Cole Bender Paradigm

Last changed Tue, Jan 13, 2015 at 7:58 PM UTC


Cole Bender

Debate Experience:

Assistant Debate Coach, Liberty University (2011-Present)

Years Judging: 2008-present

Former varsity debater at Liberty University



ADDITIONS FOR SPRING 2015 (This section supersedes any subsequent, older part of my philosophy.)


The cliff notes version is: I'd prefer you speak conversational speed, my default assumption is that you have to have a reasonable chance of solving in order to have "presumption" on your side (not just .1%), stop powertagging / overclaiming / making arguments that violate all rules of reasoning and logic, and follow the rules of the sanctioning bodies of the tournaments you attend (which includes but is not limited to having a topical plan at ADA tournaments and addressing the resolution at CEDA tournaments.


I have substantial modifications to my judging philosophy that will radically change how teams pref me.  I have listed the changes below.



1. I will continue to flow, but I would like to hear debates at a conversational pace.  I still believe in the existence of common sense and that most people have a sense of how fast “conversation pace” is, but in case you need more specific guidelines, the average conversation speed of speakers using the English language is 150-200wpm.  A person not trained in college debate should have no difficulty hearing and processing each individual word being said during your speech.  If you’re going too fast, I’ll ask you to slow down.  If both teams refuse and go fast, I’ll still prompt you to slow down, but I’ll flow the debate as normal.  If the neg intends to go slow, they need to inform the aff before the 1ac begins.  If the one team goes slow and the other team goes fast, I’ll default to the slower teams’ arguments and evaluate the debate largely in truth over tech terms.  Speaking too fast will impact speaker points because speaker points indicate the level of clarity, persuasiveness, and effectiveness of your communication, but it is not an automatic reason for me to vote against you.


2. I see the role of the judge as being a critic of argument.  My threshold for what constitutes “making an argument” was already fairly high relative to the average judge.  In addition to this, I think it’s the burden of the team making the argument to produce an argument that is minimally coherent, demonstrates some level of rational consistency, and avoids obvious logical fallacies.  The net effect of this is that the rational strength of the argument matters, even if the argument is dropped.  Tech still matters, but my calculus for argument is shifting some toward the direction of truth.  For example, your advantages in your policy affs are not deductive arguments that yield logical certainty.  Doing your plan is not the one and only policy that can stop the 3-4 guaranteed extinctions that will happen in the status quo.  Likewise, for non-policy arguments, ‘X’ philosophical system is not the root cause of all violence, nor is a given resistance strategy the one thing that will lead us to utopia.  Evidence quality, reasonable extrapolations from evidence, and warrants matter much more in front of me.  I’d vastly prefer if teams who intend to debate in front of me would re-structure their arguments to avoid overclaiming / powertagging / general disregard of rationality.  I’d also appreciate if you read the qualifications of your authors.  Teams that make reasonable, smart arguments will be rewarded with speaker points, and, if their tech is close to as good as their truth, they will be rewarded with ballots.


3. My default position is that I do not think 1% risk is high enough to keep / shift presumption in your favor.  You can argue otherwise, but absent an argument in the debate, this is my position.  For example, in a policy debate, the affirmative has an obligation to read a plan that has a reasonable chance of solving before they have proven the resolution true (my default assumption is that reasonable means 5-10%).   Similarly, if the neg reads a CP, then the risk of the net benefit has to be reasonable (5-10%) in order for presumption to shift in favor of the CP instead of the plan.  For non-policy debates, it’s increasingly unclear what presumption does mean or even what it should mean.  I tend to be easily convinced that the affirmative ought to at least defend that that something material be done to change the status quo.


4. I will be following the rules of the sanctioning bodies of any tournament I attend, and I will expect those who debate in front of me to do the same.  All the remaining tournaments I’m attending are either CEDA or ADA sanctioned tournaments.  You can see a tournament’s sanctioning on Tabroom.  The CEDA rules are available here ( if you log in, and the most recent copy of the ADA rules is located here (  I encourage all participants to familiarize themselves with the rules of the various tournaments they agree to attend.


A short summary of how this impacts non-topical affs:


For CEDA tournaments: the CEDA documents only indicate that the debate should be about the resolution.  The minimum affirmative burden is therefore to discuss the resolution in some capacity and to affirm something in relation to the resolution.  Obviously I can be convinced through a process of debate that the affirmative ought to do much more than this (standard topicality and framework is still a viable strategy).  But I cannot be convinced by arguments in the debate that the affirmative can do less than this.


For ADA tournaments: the ADA documents indicate among other things that the affirmative must present a topical plan of action and that topicality is a voting issue. (I’d encourage negative teams to look at the section on critiques as well.)


I will not intervene to make an arbitrary decision that the aff has not met these burdens.  The responsibility is still on the negative team to present an argument for their interpretation of the resolution and how the affirmative has not sufficiently addressed the resolution (CEDA) or fallen within it (ADA).


To be very clear, you can and should have a debate about what these rules mean and what their proper interpretation is.  But for the purposes of the ballot I won’t evaluate arguments that the rules should not be applied.




Addition for Decrim and Subsequent Topics:

I do not wish to see or hear any sexually explicit speech acts or performances, nor do I wish to see debaters in any state of undress.  To clarify, speech acts that discuss sex, sexuality, and corresponding topics are fine in front of me.  Speech acts or performances that simulate or vividly describe sex acts are not fine in front of me.  If that statement isn't clear, either ask, or, when in doubt, presume in favor of caution.  If you choose to speak or perform in such a way in front of me, I will ask you to stop and adopt a differnet strategy.  If you refuse to honor that request, I will excuse myself from the debate for at least the duration of that portion of your speech but possibly the debate as a whole.  If I have to leave the debate, I will attempt to get the tabroom to replace me.  If this is impossible and I am required to sign the ballot, then the situation will likely result in a ballot for the opposition.  This is a personal conviction about the types of acts I want to be exposed to as a judge and as a member of this community, and I ask that you respect it.  This is not intended as a statement about how debate should look in general.


As a judge, I will try to balance the importance of allowing debates that might make persons intellectually uncomfortable with also allowing debaters to protect themselves from emotionally damaging situations.  I believe that in some circumstances the competitors have the right to let everyone know if they are uncomfortable and they may take appropriate action to avoid witnessing/hearing things they find to be emotionally damaging.

Other Relevant Info: