University of Wyoming Round Robin
2021 — Online, WY/US
All Paradigm ListAll Paradigms: Show Hide
Maggie Berthiaume Woodward Academy
Current Coach — Woodward Academy (2011-present)
Former Coach — Lexington High School (2006-2008), Chattahoochee High School (2008-2011)
College Debater — Dartmouth College (2001-2005)
High School Debater — Blake (1997-2001)
email@example.com for email chains, please.
1. Please be nice. If you don't want to be kind to others (the other team, your partner, me, the novice flowing the debate in the back of the room), please don’t prefer me.
2. I'm a high school teacher and believe that debates should be something I could enthusiastically show to my students, their families, or my principal. What does that mean? If your high school teachers would find your presentation inappropriate, I am likely to as well.
3. Please be clear. I will call "clear" if I can't understand you, but debate is primarily a communication activity. Do your best to connect on meaningful arguments.
4. Conduct your own CX as much as possible. CX is an important time for judge impression formation, and if one partner does all asking and answering for the team, it is very difficult to evaluate both debaters. Certainly the partner not involved in CX can get involved in an emergency, but that should be brief and rare if both debaters want good points.
5. If you like to be trolly with your speech docs (read on paper to prevent sharing, remove analyticals, etc.), please don't. See "speech documents" below for a longer justification and explanation.
6. I am not willing or able to adjudicate issues that happened outside of the bounds of the debate itself — ex. previous debates, social media issues, etc.
7. In debates involving minors, I am a mandated reporter — as are all judges of debates involving minors!
8. I’ve coached and judged for a long time now, and the reason I keep doing it is that I think debate is valuable. Students who demonstrate that they appreciate the opportunity to debate and are passionate and excited about the issues they are discussing are a joy to watch — they give judges a reason to listen even when we’re sick or tired or judging the 5th debate of the day on the 4th weekend that month. Be that student!
9. "Maggie" (or "Ms. B." if you prefer), not "judge."
What does a good debate look like?
Everyone wants to judge “good debates.” To me, that means two excellently-prepared teams who clash on fundamental issues related to the policy presented by the affirmative. The best debates allow four students to demonstrate that they have researched a topic and know a lot about it — they are debates over issues that experts in the field would understand and appreciate. The worst debates involve obfuscation and tangents. Good debates usually come down to a small number of issues that are well-explained by both sides. The best final rebuttals have clearly explained ballot and a response to the best reason to vote for the opposing team.
I have not decided to implement the Shunta Jordan "no more than 5 off" rule, but I understand why she has it, and I agree with the sentiment. I'm not establishing a specific number, but I would like to encourage negative teams to read fully developed positions in the 1NC (with internal links and solvency advocates as needed). (Here's what she says: "There is no world where the Negative needs to read more than 5 off case arguments. SO if you say 6+, I'm only flowing 5 and you get to choose which you want me to flow.") If you're thinking "nbd, we'll just read the other four DAs on the case," I think you're missing the point. :) It's not about the specific number, it's about the depth of argument.
Do you read evidence?
Yes, in nearly every debate. I will certainly read evidence that is contested by both sides to resolve who is correct in their characterizations. The more you explain your evidence, the more likely I am to read it. For me, the team that tells the better story that seems to incorporate both sets of evidence will almost always win. This means that instead of reading yet another card, you should take the time to explain why the context of the evidence means that your position is better than that of the other team. This is particularly true in close uniqueness and case debates.
Do I have to be topical?
Yes. Affirmatives are certainly welcome to defend the resolution in interesting and creative ways, but that defense should be tied to a topical plan to ensure that both sides have the opportunity to prepare for a topic that is announced in advance. Affirmatives certainly do not need to “role play” or “pretend to be the USFG” to suggest that the USFG should change a policy, however.
I enjoy topicality debates more than the average judge as long as they are detailed and well-researched. Examples of this include “intelligence gathering” on Surveillance, “health care” on Social Services, and “economic engagement” on Latin America. Debaters who do a good job of describing what debates would look like under their interpretation (aff or neg) are likely to win. I've judged several "substantial" debates in recent years that I've greatly enjoyed.
Can I read [X ridiculous counterplan]?
If you have a solvency advocate, by all means. If not, consider a little longer. See: “what does as good debate look like?” above. Affs should not be afraid to go for theory against contrived counterplans that lack a solvency advocate. On the flip side, if the aff is reading non-intrinsic advantages, the "logical" counterplan or one that uses aff solvency evidence for the CP is much appreciated.
What about my generic kritik?
Topic or plan specific critiques are absolutely an important component of “excellently prepared teams who clash on fundamental issues.” Kritiks that can be read in every debate, regardless of the topic or affirmative plan, are usually not.
Given that the aff usually has specific solvency evidence, I think the neg needs to win that the aff makes things worse (not just “doesn’t solve” or “is a mask for X”). Neg – Please spend the time to make specific links to the aff — the best links are often not more evidence but examples from the 1AC or aff evidence.
What about offense/defense?
I do believe there is absolute defense and vote for it often.
Do you take prep for emailing/flashing?
Once the doc is saved, your prep time ends.
I have some questions about speech documents...
One speech document per speech (before the speech). Any additional cards added to the end of the speech should be sent out as soon as feasible.
Teams that remove analytical arguments like permutation texts, counter-interpretations, etc. from their speech documents before sending to the other team should be aware that they are also removing them from the version I will read at the end of the debate — this means that I will be unable to verify the wording of their arguments and will have to rely on the short-hand version on my flow. This rarely if ever benefits the team making those arguments.
Speech documents should be provided to the other team as the speech begins. The only exception to this is a team who debates entirely off paper. Teams should not use paper to circumvent norms of argument-sharing.
I will not consider any evidence that did not include a tag in the document provided to the other team.
