APDA ElectionsCongratulations to this year's elected candidates!
- President: Alex Johnson
- VP Ops: Jasper Primack
- VP Finance: Max Neuman
- Members-at-Large: Xinlan Emily Hu, Andrew Harrington, Tiffany Yuan
Candidates (click on any name to jump to their statement):
Member-at-Large: Jacob Bezner (Binghamton) | Alison Chan (Pitt) | Michael Cooper (Stanford)
Andrew Harrington (Chicago) | Xinlan Emily Hu (Stanford) | Justin Roach (CUNY) | Jela Shiver (UMD)
Nate Sumimoto (GW) | Teddy Wyman (Boston University) | Tiffany Yuan (Johns Hopkins)
Candidates for President:
Alexandra Johnson (University of Pennsylvania)
My name is Alex Johnson, I'm a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, and I'm running for President. It has been an honor to serve as a Member-at-Large on the board for this past year, and I believe that serving as your next President will be the best way for me to give back to a community that has given me so much.
I've been ambitious about making APDA a better place since I was a novice. I've served on four committees - the Diversity Initiative (which I co-chaired for two semesters), Gender Empowerment Initiative, Novice Mentor Committee, & Equal Opportunity Facilitators - in addition to the board, on which I spent this past year as a MAL, and on my team, of which I am the President. Within those six groups, I've tried a lot of different ways to improve APDA. On my own team, I've instituted equity in training, revamped our online presence, grew our budget by over 200%, and grew our group of regular competitors from one to greater than 10. I am proud to field a team that is over 60% people of color and a board that is 80% women. On committees, I've written a guide to teaching debate to minority and low-income students, donated all my original novice training materials to the league, assisted with GEI data collection, built the DI website, and wrote the DI mission statement. As a MAL, I served as the the board liaison for the GEI and EOFs (as the only board member to liaison for more than one committee), helping to edit equity procedures and training, coordinate meetings, and generally serve as a point person. I also am currently working on a guide to aggregate data I've collected on how successful schools run their teams in order to help expansion schools, as per my MAL platform.
But the most important thing I have done since I joined the league is figuring out what works, what doesn't, and how I can be a part of the former. Two of my most formative experiences on the league are respectively (1) experimenting with a Judging Honor Code at the Penn tournament my freshman year (which, suffice to say, was met with a lot of criticism), and (2) being told I am the reason someone did not quit debate after I spent half an hour just listening to and being with them after they were the victim of an equity violation. I've realized in my three years on the league that I can't fix every problem on APDA, as demonstrated by (1). But what I can do - being an equity resource, a friendly face, someone whom you can message asking for advice no matter the problem or the time - can be extraordinarily impactful, as demonstrated by (2). I've answered countless in-person queries and Facebook messages over the past year along those lines, especially as the only woman on the board, and the ability to do that for every single person on this league is why I am running for President.
Beyond the above - which I think the primary role of the President - there are few things I want to do over the next year. The first is a thorough update of the dino database. This is discussed every year, but rarely something that is completed and so would be my foremost priority over the summer. Schools - especially expansion schools - should have easy access to the list of and contact information for dinos in their area and should be able to reach out to these dinos many weeks ahead of their scheduled tournaments. The second is mechanisms for standardized calibration and tab scratches across all tournaments. It is inefficient for judges to have to recalibrate every weekend, and it is unfair to make debaters justify their tab scratches every weekend, particularly to different people for whom they likely have differing levels of trust. By working with the trustees to set up a calibration database and with either EOFs or NU-Tab management to set up permanent tab scratches, I hope to resolve both of those problems.
There is a reason that Penn has grown exponentially in both budget and league presence since I became its President, and that reason is my unwavering commitment to the organizations I am elected to serve. I have barely missed a weekend since I started competing, and my organizational oversight skills are on point - ask anyone on the Penn team, I have board meetings planned weeks in advance. But if I am lucky enough to serve as President of APDA, you can rest assured that I will not only be on top of all the logistical duties of the position, but - more importantly - will work as hard as I can to make this league as safe and empowering as it can possibly be. Please reach out to me on Facebook or at email@example.com if you have any questions, comments, or other ideas; I'm always happy to listen.
Candidates for Vice President, Operations:
Lydia Kim (GW)
Hi APDA! My name is Lydia Kim, and I'm a sophomore at GW. I'm running for VP Operations this year. I am currently the recruitment chair of the GW Parliamentary Debate Society, but I am also very involved with the league at large. I've been on the Diversity Initiative since Spring of my novice year, and am currently co-chair. I've also had the privilege of being an Equal Opportunity Facilitator this year, and am currently serving my first semester as a Novice Mentor. As someone who came from abroad, I've had some challenges adapting to the predominantly US-centric circuit, but I've found many close friends and mentors on the league who have inspired me to do my best and help the league continuously improve.
My first experience with debate leadership was in high school, where my co-president and I started from a team that had no administrative support and ended with 3 people on the National Team. As recruitment chair for GWPDS this year, I implemented the same principles of fairness and drive to increase retention, with a specific focus on gender and diversity balance. I implemented Women's Nights, one-on-one interviews with novices throughout the year, and have made attempts to be receptive to concerns from our team and adapt practices. In addition, our board also recently decided to attempt a Women and Gender Minorities tournament in the near future to replace one of the traditional GW's. As you may know, our team recently underwent some difficulties, but I am so grateful to our novices for sticking around and integrating themselves onto the league.
Through my experiences on APDA committees and GW's eboard, I realize that there are issues that require top-level pressure from the APDA eboard to implement. Here are the three issues that I will push for next year if I am elected. Whether or not they are 100% effective, they will definitely set the groundwork for more progress as time goes on.
Firstly, I think a major issue that keeps us from being accountable to each other is the way we look at judging. There have been too many times that either I or someone I know feels that their speeches were not fairly evaluated by a judge, or when a judge vocalized confusion regarding the judging process and proceeded to judge anyways, or when a judge just straight up ignores, belittles, or condescends women and people of color who ask for feedback. As much as debaters can do to be considerate to their opponents, or run accessible cases, at the end of the day, if there is no accountability mechanism for judges, and we have no standardized guidelines for "good judging", this activity will stagnate. I think there are two things we can try to solve this problem. The first is judge training. The board should compile a judging guide with the input of different committees and schools from all regions, and institute training or a test at at least one APDA meeting per semester. The BP and Asian Parliamentary circuits both do this, where in addition to individual tournaments' calibration rounds, there is also a test with short answer questions to evaluate how judges decide between certain issues. Even if there are ideological differences from different regions, there are enough generally accepted rules such as evaluating based off the flow and identifying warranted arguments vs. asserted claims that this will at the very least, improve the quality and standardization of judging across the board. In addition to that, there should be more accountability for judges. As of now, the only mechanisms that exist are to file equity complaints to EOFs, or to informally talk to the judging director at any given tournament. The former does not encompass competitive issues, and the latter is mostly dependent on how much "rep" a certain debater has. I would work to find a way to implement judge feedback after rounds into APDA. In an ideal world, this feedback from both teams would be mandatory and factor into judge rankings, but I think the intermediary step is to set it up and encourage debaters to use it frequently so that the tab staff can compile this data and send it to the board every weekend.
The second thing we should look at is improving communication between different committees. Though the committees do amazing work as is, and are great sources of representation, a lot of the broader base projects require the coordination of multiple committees. For example, reaching out to expansion schools is not only the job of the Expansion Committee. Expansion schools could also benefit greatly from having an assigned Novice Mentor to provide institutional know-how and basic APDA skills, and could take advantage of DI and GEI hybrids if those committees are aware of schools that can benefit the most from hybrids and support networks. International students and ESL students can benefit from DI hybrids, but also need the help of Novice Mentors who have a special interest in skill development to coach them on how to debate domestic policy or Eurocentric HIR. The board liaisons are extremely helpful already, and there is a lot of room to improve our cross-committee communications to have a more well-rounded approach to encouraging change on our league.
