Western States All Stars
2022 — Laramie, WY/US
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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.
firstname.lastname@example.org for the email chain
I debated in college policy for three years at both Columbia and Dartmouth, winning a few regionals and clearing at majors. In high school, I debated primarily local LD with some national circuit experience my senior year, and I'm now the Director of LD at VBI and an Assistant Coach at Apple Valley and coach a few independent LDers.
Online debate: I flow on my computer so I won't be looking at the Zoom and don't care whether your camera is on or not. You should locally record all your speeches in case your WiFi cuts out in the middle.
Tech > truth. My goal is to intervene as little as possible - only exception is that I won't vote on args about out-of-round practices, including any personal disputes/callouts (except for disclosure theory with screenshots). I probably come across as more opinionated in this paradigm than I am when evaluating rounds since non-intervention supersedes all my other beliefs about debate. However, I still find it helpful to list them so you can get a better idea of how I think about debate (and knowing that it's impossible to be 100% tech > truth, so ideological leanings might influence close rounds).
Debates over evidence quality are great and re-highlighted ev is always a plus.
Evidence matters but spin > evidence - don’t want to evaluate debates on whose coaches cut better cards.
Extra-topical planks and intrinsicness tests are theoretically legit and an underutilized aff tool vs both DAs and process CPs.
I don't think a risk of extinction auto-outweighs under util and err towards placing more weight on the link level debate than on generic framing args unless instructed otherwise - this also means I place less weight on impact turns case args because they beg the question of whether the aff/neg is accessing that impact to begin with.
Soft left affs have a higher chance of winning when they challenge conventional risk assessment under util rather than util itself.
Zero risk exists but it's uncommon e.g. if the neg reads a politics DA about a bill that already passed.
Case debate is underrated - some aff scenarios are so bad they should lose to analytics.
Impact turns like warming good, spark, wipeout, etc. are fine - I'm unsympathetic to moralizing in place of actual argument engagement (also applies to many K practices).
Smart, analytic advantage counterplans based on 1AC evidence/internal links are underrated.
Immediacy and certainty are probably not legitimate grounds for competition, but debate it out.
Textual competition is irrelevant (any counterplan can be made textually competitive) and devolves to functional competition.
I'll judge kick unless the aff wins that I shouldn't (this arg can't be new in the 2AR though).
I like good T debates - lean towards overlimiting > underlimiting (hard for a topic to be too small) and competing interps > reasonability (no idea what reasonability is even supposed to mean) but everything is up for debate.
Generally think precision/semantics are a prior question to any pragmatic concerns - teams should invest more time in the definition debate than abstract limits/ground arguments that don't matter if they're unpredictable.
Plantext in a vacuum seems obviously true - this does not mean that the aff gets to redefine vague plantexts in the 2AC/1AR but rather that both sides should have a debate over the meaning of the words in the plan and their implications.
I care a lot about logic (and by extension predictability/arbitrariness impacts) - this means that competition should determine counterplan legitimacy and arguments that are not rooted in the resolutional wording or create post hoc exceptions for particular practices (like “new affs justify condo” or “process CPs are good if they have solvency advocates”) are unpersuasive to me. That said, I err against intervention - I dislike how judges tend to inject their ideological biases into T/theory debates more than substance debates.
I default to theory being a reason to reject the arg not the team, except for condo.
I don't see how condo can be anything but reject the team - sticking the neg with the CPs is functionally the same since they conceded perms when they kicked them. Infinite condo is the best neg interp and X condo should lose to arbitrariness on both sides - either condo is good or it’s not. I personally think infinite condo is good but don’t mind judging condo debates.
I think competition drives participation in debate and procedural fairness is a presupposition of the game - the strongest opinion in this paradigm.
While I’ve voted for Ks, I don’t think they negate - the best 2AR vs the K is 3 minutes on FW-neg must rejoin the plan with a robust defense of fairness preceding all neg impacts. Affs lose when they over-allocate on link defense and adopt a middle-of-the-road approach that makes too many concessions/is logically inconsistent.
Line by line >> long overviews for both sides.
Ks that become PIKs in the 2NR are new args that warrant new 2AR responses.
See above - while I think T-FW is just true, I'll vote for K affs/against FW if you out-tech the other team.
For the neg, turns case arguments are helpful in preventing these debates from becoming two ships passing in the night. TVAs are the equivalent of a CP (in that they're not offense) and you don't always need them to win. SSD shouldn't solve because most K affs do not negate the resolution.
For the aff, impact turning everything seems more strategic than defending a counter interp - it’s hard to win that C/Is solve the neg’s predictability offense and they probably link to your own offense.
Topic DAs vs K affs that are in the direction of the topic can also be good 2NRs, especially when turned into uniqueness CPs to hedge back against no link args.
K v K debates are a big question mark for me.
Tricks, phil, and frivolous theory are all fine, with the caveat that I have more policy than LD experience so err on the side of over-explanation. Phil that doesn't devolve into tricks is great. Some substantive tricks can be interesting but many are unwarranted, and I might apply a higher threshold for warrants than the average LD judge.
I’m a good judge for Nebel T - see the T section above.
1AR theory is overpowered but 1AR theory hedges are unpersuasive - 2NRs are better off with a robust defense of non-resolutional theory bad, RTA, etc. that take out most shells. RTA in particular is underutilized in LD theory debates.
