An Open Letter to POI,

As you may have heard, the recent Cal Berkeley Parli Invitational*, held from Jan 28th-29th, had many problems. Debaters complained about the long delays, topics, and unfair judging/paneling against them. Although we wholeheartedly agree, these complaints are nothing new and hardly unique to this tournament. What is new, however, is the complaint from some debaters that speaker point mistakes in 3-2 octofinals breaks have functionally messed up the elimination rounds to such an extent that the entire tournament past preliminary rounds should be dropped. Some students and their constituent schools have even asked to ignore all elimination points altogether and to consider preliminary records only.

We urge you to completely reject this suggestion in favor of a fairer alternative.

There is a fundamental issue of basic responsibility in the current proposal. The reality is that this tournament was poorly run and managed. We don’t contest that there might have been errors that could have been avoided, especially with inputting speaker points. Tabbing errors could conceivably have resulted in dropping a few teams that deserved to break in the 3-2 bracket, robbing them of the opportunity to compete further.

However, the current proposal ignores the statistics of the tournament. There were ten 3-2 teams that broke and five that did not. The facts are that we don’t know how much the inputting errors put off the octofinal breaks, but it is highly improbable that not all five teams that didn’t break would’ve without the errors. It is far more likely that only one or two teams were affected.

Furthermore, the proposal also denies the six 5-0 and 4-1 and eight 3-2 teams that deserved to break and deserved their well-earned points. In either case, most would be unaffected by potential inputting errors for speaker points. Focusing myopically on the unfairness for just two teams completely blinds us to the far greater injustice that the fourteen other 3-2, 4-1 and 5-0 teams face in the current proposal, which ignores all of the time, money, and effort they had invested in this tournament. SoCal teams who had to pay for flights are especially discriminated against even further.

At the end of the day there is no such thing as a perfect solution, but there certainly are much fairer ones. Thus we ask you to consider our proposal; all 3-2 teams that did not break and all teams that dropped in octofinals will get the average of the usual octofinal points and preliminary record 3-2 points, while later breaks will receive the normal points for the respective break round. This means that the net number of points granted by POI for the tournament will still be the same at the end of the day.

Some might make the argument that those who might have done much better before they were robbed and are getting less points. This could not be further from the truth, Our proposal benefits the 3-2 teams that did and did not break far more by giving them on average more points than the current proposal, which only gives them three. This is as fair of a solution that is currently possible. It allows for equal representation of the sll 3-2 teams and all teams that succeeded past preliminary rounds. There is no point inflation as the net number of points given out by POI will remain the same, but we can still have fairer point distribution. Even if there is a bit of point inflation, I am confident that POI values fairness over a little bit of manual labor that will go into equalizing the points.

Does the possible performance of two teams teams outweigh the actual performance of fourteen others that have spent months of practice and completely deserve their victories? Nine hours of toiling in break rounds should not amount to nothing and in the current plan, they do.

This issue comes down to a question of fairness. The regular state of events are only possibly unfair to the 3-2 teams that deserved to break, but the option to rely solely on prelim records in order to give points is unfair to the 5-0, 4-1 and many 3-2 teams that broke and advanced in out rounds. We acknowledge that Irvington teams might have broken that didn’t deserve to, but it is equally likely that our 3-2 teams that did not break were also affected. The best option that is equally fair to both parties affected by this tournament is the solution that we propose.

My team and I have never written to POI before, so I must apologize for being blunt. Irvington did do especially well at this tournament, so it is obvious that we have an interest in a fairer distribution of points. But there is a deeper reason that forces us to resort to an open letter and petition POI, and that is the simple issue of underrepresentation. It is little secret that some teams have more direct forms of representation than others. It is also little secret that Irvington does not have a coach and cedes all the opportunities that having one might provide (such as receiving ballots and knowing our records in tournaments). We are not complaining about the inevitability of politics in POI. But there is always the chance that this petition will be ignored by an ubiquitous “The POI Board** has decided by majority vote that…”, when our school, and many others, have no representative at all to speak on our behalf.

We urge you to accept the most fair solution with the greatest objectivity possible. Without equal representation, we can only request our proposal through our letter, which we hope you will consider deeply.


The Irvington Debate Team

* The "Cal Berkeley Parli Invitational" refers to the UC Berkeley Parli Invitational run by UC Berkeley's APDA/BP team, the Debate Society of Berkeley. 

** The "POI Board" refers to the POI Transition Committee, consisting of Basil Abushama, Julie Herman, Iain Lampert, Mat Marr, and Everett Rutan.