Western Series University of Wyoming

2022 — Online, WY/US

Quick Facts

Hosted by: Matt Liu & the University of Wyoming

Tabbed by: Nick Ryan

Dates: 2/11-13

Modality: online

Platform: ZRM

Fees: free to the Greater Mountain West (Colorado, the Dakotas, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming), everywhere else $35/entry, aggressive fee reduction/waiver policy for any program with need - just ask

More details forthcoming, feel free to address any questions to mliu6@uwyo.edu


Tournament Philosophy

We want the University of Wyoming tournament and the Western Series writ large to be a bridge between the local and national circuits. We will hire excellent judges to ensure high quality decisions and feedback, and we will attempt to keep costs very low to non-existent. If you don't normally travel on the national circuit let us know and we will waive your fees entirely. The tournament will be run revenue-neutral or at a loss; we will not use it to fund our team. If we have an unexpected amount of revenue we will use it to hire more phenomenal judges and lower the fees next year. 

What is the Western Series?

As a light at the end of the tunnel appears and the return of in-person debate grows closer, the University of Wyoming is launching a project to ensure that a limited but accessible and high-quality version of online high school debate outlasts the COVID-19 pandemic. The “Western Series” will offer online tournaments hosted by the University of Wyoming and partners that pledge to adopt low or no entry fees and seek to ensure high-quality judging. The past year had at least one silver lining in debate: teams interested in national circuit debate were no longer precluded from participation by exorbitant costs or travel. Our goal is to ensure that a place continues to exist where local debate can meet national debate without financial barriers. Although our pilot project will launch in spring 2022, our main concern is looking forward to truly post-pandemic seasons.

During the 2021-22 season, the Western Series will launch as a pilot project. As there are likely to be prolific online tournament options in the fall, UW will sanction just two Western Series tournaments in the spring. Following the 2021-22 season, UW will seek to sanction 2-3 tournaments a semester as “Western Series” tournaments. Our view of post-pandemic online debate is that it is a useful tool to expand access to those that can’t afford national circuit travel; however, we believe that online debate cannot replace all the benefits of in-person debate. As such, we will not sanction more than 2-3 tournaments a semester. Our goal is to ensure that a few online tournaments continue to provide competition venues that are both affordable and high-quality. As the pandemic winds down and we are able to return to in-person debate, we can see several possible futures for online debate. Two of those futures worry us. The first is a world of online debate dominated by for-profit tournaments that reduce the radical potential of online debate to increase access. The second is a scenario where online options exist but there are few competitions run by professionalized hosts. The Western Series offers a third way, a public model wherein both universities and high schools in the West take the lead in running tournaments at cost or with no fees to ensure that online options that are both affordable and quality outlast the pandemic.
The inaugural hosts of the Western Series will be the University of Wyoming and Kent Denver. The University of Wyoming will host 2/11-13, 2022. Additionally, the University of Minnesota has graciously agreed to provide logistical support and co-host with Kent Denver. At Wyoming, we hope that our track record hosting tournaments like the Western States All Stars signals the high bar we hold ourselves to when it comes to hosting. We will only sanction tournaments for the Western Series that commit to low or no entry fees. We can imagine endorsing a variety of fee structures designed to ameliorate cost while retaining quality, including regional discounts, a strong waiver policy, etc. Our hosts will run their tournaments at cost (or at a loss): we will commit to not use Western Series tournaments to fund-raise for our teams. Western Series hosts will additionally be asked to take measures to establish high-quality judging pools, ensuring useful feedback for those who may not be used to getting any at all. While the Western Series is run by those of us in the West, it is not just for the West! We invite participants from anywhere and everyone. The "Western Series" stamp of approval merely signifies that an online tournament is either free or run budget-neutral and that effort is put into hiring judges to ensure quality feedback.
We’ve had a number of collaborators in bringing this project forward. We’d like to thank especially the following schools for their thoughts: Rowland Hall, Kent Denver, St. Marks, Weber State University, Western Washington University, Kansas State University, the University of Minnesota, Arizona State University, the University of Kansas, and Gonzaga University. Note that not everyone agreed on every idea and any flaws in the final implementation are ours alone. We welcome future feedback from anyone interested, especially stakeholders in the West.