There are too many buzzwords in LD theory that don’t mean anything absent explanation - like normsetting/norming (which debaters generally use to refer to predictability without explaining why their interp is more predictable), jurisdiction (which devolves to fairness because it begs the question of why judges don’t have the jurisdiction to vote for non-topical affs), resolvability (which applies to all arguments but never actually seems to make debates impossible to adjudicate), etc.
Presumption and permissibility are not the same and people should not be grouping them together. I default to permissibility negating and to presumption going to the side that advocates for the least change.
Conceding a phil FW and straight turning their (often underdeveloped) offense is strategic.
Speaks - these typically reflect a combination of technical skills and strategy, and depend on the tournament - a 29 at TOC is different than a 29 at a local novice tournament.
I debated at Coeur d’Alene High school for 3 years and Gonzaga University for 4 years.
My email is email@example.com
I haven’t been heavily involved in debate for a few years as I was working abroad.
Essentially, do whatever you want and I’ll do my best. I try my absolute hardest to pay 100% attention while a debate is happening. This means that I try to make eye contact, listen attentively, and catch all of the arguments the best I can. This also means, however, that I flow on paper. As such, please give me some pen time especially if you have a really important argument you want to get across. **This is 10x more true for theory arguments/T debates - you must slow down.
Also, I really hate interrupting a debate. I don’t yell clear, please just…be clear?
Updates as of Kentucky
1. Line by line is important to me - I understand we're on a time crunch, but I have to know what you're answering. Numbers are great, use them consistently.
2. I like research - I love this aspect of the activity a lot. That said, I think that the way a lot of teams highlight cards is odd. I'm naturally more skeptical of a piece of evidence if you've made 1 sentence from 15 lines of text by highlighting a few words. I also really don't like the size 2 font on cards.
3. Compare your cards! I think every debate I've watched in recent memory could have been improved if no one said "their card is really bad". I'm more persuaded if you first tell me what makes your evidence so persuasive and why the opponent's evidence can't meet that threshold.
4. That said, CX needs to extend beyond just evidence. Asking "where in you card does it say 'x'" for 3 minutes isn't persuasive to me.
5. There is no clarification period. If you are asking a question, that is CX.
I don’t like obnoxious people. I have a pretty good sense of humor and I know when being funny crosses a line. I’m also not persuaded when debaters tell others to do harm to themselves or others. It won’t necessarily cost you the debate (unless I’m instructed otherwise) but I will tell you now; it’s a waste of breath that will probably lose you speaker points. I also do not enjoy debates where debaters don't defend the things they have said/read. If you read Irigaray, you have to defend Irigaray. If you try to weasel out of it, I'm either going to think you a) are unprepared/don't understand your evidence b) are a weasel c) are an unprepared weasel.
I lean neg, but everything is open to debate. This was never my favorite kind of debate and it is definitely not my strength. I don’t consider most things reasons to reject the team unless you tell me and give a good reason. I tend to lean negative on conditionality.
Love it. Read it, but be honest with yourself. You and I know both know that T – Sub isn’t the best argument ever, but I’ve won on it and voted on it, so here we are. An important note: I find it easier to vote for/against T when I know what exactly a debate round looks like on average. What are the affs? Are they winnable? What are the DAs? Are they winnable?
Love them. If you’re going to have a super long, complicated text, please read it slowly. I try to write it down the best I can. If you have a lot of planks, you should probably have solvency cards for all the planks.
Love these too.
Go for them if they’re your thing. I was a philosophy student, but the K lit most kids read was never my jam. I like a specific link story and I would like to know how the alt solves or why, if it doesn’t, I still shouldn’t vote aff. Something that often confuses me about K debates is that I don’t know what to do with the things I am told, so please impact things clearly and let me know what to do with the information you provide.
I’m not a big fan of the dead-on-the-inside stuff as it all sounds like gobbledygook to me, but if it’s your thing and you want to shine, shine on, friend. I’ll do my best.
The more about the topic they are, the happier I am. That said, I don’t hate things that have nothing to do with the topic. Just explain the aff well and try to be as clear as possible. I will say, if all of your cards have paragraph-long tags, it will be harder for me to flow.
Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions before/after the debate. I really love debate and want everyone to do well and get better.
**Clarification questions about the speech doc are CX time**
**Just a brief update for the high school community on the Inequality topic:
T - Taxes and Transfers - Heavily lean Aff here, but the Neg can win it I guess.
Process CPs - Good luck with these in front of me.
If you feel the need to not take prep before the 2AC or 2NC, good luck with that as well in front of me.
**Updated Summer 2023**
Yes I would like to be on the email chain: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will listen to all arguments, but a couple of caveats:
-This doesn't mean I will understand every element of your argument.
-I have grown extremely irritated with clash debates…take that as you please.
-I am a firm believer that you must read some evidence in debate. If you differ, you might want to move me down the pref sheet.
I have been a long-term fan of the great Shannon Sharpe. Now that he is the co-host of Undisputed, he often serves up Hot Dubs and Hot Ls daily. Please see ways below in which you or your team might earn one of these Dubs or Ls:
To Earn a Hot L:
1. You stumble, fumble or go silent on a fundamental series of CX questions related to your Aff, primary Neg position or issues germane to the topic.