*If you are scanning this philosophy as a nonmember of the community, seeking out quotes to help your political "culture war" cause you are not an honest broker here and largely looking for clickbait. I find your endeavors an unfortunate result of a rage machine that consumes a great deal of quality programs without ever helping them thrive or grow. Re-evaluate your life and think about how you can help high schools and middle schools around this country develop speech and debate programs, core liberal art educational, to improve the quality of argumentation, that otherwise is lacking. In the end, as an outsider looking in, you are missing a great deal of nuance in these philosophies and how they operate in the communities (multiple not just one) around the US and the world.
If you have landed here as a representative of Fox News or an ally or affiliate, I would like to see the receipts of the bias that has and continues to perforate your organization from Roger Ailes to Tucker Carlson and more. Here is my question, when you learned about the Joe McCarthy era of conspiracy theory, along with the hysteria and demonization of potential Americans who are communist (or sympathizers) and "pinko" (gay or sexual "deviants"), is your gripe with McCarthy that he had a secret list without evidence, or do you recognize that a core problem with McCarthy is his anti-democratic fear that there actually ARE communists, gay, trans, bisexual, Americans?
My next question is when and where you think it is acceptable for a person with strong beliefs to exist in democratic spaces. Bias is inevitable and part of this debate game. Organizations attempt to manage types of bias and coaches and debaters learn how to adapt to certain bias while attempting to avoid problematic bias. What do you think? Would right leaning presidential candidates vote for an argument that affirms trans athletes in sports? Should a trans judge leave their identity entirely at the door and embody a leading republican presidential candidate who is against medical care for trans persons? Both answers are no. The issue you seek to lambast for viewership clickbate is much deeper and more complicated than a 3 minute video clip can cover. Thank for reading.
Background: Indiana University Director of Debate as of 2010. Background is primarily as a policy debater and policy debate coach.
Email Chain: Bdelo77@gmail.com
The road to high speaker points and the ballot
I reward debaters who have a strong knowledge of the topic. Those debaters who can articulate intricacies and relationships amongst topic specific literature will meet what I believe are the educational benefits of having a topic in the first place.
Using evidence to assist you with the argument you are trying to make is more important than stringing evidence together in hopes that they accumulate into an argument. “I have a card judge, it is real good” “pull my 15 uniqueness cards judge” are not arguments. Ex: Obama will win the election – a) swing voters, Rasmussen poll indicates momentum after the DNC b) Washington post “Romney has lost the election” the base is gone… etc. are good extensions of evidence.
Less jargon more eloquence. I get bored with repeated catch phrases. I understand the need for efficiency, but debaters who recognize the need for innovation by individuals in the activity will receive more points.
Speed: I expect I can digest at least 70% of your speech. The other 30% should be general human attention span issues on my part. I firmly believe debate is a communication event, I am saddened that this has been undervalued as debaters prepare for tournaments. If I agree with X debater that Y debater’s speech on an argument was incoherent, I am more and more willing to just ignore the argument. Computer screens and Bayesian calculus aside, there is a human in this body that makes human decisions.
Should affs be topical?
Affs should have a relationship to the topic that is cogent. If there is no relationship to the topic, I have a high standard for affirmatives to prove that the topic provides no “ground” for a debater to adapt and exist under its umbrella. Negatives, this does not mean you don’t have a similar burden to prove that the topic is worth debating. However personally I think you will have a much smaller hill to climb… I find it disturbing that debaters do not go further than a quick “topical version of your aff solves” then insert X switch side good card… Explain why the topical version is good for debate and provides argument diversity and flexibility.
Policy debate is good: When I prep our files for tournaments I tend to stay in the policy-oriented literature. This does not mean that I am unwilling to cut our K file or K answers, I just have limited time and job related motivation to dive into this literature.
K Debate: Can be done well, can be done poorly. I do not exclude the arguments from the round but nebulous arguments can be overplayed and abused.
(Updated 3-2-2022) Conditionality:
1) Judge Kick? No. You made your choice on what to go for now stick with it. 2NRs RARELY have the time to complete one avenue for the ballot let alone two conditional worlds...
I tend to believe that one conditional substantive test of the plan advocacy is good (agent CP, process CP, or ?) and I am open to the idea of the need for a second advantage CP (need to deal with add-ons and bad advantages) or K within limits. I'm not a fan of contradicting conditional advocacies in how they implicate 2AC offense and potential.
Beyond 1-2 conditional arguments, I am torn by the examples of proliferating counterplans and critiques that show up in the 1NC and then disappear in the negative block. There is a substantive tradeoff in the depth and quality of arguments and thus a demotivation incentive for the iterative testing and research in the status quo world of 3+ conditional advocacies. The neg's, "write better advantages" argument has value, however with 2AC time pressure it means that 1ACs are becoming Frankenstein's monster to deal with the time tradeoff.
Plans: I think the community should toy with the idea of a grand bargain where affirmatives will specify more in their plan text and negs give up some of their PIC ground. The aff interp of "we only have to specify the resolution" has pushed us in the direction where plans are largely meaningless and aff conditionality is built into core 2AC frontlines. The thing is, our community has lost many of its fora for discussing theory and establishing new norms around issues like this. Debaters need to help be the change we need and we need more in-depth theory discussions outside of the rounds. Who is the Rorger Solt going to be of the 2020's?
I find myself more willing to judge the evidence as it was debated in the round (speeches and cx), and less willing to scan through piles of cards to create a coherent understanding of the round. If a debate is being had about the quality of X card, how I SHOULD read the evidence, etc. I will read it.
Sometimes I just have an interest in the evidence and I read it for self-educational and post-round discussion reasons.
I will work extremely hard to evaluate the debate as the debaters have asked me to judge it.
If it matters to you, I used to make critical and performance based arguments. I have coached all types. I generally like all arguments, especially ones that come with claims, warrants, impacts, and are supported by evidence.
Do you (literally, WHATEVER you do). Be great. Say smart things. Give solid speeches and perform effectively in CX. Win and go as hard as it takes (but you dont have to be exessively rude or mean to do this part). Enjoy yourself. Give me examples and material applications to better understand your position. Hear me out when the decision is in. I saw what I saw. Dassit.
Add me to the email chain- firstname.lastname@example.org
My "high" speaker points typically cap out around 28.9 (in open debate). If you earn that, you have delivered a solid and confident constructive, asked and answered questions persuasively, and effectively narrowed the debate to the most compelling reasons you are winning the debate in the rebuttals. If you get higher than that, you did all of those things AND THEN SOME. What many coaches would call, "the intangibles".
Speaking of speaker points, debate is too fast and not enough emphasis is put on speaking persuasively. This is true of all styles of debate. I flow on paper and you should heavily consider that when you debate in front of me. I am a quick and solid flow and pride myself in capturing the most nuanced arguments, but some of what I judge is unintelligible to me and its getting worse. Card voice vs tag voice is important, you cannot read analytics at the same rate you are reading the text of the card and be persuasive to me, and not sending analytics means I need that much more pen time. Fix it. It will help us all. Higher speaker points are easier to give.
Thank you, in advance, for allowing me to observe and participate in your debate.
Judge Philosophy – Will Mosley-Jensen
1. Win an impact. (If you can’t do that, join the band)
2. Compare that to the impact you think they win.
3. Compare evidence in steps 1 & 2.
4. If you are fast repeat steps 1-3. If not focus your efforts on steps 1-2 with a sprinkling of step 3.
5. Have Fun! Clarity, Humor, and Civility all help your speaker points.
6. Specificity > Generality
When making a decision there are three factors that precede other considerations first, the status of direct counter-arguments, has an argument been dropped; second, the quality of evidence supporting an argument, is the evidence superior, average or inconclusive; and third, the correspondence of an argument to reality (or the relative “truth” of an argument).
It is important to note that none of these factors is fixed prior to any given debate, but rather that the debate itself determines them. I should also hope that it is clear that my ordering of these factors represents merely my fallback position if there is no re-ordering argued for in a debate. Some of the factors, such as evidence quality could, and should, be a part of the ways that debaters compare their arguments and establish the relative priority of their argument. If this is not done in a debate, then I will evaluate the debate utilizing the order that I have established.
Specificity is important in all debates. If you say that your disadvantage “turns the case” because Romney will destroy hegemony, then it is probably important to compare this warrant to the affirmative warrant for why they solve for US credibility abroad. The best debates are a comparison of warrants; the worst debates a battle of claims, with most debates falling somewhere in the middle.
Against Non-traditional (not topical and proud of it) teams
I find that I have a very strong bias that affirmatives should be topical. Most of the reasons that teams advance for why they do not need to fulfill this most central of affirmative burdens pre-suppose several problematic propositions. First, that there is some value that is external to the debate community that can be gained from not affirming the topic. Second, that participation in debate trades-off with other types of activism, rather than occupying a supplementary role. Third, that the value of debate is not intrinsically tied to the identification of a common topic of discussion. Finally and most heinously, that debate is sustainable without the minimum of fairness that is provided by having a shared topic. These assumptions seem to me to be easily answered by a team that is properly prepared.
Against traditional (ostensibly topical) teams
A well-executed topicality argument is one of the most enjoyable debates to judge or watch in my opinion. If it is thoroughly researched and considered by the negative, topicality can represent a strategic tool in a wide variety of debates.
That said, I think that the negative needs to clearly articulate the method of evaluating topicality, and avoid statements in other parts of the debate that question the assumption of the competing interpretations framework. It is not unusual to hear a negative argue that “hard debate is good debate” on conditionality and then extend a topicality argument that is based on some trivial loss of ground. Affirmative teams should capitalize on such inconsistencies when arguing that their interpretation does not make debate impossible but improves it by creating strategic bottlenecks for the negative.
I find that these debates usually come down to what the role of the critic should be. Namely, should the role of the critic be that of an impartial observer that evaluates the relative advantages and disadvantages of government action versus the status quo or a competitive policy option or should the role of the critic be something else? I can be persuaded that this role includes things not traditionally associated with the assumption that I am an impartial observer, but it helps if you provide some specific articulation of the benefits of deviating from the accepted norm. I enjoy policy debates and am sympathetic to a well-argued defense of the educational and fairness benefits of this approach. I will say that most of the time if the affirmative defends a topical plan that is usually enough to facilitate a productive debate, and in that case it is generally wise to question the solvency of the affirmative. In other words, if the affirmative team has read a topical plan text and the crux of your negative framework argument is “they are not policy enough,” I am likely to vote affirmative.
I am pretty firmly rooted in a Western metaphysics of presence and the value of enlightenment rationality. I am also of the mind that adjudicating debates requires assumptions of rationality and so if you want me to adopt a different framework of evaluation it will require some pretty solid reasons on your part. That is not to say I do not enjoy critical debates, there are some fine criticisms that are firmly grounded in modernity. If you are going for a criticism in front of me, it is likely that I have at least a passing familiarity with the foundational literature of your argument (I got my B.A. in philosophy and my M.A in rhetoric) but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go out of your way to explain the specific application to the affirmative. Similarly if you are reading a critical affirmative you should be careful to explain the reasons that your affirmative renders parts, or all, of the negative’s strategy irrelevant. For example if you are arguing that epistemological considerations precede policy considerations you should explain the nature of that relationship.
In most circumstances when negatives read counterplans that are questionably competitive/legitimate (process, consult, conditioning) I find that aff teams are unwilling to engage in a protracted procedural debate and so become competitive/legitimate by default. Usually going for a permutation is a time intensive process, but can be rewarding if you spend the time to work through the competition theory that purportedly supports the negative’s counterplan. Advancing theory on a counterplan should always include controlling not only the specifics of the theory debate, but also the meta-questions. For example, a robust defense of competing interpretations is generally necessary for the affirmative to win that multiple conditional counterplans are a voting issue. Most affirmative teams tend to simply spot the negative that it is not a question of competing interpretations but rather a question of whether the counterplan makes debate impossible for the affirmative (which almost no counterplans, save fiating the object of the resolution, do).