In an ideal world, I would have a 10 point bullet list that would pass without a hitch and turn APDA into the debate utopia we all dream of. Based on my past experiences working on various eboards and committees, however, I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to mobilize change. It isn't impossible to create change when we are all focused on specific goals, and I believe these two changes are ways that I can contribute the most to pushing APDA to become even more inclusive and fair. These are ideas that I have mulled over with people on the league over the past two years, and I am always open to questions and comments. Please hit me up on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Jasper Primack (Boston University)
Hi APDA! My name is Jasper Primack, and I'm a junior studying at Boston University. At the moment, I am a Member-At-Large on the APDA Board, and this year I'm running for Vice President for Operations.
To keep things brief, I am running for Ops for three reasons. First, I am the only junior on the board with experience managing the forum and primary website. This is something that can be learned on the job, but since theoretically Ops is supposed to be the primary web administrator, I'm probably the best person the league has. Second, I have a very good practical understanding of the bylaws. The other important function of Ops is to manage APDA meetings and clarify bylaws procedures, and through my time on the APDA board I've familiarized myself with the bylaws very thoroughly, from APDA meetings, amendments, and situations brought to the board that required bylaws interpretation. Third, and this one is a little subjective, I think I'm a person of good judgment. I haven't met everyone on APDA, but I'd like to think that I'm generally a receptive, friendly, and thoughtful person. When people have asked me about bylaws or league issues, I've gotten back to them quickly and with the best answer that I can give.
Over the past year, I've managed the APDAWeb forum, put up many tournament results, liaised with the Video Recording Committee, and participated in many of the board's internal discussions -- on tab observers, scheduling, bylaws conflicts, and beyond. This last item did require a pretty great time commitment beyond just talking with other members of the board, but I was happy to do it and would be happy for one more go.
APDA's been quite important to me over the last three years, and I'd be glad to serve the league for another year on the board. If you have any questions for me, send them to me at email@example.com or find me on Facebook.
- What about that mental health thing that you were talking about last year? I think I made the mistake last year of promising too much without thinking through it properly. The mental health idea was good, but in execution, it would be extremely financially strenuous to put into place and open up a whole host of legal concerns. The one thing that I will promise is continuing Pasha and Harry's work on sniffing out potential new websites for us to use, as well as tab software to eventually replace NU-tab (for instance, Tabbycat)
- Will you drop down if you lose Ops? Yes, because I think my experience with the board over the past year will be useful as institutional memory. However, I won't drop down to Finance, because I don't believe that I have the appropriate skillset.
- What do you think of [insert controversy here]? I'm happy to talk about any issue, either via the open forum for questions or via Facebook. If you don't think I've sufficiently clarified anything, feel free to hit me up at Princeton as well.
Candidates for Vice President, Finance:
Ben Feshbach (Brandeis)
My name is Ben Feshbach, and I'm running for VP Finance. This year I've had the honor of serving on the APDA Board as one of your Members-at-Large; prior to this, I was a member of the Novice Mentor Committee. I'm running for VP Finance in order to build on what Board has accomplished this year, to continue giving back to the community that's like a second home to me, to do even more to make APDA a better place.
The duties of the VP Finance are critical to the functioning of the league. This individual is charged with keeping track of dues payments, keeping the league's financial records in order, and overseeing paperwork required for maintaining APDA's nonprofit status. This requires that one be organized and be able to effectively communicate with every single team on the league. Having served on Board this year, I am well-positioned to take on this role. I am additionally prepared for the administrative nature of this position given the roles I have held on the Brandeis team - that of tournament director and captain, both of which (especially the former) require considerable logistical skill. Given the nature of this job, the VP Finance is uniquely positioned to spearhead fundraising efforts on the league. If elected, I hope to take up such efforts. The more money we have on hand, the more Board is able to assist under-resourced teams make their tournaments run smoothly - supporting the travel of dinos, tab staff, and the like.
In addition to fulfilling the specific duties of this position, I also plan to pursue a number of additional goals.
First, I want more people on the league to be trained in how to use tab software. Teaching yourself how to properly tab a tournament is incredibly difficult; almost everyone on the league with tab experience learned it because they were trained by someone else from their school. (At Brandeis, for instance, I was trained by Kevin Healey, who was trained by David Altman and Russell Leibowitz.) When teams don't have access to this sort of institutional memory, they are forced to expend resources hiring people to run tab for them. This is a particularly serious problem with tournaments located far away from major cities in that dinos are often unable to take off a significant amount of work. I'd like to tackle this problem head-on by setting up training sessions during down-time at major tournaments where people can get trained in how to use tab software. In order to make sure that the schools which stand the most to benefit from this training are actually able to take advantage of it, I will make a special effort during the summer to reach out to every school on the league so that everyone knows about when and where tab trainings will be offered.
Second, I want to increase the amount of coaching resources available to schools which don't have the money to pay for coaches themselves. The APDA Board this year revitalized our dino database; I'd like to build on these efforts by reaching out over the summer to schools in the market for coaches and help connect them with dinos who live in the area or who may be willing to offer coaching resources remotely.
I can and will make these things happen; this year on Board I've proven that I can accomplish what I set out to do. Last year I campaigned heavily on two items: first, making APDA tournaments more accessible with regard to when (and what) food is being served; second, revitalizing the Novice Mentor Committee. With regard to the former: at the Hopkins APDA meeting in September, I spearheaded the initiative to ensure that no one ever has to go to a tournament and miss a meal due to dietary restriction or financial need. As a result of the bylaws amendment I authored, tournaments this year have been much better about this. And, as Board liaison for the Novice Mentor Committee, I've overseen an increase in committee activities: the committee itself has been larger (which on its own has meant that we've been able to offer more novices the opportunity to hybrid); we've begun publishing online articles again; we've held multiple workshops at tournaments, and we plan to do more before the semester ends (stay tuned!).
I care deeply about this community. It's why I spend almost every weekend each semester at an APDA tournament. It's why I regularly volunteer to judge outrounds at tournaments large and small. It's why I ran for Board last year - and it's why I'm running for Board again.
If you have any questions about my candidacy, or about anything else, please don't hesitate to reach out by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), by text (301-828-8558), or via Facebook.
APDA Member-at-Large, 2017-2018
Andrew Hamilton (Chicago)
Hi everyone! I'm Andrew, a junior who debates for (and attends) the University of Chicago, and I'm running for Vice President of Finance. I'm currently the Chair of the Video Recording Committee and Vice President of Operations for the Chicago Debate Society, and I've previously served as Western Expansion coordinator and on the competitive planning committee for APDA, and as Vice President of Finance for CDS. I think the level to which I'm involved should make clear how much I love debate and how committed I am to improving it as a place and an activity for everybody.
As may be clear by my debate resume, I tend to take on jobs which require more data work and organizational activities. At Chicago, I managed not only allocating budgets between weekends or tournaments but also put significantly more work into travel than basically any other APDA team requires -- almost every tournament required a flight for every debater. I've served on the e-board every year I've been able, and been intimately involved in budget work even when I wasn't in charge of finances as a consequence of my previous time in that role. On the Video Recording Committee, I put together a comprehensive spreadsheet of every round not yet uploaded from the past three seasons and reached out to everybody on the list to try to figure out consents. My VRC spreadsheets are obsessively colour-coded (yes, I am foreign) to the point of having 8 different possible codes and 4 different tabs to sort rounds into. I'm sure those of you who know me also know all about my propensity to back-tab almost every tournament I attend (and some that I don't). I'm at home among numbers and spreadsheets, and that's exactly what the Vice President of Finance for an institution like APDA should be.