2. You are blatantly racist, homophobic, sexist or are in any other way discriminatory in the debate space.
3. You decide that theory, skepticism or RVIs are more important than substance (specifically for LD).
4. You clip or cross-read.
To Earn a Hot W:
1. Debate well!
2. Be nice!
3. Don’t do any of the things in the Hot L section!
Note to all: In high school debate, 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.
In college debate, I might allow 6 off case arguments :/
Good luck to all!
Updated for NU 22
NOTE: I have not thought about debate since the 2022 NDT. I am excited to be back but know that these rounds will be the first time I am hearing about Legal Personhood.
Yes Email Chain email@example.com
The short version
I am a judge who will vote for essentially any argument. I am as likely to vote on FW versus K affs than I am to vote for impact turns on FW. Simply put, run whatever arguments you are the most comfortable with and dont feel the need to change your style for me.
I will say that because of my debating style I am much more experienced in Policy v Policy and Policy v K debates but I still view K v K debate as amazing and will be excited whenever I get a chance to judge one of those rounds! NOTE: I am super inexperienced at Pomo debates. I have and will continue to vote for them IF I can understand them, pref me if you read those arguments at your own risk.
I think it is important as I judge more rounds to note areas that I have noticed that have become more important to me. The biggest thing I have noticed is debate is a communication event as a result I place a higher premium on communication than some other judges do. Don't read great evidence and leave it at that but rather connect it to the debate round as a whole. I am a judge who loves judge instruction and telling me how I should evaluate arguments or impacts is going to put you in a much better position than simply hoping that I will follow your same line of thinking.
The long version: Most of these comments below are my specific thoughts. Things like DA's and CP's are pretty straightforward. Have a link for the DA and be able to solve some or all the aff with the CP.
Tech over truth: If an argument goes conceded and you impacted it well enough and explain why I should vote for it, I will.
Speed: I have a high threshold for speed and will yell clear out twice in a speech before I stop flowing. That being said with this year most likely being all on Zoom it is important to go at a speed that everyone can understand online. I recommend 80% of your normal speed but you know what works best for you.
K-affs: This is an area where I have experience in but was never my main focus during debate. K's and K affs are the areas where I am the most likely not to vote on an argument because I did not understand it. All that means is to make sure to explain your argument and dont assume that I will fill in the gaps with the same level of knowledge that you all have.
I prefer affs that are in the direction of the topic (that doesn't mean defending USFG action) but affs that are not in the direction of the topic are still able to win my ballot if it is well debated.
K-aff's Vs T/FW: My opinion of what arguments against framework that I find persuasive is still very malleable. All that really means is answer framework in whatever way you think is the most strategic. Reading my advice on T/FW vs K-aff's will give you a good idea of what I find important and being able to beat those arguments will put you in a good place in the debate. Affirmative teams usually win against T/FW in front of me when you prove that the neg's interp excludes the possibility of being able to discuss your scholarship (got to beat the TVA), combined with offense.
After judging multiple framework vs K aff rounds I have come to find that I am more persuaded by whatever team does better impact comparison (why does fairness outweigh education or vice versa?). I will also say that I am less persuaded by general debate bad arguments. I agree that the community is messed up and there is a lot we can do to improve it but saying that debate provides no benefit is a harder sell. If that is your A strat you are not out of luck instead it just requires you to invest more time in this argument if you would like to win it. In general impact turning, T/FW is very viable in front of me.
T/FW vs K-aff's: Im relatively open to all type of negative impacts for framework. I am much more persuaded by T impacts that are centered around skill-building or resolution focus good compared to impacts such as fairness but again am open to any impact. TVA's are pretty much must haves and at the very least make your odds of winning much higher.
K's: Just like above I have some experience but it was not my main focus. Having links to the aff and winning impact calc and/or framework will put you in a good spot.
Going for CP's: I default to no judge kick unless told otherwise.
Theory: Theory is a tool that is underutilized by a lot of aff teams Neg's get away with a lot and needs some checks. Condo theory I view as a reason to reject the team. I am more lenient on reject the arg with everything non-condo but I can be convinced why reading those CP's in the first place is a reason to reject the team. I enjoy theory debates less typed out/reading blocks and more engaging on the line by line and vision of debate.
Topicality for policy affs: Having a specific violation and examples of in round abuse puts you in a better place than just a generic T-shell. Also in the later speeches if you are still going for it, make sure to explain what a world of your interp looks like (What affs are aloud, why are only those affs good for debate, etc)
Impact Turns: Love them and think they are underutilized as well. I have had experience with impact turns from Heg bad to Nuke war good.
Prep: I do not count flashing/emailing as prep, as soon as your document is finished you can stop prep. If I see you stealing prep I will call you out once and then start the clock for your prep.
Language: Your language matters racist,homophobic,abelistic,misgendering language is probelmatic just be kind to people.
Clipping cards: If someone is accused of clipping cards the round will stop, you must have video evidence and make the claim in the round. Clipping cards causes an instant loss and low speaks. Accidents happen just make sure you are reading everything you said you read. Mark where you said to mark.
If you have any questions before the round don't be afraid to ask!
University of Wyoming
Last updated: 9-12-22
Email chain: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb 2022 update: If your highlighting is incoherent gibberish, you will earn the speaker points of someone who said incoherent gibberish. The more of your highlighting that is incoherent, the more of your speech will be incoherent, and the less points you will earn. To earn speaker points, you must communicate coherent ideas.