Although debate is a competitive activity that doesn’t mean that people can’t be civil with each other. Your comportment during a round can easily affect your speaker points as much as the quality of your arguments. Debate is a fun, rewarding activity and the people that I regard with the most respect are not only great debaters but great people as well.
Email for speech docs:
Update (NDT 2023): I streamlined my paradigm because technical execution in-round trumps my ideological leanings and thoughts about debate most of the time. Feel free to ask me if you've got specific questions though!
Re-inserting highlighting---I prefer that you argue why the evidence concludes your way first and then read the card
Word salad---I will not read the rest of the evidence to figure out the context if I don't understand what the highlighting is supposed to say.
Talking loudly during other team's speech---Maybe it's an unfortunate byproduct of online debate, but it really interferes with my ability to flow.
Abbreviating cross-examination as "cross"---Please stop. It's called "cross-ex."
Failing to start debates on time---Set up the email chain and send the 1AC before the official start time.
This topic is hard for the aff - Reasonability + functional limits are very persuasive.
People should debate internal links a bit more - why is your limit more precise, debatable, or predictable?
“CP must be textually and functionally competitive” – I really don’t know what this means.
Default for presumption is that it flips aff when the neg introduces an advocacy.
Status quo is a logical option when the aff concedes the thesis of conditionality.
Analysis carries more weight than just cards.
Resolving big-picture, meta-level arguments matters more than winning line-by-line.
I am less familiar with the literature, so you need to connect the dots. For instance, how does your theory of power implicate framework?
Please put me on the email chain -- julialynch101 AT gmail.com
I debated for four years at the University of Miami and mostly ran traditional policy arguments. However, I am open to listening to anything and will try my best to understand positions based on the arguments and evidence presented in the round. I respect the time and effort you are putting into this activity and hope that you will share that same respect for me and your opponents.
I flow on paper and lean more tech over truth.
Evidence quality (and analysis!) over quantity.
I prefer impact calc early and most definitely by the end of the round. “Even if”-esque arguments go a long way with me.
I love cross-ex and will reward speakers that are strategic, assertive, yet respectful.
Stealing prep is one of my biggest pet peeves -- please don't do it. I appreciate it when teams keep track of their prep in the chat.
Counterplans: As a former 2N, I loved running them and appreciate hearing well-thought-out and strategic CPs. However, I am skeptical of multi-plank counterplans that have no/few solvency advocates. In those instances, particularly, I can be easily persuaded by “links to the net benefit” args. Negs should identify net benefits early and clearly – I’ll hold you to what you say originally. Conditional planks and cross-application of planks/CPs to different pages frustrate me unless specifically flagged as a possibility early in the round. I will only “judge-kick” the CP if explicitly told to do so and can likely be persuaded otherwise with solid aff arguments.
Topicality: T is a voting issue and I believe that affs should have a plan, and if not, an advocacy statement. Otherwise, it’s unclear to me what the aff has to defend which likely makes in-depth engagement grounded in a point of stasis difficult. Reading blocks and blocks of definitions without analysis or embedded clash is not a winning strategy with me. I enjoy hearing arguments regarding topical versions of the aff and the value of debate and topic-specific education. Extra-topicality is an independent voting issue.
Disads: DAs are a great strategy either with a CP or straight up versus case. However, uniqueness and links need to be solid. I greatly appreciate “case turns the DA” and “DA turns case” args and prefer case-specific DA’s over generics (read: politics).
Case debate: I absolutely love case debate and respect debaters who put in the time to point out flaws and contradictions on case, even if via just short analytics. On-case turns and solvency takeouts can go far if explained and deployed correctly.
Kritiks: As mentioned above, I did not run many Kritiks when I debated. As such, I am not as familiar with the literature and would appreciate a clear explanation of the link and the alternative. I prefer topic-specific Kritiks and/or ones with concrete links to the plan itself, not just “the aff” or a singular piece of evidence. I think it would be difficult for me to vote for a K without an alt; however, I can be persuaded into thinking otherwise if sufficient work is done at the uniqueness/link level.
Theory: 2 condo is fine, but conditional planks and contradicting positions are a tough sell for me. Condo is the only theory arg for which I will “reject the team.”
** PF **
I did PF for a couple of years in high school so I am familiar with the structure and style. However, given that I haven't been active in the PF circuit for a couple of years, please be mindful of throwing around PF specific debate terms without explaining what they mean. Although the paradigm above is through the lens of Policy, many of my preferences are applicable to PF. Please ask me any questions you have before the round and I'd be happy to answer.
Director of Debate, Harvard University.
BA, Harvard; PhD, Johns Hopkins
Please put harvard.debate(at)gmail.com on the email chain, but see note 1 below.
Updated January 2021:
The first thing to know about me as a judge is that I take overviews in the final rebuttals very seriously. The team that correctly identifies the critical arguments for each side will generally win, even if they have problems elsewhere on the flow or if I have other reservations about the argument. In other words, most of the time, the team that gets my ballot has done a better job of (a) identifying the most important arguments in the debate and (b) persuading me that in evaluating those particular arguments I should believe them. Similarly, I've found that in most of my decisions I end up telling the losing team that they have failed to persuade me of the truth of their most important argument. Occasionally this failure of understanding is due to a lack of clarity on the part of the speaker(s), but more often it is due to a lack of detailed explanation proving a particularly significant argument to be correct.
As a judge, I am usually skeptical of anything you say until you convince me it is correct, but if you do persuade me, I will do the work of thinking through and applying your argument as you direct me. It is usually easy to tell if I am persuaded by what you are saying. If I’m writing and/or nodding, you’ve probably succeeded. If I’m not writing, if I’m giving you a skeptical look, or if I interrupt you to ask a question or pose an argument I think you should answer, it means I’m not yet convinced.
In close debates, in which there are no egregious errors, I tend to vote for the team that articulates a better strategic understanding of the arguments and the round than for the team that gets lucky because of a small technical issue. My propensity to resolve arguments in your favor increases as you communicate to me that you understand the importance of some arguments relative to others. I am usually hesitant to vote against a team for something they said unless it is willful or malicious.
A few other tidbits:
1. I will not read the speech doc during your speech. The burden is on you to be comprehensible. Part of me is still horrified by this norm of judges following along.
2. If what you have highlighted in a card doesn’t amount to a complete sentence, I will most likely disregard it. Put differently, a word has to be part of a sentence in order to count.
3. CX, just like a speech, ends when the timer goes off. You can’t use prep time to keep asking questions or to keep talking. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to alt use time.
4. Please number your arguments. Seriously. Do it. Especially in the 1NC on case and in the 2AC off case.
5. Pet Peeve Alert. You have not turned the case just because you read an impact to your DA or K that is the same as the advantage impact. For example, saying a war with china causes poverty does not mean the DA turns a poverty advantage. It simply means the DA also has a poverty impact. In order to the turn the case, the DA must implicate the solvency mechanism of the affirmative, not simply get to the same terminal impact.
6. [Since this situation is becoming more common...] If the affirmative wins that conditionality is bad, my default will be to reject conditionality and make any/all counterplans unconditional. Pretending that the counterplan(s) were never introduced is illogical (they stay conditional) and solves nothing (the affirmative can't extend turns to the net benefit).
Head Coach of Rowland Hall
Do what you do best. I’m comfortable with all arguments. Practice what you preach and debate how you would teach. Strive to make it the best debate possible.
Key Preferences & Beliefs
Debate is a game.
Literature determines fairness.
It’s better to engage than exclude.
Critique is a verb.
Defense is undervalued.
I flow on my computer. If you want a copy of my flow, just ask.
I think CX is very important.
I reward self-awareness, clash, good research, humor, and bold decisions.
Add me to the email chain: mikeshackelford(at)rowlandhall(dot)org
Feel free to ask.
Want something more specific? More absurd?
Debate in front of me as if this was your 9 judge panel:
Andre Washington, Ian Beier, Shunta Jordan, Maggie Berthiaume, Daryl Burch, Yao Yao Chen, Nicholas Miller, Christina Philips, jon sharp
If both teams agree, I will adopt the philosophy and personally impersonate any of my former students:
Ben Amiel, Andrew Arsht, David Bernstein, Madeline Brague, Julia Goldman, Emily Gordon, Adrian Gushin, Elliot Kovnick, Will Matheson, Ben McGraw, Corinne Sugino, Caitlin Walrath, Sydney Young (these are the former debaters with paradigms... you can also throw it back to any of my old school students).
Most of what is above will apply here below in terms of my expectations and preferences. I spend most of my time at tournaments judging policy debate rounds, however I do teach LD and judge practice debates in class. I try to keep on top of the arguments and developments in LD and likely am familiar with your arguments to some extent.
Theory: I'm unlikely to vote here. Most theory debates aren't impacted well and often put out on the silliest of points and used as a way to avoid substantive discussion of the topic. It has a time and a place. That time and place is the rare instance where your opponent has done something that makes it literally impossible for you to win. I would strongly prefer you go for substance over theory. Speaker points will reflect this preference.
Speed: Clarity > Speed. That should be a no-brainer. That being said, I'm sure I can flow you at whatever speed you feel is appropriate to convey your arguments.
Disclosure: I think it's uniformly good for large and small schools. I think it makes debate better. If you feel you have done a particularly good job disclosing arguments (for example, full case citations, tags, parameters, changes) and you point that out during the round I will likely give you an extra half of a point if I agree.
Yes, put me on the chain: email@example.com
Please let me know if there are any accessibility requirements before the round so I can do my part.
Updated for 2023-24
I currently coach full-time for Michigan State University. Previously, I coached at Dartmouth for five years from 2018-2023. I debated at the University of Central Oklahoma for four years and graduated in 2018.
The 2023-24 season is the first time in a long time where I am not actively coaching a high school team. If you see me entered in the judge pool at a high school tournament this year, it's primarily for recruiting purposes (Go Green!). I am not an expert in the 23-24 high school topic, so please take this into account when using acronyms or making niche references.
LD skip down to the bottom.
No judge will ever like all of the arguments you make, but I will always attempt to evaluate them fairly. I appreciate judges who are willing to listen to positions from every angle, so I try to be one of those judges. I have coached strictly policy teams, strictly K teams, and everything in between because I love all aspects of the game. I would be profoundly bored if I only judged certain teams or arguments. At most tournaments I find myself judging a little bit of everything: a round where the 1NC is 10 off and the letter 'K' is never mentioned, a round where the affirmative does not read a plan and the neg suggests they should, a round where the neg impact turns everything under the sun, a round where the affirmative offers a robust defense of hegemony vs a critique, etc. I enjoy judging a variety of teams with different approaches to the topic.
Debate should be fun and you should debate in the way that makes it valuable for you, not me.
My predispositions about debate are not so much ideological as much as they are systematic, i.e. I don't care which set of arguments you go for, but I believe every argument must have a claim, warrant, impact, and a distinct application.
If I had to choose another judge I mostly closely identify with, it would be John Cameron Turner but without the legal pads.
I don't mind being post-rounded or asked a lot of questions. I did plenty of post-rounding as a debater and I recognize it doesn't always stem from anger or disrespect. That being said, don't be a butthead. I appreciate passionate debaters who care about their arguments and I am always willing to meet you halfway in the RFD.
I am excited to judge your debate. Even if I look tired or grumpy, I promise I care a lot and will always work hard to evaluate your arguments fairly and help you improve.
What really matters to me
Evidence quality matters a lot to me, probably more than other judges. Stop reading cards that don't have a complete sentence and get off my lawn. I can't emphasize enough how much I care about evidence comparison. This includes author quals, context, recency, (re)highlighting, data/statistics, concrete examples, empirics, etc. You are better off taking a 'less is more' approach when debating in front of me. For example, I much rather see you read five, high quality uniqueness cards that have actual warrants highlighted than ten 'just okay' cards that sound like word salad.