As much as I love APDA, I don't think it's a perfect place. It still overwhelmingly looks like me -- white, male, and sometimes Jewish. Plenty of debaters of colour or non-male debaters come out for a weekend or two but find themselves turned off by the activity and leave. While there are plenty of things we can do to deal with this, I think a big one is judge quality. Talking about judge quality usually involves discussions about retaining dinos, or judges picking up their friends. But while these are issues, the bigger problems that exist aren't in the 3-1 or the 4-0 but in the down bracket. This is where a bad judge turns someone off from debate. Last year, a female Chicago novice was dropped and given an unjust 4 by a sexist dino who instead of being pushed out of the tournament entirely was simply pushed out of "live" rooms despite his reputation being common knowledge. Unfortunately, most people in these brackets don't have the social capital or debate rep to be able to bring this to the attention of a tournament's judging or tab director. Solving this requires setting norms league-wide, not simply at an individual tournament, because of the level of effort involved in this process and the amount of data that would need to be collected (and could only be collected by the board) to confirm any solution was working. I think an important first step in this direction would be instituting a norm of collecting feedback on judges. I know that the BP circuit does this regularly and that Dartmouth has previously run a trial on APDA with some success. Allowing for debaters to comment on judges could allow tournaments to filter out those who make problematic comments, give debaters the chance to feel as though there is some recourse for what was done to them, and ensure that debate as an activity at least tries to compensate for the hostilities it shows towards minorities. This could be done either through setting a standardized process which we have reason to believe works, adding it into tab software like MIT-Tab, or allowing tournaments to set it up in the way that works best for them but ensuring that the board would oversee the process to be able to make a recommendation going forward.
While it is important to be inclusive in the types of debaters we attract, it's also important to keep in mind that the schools on the league right now aren't exactly the most diverse schools out there. It is absurd to me that the Tulane tournament has actually managed to grow APDA not only into a new region but also for the first time attract an HBCU to compete and yet the rest of the league has virtually ignored it and offered it no institutional support -- it wasn't sanctioned or on the calendar last year, and it won't be next year. Outreach into new regions is one of the things that the APDA board is uniquely qualified to do or at least delegate, and yet the expansion committee has continually shrunk since 2013-14 -- from seven members to four. While the number of applicants is beyond the board's direct control, there are still a number of steps it can take to improve the number of expansion schools competing. First, the board should do a better job of keeping track of Dinos outside of Boston, NYC or DC. The Dino database, which has been running for 4 years, is smaller than the unofficial networking one, which has been around for 2. Dinos could act as coaches, TOs or even just judges for expansion schools and tournaments. The board should also prioritize TO funds based on location of a tournament and the number of times it has been run before, and actively reach out to geographically isolated tournaments to offer this service rather than require tournaments to reach out. Secondly, the board should try to centralize information about the availability of reg breaks to allow schools to more easily access them, and to encourage schools to apply for them. In my experience working with the Chicago tournament over the past couple years, expansion schools almost had to be pushed to ask for breaks and didn't know they existed in comparison to more established schools (despite Chicago offering a break to every school that requested one). The board could also keep basic records like how many tournaments a school received a reg break from to ensure expansion tournaments aren't taken advantage of.
While I have pushed for changes in this paper that I hope to be given the ability to see through, at the end of the day Vice President of Finance is a fundamentally administrative position. My work with committees and especially on my team's board should make it clear that at the end of the day, I am a safe pair of hands in which to entrust the budget. As my positions show, I'm clearly in favour of more feedback and information being out there, so feel free to reach out with any comments, questions or concerns you may have and I'd be happy to address them. I can be reached at email@example.com or 312-823-9507.
Max Neuman (Columbia)
Our bylaws straightforwardly outline the role of Vice President of Finance: keep APDA Incorporated's books transparent and well maintained. That's it. If I have the duty of serving on your board for the next academic year, I plan to fulfill and exceed these responsibilities, and keep this league a welcoming and functional home.
My financial experience comes from debate and politics. I worked to raise, manage, and allocate funds during the years I spent as a one-man leadership team for the tiny emerging debate team at my public high school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I am also familiar with the nonprofit compliance work that is necessary to maintain APDA's tax-exempt status. On several campaigns, all of which maintained even larger budgets than the literally no more than hundreds of dollars managed by APDA, I kept internal fundraising records current and ensured that compliance reports were produced properly.
For good measure with regards to financial knowledge, I've read the Columbia casebook cover to cover.
On APDA, I have served for two semesters on the novice mentor committee, which I currently co-chair. I also served for a semester on the Diversity Initiative, where I helped to compile lists of award winners from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds. As a novice mentor, I have written articles and given lectures and workshops about debate, helped to arrange hybrids, and, most importantly, met and talked with the next generation of APDA.
In addition to my commitment to the financial duties of this position also take expansion seriously. At my first tournaments, I heard people preparing awards and wondering what "CUNY" was. I corrected pronunciations (Q like the letter plus knee like the joint) and fought to belong as a debater. My experiences do not invalidate or overshadow anybody's problems of exclusion from this activity, but they help me to be more empathetic and conscientious. Expansion doesn't just mean planting a flag at a new school's first club meeting; it means holistically and inclusively opening up the league to students of historically excluded groups even when there is already a team on their campus. It means working tirelessly with schools who need a registration break, an invoice, a tab observer, or advice. It means respecting and fostering community, including the dinos who volunteer their time, effort, and expertise to judge and tab tournaments.
I also hope to expand on the fundraising capabilities of the league through improved alumni outreach. Most teams have access to decades of email addresses, making periodic communication to a large audience a practical reality. The paypal link that sits underneath the TOTY and SOTY standings deserves more attention; I propose to promote it with updates about competitive success stories, expansion, and other reminders of the importance of parliamentary debate.
Finally, I want to bring some standardization to the messy but necessary registration swap system. Especially for schools that are still trying to gain administrative support and financial liquidity, paying for tournaments through conventional means can be daunting. Consistently keeping track of who negotiated registration swaps makes it easier for schools to accept them and brings expansion teams to more tournaments when bartered registration becomes a credible currency in and of itself.
I have seen debate, and APDA more specifically, from a valuable diversity of perspectives. I spent four years running a high school team that I joined when it was only one year old, doing public forum on the New York City Urban Debate League, a free circuit for city schools. I began my time on APDA almost as soon as I decided to attend CUNY, facebook messaged Trevor Colliton, and began practicing before I had graduated from high school. After a memorable season at CUNY, I transferred to Columbia, where I am now a sophomore studying political science. I have been fortunate enough to debate with friends from twelve schools at dozens of tournaments.
Next season, I plan to continue my record of competing almost every weekend. I do it now because this activity gives life, depth, and excitement to my weekends and my education. Next year, I will be present and accessible in person week-to-week to maintain the transparency that all good boards strive for.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas for cool cases that shift hard in the MG, I'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MaxFNeuman. I'll also be at Brown, Temple, West Point (tentatively), and Princeton. Thanks so much for your consideration, competition, and community.
Candidates for Member-at-Large:
Jacob Bezner (Binghamton)
My name is Jacob Bezner, and I am excited to announce my candidacy for Member at Large.
I am currently a sophomore at Binghamton University, Vice President of the Binghamton University American Parliamentary Debate Association, and a Novice Mentor.
Over the past six years, I have spent countless weekends devoting my time to competitive debate. During this time, I have had the privilege of leaving tournaments with new skills, friends, and experiences. I am indebted to APDA for providing me with the immense pleasure of competing in an activity that has contributed so much to my personal development. I am running for Member at Large to repay my debt.
I am uniquely qualified to be Member at Large because of my extensive experience and success in developing debate programs. Since joining the Executive Board of the Binghamton Team in spring 2017, I have implemented reforms and initiatives that have transformed our team. As our tournament's Tab Director, I secured our first Dino Tab Observer since 2014 and our first our first Equity Officer in tournament history. As Vice President, I spearheaded efforts which tripled the amount of tournaments our team attends every semester and doubled the amount of practice time we have during the week. Before my arrival on Eboard, our team was in disarray: we rarely attended tournaments and seldom held productive meetings. In my short time on Eboard, I have transformed the Binghamton team from a borderline non-member to one of the fastest growing teams on the circuit.
Furthermore, my time as a Novice Mentor has allowed me to hone my developmental skills on an intercollegiate level. Being a Novice Mentor allowed me to provide sample cases, strategy, and theory to novices with little varsity support. I also used my position to contribute to public resources on the apdaweb novice blog so that teams I could not directly contact would still be able to access the information I was giving other teams. By making previously proprietary information public, I used my position as a Novice Mentor to jumpstart the development of other teams on the circuit.
Moreover, I believe I bring unique perspective to the Board as a member of an expansion team. In APDA, it is incredibly rare for expansion schools to see success on the circuit and even rarer for members of expansion schools to be on the Board. In order to truly grapple with the problems expansion schools face on the circuit, it is absolutely necessary to have a representative for those schools on the Board.
My platform is divided into three planks: accessibility, transparency, and equity. Each plank is discussed in more detail below.
I firmly believe that the greatest issue APDA faces is one of accessibility. Historically, most information in APDA is disseminated from one generation of debaters to the next by two mediums: intra-team communication or increasingly outdated guides found deep in apdaweb. Most of the circuit's rules and norms are uncodified and undocumented. Under this system, teams that are in the highest need of information are the least likely to receive it due to the obsolete nature of our current resources. With the rise of metadebate and an influx of expansion tournaments, we must make sure to keep newer teams updated with the ever evolving nature of APDA.
- Institutionalize communication between the expansion committee and novice mentor committee. In practice, the separation of these committees is detrimental to the league. Expansion schools are in need of assistance from both committees, but only receive direct attention from one of these committees. By institutionalizing communication and collaboration between these two committees, we will be able to create an expansion program which does much more than add schools to the circuit.
- Assign a liaison from the Board to every school for their tournament. The purpose of this liaison would be to provide all necessary information for running a tournament to the relevant members of a given school.
- Create a comprehensive handbook on how to form a competitive APDA team. Information costs are one of the largest forms of attrition for expansion schools. A singular resource for expansion schools and novice debaters to reference will vastly lower information costs.
Though the Board and committees do a great deal of important work, it is common for the general body to hear nothing about this work until election season. At this time, experiences and accomplishments are typically embellished by prospective candidates running for office. Embellishment, in this context, is not inherently bad nor malicious. However, without another source of information, the status quo makes it difficult for members of the general body to hold the Board and committees accountable for their actions. Therefore, I believe that the Board and each committee should be mandated to publish a two-page report on the work each entity has done at the conclusion of each semester. By publishing these outside of an electoral context, we encourage objectivity and accountability among national entities.
I recognize and understand my standing and responsibilities as a white male running for a leadership position in 2018. APDA, being a circuit founded by white males and largely dominated by them for most of its history, has the massive task of fixing institutional inequities which have risen from its founding and history. I vow to use my position to elevate voices of racial and gender minorities on the circuit. Furthermore, I am eager to defer to the Diversity Initiative, Equal Opportunity Facilitators, and the Gender Empowerment Initiative when necessary.
As Tab Director for the Binghamton Tournament, I am proud to have run a tournament which had majority-minority outrounds and speaker awards. With the help of our Equity Officer, Tournament Staff, and incredibly talented underrepresented minority debaters, we were able to create an environment which was empowering for underrepresented minorities on the circuit. Through my experience as Tab Director, I learned the importance of working with the correct people in order to create an equitable tournament. If elected, I promise I will use this experience as a guide to ensure my demographic standing does not interfere with equity on the circuit.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to contact me on via Facebook or email at email@example.com.
Thank you for taking the time to explore my qualifications and platform.
Alison Chan (Pitt)
Hi!! My name is Alison and I'm currently a sophomore at Pitt majoring in Political Science and Communication with a certificate in American Sign Language! I am heavily involved with the Resident Student Association, Asian Student Alliance, and of course the Parliamentary Debate Team. Although I've only been debating for two years, I have had to face a few obstacles inherent to any small team based at a school far from the majority of tournaments. Feeling excluded from groups that are competitive, lacking varsity members to answer basic questions such as what makes a case tight or what the standard for spec is, and not being able to attend as many tournaments as planned due to financial constraints has forced me to find ways to go around these such as finding a Novice Mentor hybrid or asking Dinos that I barely know for help. The help, experience, and friendship that I've gained from supportive people has inspired me to reciprocate and work towards fixing these obstacles and any others that might arise for people that come from similar places. I am forever grateful to the people who have helped me and would love to offer similar support to others, whether it be just a friendly face in APDA or working actively with people and reaching out to help connections form. These are the people that made me want to get more involved with it and I would love to help better things on APDA! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is 240-723-9460. Feel free to contact me in any way (this includes Facebook pokes) I am more than happy to talk!
As any debater would say, 3 main things I want to focus on (there are more goals that I want to accomplish, but these are my biggest priorities)
1) Expansion schools
As someone who is from an expansion school that works on a tiny budget and tries to travel to as many tournaments as possible, I know how difficult it is to be unable to plan ahead which tournaments to go to and how many to go to overall. So I want to ensure that reg break policies are always posted, transparent, and outline the criteria for getting reg breaks well in advance of the tournament. This way there's a clear precedent set for schools that are financially limited and will help expansion schools to better budget in advance, as well as assist the school that's hosting the tournament to project incoming revenue.
There are many guides and how to's that have been developed on the league; however, from my personal experience, while working with an expansion school and being on one myself, the most effective means of outreach is active help. This means talking to people on these teams and not just giving them documents to read, but being a resource to answer questions and talk through ideas with them. I want to create a norm for people to provide active help by being that person to answer all the questions or by helping less experienced teams that are close by (something I'm thankful of people doing for Pitt <3 ). Because this is something I've been the recipient of, I would love to be that person for other schools and if I am unable to be, I would connect them with people who are willing and able!
I think this a large issue that cannot just be solved top down and has influenced many people whether that be the most competitive debaters or the ones in the 0-5 bracket. I have, not proudly, been in both brackets. I do think that this can be mitigated by having more calibration rounds and a more diverse set of them. I want to work with dinos and debaters to record motion rounds and use them as calibration rounds. That way, people have to listen to the round and are not just memorizing the handful of calibration rounds that exist. This will help screen out judges who are voting purely off of rhetoric or personal bias. But I don't want to just stop there, after screening these judges out, it is crucial to actually teach them and explain. For each calibration round, I want to have notes on why which team won and why some arguments still stand so that people can understand how the RFD was made and why it was what it was. The second part to this is to then ensure everyone who shows up to judge can be paired in. I know this is scary, but pairing everyone in as non-voting wings is a helpful teaching tool and allows for everyone to participate as well as better understand the rationale behind each judge's RFD. This also helps develop more diverse set of judges from multiple schools who are able to provide good RFDs.
I think the committees have been doing a lot of independent work and it has been very helpful. However, I think there's space for joint work spearheaded by the committees to encourage people to post articles related to the mission of the committee. This would be a centralized document or thread on the forum where people can join in to have discussions and be exposed to an atmosphere with those who are in or interested in helping more than one group. Creating this space for discussion will help bring attention to areas where the interests of the committees overlap. This way, the efforts by each committee are supported and amplified by each other and can be a more cohesive force when promoting their missions on the league.
Second under this is something very personal to me: the commodification of debaters that "fit" under a certain category. To prevent this feeling from ever happening to someone else again, I want to form a signup list and offer it to expansion schools for hybrids in general. Then, this list will be provided to committees to help find hybrids that are also from expansion schools to help with inclusivity and to help better the experience for new debaters that don't have the same support as other schools do. This will help committees find hybrids and not the other way around!