If you want to read far more than necessary on my judging process: https://wyodebateroundup.weebly.com/blog/reflections-on-the-judging-process-inside-the-mind-of-a-judge
I put a pretty high premium on effective communication. Too many debaters do not do their evidence justice. You should not expect me to read your evidence after the round and realize it’s awesome. You should make sure I know it’s awesome while you read it. I find many debaters over-estimate the amount of ideas they believe they communicate to the judge. Debaters who concentrate on persuading the judge, not just entering arguments into the record, will control the narrative of the round and win my ballot far more often than those who don’t. I have tended to draw a harder line on comprehensibility than the average judge. I won’t evaluate evidence I couldn’t understand. I also don’t call clear: if you’re unclear, or not loud enough, I won’t intervene and warn you, just like I wouldn't intervene and warn you that you are spending time on a bad argument. Am I flowing? You're clear.
Potential biases on theory: I will of course attempt to evaluate only the arguments in the round, however, I'll be up front about my otherwise hidden biases. Conditionality- I rarely find that debaters are able to articulate a credible and significant impact. International actor fiat seems suspect. Uniform 50 state fiat seems illogical. Various process counterplans are most often won as legitimate when the neg presents a depth of evidence that they are germane to the topic/plan. Reject the arg not the teams seems true of nearly all objections other than conditionality. I will default to evaluating the status quo even if there is a CP in the 2NR. Non-traditional affirmatives- I'll evaluate like any other argument. If you win it, you win it. I have yet to hear an explanation of procedural fairness as an impact that makes sense to me (as an internal link, yes). None of these biases are locked in; in-round debating will be the ultimate determinant of an argument’s legitimacy.
Clock management: In practice I have let teams end prep when they begin the emailing/jumping process. Your general goal should be to be completely ready to talk when you say ‘end prep.’ No off-case counting, no flow shuffling, etc.
Cross-x is a speech. You get to try to make arguments (which I will flow) and set traps (which I will flow). Once cross-x is over I will stop listening. If you continue to try to ask questions it will annoy me- your speech time is up.
Pet-peeves: leaving the room while the other team is prepping for a final rebuttal, talking over your opponents. I get really annoyed at teams that talk loudly (I have a low threshold for what counts as loudly) during other teams speeches- especially when it’s derisive or mocking comments about the other team’s speech.
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).
Philosophy Updated 9-5-17
Nick Ryan – Liberty Debate – 10th year coaching/Judging
Please label your email chains “Tournament – Rd “#” – AFF Team vs Neg Team” – or something close to that effect. I hate “No subject,” “Test,” “AFF.” I would like to be included “email@example.com”
Too often Philosophy’s are long and give you a bunch of irrelevant information. I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet.
1. I spend most of my time working with our “Policy teams,” I have a limited amount of working with our “K/Non traditional” debaters, but the bulk of my academic research base is with the “traditional” “policy teams;” don’t expect me to know the nuances of your specific argument, debate it and explain it.
2. Despite this I vote for the K a fair amount of time, particularly when the argument is contextualized in the context of the AFF and when teams aren’t reliant on me to unpack the meaning of “big words.” Don’t rely on me to find your “embedded clash” for you.
3. “Perm Do Both” is not a real argument, neg teams let AFFs get away with it way too often and it shifts in the 1AR. Perms and Advocacy/CP texts should be written out.
4. If neither team clarifies in the debate, then I default to the status quo is always an option.
5. These are things that can and probably will influence your speaker points: clarity, explanations, disrespectfulness to the other team, or your partner, stealing prep time, your use of your speech time (including cx), etc.
6. Prep time includes everything from the time the timer beeps at the end of the lasts speech/CX until the doc is sent out.
7. I think Poems/Lyrics/Narratives that you are reading written by someone else is evidence and should be in the speech document.
ADA Novice Packet Tournaments:
Evidence you use should be from the packet. If you read cards that weren’t in the packet more than once it’s hard to believe it was a “honest mistake.”
If you have any questions about things that are not listed here please ask, I would rather you be sure about my feelings, then deterred from running something because you are afraid I did not like it.
Yes, put me on the chain: firstname.lastname@example.org
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 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 would 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 treat certain arguments that are 'above the game board' differently.This includes callouts of many varieties, certain K procedurals, and arguments that are personal in nature. For example, I am not going to view an argument about someone's personal Twitter account through an offense/defense lens because that makes zero sense. The same is true for arguments that are a version of 'I know what you read last summer.' Not only are these arguments generally not super persuasive, but to me they are different category entirely. If you genuinely believe your opponent has made the round/community unsafe in some way, me voting against them doesn't solve much. When you introduce an argument of this variety, just know that you assume certain risks with the way I evaluate them.
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.
Tldr; I come from an exclusively policy background. I had zero experience in LD before I started coaching HW in 2018. This means everything you do is largely filtered through my experience in policy debate, and I have outlined my thoughts on those arguments in the above sections. This is why I am a horrible judge for LD shenanigans and will not tolerate them. I don't say this to disparage someone's preferred form of debate, but I really can't vote for arguments that do not pass the 'makes sense' test. I care deeply about the educational aspects of debate, and will always try to help you improve. However, I am going to hold the line when ridiculous arguments are involved. See the FAQ below to determine if you should pref me.
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 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.
1. Yes, include me on the doc chain – email@example.com
2. No, I am not ok with you just putting the card in the text of the email
3. Idk if the aff has to read a plan. I would obviously prefer it because I'm used to it, but I also would prefer if I were in for zero rounds, so…
4. No, you should not try to read Baudrillard or other post-modern theories against me. This is not a challenge. It's not a threat, it's a warning.
5. Yes, you should (please) slow down while debating if you are online. There are glitches in streaming and it’s hard enough to understand you. For a while, I tried following along with the docs when I missed something, but we all know that just leads to more errors. This is your warning: if you are not clear enough to flow I will not try to flow it. I will give two warnings to be clear (and one after your speech in case you didn’t hear me). If you choose to keep doing you, don’t expect to win or for me to know what you said. On the flip side, if you are actively slowing down to make the debate comprehensible, you will be rewarded with a speaker point bump.
6. JESUS CHRIST PLEASE stop trying to debate how you think I want you to. It's never a good look to over-adapt. The only exception isis you want to go for Baudrillard and somehow ended up with me as a judge. Then please over-adapt. I cannot stress enough the importance of adaptation if you are trying to tell me post-modern theory or that death is cool.
- I am chronically ill. If you pref me, there is a chance I have a flare up while judging you. This means I will finish the debate with my camera off but am still there. I just want some privacy while sick/you really don't want to see my face if I turn my camera off.
- I am a blunt judge. If you choose to pref me, that’s on you. Blow me up and I might say some harsh things. I wont call you out of your name, but I will be very clear about your skills (or lack thereof) in the debate.
- I also might cry...I'm clinically hypersensitive from PTSD. If I cry and you weren't being a total jerk, don't over-apologize and make the RFD about me, lets just plan on a written RFD in that case.
The longer version:
I've been told you need to average a 29.2 to clear nowadays. Because of that:
-a learning speech will be 28.4-28.7,
-an average speech will be 28.8-29.1,
-a clearing level speech will be 29.2-29.5,
-a top ten speaker will be 29.6-29.9.
I'm not giving 30s. Ya gotta be perfect to get a 30, and Hannah Montana taught me that nobody's perfect.
If you get below a 28.4 you probably severely annoyed me.
If you get below a 28, you were probably a problem in the debate, ethically.
-I’ve rarely judged a planless debate where the neg has not gone for framework. In instances where I have, the neg was policy style impact turning a concept of the aff, not going for a K based on a different theory of the world.
-I generally went for framework against planless affirmatives when I debated, and therefore am a bit deeper on the neg side of things. That being said, I also have a standard for what the neg needs to do to make a complete argument.
-I don’t think topicality, or adhering to a resolution, is analogous to rape, slavery, or other atrocities. That doesn't mean arguments about misogynoir, pornotroping, or other arguments of that nature don't work with me. I understand the logic of something being problematic. It's just the oversimplification of theory into false comparisons I take issue with.
-I don’t think that not being topical will cause everyone to quit, lose all ability to navigate existential crises, or other tedious internal link chains. That being said, I love an external impact to framework that defends the politics of government action.
-I would really prefer if people had reasonable arguments on topicality for why or why they don’t need to read a plan, rather than explaining to me their existential impact to voting aff or neg. In the same way that I'm not persuaded the neg will quit or extinction will happen if you don't read a plan, I also don't think extinction will happen if you lose to topicality. Focus instead on the real debate impacts at hand. Though, as said above, I love a good defense of your politics, and if that has a silly extinction impact that's fine.
-I find myself persuaded that the case can not outweigh topicality. Arguments from the case can be used to impact turn topicality, but that is distinct from “case outweighs limits” in my mind. T is a gateway issue. If the neg goes for T, that's what the debate is about. This is why I think many planless 1ACs are best when they have a built-in angle against framework.
Neg K v plans:
-Generally, the alt won’t solve when the aff does a serious push, but the aff will let the neg get away with murder on alt solvency.
-Generally, the alt doing the plan is a reason to reject the alt/team absent a framework debate, which is fine.
-Generally, contradictions justify severance
-Generally, the neg is allowed to read Ks
-I'm getting more and more persuaded the neg needs a big push on framework to beat the perm. If the alt is fiated and not mutually exclusive with the plan, there is almost no way to convince me that the perm won't solve.
-Framework debates are won by engaging the theory aspect and is pragmatism/action desirable, not just one. Typically the neg spends a bunch of time winning the aff is an unethical method, while the aff is talking about fairness and limits.
K v K debate:
I tend to find myself thinking of things in terms of causality, so if that’s not your jam you gotta tell me not to think in that way. I have *technically* judged a K v K debate, but I'm pretty sure it was a cap debate that was more impact turn-y than theory of power-y.
I'm interested in seeing debates like this despite my lack of experience.
K stuff in general:
-My degree is in math. While y’all were reading a lot of background lit, I was doing abstract algebra. You might have to break it down a bit. I'm reading a bit more of the stuff y'all debate from in grad school, but it's still safe to eli5.
-I am more persuaded by identity or constructivism than post-modernism.
-I DO NOT recommend reading Baudrillard, Bataille, etc. You might think "but I'm the one that will change her mind;" you aren't. I will be annoyed for having to judge the debate tbh. You have free will to read it if you want, but I have free will to tank your points with ZERO remorse. If this third warning doesn't do it for you, you are responsible for your speaker points.
General: I don't like to read cards as a default. If a card is called into question or my BS meter is going off, I will read the card. Absent that, I'm mostly about the flow and ethos. Tell me what warrants in your card you want me to know about. Point out the parts in the other team's evidence that are bad for them. That makes my judging job easier AND gives you a sick speaker point boost.
-Tell me if I can (or can’t!) kick it for you. I may or may not remember to if you don’t. I may or may not feel like you are allowed to if you don’t.
-Reading definitions of should means the perm or theory is in tough shape. It's not unwinnable, but I was a 2A… Tricky process counterplans that argue to result in the aff by means of solvency, but are *actually* competitive (more than just should and resolved definitions), game on. If that means you have to define some topic words in an interesting way, I'm fine with that. Also, despite being a classic 2A, I find myself holding the aff to a higher standard sometimes. Maybe it's because I went to MSU, but a lot of times I find myself thinking "this CP obviously doesn't solve. why doesn't the aff just say that or try to cut a card about it???"
-Make the intrinsic perm great again
-Links to the net benefit is usually a sliding scale. But sometimes links have a certain threshold where it doesn’t matter which links less. Please consider this nuance when debating.
-TBH – y’all blaze through theory blocks with no clarity and then get confused when I have no standards written down. These debates are bad. Be more clear. Speak at a flowable pace. Maybe make your own arguments. Idk.
-It is debatable whether an argument is a reason to reject the argument or team.
-2ACs that spend 15-plus seconds on the theory shell will see a lot more mileage and viability for the 2AR. One-sentence blips with no warrants and flow checks will be treated as such.
-impact comparison and turns case are lost arts in theory debates.
-Yes, there can be zero DA. No, it’s not as common as you think.
-answer turns case!!!
*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
Juan Diego Catholic: 2011-2014 (1N/2A and 1A/2N)
Rowland Hall-St. Marks: 2014-2015 (1A/2N)
University of Michigan: 2015-2019 (1A/2N)
University of Kentucky: 2019-2020 (Assistant Coach)
Wake Forest University: Present (Assistant Coach)
*Please put me on the email chain: firstname.lastname@example.org - NO POCKETBOXES OR WHATEVER PLEASE AND THANK YOU*
TL;DR: You do you, and I'll flow and judge accordingly. Make smart arguments, be yourself, and have fun. Ask questions if you have them post-round / time permits. I would rather you yell at me (with some degree of respect) and give me the chance to explain why you lost so that you can internalize it rather than you walk away pissed/upset without resolution. An argument = claim + warrant. You may not insert rehighlighted evidence into the record - you have to read it, debate is a communicative activity.
General thoughts: I enjoy debate immensely and I hope to foster that same enjoyment in every debate I judge. With that being said, you should debate how you like to debate and I’ll judge fairly. I will immediately drop a team and give zero speaks if you make this space hostile by making offensive remarks or arguments that make it unsafe for others in the round (to be judged at my discretion). Clipping accusations must have audio or some form of proof. Debaters do not necessarily have to stake the round on an ethics violation. I also believe that debaters need to start listening to each other's arguments more, not just flowing mindlessly - so many debates lose potential nuance and clash because debaters just talk past each other with vague references to the other team's arguments. I can't/won't vote on an argument about something that happened outside the debate. I have no way of falsifying any of this and it's not my role as a judge. This doesn't apply to new affs bad if both teams agree that the aff is new, but if it's a question of misdisclosure, I really wouldn't know what to do (stolen from DML and Goldschlag). *NOTE - if you use sexually explicit language or engage in sexually explicit performances in high school debates, you should strike me. If you think that what you're saying in the debate would not be acceptable to an administrator at a school to hear was said by a high school student to an adult, you should strike me. (stolen from Val)
General K thoughts:
- AT: Do you judge these debates/know what is happening? Yes, its basically all I judge anymore (mostly clash of civs)
- AT: Since you are familiar with our args, do we not have to do any explanation specific to the aff/neg args? No, you obviously need to explain things
- AT: Is it cool if I just read Michigan KM speeches I flowed off youtube? If you are reading typed out copies of someone else's speech, I'm going to want to vote against you and will probably be very grumpy. Debate is a chance for you to show off your skill and talent, not just copy someone's speech you once saw on youtube.
K (Negative) – enjoyable if done well. Make sure the links are specific to the case and cause an impact. Make sure that the alt does something to resolve those impacts and links as well as some aff offense OR have a framework that phases out aff offense and resolves yours. Assume I know nothing about your literature base. Try not to have longer than a 2-minute overview
K (Affirmative) / Framework – probably should have some relation to the resolution otherwise it's easy to be persuaded that by the interp that you need to talk about the resolution. Probably should take some sort of action to resolve whatever the aff is criticizing. I think FW debates are important to have because they force you to question why this space has value and/or what needs to change in said space. Negative teams should prove why the aff destroys fairness and why that is bad. Affirmative teams should have a robust reason why their aff is necessary to resolve certain impacts and why framework is bad. Both teams need a vision of what debate looks like if I sign my ballot aff or neg and why that vision is better than the other side’s. Fairness is an impact and is easily the one I'm most persuaded by, particularly if couched in terms of it being the only impact any individual ballot can solve AND being a question of simply who's model is most debatable (think competing interps).
T is distinct from Framework in these debates in so far as I believe that:
- T is a question of form, not content -- it is fundamentally content neutral because there can be any number of justifications beyond simply just the material consequences of hypothetical enactment for any number of topical affs
- Framework is more a question of why this particular resolution is educationally important to talk about and why the USfg is the essential actor for taking action over these questions
Case – Please, please, please debate the case. I don’t care if you are a K team or a policy team, the case is so important to debate. Most affs are terribly written and you could probably make most advantages have almost zero risk if you spent 15 minutes before round going through aff evidence. Zero risk exists.
CPs – Sure. Negative teams need to prove competition and why they are net beneficial to the aff. Affirmative needs to impact out solvency deficits and/or explain why the perm avoids the net benefit. Affs also must win some form of offense to outweigh a DA (solvency deficits, theory, impact turn to an internal nb/plank of the cp) otherwise I could be persuaded that the risk of neg offense outweighs a risk a da links to the cp, the perm solvency, etc.
DAs – Also love them. Negative teams should tell me the story of the DA through the block and the 2nr. Affirmative teams need to point out logical flaws in the DA and why the aff is a better option. Zero risk exists.
Politics – probably silly, but I’ll vote on it. I could vote on intrinsicness as terminal defense if debated well.
Topicality – You need a counter-interp to win reasonabilty on the aff. I default to competing interpretations if there is no other metric for evaluation.
Theory – the neg has been getting away with murder recently and its incredibly frustrating. Brief thoughts on specific args below:
- cps with a bunch of planks to fiat out of every possible solvency deficit with no solvency advocate = super bad
- 3+ condo with a bunch of conditional planks = bad
- cps that fiat things such as: "Pence and Trump resign peacefully after [x] date to avoid the link to the politics da", "Trump deletes all social media and never says anything bad about the action of the plan ever", "Trump/executive office/other actor decides never to backlash against the plan or attempt to circumvent it" = vomit emoji
- commissions cps = still cheating, but less bad than all the things above
- delay cps = boo
- consult cps = boo (idk if these exist on the immigration topic, but w/e)
- going for theory when you read a new aff = nah fam (with some exceptions)
- 2nr cps (yes this happened recently) = boo
- going for condo when they read 2 or less without conditional planks = boo
- perf con is a reason you get to sever your reps for any perm
- theory probably does not outweigh T unless impacted very early, clearly, and in-depth
Bonus – Speaker Point Outline – I’ll try to follow this very closely (TOC is probably the exception because y'all should be speaking in the 28.5+ category):
(Note: I think this scale reflects general thoughts that are described in more detail in this: http://collegedebateratings.weebly.com/points-scale.html - Thanks Regnier)
29.3 < (greater than 29.3) - Did almost everything I could ask for
29-29.3 – Very, very good
28.8 – 29 – Very good, still makes minor mistakes
28.5 – 28.7 – Pretty good speaker, very clear, probably needs some argument execution changes
28.3 – 28.5 – Good speaker, has some easily identifiable problems
28 – 28.3 – Average varsity policy debater
27-27.9 – Below average
27 > (less than 27) - You did something that was offensive / You didn’t make arguments.
Last updated 8 September 2023
I am currently a policy and PF coach at Taipei American School. My previous affiliations include Fulbright Taiwan, the University of Wyoming, Apple Valley High School, The Harker School, the University of Oklahoma, and Bartlesville High School.
Email for the chain: lwzhou10 at gmail.com
I care that you debate the topic in a way that reflects serious engagement with the relevant scholarly literature. I would also prefer to judge debates that do not contain references to arcane debate norms or jargon.
Additionally, I expect that your evidence abides by NSDA rules as outlined in the NSDA Evidence Guide. If I find evidence that does not conform to these guidelines, I will minimally disregard that piece of evidence and maximally vote against you.
I do not believe that either team has any obligation to "frontline" in second rebuttal, but my preferences on this are malleable. If "frontlining" is the agreed upon norm, I expect that the second speaking team also devote time to rebuttals in the constructive speeches.
The idea of defense being "sticky" seems illogical to me.
I find it extremely difficult to vote for arguments that lack resolutional basis (e.g., most theory or procedural arguments, some kritikal arguments, etc.). I find trends to evade debate over the topic to be anathema to my beliefs about what Public Forum debate ought to look like.
There is also a strong trend towards under-developing arguments in an activity that already operates with compressed speech times. I also strongly dislike the practice of spamming one-line quotes with no context (or warrant) from a dozen sources in a single speech. I will reward teams generously if they invest in a few well-warranted arguments which they spend time meaningfully weighing compared to if they continue to shotgun arguments with little regard for their plausibility or quality.
Update: Exchanging evidence in a manner consistent with the NSDA's rules on evidence exchange has become a painfully slow process. Please simply set up an email chain or use an online file sharing service in order to quickly facilitate the exchange of relevant evidence. Calling for individual pieces of evidence appears to me as nothing more than prep stealing.
Stolen from Matt Liu: "Feb 2022 update: If your highlighting is incoherent gibberish, you will earn the speaker points of someone who said incoherent gibberish. The more of your highlighting that is incoherent, the more of your speech will be incoherent, and the less points you will earn. To earn speaker points, you must communicate coherent ideas."