This also applies to your overall strategies. For example, I am growing increasingly annoyed at teams who try to proliferate as many incomplete arguments as possible in the 1NC. If your strategy is to read 5 disads in the 1NC that are missing uniqueness or internal links, I will give the aff almost infinite leeway in the 1AR to answer your inevitable sandbagging. I would much rather see well-highlighted, complete positions than the poor excuse of neg arguments that I'm seeing lately. To be clear, I am totally down with 'big 1NCs' -- but I get a little annoyed when teams proliferate incomplete positions.
I expect you to treat your partner and opponents with basic respect. This is non-negotiable. Some of y'all genuinely need to chill out. You can generate ethos without treating your opponents like your mortal enemy. Pettiness, sarcasm, and humor are all appreciated, but recognize there is a line and you shouldn't cross it. Punching down is cringe behavior. You should never, ever make any jokes about someone else's appearance or how they sound.
Impact framing and judge instruction will get you far. In nearly every RFD I give, I heavily emphasize judge instruction and often vote for the team who does superior judge instruction because I strive to be as non-interventionist as possible.
Cowardice is annoying. Stop running away from debate. Don't run away from controversy just because you don't like linking to things. This also applies to shady disclosure practices. If you don't like defending your arguments, or explaining what your argument actually means, please consider joining the marching band. Be clear and direct.
I am not a fan of extreme or reductionist characterizations of different approaches to debate. For example, it will be difficult to persuade me that all policy arguments are evil, worthless, or violent. Critical teams should not go for 'policy debate=Karl Rove' because this is simply a bad, reductionist argument. On the flip side, it would be unpersuasive to argue that all critiques are stupid or meaningless.
I appreciate and reward teams who make an effort to adapt.Unlike many judges, I am always open to being persuaded and am willing to change my mind. I am rigid about certain things, but am movable on many issues. This usually just requires meeting me in the middle; if you adapt to me in some way, I will make a reciprocal effort.
Camera policy: I strongly prefer that we all keep our cameras on during the debate, but there are valid reasons for not having your camera on. I will never penalize you for turning your camera off, but if you can turn it on, let's try. I will always keep my camera on while judging.
Tech glitches: it is your responsibility to record your speeches as a failsafe. I encourage you to record your speeches on your phone/laptop in the event of a tech glitch. If a glitch happens, we will try to resolve it as quickly as possible, and I will follow the tournament's guidelines.
Slow down a bit in the era of e-sports debate. I'll reward you for it with points. No, you don't have to speak at a turtle's pace, but maybe we don't need to read 10-off?
I care more about solvency advocates than most judges. This does not mean I automatically vote against a counterplan without a solvency advocate. Rather, this is a 'heads up' for neg teams so they're aware that I am generally persuaded by affirmative arguments in this area. It would behoove neg teams to read a solvency advocate of some kind, even if it's just a recutting of affirmative evidence.
I will only judge kick if told to do so, assuming the aff hasn't made any theoretical objections.
I am not interested in judging or evaluating call-outs, or adjacent arguments of this variety. I care deeply about safety and inclusion in this activity and I will do everything I can to support you. But, I do not believe that a round should be staked on these issues and I am not comfortable giving any judge that kind of power.
If you clip, you will lose the round and receive 0 speaker points. I will vote against you for clipping EVEN IF the other team does not call you on it. I know what clipping is and feel 100% comfortable calling it. Mark your cards and have a marked copy available.
If you cite or cut a card improperly, I evaluate these issues on a sliding scale. For example, a novice accidentally reading a card that doesn't have a complete citation is obviously different from a senior varsity debater cutting a card in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. Unethical evidence practices can be reasons to reject the team and/or a reason to reject the evidence itself, depending on the unique situation.
At the college level, I expect ya'll to handle these issues like adults. If you make an evidence ethics accusation, I am going to ask if you want to stop the round to proceed with the challenge.
Updated September 2023 to reflect a few changes.
Q: I read a bunch of tricks/meta-theory/a prioris/paradoxes, should I pref you?
A: No thank you.
Q: I read phil, should I pref you?
A: I'm not ideologically opposed to phil arguments like I am with tricks. I do not judge many phil debates because most of the time tricks are involved, but I don't have anything against philosophical positions. I would be happy to judge a good phil debate.
Q: I really like Nebel T, should I pref you?
A: No, you shouldn't. I'm sure he's a nice and smart guy, but cutting evidence from debate blogs is such a meme. If you'd like to make a similar argument, just find non-Nebel articles and you'll be fine. This applies to most debate coach evidence read in LD. To be clear, you can read T:whole rez in front of me, just not Nebel blog cards.
Q: I like to make theory arguments like 'must spec status' or 'must include round reports for every debate' or 'new affs bad,' should I pref you?
A: Not if those arguments are your idea of a round-winning strategy. Can you throw them in the 1NC/1AR? Sure, that's fine. Will I be persuaded by new affs bad? No.
Q: Will you ever vote for an RVI?
A: Nope. Never. I don't flow them.
Q: Will you vote for any theory arguments?
A: Of course. I am good for more policy-oriented theory arguments like condo good/bad, PICs good/bad, process CPs good/bad, etc.
Q: Will you vote for Ks?
A: Of course. Love em. See policy section.
Any other questions can be asked before the round or email me.
*Updated September 2023*
I debated for four years at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Go Packers/Brewers/Bucks! In college, I debated for four years at Michigan State University, earning three first-round bids and a semifinals appearance at the NDT.
Currently, I work on the non-debate side of Michigan State, doing education data analysis, program evaluation, and professional development. On the side, I coach for Georgetown University. I still love debate, but it is no longer my day job. Given that, I'm not a content expert on this topic like some of your other judges might be.
