Every year, the Parliamentary Debate Tournament of Champions holds the General Assembly, a forum designed to allow competitors to discuss the state of parliamentary debate and air grievances about both the tournament and the activity. Much of the 2016 General Assembly revolved around the kinds of arguments and techniques that are good for parli, as well as how the community needs to work on inclusion of teams from different areas and smaller schools. A recording is provided here, with some minor edits by student request.
Additionally, most students present took an anonymous survey designed to discern attitudes about various aspects of parli, including preferred tournaments, community issues, and the ability of TOC/POI to serve the community. Results are summarized below, and full results excluding commentary and lightly edited to preserve anonymity may be found here.
Over half of the field came from Northern California, with nearly another third coming from Oregon (Fig 1).
This TOC did not see any entrants from the East Coast or Canada as the tournament has in the past. Women comprised less than a quarter of the competitive field and exactly a quarter of debaters breaking. 35% will not compete in high school parli next year, with 8% of all respondents stating that they plan to quit the activity (as opposed to graduating and ageing out).
The top tournament of the season, with 66% of respondents favoring it, was NPDI. The most disliked tournament class was State Qualifiers, with 24% of respondents voting for it. There was a tie between SCU Fall and TOC for most disliked single tournament at 16% of the vote each.
The majority of students seem to be satisfied with the number of lay invitationals locally available to them, but in general they would like to see the availability of local circuit tournaments increase (Fig 2).
Oregon appears to be the primary source of dissatisfaction with lay tournament overrepresentation, with 73% of “Too many!” votes coming from that region. Oregon also accounts for 50% of the vote for more circuit tournaments, even though the Oregon contingent only represented 30% of the field.
Students at the TOC overwhelmingly prefer circuit invitationals and most dislike league tournaments (Fig 3).
However, only one SoCal student rated any type of circuit invitational higher than a 3. If students are going to travel, they prefer going to different regions’ circuit tournaments over traveling to lay tournaments. NorCal teams like their league tournaments markedly less than other regions, giving them a score of 1.9 out of 5 (compared to other regions, which rate their league tournaments at 3.1).
Students highlight many issues of inclusions, generally disagreeing with statements that the community is open to different regions and schools with fewer resources. They are neutral on issues of inclusion of different races and genders, indicating that the community may not be actively offensive to these groups but does not go out of its way to be inclusive. These numbers may also be skewed by the underrepresentation of black and female debaters at the TOC, who according to national debate statistics are generally the most disadvantaged and overall underrepresented. On a positive note, most respondents say the parli community is educational for them and that is has a unique identity.
Recommendations for POI as an Organization
TOC respondents strongly support having no dress code at POI events (89%) and having flex time in some or all rounds (83%, where flex time is a set amount of time that can be used between speeches to prepare or cross-examine the other team). They also generally agree that POI should promote a parli wiki where discussion can occur, resources can be posted, and case disclosures can be made. They are in favor of increasing judge strikes, using MPJ, and having topic areas. They overwhelmingly disagree with restrictions on prep materials. Debaters are slightly disapproving of the use of topic strikes. They are split on questions of disclosure, where nearly 60% would like fiat use disclosed before round but only a slim majority support disclosing generic positions or literature bases before a tournament.
Specific Student Issues and Recommendations for Regional Inclusion
The following bullets include recommendations mixed with quotes from student respondents that highlight issues around being a debater from an underrepresented region or small school.They have been lightly edited for concision and spelling.
POI should do regional outreach “in the form of tournaments” and help defray the judge burden for more distant schools
“Basic respect. Go slowly when asked. Make an effort to be inclusive.” And along similar lines, “Explain K’s.”
Student General Issues and Recommendations
The following bullets are quotes from student respondents that highlight issues that came up repeatedly in the comments and the General Assembly. They have been lightly edited for concision and spelling.
“The community is very, very clique-y and it's easy to feel excluded if you're not in the "inner circle." Schools with little to no resources especially don't get any support from the community. It's a very hostile environment.”
“Lost tons of rounds to Ks, but still think they are [legitimate] and probably good in some cases. We do need to move away from judges voting for things to feel smart or appear smart.”
“As a small school...despite being in NorCal, it is difficult to gain critical knowledge and exposure. Both my partner and I dislike kritiks, but due to the fast rate which we hear them, we never [truly] understand what is said.”
“[I]f POI wants to expand to other states, it needs to promote itself as a truly national all inclusive organization and not just promote certain styles/teams/make inside jokes.”