What I care most about is helping APDA. Regardless of what happens, I will push these ideas and work towards making APDA a better place in any way that I can. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out! I will also try to contact as many people as possible for feedback to hear what anyone might want to see happen on the league and how I can help! :)
Michael Cooper (Stanford)
My name is Michael, and I am a sophomore studying Computer Science at Stanford University. Being involved in APDA has been one of the great joys of my university experience so far, and I am excited at the prospect of serving you as a Member-at-Large on the APDA Board. This year, I have served on the Expansion Committee, and have convened the 2018 Stanford APDA Tournament. As co-director of the Stanford APDA Tournament, I made significant effort to reach out to schools who are not frequently seen on APDA, and to provide significant reg breaks and travel subsidies to make our tournament accessible to schools who would otherwise not be able to attend for financial reasons.
There are several key things I would seek to accomplish as a Member-at-Large on the APDA board.
First, I would leverage my board position to work closely with DI and tournaments to better apply data aimed at measuring and enhancing diversity on the league. Earlier this year, I used Tabbie2 data from the BP circuit to analyze performance differentials between men and women on the BP circuit (project repository here if anyone wants to check it out: https://github.com/cooper-mj/debate-gender-stats). I then applied this analysis to APDA: at the request of DI, I analyzed gender-based performance differentials at the Columbia tournament, and I provided DI with the results of my analysis. As a Member-at-Large, I would endeavor to use statistics to enhance APDA diversity initiatives, to ensure that we engage more in initiatives which quantifiably increase diversity on APDA. Using quantifiable diversity metrics in our initiatives also allows for better progress tracking, and iterative improvements on the initiatives which are already in place. To be clear: I would not abandon qualitative metrics of diversity (e.g. the extent to which debaters of certain groups feel welcome and included); rather, I would aim to supplement current qualitative metrics with quantitative ones.
Furthermore, to the extent that I believe that tournament tab cards are important - both as marks of achievement of the debaters who attended the tournament, and as APDA historical records - I would aim to create a public repository of tournament tab cards (unlike the status quo of tab cards being semi-regularly posted on the forum), or even an online repository of tournament speaker/team tabs, to preserve APDA history and to better enable the APDA community to celebrate the achievements of those whose names do not grace the TOTY and SOTY leaderboards.
Second, I intend to revamp the APDA Forum. In recognition that (a) the forum is a centralized location to disseminate information about tournaments, hybrid requests, board announcements and committee actions, and (b) the vast majority of us would rather not time-warp back to 1970 to access this information, I believe that the APDA Forum needs to be modernized if it is to best serve the APDA community. As a Computer Science major, I would be willing and able to make the necessary adjustments to enable the forum become a more accessible place for discourse within the APDA community.
I would also aim to integrate APDA-periphery sites (e.g. DI site, Expansion site) with the main APDA homepage - or, at the very least, ensure the sites are complete and effective home bases for information on each of those committees/initiatives. The current half-finished-Wordpress aesthetic of those sites is unprofessional, and (especially in the case of the Expansion site) gives a lackluster first impression to schools who are considering membership in APDA.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my candidacy. If you have any questions about my candidacy, or about any components of my platform, please reach out to me at email@example.com. I look forward to the prospect of serving you on the APDA Board, and further contributing to APDA and the APDA community.
Andrew Harrington (Chicago)
Hey everyone, my name is Andrew Harrington, and I am running for Member-at-Large. I am currently a second year at UChicago and served as a member/chair of the Diversity Initiative and a member of VRC the past year and a half and year respectively. For the Chicago Debate Society (CDS) I serve as a training director and financial aid officer.
I am running for MAL because I want to be help ensure that debate is as open and accessible as possible. APDA has provided me immense benefits and has the potential to be empowering and uplifting to those who have voices within it. As someone who has actively pushed for bylaw reforms in the past year that will hopefully create a substantial repository of data for future boards to use, I believe I am qualified to push for inclusive reforms as well as earn different debate societies' trust by helping run their own tournaments and realize their own goals. The fact that I fly nearly every weekend to APDA tournaments on the East and West coast shows that I am committed to APDA as a whole and particularly committed to schools that have resource and geographical constraints.
For many debaters on APDA because of racial, gender based, and socioeconomic discrimination compounded by a lack of institutional memory and demographic representation, their competitive success is severely hindered. Many promising debaters end up either leaving after a couple of tournaments or never participating in the league at all. This is backed up by the numbers: Although the top ten colleges on COTY have student bodies that are roughly 25% underrepresented minorities, there are far fewer minorities on the league who regularly compete. Gender imbalance in speaker award winners and general representation has been well documented at tournaments small and large. Institutions with higher rates of URMs or from non-ivy institutions compete far less in APDA sanctioned tournaments (in the case of state schools within the East and West Costs) or hardly at all (in the case of HBCU's). APDA needs to recognize that many of these problems are not the result of a lack of preference for parliamentary debate, but a lack of communities within the league, or resources to succeed. That is why most of my platform is devoting to closing the gap in representation and competitor-focused diversity. There are two issue areas of my platform:
- Formation of affinity groups
In order that students from underrepresented groups to feel like they have a home on APDA regardless of their institutions, they need to have a community to go to within the league as soon as possible for access to advice on critical and social justice-oriented cases, hybrids for tournaments, and networking/friendships that can sustain them during later years in the league. Affinity groups seem like the best solution to this problem, and as a MAL I will push for bylaws reforms to get these measures codified and so that debaters who need help navigating their own teams or tournaments know exactly who to look for. Additionally, these groups need to be institutionalized and given resources (access to the board, funding for social gatherings at tournaments) so that debaters know that APDA cares about its members. I would support the board soliciting applications for leaders from debaters who identify with these groups, opening comment, and heavily (80% weight of selection process) relying on their input in the decisions of the ultimate leaders of each group.
But the broader benefit of affinity groups is simply that they are an institutional check against ADPA itself. In the same way that Black and LGBT student unions allow for more students to relate to each other and feel comfortable coming forward about discrimination, I believe these groups will provide checks against biases, and bodies that can be consulted and quickly disseminate information and experiential surveys from APDA Board over the course of the season.
- Expanding expansion:
The goal of expansion as a principle on APDA should be to facilitate both vertical (stronger existing debate societies) and horizontal (more debate societies) growth on the league. One of the best ways is to provide the resources and knowledge so that expansion schools can do well competitively and so that they can run better tournaments and ultimately make more of a profit to support their own institutions. I have a few specific goals in mind:
First, working with expansion schools to train and facilitate better run tournaments that have larger Dino pools and high calibrating judges. While it is not always the case, many times expansion tournaments lack deep judge pools and have to bring campus judges with little experience or cap registration. The best way to solve this is by helping schools newer to APDA or with smaller teams actively teach judges how to judge. UChicago suffers many of the same problems, but as an institution that both starts later in the year and integrates novices into the structure of APDA much later because of our distance, we manage to run tournaments in which the norm is that debaters will be judged by a panel of novices who have trained for weeks beforehand in the worst case scenario, and varsity who have competed on the league and still been trained in judging, equity and parliamentary debate norms. I would endorse a quasi-model used sometimes on the league, where societies that need help creating quality judge pools can do so with liaisons through expansion.