More generally, any given debate can get in-depth quickly, so you should be careful with acronyms/intricacies if you think that your strategy is really innovative or requires a deep understanding of your specific mechanism. Teams sometimes get so deep in the weeds researching their business that they forget to provide a basic explanation for the argument's context/history/background. Instead, they jump into the most advanced part of the topic. If something is creative, that's an issue because it's likely the judge's first time hearing it.
Everyone says it and almost no one means it, but I think that you should debate what you care about/what interests you/what you're good at doing. In other words, put me in the "big-tent" camp. All of the stuff below is too long and shouldn't impact your debating (maybe besides the meta issues section). It really is just my thoughts (vs. a standard), and is only included to offer insight into how I see debate.
META ISSUES/ABBREVIATED PHILOSOPHY/STRIKE CARD ESSENTIAL
1. Assuming equal debating (HUGE assumption), I'm *really* bad for the K on the neg/as planless aff. I find myself constantly struggling with questions in decision-time like: Does the neg ACTUALLY have a link to the plan's MECHANISM or even their SPECIFIC representations? What is the alternative? How does that advocacy change the extremely sweeping and entrenched problems identified in the 1NC/2NC impact evidence? If it's so effective, why doesn't it overcome the links to the plan? If the alt is just about scholarship/ethics/some -ology, how does that compare to material suffering outlined by the 1AC? This year, some of these biases are accentuated by the "disarm" and negative state action planks of the topic. On the affirmative, I think there are many creative ways to critically defend the idea of ending nuclear weapons (especially by the "United States" rather than the "United States federal government"). On the negative, I have hitherto been unimpressed with the Ks of "disarm" (like the ACTUAL "We end the nukes and dismantle them because they risk horrific US first use/nukes are bad" disarm) I've seen.
In the end, when I vote negative for Ks or affirmative for planless affs, it's generally because the losing team dropped a techy ballot like ethics first, serial policy failure, or "we're a PIK." Do you, don't overadapt, and feel confident that I approach every debate with the intention of deciding the question of "who did the better debating?" REGARDLESS of the subject of the debate. Relatedly, know that I'm excited to have the chance to evaluate your arguments (even if it's really late and I'd rather not be judging at all in the abstract) basically no matter what you say. Instead, I would take my above biases as things to keep an eye out for from your opponents/come up with novel responses to/overcover/etc.
2. College debate made me more oriented to tech than truth. In my experience as a debater and judge, ignorance of tech resulted in a callous dismissal of arguments as “bad” and increased judge intervention to determine what is “correct” instead of what was debated in the round and executed more effectively. That said, truth is a huge bonus, and being on the right side makes your task of being technically proficient easier because you can let logic/evidence speak a little for you.
3. I care about evidence quality - to an extent. Debate is a communicative activity, and I'm not going to re-read broad swaths of evidence to ensure that your opponents read a card on all their claims. To be clear, I do think that part of my role in judging is comparing evidence *when it's contested and through the lens with which it was challenged.* Put concretely, if your 2NR says "all their evidence is trash and doesn't say anything" or is silent on evidence comparison, I'm not gonna be doing you any favors and looking at the speech doc. I'm certainly not going to be reading un-underlined text in 1AC/1NC cards without explicit direction of what I'm looking for. Instead, if you're like "Their no prolif cards are all before Kishida and only talk about means vs. motive," I'm happy to read a pile of cards, looking to assess their quality on those two grounds. If that sounds time-consuming for your final rebuttals, it is. You should create time by condensing the debate down to the core issues/places of evidentiary disagreement.
4. Every round could use more calculus and comparisons. The most obvious example of this thesis is with impact calc, but I think there is a laundry list of other examples like considering relative risk, quality of evidence, and author qualifications. As a format, any of these comparisons should have a reason why your argument is preferable, a reason why that frame is important, and a reason why your opponent’s argument is poor/viewed through a poor lens. In the context of impact calc, this framework means saying that your impact outweighs on timeframe, that timeframe is important, and that while your opponent’s impact might have a large magnitude, I should ignore that frame of decision-making. Engaging your opponents’ arguments on a deeper level and resolving debates is the easiest way to get good points. Beyond that, making a decision is functionally comparing each team’s stance/evidence quality/technical ability on a few nexus questions, so if you’re doing this work for me you will probably like my decision a lot more.
5. I hold debaters to a high standard for making an argument. Any claim should be supported with a warrant, evidence, and impact on my decision. Use early speeches to get ahead on important questions. For instance, I won’t dismiss something like “Perm do Both,” but I think the argument would be bolstered by a reason why the perm is preferable in the 2AC (i.e. how it interacts with the net benefits) instead of saving those arguments for the 1AR/2AR. By the way, you should consider this point my way out in post-rounds where you're like "but I said X...It was right here!" For me, if something is important enough to win/lose a debate, you should spend a significant amount of time there, connect, and make sure your claim is *completely* and *thoughtfully* warranted.
6. All debates have technical mistakes, but not all technical mistakes are equal or irreversible. Given those assumptions, the best rebuttals recognize flaws and make “even if” statements/explain why losing an argument does not mean they lose the debate. I think debaters fold too often on mistakes. Just because you dropped a theory argument doesn’t mean you cannot cross-apply an argument from another theory argument, politics, or T to win.
7. I'm a bad judge for yes/no arguments like "presumption," "links to the net benefit absolutely," or "zero risk of X." I think the best debaters work in the grey areas.
8. Things people don't do enough:
a) Start with the title for their 1NC off case positions (i.e. first off states)
b) Give links labels (i.e. our "docket crowdout link" or "our bipart link")
c) Explain what their plan actually does - For instance (in college), what nuclear forces do you disarm? Who does it? What is the mechanism? I've decided that if the aff is vague to an egregious extent, I'll be super easy on the negative with DA links and CP competition. Aff vagueness is also a link to circumvention and explains why fiat doesn't solve definitional non-compliance. I will say, I'd rather lacking aff clarity (e.g. when aff's include resolutional language in their plan and say "plan text in a vacuum") be resolved by PICs/topic DAs than by T. I don't think that the negative gets to fully define the plan or have some weird positional competition vision for T even if I think 2As frequently dance around what they do. Punish affs for ambiguity and lazy plan writing for the purposes of T on substance!
d) Call out new arguments - I don't have sympathy if you *wish* you said no impact in the 2AC. There are times that I wish it existed, but there isn't and can't be a 3AC. I will say that for mostly pragmatic reasons, I'm not to the point of reviewing every new 1AR argument. I'll protect the 2NR for the 2AR, but you have to do the work before that.
