPRECIATE A GOOD AUTHORSHIP OR SPONSORSHIP. Nothing is worse than judging or watching a semi-final round where there is no first aff, and having to take an in house recess immediately. Come prepared, have one. Spend the rest of your time doing great questions and defending your position there. I feel like people don't like to do this because they feel like they will be dropped. Rebuttals and Crystals are great, but there's a lot of them. If you can do this well, we'll know. It comes with the most amount of questioning time that if you know a lot about the topic you can show boat.
Linking: This is a debate skill you should have, you should able to link your impacts with others, link arguments together for rebuttal. Most national level congress debaters are great at linking within their own argument, but make sure you link and contextualize to the round. I want to see that they go together rather be a stand alone. That being said, contextualizing by: "I want to separate myself from the other AFF or NEG arguments", that's okay because you are still contextualizing within the round. Do not operate as an island in the debate, it's a good way to be dropped by me. Also remember, you can have great speeches, but if you don't ask questions, you're going to find your way to the middle of my ballot. It's a crucial part of debate.
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Again, at the national level, most people can impact to lives or economy etc. But what I find people aren't as good, is contextualizing the impact. Example: You tell me that thousands of lives are being lost in Yemen, take it one step further tell me what percentage of that population is being killed, or how that compares to another genocide for context. Make it hit home for all of us. Just giving generic #'s, sure it's the impact, but it doesn't show me the impact. Make sense? Remember I come from a policy background where pretty much everything leads to nuclear war.
Direct questioning is great, but make sure you're not too long winded or too brief, there's a nice sweet spot, where you have maybe a sentence or two question and answer. I've seen people basically run out the time by doing a really long answer, and I've also seen debaters ask such long questions that there's no way the opponent can answer. You only have 30 seconds, make it count.
Participation in Round:
Leadership is important. Remember, I'm comparing a lot of kids, participation with motioning and making sure that all students get to talk is important. This can help make up for bad presidency etc.
I almost always rank P.O.s in the top 5. It's a hard job, and as a parli, we appreciate good POs. A good way to get to the top 1/2 of my ballot as a PO. The round runs so smoothly I barely know you're there. You are able to solve issues of people not being prepared / docket issues. (This happens so often, time restrictions make things complicated. Especially since lots of tournaments have their own rules).
Mistakes happen, one mistake is not going to tank you. Continuous mistakes, or failing to help chamber resolve issues. This makes it harder.
Inclusiveness - especially on the local circuit. I don't like parliamentary procedure used to limit people talking. It is also important to encourage those who haven't talked to go. Do your best to make sure the chamber isn't inclusive.
DON'T ALWAYS PICK YOUR FRIENDS FIRST. I know this happens. And it's easier to pick up than you think it is. Presidency means a lot in congress. Make it fair.
There's a reason I love coaching congress, it's a fun event!
General: As I’ve previously mentioned I come from a legal background. I am a “big picture” judge. I do appreciate the attention to detail, however, I don't like when it devolves into a debate that’s myopically focused on one thing. Make sure you take the time, especially in rebuttals to do a “birds eye view” of the debate. Remember, the rebuttal is the last time I hear from you before I make a decision, make it count. I appreciate good crossfire, and cross ex, specifically using information obtained in these for an argument.
Topicality: I like topicality, especially in varsity level debate. I think it makes a for a boring debate to have a non-topical aff. So it’s a pretty garden variety argument for the neg to make.
Critical Arguments: As I wasn’t a debater in high school, I don’t have the technical experience dealing with these arguments, however, I don’t mind critical affs on-face. Since I don’t have the technical experience, I appreciate all critical arguments to be understandable and explained properly. I catch on to arguments quickly, however I loathe having to have to fill in the gaps of an argument because its poorly argued. Make it logical, make it understandable. I generally dislike affs that are anti-topical or affs that critique the topic. I’m not saying I’ll never vote for a critical aff, whiteness aff, performance aff’s, etc, but its the one area where an affirmative is asking the most out of me as a judge. Again, I have less experience with these types of aff’s so extra explanation of sources and philosophies. For kritiks from the negative, I prefer ones that are topic-specific rather than K’s that are broad or philosophical. I’m pretty familiar at this point with cap k, neolib, fem, eco-k, anything outside of these again you’ll have to communicate more effectively as it is a bigger burden for me to decipher.
Theory: I don’t have the background in this, so this won’t be very successful with me as a judge. I overall prefer substantive arguments over theoretical or procedural arguments. My training in law, and my work, deals almost exclusively with substantive arguments, so I tend to prefer and understand those better. If you do decide to go this route, it must be very well done. My flow can’t be muddy, and the explanation must be very logical and understandable.
Speed: I have no problem with speed. I do ask two things. 1. Slow down enough on the tags so that I can understand them 2. Make your tags count. I dislike deciphering poor tags that do not tell me anything about the evidence. Keep tags like 5-8 words, long tags suck.
Post Round Discussion: Please be respectful, I don’t appreciate a “shake down” when I’m explaining my decision. I don’t do speaker points till after the round is over and all the debaters have left the room and I take decorum into account. I am a bit of a non-traditional judge and I do make a concerted effort to bring up constructive criticism and positive comments. Please take these comments as an opportunity to learn!