Author’s note: some text on the graphs is very small--zoom is recommended for successful interpretation.
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 2017 General Assembly revolved around discussing the bylaws needed to make POI a registered not-for-profit with a governing board and legislature. A recording will be provided. Additionally, most students present took a 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 here.
This year’s TOC was one of the most regionally unbalanced since the event’s early years, despite hosting competitors from Oregon, California, and the East Coast. Over 80% of the field came from Northern California and 15 of the 33 entries were from the top three ranked schools (Campolindo, Los Altos, and Evergreen). Women comprised 27% of the competitive field and exactly a quarter of debaters breaking, similar to the 2016 TOC. Although many students at the TOC will not compete next year because they are graduating, no student responded they were quitting the activity because they no longer wanted to participate.
Most students read the draft of the bylaws provided, and most approved of the document with few or no edits. No students fundamentally disagreed with the goals of any section of the bylaws. The Transition Committee is working on comments to clarify language about how proxies are assigned, online representation for meetings, the makeup of the judiciary, and how to treat schools without a formal coach. We plan to release another draft of the bylaws for ratification in the coming month.
The top tournament of the season, with 36% of respondents saying it was the best tournament of the year, was NPDI, hosted by Parliamentary Debate at Berkeley.The controversial tournament hosted by the Debate Society of Berkeley (unaffiliated with the hosts of NPDI) was the most disliked tournament. No other tournaments received more than one or two mentions for this question. This marks a dramatic shift from 2016, where strong distaste was expressed for state qualifying tournaments.
Student enthusiasm for different types of tournaments remained relatively flat compared to last year. Among TOC attendees, league tournaments are still the least preferred, while travel and local circuit tournaments are the most preferred.
Students were asked specific questions about things tournaments could do to improve the tournament experience. The majority are in favor of announcing tournament staff and protest rules before the tournament, with no students saying this would harm their experience. Over half are also in favor of community forums. Students are relatively neutral on the use of prep rooms for parli but are strongly conflicted on issues of team and coach prep. Although POI did not ask students to identify themselves as coming from large or small schools, we suspect that the favorability of team and coach prep would be split along these lines. Nearly 90% of students say e-balloting improves their tournament experience.
Students also offered freeform feedback for tournament directors on how to improve the tournament experience. Many students discussed team prep, coach prep, and Kritiks in this section, but the responses were mixed. Below are some quoted excerpts about points of agreement, edited for clarity:
- “Fee reductions for teams that have to travel” or “for small schools,” or just lower fees overall
- “Encourage disclosure” both between teams and from judges after the round
- Centralize “access to information and maps”
- “Clarify protest procedures” and “have a committee or designated person available for harassment issues” (equity officer) who is “open and understanding”
- “Stop allowing schools to clutter the judging pool with no-name entries”
- “Continue to have forums to discuss issues”
- Allow students to have “more opportunity for topic feedback”
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR POI AS AN ORGANIZATION
In a freeform response section, respondents were asked to say what they thought POI did well and what they thought it could do better. Each response was coded into the approximate areas in the net approval/disapproval chart, and “needs improvement” responses were subtracted from “does well” responses. The four major areas for improvement recognized by students were issues with equity and inclusion, online teaching resources, judge training, and cost of paid resources and events such as camps and TOC. When asked what issues students wanted POI to concentrate on for the coming year, students highlighted similar issues, with the top two goals being training videos and materials and judge training. The majority of students were pleased with POI’s current projects, with greater than 95% of respondents saying that rankings and the TOC were valuable to them. These two projects were also had the highest net approval ratings (TOC tied with reporting).
Debaters 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 and having topic areas for at least some rounds. They overwhelmingly disagree with restrictions on prep materials. They are split on questions of disclosure, where just over half think that use of fiat (or not) should be disclosed before round and generic positions should be disclosed before tournaments. Favorability of disclosure of generic positions is up from last year, while favorability of fiat disclosure is slightly down. Students generally approve of having rounds open to spectators.