9. Random (likely to change) topic thoughts:
a) Both sides are likely to get to some risk of Russia and/or China nuke war. The best 2Ns/2As will dehomogenize these impacts based on scenarios for escalation and their internal links.
b) Be careful your UQ CP doesn't overwhelm the link to your DA. Sometimes the neg goes a bit too far. I do love a good UQ CP though!
c) This is a rare topic where I'm less interested in process stuff! Who would've thought?
d) Debated equally, I'm 60/40 that we should include NFU subsets and "disarm" actions that fall short of "elimination/abolition." I get the evidence is good. I'd just abstractly rather have these arguments as affs than PICs/would prefer a bit more than the smallest topic since single payer.
Planless affirmatives – The affirmative would ideally have a plan that defends action by the United States (least important). The affirmative should have a direct tie to the topic. In the context of the college resolution, this means you would have a defense of decreasing nukes/their role (pretty important). The affirmative MUST defend the implementation of said "plan" - whatever it is (MOST important). While I will NOT immediately vote negative on T or “Framework” as a procedural issue, if you don’t defend instrumental implementation of a topical plan *rooted in the resolutional question*, you will be in a tough spot. I’m especially good for T/Framework if the affirmative dodges case turns and debates over the question if nukes are good or bad. In particular, I am persuaded by arguments about why these affirmatives are unpredictable, under-limit the topic, and create a bad heuristic for problem-solving. Short version is that you can do you and there is always a chance I’ll vote for you, but I’m probably not an ordinal one for teams that don’t want to engage the resolutional question.
I do want to say that at tournaments with relaxed prefs, I will do my absolute best to keep an open mind about these assumptions. That shouldn't be read as "Thur says he's open to our planless aff - let's move him up to push down 'policy' people." It should be read as if I come up at one of these tournaments, you might as well do what you're most comfortable with/what you've practiced the most instead of over-adapting.
Critiques—Honestly, just read the first point in the "meta issues" section. I understand neolib/deterrence/security pretty well because they were a big part of my major. If you want to push against my confusion on the K (as a concept), you need to have specific links to the plan’s actions, authors, or representations. Again, trying to be honest, if you're itching to say Baudrillard, Bataille, Deleuze, death good, etc., I'm not your guy. On framework, the affirmative will almost surely be able to weigh their 1AC (unless they totally airball), and I'm pretty hesitant to place reps/scholarship/epistemology before material reality. One other thing - substitute out buzzwords and tags for explanation. Merely saying "libidinal economy" or "structural antagonism" without some evidence and explanation isn't a win condition.
In terms of being affirmative against these arguments, I think that too often teams lose sight of the easy ballots and/or tricks. The 1AR and 2AR need to “un-checklist” those arguments. In terms of disproving the critique, I think I’m pretty good for alternative fails/case outweighs or the permutation with a defense of pragmatism or reformism. Of those 2 - I'm best for "your alt does nothing...we have an aff..."
Case- I’m a huge fan. With that, I think that it’s very helpful for the neg (obviously?). I believe that no matter what argument you plan to go for, (excluding T/theory) case should be in some part of the 2nr. In the context of the critique, you can use case arguments to prove that the threats of the 1AC are flawed or constructed, that there are alternative causes to the affirmative that only the alternative solves, or that the impacts of the affirmative are miniscule and the K outweighs. For CPs, even if you lose a solvency deficit, you can still win because the net benefit outweighs the defended affirmative. Going for case defense to the advantage that you think the CP solves the least forces me to drop you twice as I have to decide the CP doesn’t solve AND that the case impact outweighs your net-benefit. That seems like a pretty good spot to be in.
CP- My favorite ones are specific to the 1AC with case turns as net benefits. Aside from that, I think that I am more inclined than most to vote aff on the perm when there is a trivial/mitigated net benefit vs. a smallish solvency deficit, but in the end I would hope you would tell me what to value first. I had a big section written up on theory, and I decided it's too round-dependent to list out. I still think that more than 2 conditional positions is SUPER risky, functional > textual competition, competition is dictated by mandates and not outcomes (i.e. CPs that are designed to spur follow-on are very strategic), judge kick is good, consult/condition/delay/threaten generally suck, and interpretations matter A LOT.
Topicality- People have started flagging violations based on things not in the plan (solvency lines, advocate considerations, aff tags, 2ac arguments, etc.). This is a bad way to understand T debates. The affirmative defines the plan, positional competition is bad, plan text in a vacuum makes sense, and the way to beat teams that include resolutional language in the plan is on PICs not T.
I default to reasonability, but I can be convinced that Competing Interpretations is a decent model. The negative does not need actual abuse, but they do need to win why their potential abuse is likely as opposed to just theoretical. That is, I'll be less persuaded by a 25-item case list than a really good explanation of a few devastating new affirmatives they allow. If I were to pick only one standard to go for, it would be predictable limits. They shape all pre-round research that guides in-round clash and ensure that debates are dialogues instead of monologues. Finally, as a framing point, I generally think bigger topics = better.
They're totally broken...
I'll try to follow the below scale based on where points have been somewhat recently.
29.4 to 29.7 – Speaker Award - 1 to 10
29.2 to 29.3 – Speaker Award - 11 to 25
28.9 to 29.1 – Should break/Have a chance
28.4 to 28.8 – Outside chance at breaking to .500
28 to 28.3 – Not breaking, sub-.500
27 to 27.9 – Keep working
Below 26 – Something said/done warranting a post-round conversation with coaches