Second, investing time in growing "APDA Mid-West", "APDA West", and other geographical corridors not traditionally on APDA in the North and South-East. While the easiest way to grow expansion schools is to facilitate the growth of regional tournaments so that they have a large pool of tournaments through the year, there are still many schools and universities that are not currently being incorporated on APDA. This process then must include actively reaching out not only to institutions, but offering them full registration breaks, help forming debate societies, and help running their tournaments. As MAL I will work with both expansion and DI to facilitate this outreach, especially through existing teams that are currently in their nascent stages. Particularly in the case of schools in the West and Mid-West, investing in developing regular tournaments has the benefit of curbing costs while still fostering competitively successful tournaments. When schools in California, Michigan, Illinois and Saint Louis only have to drive or take a bus in order to get to tournaments it means that they don't have to buy flights, can have novices that are not as committed to debate get integrated into the league sooner, can appropriate resources towards attending and voting in APDA meeting tournaments and supporting larger tournaments of their own, and can attend other, more expensive tournaments that require flights in addition to Amtrak rides in the Northeast and metro DC areas. As someone who is heavily invested in the growth both the Atlanta and Chicago Urban Debate Leagues, and college policy circuits that have nearly perfected the formation of regional circuits, I know how to develop the organizational capability to see these regions grow while still supporting the broader APDA community, ultimately getting more teams involved in the league and more debaters debating each week. While many of the reforms can be done through coordination with existing groups, appointing a diversity-expansion liaison within the expansion committee is the best way to ensure that there is one centrally accountable person who can ensure that socioeconomic and racially diverse schools are better represented on the league.
Finally, even if I am not elected, I will be more than happy to continue to support the league in any way that I can. APDA will continue to exist in the future regardless of who is running it, it is just a question of whether it will fulfill what I believe to be one of its core institutional goals: to ensure that the most debaters and the most individuals on it can succeed in whatever way they define success as.
Feel free to message me on Facebook (Drew Harrington) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Xinlan Emily Hu (Stanford)
My name is Xinlan Emily Hu, and I am a sophomore at Stanford running for Member-At-Large. I'm thrilled to be sharing my ideas with you!
In the past year, I've had the honor of serving on two APDA committees--the Diversity Initiative and the Expansion Committee. I've also served as my school's point of contact for the Gender Equality Initiative, and I served as the Equity Officer for the Stanford APDA Tournament. In addition, I'm a member of the organizing committee of this year's USUDC, where, for the first time ever, we will be offering stipends to increase participation from community colleges and running an ESL division.
These experiences make me highly qualified to represent the needs of the APDA community, increase retention of underrepresented groups, and welcome expansion schools into our circuit.
My platform for MAL has three prongs: (1) Equity; (2) Expansion; and (3) Institutional Reform. In the following sections, I'll outline each prong.
Equity in debate is a foremost concern of mine, and I have three main goals to this end. First, I would like to create a consistent data collection program. Often, equity issues are difficult to solve simply because we know so little about them--thus, a broad data set can allow for targeted interventions.
Through the Diversity Initiative, I helped to implement the first data collection program. We created a universal equity survey, and Best Practice #19 now reflects our work. Unfortunately, however, because these surveys were an opt-in system, we collected very limited data.
As MAL, and with my previous experience on DI, I am uniquely qualified to resolve this issue. I propose shifting to an opt-out system and integrating survey forms with registration. My position as MAL will also allow me to follow up and aid tournaments with implementing the surveys.
Second, I would like to publish sample equity policies on the APDA website, as such resources currently do not publicly exist.
Third, following the recent post on Point of Clarification, I believe that we ought to recognize ESL debaters at Nationals and at 20-point tournaments. I'm open to discussing the exact logistics, but I believe that we should put forth a greater effort towards retaining teams that are often undervalued otherwise.
During the more recent semester, I've have been working closely with the Expansion Committee, and I have developed several ideas for improving APDA's Expansion work. First, I believe that we should hold an additional auto-qual tournament in the West. My work has shown me how much Western expansion schools would benefit from an auto-qualification, since it both increases the quality of the tournament (the raised stakes attract outside competition and support) and creates an accessible place to begin trying out APDA.
Secondly, I believe that we should reach out to expansion schools early and often, providing information about tournaments as early as the end of the summer. I also believe that we should publish FAQ's, Guidebooks, and hold public APDA workshops at some major tournaments. Much of the infrastructure to accomplish this already exists. For example, a previous Expansion Committee put together a wonderful guide for expansion schools that explains APDA. Unfortunately, this guide was never published, and now remains under the radar. Simple fixes such as making this information public--as well as updating contact information on the Contacts page--would greatly help expansion schools succeed.
My experience on two APDA committees has also given me the experience and insight to advocate for a few areas of institutional reform. First, I would like to reduce committee turnover rates, since current terms lengths for committees last only one semester. As a result, many projects are left unfinished. I propose increasing term lengths to two semesters, but still opening applications during the second semester. I would also advocate for sharing information between committees in the form of a Google Drive and midpoint check-ins. Our committees have shared goals, and it seems very inefficient to accomplish them in isolation.
Secondly, I believe that we should have consistent publication of tournament information. It is often unclear whether tournaments are motions or cases, opp choice, etc. The information is also scattered piecemeal over APDAWeb and Facebook. This lack of clarity makes planning ahead harder, and significantly disadvantages schools with limited resources for travel.
Finally, I believe that we can do better to clarify some of the APDA Bylaws. For example, we can define what a Tab Observer means--a ubiquitous and crucial role that is currently described only as someone the APDA Board chooses. We should also clarify Best Practices, and when applicable, justify why certain potentially less intuitive ones are necessary.
In short, I stand for increasing APDA's transparency and accessibility, and I believe that I am a highly qualified candidate with the necessary experience to implement long-term changes.
Many of these ideas, of course, should be credited to the many debaters and dinos who have shared their ideas. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts, so please--don't hesitate to reach out to me over Facebook, over text (5025261982), or at email@example.com.
Thank you so much for your consideration.
Justin Roach (CUNY)
My name is Justin Roach, and I debate for the City University of New York. I'm running for Member-at-Large because I believe in not giving up. It is a principle which has led me through not only my time on APDA, but through my academic career as well as life overall. Since I feel I have more to give to the league in the time I have remaining on it, it is in earnest that I begin my second campaign for MAL.
By far the most positive aspect of debating, and in fact of college, for me has been counting myself part of the family which calls itself the CUNY Parliamentary Debate Team. Two-and-a-half years ago, a group of people I had never met before made me feel so at home despite us all having traveled five hours from our school. It is that and similar memories I share with my teammates, and the excitement of many more happy times with them, which are chief among the reasons I debate. Sadly, it wasn't long before I realized that my team was at times faced by a league culture which did not take it seriously. While APDA's attitude toward CUNY and other expansion schools has improved in the three years I've debated on the league, there is still far much more work to be done. Insofar as members of the board help set the tone of league culture, you can trust that I will be a force for good because it is teams like mine which are excluded.
It is the truth that APDA has very real problems that make it inaccessible. I would be lying if I told you that I, unique to every board member and candidate who has gone before me, have the solutions. I want to be careful to avoid treating this election as if it were a contest of ideas. Both before and while I was a candidate myself, I valued other candidates who had demonstrated leadership, whether on their own teams, as members of committees, or even outside of debate. Because in demonstrating leadership, individuals exhibit a readiness and skill to deal with challenges appropriately as they arise.
As for my leadership experience, I've served my team in several capacities, including my current executive roles of treasurer and novice mentor. The latter is one I've carried into league service, as I have served for three semesters on the Novice Mentor Committee. What I took away from all these roles is the importance of open and direct communication. Within my team, the many moving parts that keep a team functioning make clear channels of communication absolutely necessary to ensure that things such as administrative funding and the logistics of weekly travel are in order. The skills of communication I've developed will be directly transferable to my responsibilities as a member of the board. I'm happy to speak to anyone about any aspect of my experiences thus far.
The primary responsibilities of the MAL position, as spelled out in the bylaws, are to assist in tournament operation, and specifically that of Nationals. A pledge I made in my last campaign that I will make again, is that I will give every tournament director my cell phone number if I won't be personally at their tournament, and be in contact with them to handle any issue that comes up. Tournaments are the backbone of APDA, and we must do better to ensure they run well. I've gained much hands-on experience when it comes to tournament planning, having served on five tab staffs, including three as Tab Director and one as Tab Observer, as well as handling the finances for the two most recent CUNY tournaments. The bulk of what people cite on the league as negative experiences which drive them away is controlled on the tournament planning level. As MAL, I would be proactive with TDs and tab staffs in making sure problems are minimized before the tournament begins, especially when tournament staffs are less experienced.