I debated for OU back in the day but you shouldn't read too much into that—I wasn't ever particularly good or invested when I was competing. I lean more towards the policy side than the K side and I'm probably going to be unfamiliar with a lot of the ins-and-outs of most kritiks, although I will do my best to fairly evaluate the debate as it happens.
1. I tend to think the role of the aff is to demonstrate that the benefits of a topical plan outweigh its costs and that the role of the neg is to demonstrate that the costs and/or opportunity costs of the aff's plan outweigh its benefits.
2. I find variations of "fairness bad" or "logic/reasoning bad," to be incredibly difficult to win given that I think those are fundamental presuppositions of debate itself. Similarly, I find procedural fairness impacts to be the best 2NRs on T/Framework.
3. Conditionality seems obviously good, but I'm not opposed to a 2AR on condo. Most other theory arguments seem like reasons to reject the argument, not the team. I lean towards reasonability. Most counterplan issues seem best resolved at the level of competition, not theory.
4. Warrant depth is good. Argument comparison is good. Both together—even better.
5. Give judge instruction—tell me how to evaluate the debate.
None of these biases are locked in—in-round debating will be the ultimate determinant of an argument’s legitimacy.
I've judged over 1000 LD and policy rounds from novice locals to TOC elims. I am not particularly partial to a style in which you debate the topic, e.g. philosophical, kritikal, traditional, etc., but I do care that you debate the topic. Frivolous theory or kritiks that shift the question of the debate start a few steps behind for me.
Ideological stances that might influence prefs:
1. Fairness and logic are good—args to the contrary are self-defeating.
2. The aff should defend the topic; the neg should disprove the aff—I've voted against framework/for Ks a decent amount too but it's just a tougher route to take in front of me.
3. Some tricks are fine, most stretch the definition of what counts as an argument—anything that relies almost entirely on your opponent dropping it probably isn't even worth making in front of me.
4. I think Nebel T is true, but tech > truth.
5. Conditionality is probably bad in LD, but it's not that hard to defend condo good; most other counterplan issues are best resolved at the level of competition, not theory.
6. I'm inclined to think that everything other than conditionality and T should be a reason to reject the arg. Most other theoretical objections aren't particularly persuasive to me.
7. I'm generally against sandbagging both in the 1NC and 1AR. I would rather the 1NC read 1 less off case position in favor of more developed case analysis, impact calc, or fully complete arguments. I would rather the 1AR make 1 less theory argument in favor of actually explaining what the words "perm do both" mean. How much "new-ness" is allowed in the 2NR or 2AR is obviously contextual but the default is that it's determined by how new your opponent was.
8. Ev ethics are important—I'll default to the NSDA Evidence Guide.
9. I'd prefer not to read your cards—I'd rather you explain them to me.
None of these biases are locked in—in-round debating will be the ultimate determinant of an argument’s legitimacy. I'm not sure I have strong opinions about much else. Like most other judges, I like evidence quality, impact calculus, and strategic choices. Like most other judges, I dislike cheating, unclarity, and impropriety.
I will NOT hesitate drop anyone who spreads or engages in debate practices that would not be persuasive or understandable to a reasonable person—this is not negotiable. Please do not see my policy background or circuit LD experience as an invitation to make this round uninteresting for everyone involved.
1. Please time yourselves. Using a phone is fine.
2. Yes, off-time roadmaps are good.
3. Offense (why you win) is superior to defense (why you don't lose). I'm much more interested in the former; don't spend so much time on the latter.
4. The criterion/framework is not a voting issue. If you say it is, I'll make a big sad face :(.
5. I prefer more principled and philosophical arguments in debate. If the debate does become a question about the consequences of adopting some policy, I prefer empirical studies and examples over random predictions without evidence.
6. I prefer voting issues to be given as they arise on the flow, not in a discrete section at the end of rebuttal speeches.
7. You do not need to ask me to use your prep time (although I will keep track of time myself).
8. You can read my longer LD paradigm at the bottom for a more detailed view at my decision-making process.
9. You MUST follow the NSDA Evidence Rules (High School Manual here, shorter version here). I care deeply about evidentiary ethics in an academic event and I will not hesitate to punish to the full extent allowed by the rules up to, and including, voting against you.
10. I hate evasion. Direct clash with your opponent's central points is preferred.
11. I will keep a rigorous flow, time all speeches, and not hesitate to enforce those time limits.
My debate experience is primarily in LD, policy, and PF. I do not consider myself well-versed in all the intricacies or nuances of WSD strategy and norms. My only strong preference is that want to see well-developed and warranted arguments. I would prefer fewer, better developed arguments over more, less-developed arguments.
Online Procedural Concerns
1. Follow tournament procedure regarding online competition best practices.
2. Record your speeches locally. If you cut out and don't have a local backup, that's a you problem.
3. Keep your camera on when you speak, I don't care if it's on otherwise. Only exception is if there are tech or internet issues---keeping the camera off for the entirety of the debate otherwise is a good way to lose speaker points.
4. I'll keep my camera off for prep time, but I'll verbally indicate I'm ready before each speech and turn on the camera for your speeches. If you don't hear me say I'm ready and see my camera on, don't start.
5. Yes, I'll say clear and stuff for online rounds.