The annual General Assembly at the Tournament of Champions (TOC) took place in Ashland, Oregon in between preliminary and elimination rounds, per usual. For the first time, the forum coincided with a National Parliamentary Debate League (NPDL) meeting, leaving competitors to discuss equity issues without a tournament director present. The forum was designed to allow competitors to discuss the state of parliamentary debate and air grievances about both the tournament and the activity. This year’s forum centered around a discussion of “flow” and “lay” debate styles and the feelings of debaters towards others in each of the aforementioned circuits. At the end of the meeting, debaters took a voluntary survey designed to discern attitudes about various aspects within the community including preferred tournaments, equity issues, and the ability of the NPDL to serve the community. Results are summarized here.
One of the goals of the NPDL this year was to increase geographic diversity in the parliamentary circuit, specifically at the TOC. The tournament saw limited success in this goal. As expected, the majority of debaters who responded in the survey (64.9%) were from Northern California. Both Southern California and Oregon followed (16.2%). East Coast (2.7%) lagged behind.
Most likely a result of the points requirement to enter the TOC, the majority of respondents (35.3%) had 4+ years of experience. After that, 32.4% had 2 years of experience, 25.3% had 3, and 8.6% had 1 year of experience. On average, respondents went to about 10-11 tournaments throughout the year.
Most students felt that could in engage in all or the majority of rounds at the tournament, especially those competitors innate to Northern California. Those from underrepresented areas like Southern California and the East Coast believed they could engage in most of the rounds, and to an extremely small extent, few of the rounds. The diversity of judges, including parents, at the TOC this year, could be one of the reasons for this high level of inclusivity.
In terms of the tournament location, results were slightly more spit. While the majority (over 50%) of respondents responded positively to the idea of the tournament switching, over half were either neutral or disagreed with the concept. This may be due to the particularly difficult time some competitors or judges had getting to Ashland.
The large majority of respondents believed that the TOC should: increase the number of judge strikes available, have mutual pref judging, continue to use topic areas, promote a parliamentary wiki, not have a dress code, and encourage disclosure. On the other hand, the vast majority of respondents disagreed with: requiring topical affirmations and restricting material during prep time.
On average, from 1 to 5, respondents rated their satisfaction of the NPDL at 3.6.
In regards to potential NPDL initiatives, the survey asked respondents to pick initiatives they believe the NPDL should prioritize. The majority of the respondents (> 70%), believed that the NDPL should: advocate for parli at the state or national level, host online workshops, connect regions, host regional NPDL-sponsored tournaments. On the other hand, the least supported initiatives on the form (that weren’t added by respondents) included: more extensive commentary on the community, more extensive reporting on tournaments, and discussion forums.
While the majority of respondents believed the community is moving in the “just right direction,” the other half of the community is split between a too “lay” direction and a too “flow” direction.
In general, respondents enjoyed travel and local circuit tournaments more than travel and local lay tournaments. On average, league tournaments were enjoyed the least.
Responses were collected on overall inclusivity of the parliamentary debate community. Debaters were asked to rate based on their agreement with each statement, where 1 represented strong disagreement and 5 represented strong agreement. For the sake of clarity, this scale has been extrapolated such that 2 is represented as disagreement, 3 is represented as neutrality, and 4 is represented as agreement.
The majority of respondents agreed that the parliamentary community is both educational and that it has a unique identity. In terms of argumentation, there is also agreement that restrictions should not be placed on any types of arguments in parliamentary debate and that creative, unique arguments are encouraged and should be encouraged. However, respondents agreed less on whether the community is open to schools from different areas and whether the community was fair to schools with less resources.
Javin Pombra was the student forum leader for the 2018 TOC, and competes for Los Altos High School.