As for Nats specifically, my initiative would be to do research into the title tournaments of other debate formats and get a sense of what we could be doing better. It is in the interest of the whole of APDA for Nats to be a profitable tournament, because capable hosts will then want to bid, and we can avoid being faced with the need to make qualifying harder yet again.
If elected, it will be my operating principle to always be available to those who need or want to reach out to me, and as a candidate I will be no different. Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook with any questions. Thanks APDA, and I'll see you all at Princeton!
Jela Shiver (UMD)
Hello All, my name is Jela Shiver. I'm a junior at the University of Maryland and the current President of the Maryland Parliamentary Debate Society. In the more than half a decade I've been doing debate, APDA -- in my opinion -- is one of the most communal forums for oratory and debating. However, that same since of community that makes ADPA a fantastic organization also insulates it from expansion to others that may want to attempt to learn how to debate in college. This cuts two particular ways: people that have done debate in high school cannot make the jump and burnout after two or three tournament or non-debaters feel excluded from competing on APDA because they do not feel up to par with the knowledge required to engage in many rounds. Some of these problems are structural features of the kinds of individuals that do debate, but other problems are of our own making and we, not just as members of the league, but of our own individual teams should try and make parliamentary debate as accessible as possible. In particular, the policies I wish to see the league implement as a whole are focused on softening the cushion for newcomers on the league so that the transition from the first novice tournament to competing alongside varsity debaters is not so strenuous. There are two policies I had in mind. The first is setting up (or enhancing) a universal novice casebook. It may seem counter intuitive to have a casebook that literally anyone on the league could have and prepare against, but that is actually a reason why it helps further novices into higher level thinking and writing. Teams could contribute a single case to the casebook which would expose novices to one, how to write and structure a case, two, typical arguments and blocks that are common to the league (think moral skepticism or foreign policy realism). Finally, it places less stress on novices to write their own cases in the first month of joining the league as well as schools that do not have a sufficient amount of cases within their own casebooks. Given the possibility of prepping against the cases, novices and others would have to create not only MG blocks that can beat a standard LO to the case but develop higher level arguments that would be uncommonly thought of; it also incentives novices to write their own cases or at least build upon these cases so they do not burnout the entire casebook. The second idea is hosting small local one-day tournaments either before or after the novice tournaments. American did something to this effect my novice year. It was a Sunday, three round tight-linked tournament with interchanging partners every round. Among the many benefits this would provide, these small tournaments would allow debaters to branch out from the usual partners they have on their own teams, in addition to finding new friends with greater ease. Furthermore, because many novices may not know what kind of cases to expect at a non-novice tournament, small one's like these can help expose novices to the kinds of rounds one might expect from varsity debaters. There have been many great efforts internally to make the league a more tolerable and open institution within the ranks of the league. I believe the next step for the organization is to apply that spirit towards opening the doors for potential debaters who are scared off by the knowledge gap. Thank you for reading, I look forward to your questions.
Nate Sumimoto (GW)
Hey everyone! My name is Nate Sumimoto and I am a sophomore at GW. I'm running for Member at Large on APDA Board, and hope to bring new perspectives and ideas to the board in the goal of making APDA a better place.
I think what is pretty clear from previous elections is that the questions regarding APDA's future are twofold: First, how to do we as a league avoid the toxicity of years past and encourage a culture that is inclusive to all identities? Second, should APDA expand, and if so, how do we help facilitate that expansion? My goal in this candidacy statement is outline my answers to those questions, such that the league can fully understand my position and vote accordingly.
First, regarding equity on this league. As a preface, I think that before everything else, we should on an individual level self-critique and adjust our behavior so that we're not shitty to others. Things like microaggressions are not easy to legislate against, but often are the reason why people leave this league. APDA can do more regarding these sort of things - making (especially male) novices aware of the existence of microaggressions and problematic language/social behavior, but at the end of the day it's up to every single one of us to be better. This means talking about more often the way we speak about impacts such as invasions or police violence - focusing more on giving these factors due weight in a sensitive way, rather than just abstract things we should "solve". It also means when talking about minority debaters coming from a premise of equal value, rather than excessively praising the accomplishments of those who do make it on SOTY and TOTY over those who do not.
With that in mind, I want to make very clear that I think this league should prioritize equity before anything else. Before the survival of teams, before the successful conducting of tournaments, and before the well-being of the league as an entity if need be. We should not be selling the league to female and minority novices in spite of its problematic nature, we should accept novices leaving and use that as motivation to be better in the future. The board should take an active role in figuring out aspects of tournaments that are less than ideal and give feedback to TO's. This could be done by releasing forms to teams that attended tournaments who in turn distribute them to attendees. The results are subsequently anonymized and sent back to the board, who then provide the compiled results and feedback to the TO. This ultimately could provide helpful insights and most of all end any excuse for future tournaments to allow problematic practices. Moreover, the dropbox should be emphasized by the board more as a tool for reporting and discussing equity violations and ways we do better. Finally, I want to recognize how much our Equity Officers do to make our league a better place, and as a board member would look into ways we can enable our Equity Officers to exercise more proactive approaches that prevent further situations that make people feel alienated and unwelcome.
Second, regarding APDA's expansion. Clearly, we value this activity to a certain degree and hope that more people in other schools will be able to access it. That said, there are limitations that I think this league likes to ignore or hand wave away. This tendency, reinforced by clear electoral advantages for those who make false promises to expansion schools, has led to an expansion policy that has a tendency to not meet expectations. These limitations are logistical issues like distance and lack of funds that are inherent to many expansion schools that are far away from APDA's core regions. We can do a lot to help fix these problems with things like reg breaks, but ultimately we need to recognize that APDA's geographic scope is limited.
I would argue that our expansion policy has missed out on many schools within our own sphere that if reached out to could build programs that are sustainable and fully integrated on our league. Schools such as Howard in D.C. could very quickly become permanent fixtures in our league, and our expansion policy should try and reach out to those schools who under our noses have been absent from APDA, while also aiding the other expansion schools that will need more help long term.
I look forward to having more conversations about my ideas and others in the coming weeks!
Teddy Wyman (Boston University)
Hey APDA! I'm Teddy, a sophomore at Boston University, and I'm running to be one of your Members-at-Large this year.
While there are many reasons why I'm running for MAL, it all boils down to my undying love for debate, and for APDA. Having attended 19 tournaments this year as of 7 March, I consistently dedicate my weekends to this activity because I love participating in it, and specifically love interacting with this community. Many of my best friends debate regularly on APDA, and I consider it as much of a home as my own university, if not more so. Part of loving APDA is wanting it get better though, and understanding that there are many problems with it. I want to primarily work to expand access to this activity, reducing the barriers to entry, and retaining more debaters by making the environment more inclusive. I want the league to continue to grow not by fiat, but rather by shaping the culture of the league such that people want to join, and stay. But these are all just pretty sounding buzzwords, right? My ideas for improvement and my service to the league are what truly qualify me as the best candidate for MAL.
The most obvious problem facing APDA is bad judging, most commonly manifesting in racist, sexist, and/or elitist decisions. While calibrating bad judges low may feel good, ultimately it just means that bin rooms bear the brunt of discrimination and incorrect decisions, which is no more just (and much more harmful to retention) than if break-live rooms bore it. I would be in favor of both giving judges feedback on their calibrations, as well as having live judge feedback forms during tournaments. This allows judges to be made more aware of apparent biases they may have (as few judges would openly admit to being discriminatory, yet prejudices still permeate into many RFDs), and also allows some recourse for debaters that actively face unfair decisions. I also want to work to break down the influence of rep on the league. While rep will always exist, it doesn't have to influence the league to the extent that it reduces access. I'm inclined to favor having school codes, which certainly have their downsides, but ultimately pose fewer active negatives (more difficulty upholding scratches) than positives (if even it sways one decision away from the reppy debaters and over to the just winners of the round). At the very least, I find it dubious when a good debater is instantly considered to be an equally good judge, something that only serves to keep up a sort of cycle of rep, and is also just empirically untrue. Lastly, I think that committees (specifically the ones I've been on) are at risk of plateauing, and as board liaison I would work to make sure committees are actively improving as we get feedback on them. For example, as an EOF many people have brought forward concerns that equity is used as a means to help APDA put a bandaid over problems, without actually solving them. I think that giving committees more depth in their duties, even if still as specific as before, would help ensure that they're doing as much as they can to help the league. I also proposed teaching the novice mentors more about APDA history, or requiring that they read the by-laws and best practices, so that they can answer technical questions novices often have (since we can't all have a Jasper on our team when we're novices).
My service for the league and for my own team serve as a testament to my ability to make use of the political capital I'm given. I regularly give rides to other Boston area debaters without seeking reimbursement, as I understand how transportation is an obstacle many teams, including my own, face. I've served as a novice mentor and as an equity officer for two semesters now, giving me knowledge of how committees run and what their limitations are. I've also served on the e-board of my university team for over a year, so I generally understand how teams function, and which needs a team has that must be met. I also have experiences uniquely tailored towards the functions of a MAL, something else that sets me apart from the rest: I've recorded many rounds for the VRC so as to keep up APDA's institutional history (in addition to watching many a classic round so I can actually understand that history); I have intimate knowledge on how to run the Novice tournaments due to tabbing BU Novice; I've participated in international tournaments such as WUDC and NorthAms; and I've gained intimate knowledge of both the by-laws and best practices, driven mostly by my personal vested interest in APDA's inner workings. I've dedicated two years of my life to this league already, and I'm fully prepared to step up my responsibilities even further over the next two years. Ultimately this means that I'm very open to suggestions from anyone that participates on APDA, as my intentions mean nothing if it doesn't resonate with the desires of the community.
If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to email me about them at email@example.com, or just find me on Facebook. I'll be very active on the forums during the questioning period, so you should look for me there if you're curious about anything. You can also always find me in GA and chat with me about anything debate related - regardless of my election status I'm always here for everyone on APDA.
Tiffany Yuan (Johns Hopkins)
My name is Tiffany Yuan, and I'm a sophomore from Hopkins running for Member at Large. APDA has been a home away from home for me for the last two years, and I've spent almost every weekend on this league -- partially because I'm a bit addicted to debate, but mostly because the community has made coming back worth it. As a MAL, I'd love to be able to make this league as wonderful of an experience for everyone as it has been for me.
I believe that my previous experience at Hopkins as well as on APDA make me well suited to this role. At Hopkins, I serve on the executive board as the tournament director, and also fulfill a variety of other responsibilities. As the tournament director, I've had the privilege of working with a huge number of schools on APDA to coordinate for Nats this spring. I believe I've demonstrated a strong organizational ability and commitment to making debate accessible for everyone, both through continued planning with schools, administration, and trustees throughout the year, negotiating special rates at hotels and individually reaching out to every school to ensure they had access, and implementing a fee system that takes into account administrative barriers that many schools, especially smaller teams, face. These policies make Nats less burdensome for future schools to host, and ensure that everyone has equal access to reg breaks. Additionally, an important part of being a MAL is acting as a liason between the board, schools, and committees -- by planning tournaments, I've developed an ability to negotiate between people with different interests to find solutions that satisfy everyone's needs.
On APDA, I've served on the novice mentor committee for the last two semesters, where I've been able to interact and work with so many amazing novices. Whether it's being available in GA to introduce novices to other debaters and get them immersed in the social side of APDA, or hybriding and offering advice in debate, I think that ensuring novices have a good experience is incredibly important. This is also something that is a priority on the Hopkins' team -- new policies implemented by myself and the rest of the executive board have allowed for the largest novice class we've ever had, as well as the best retention rate. We've focused on providing them social support, creating mentorship groups, and standardizing training procedures to ensure that everyone, no matter their debate background, feels comfortable on the team. We've also sent out anonymous surveys after tournaments and at the end of the semester so that novices can offer their feedback on what they would like to see more of, and what they don't like as much. I'd like to implement this on a wider scale, as it has allowed us to get a much better gauge on exactly what makes novices quit and what encourages them to stay.
On a whole, I'd like to focus on three large issues in my platform: standardized tournament training, increasing novice retention, and making sure expansion schools have the resources they need to access and succeed on APDA. These three issues are largely interwoven and address one another.
First, on standardized tournament training, I've seen firsthand how difficult it can be to run a tournament, especially without previous training. Many people aren't familiar with tabulation software, the best practices, or people on board that they can reach out to with problems. This can be especially difficult for expansion schools that don't have access to previous institutional knowledge. To address this, I'd like to create a standardized training packet by reaching out to different schools to determine where they had difficulty in running their tournament, and writing up a guide to address the most common issues, as well as contact information for who to talk to with these issues. I think it would also be helpful to run workshops on this at APDA meetings, where tournament directors or other members of the team can ask questions, learn about common problems, or get a rundown on tabulation software from experienced TDs. These policies would also help with expansion and novice retention, as better run tournaments ensure novices stay on the league (a primary concern on our team for novice retention is the time commitment), and makes it easier for expansion schools to host tournaments that help break into APDA.
The second issue I'd like to discuss is novice retention. As I've mentioned previously, it's important to understand exactly why people quit the league and how we can make it a more inclusive space for future individuals. Thus, I'd like to create a survey, through a joint effort between committees, for schools to distribute among members of their team who have quit. These people often don't have a voice in the league once they've left, and having a survey like this can give us a better picture of exactly what efforts are necessary to keep future debaters from quitting. Additionally, I believe there should be a more consolidated guide that different committees can work together to create, that contains the most important training materials that schools need during recruitment. Oftentimes, schools are left to create their own training materials, which can be difficult without a large team or a lot of institutional knowledge. Thus, by making PowerPoints and other training materials and guidelines available on a large scale, it's easier to get novices trained and make them feel supported, and also makes the training and recruitment process easier on smaller schools. Additionally, I think it's especially important to focus on equity during the recruitment period. Oftentimes, novices, especially minority and female novices, can feel especially disempowered in their first couple months on APDA. I think it's important to host workshops and include specific manuals on equity during the recruitment and training period, ensure individual teams have the resources and knowledge necessarily to support their novices in this regard, and to ensure all novices know of the presence of DI, GEI, and EOF.
Thirdly, it's important to prioritize and ensure expansion schools have the resources they need to succeed on APDA. I've already talked a bit about creating more standardized guides and holding workshops that provide the institutional knowledge necessary to even this playing field, and also making sure that they are publicized so that everyone gets access to them. Additionally, I think it's important for tournaments themselves to reach out to expansion schools and ensure they have everything they need to registration for the tournament since they might not have had the chance to attend this tournament many times in the past, for example. This includes reaching out about deadlines, being generous with registration breaks, providing guides to everyone at the tournament about parking, transportation, etc, and generally making sure that everyone feels welcome. I've already had experience with this in preparation for Nationals, through reaching out to every school with registration reminders and hotel discounts, thus making sure everyone is able to access the tournament. As MAL, I would first talk to individual expansion schools to consolidate their most important concerns about accessing tournaments, and then work with hosting schools to ensure they've put into place policies to address these concerns. By acting as a communication point between several different schools, expansion schools will be able to have their concerns addressed and participate more on APDA, while hosting schools will be more likely to implement solutions because they'll have someone providing them guidance.
I'm always open to new suggestions or feedback from anyone, so please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook, or even just stop me in GA anytime! I look forward to speaking with all of you in the coming weeks!!