[Ndca-l] Student Abuse in Debate

Jon Cruz joncruz1138
Tue Feb 25 08:24:29 EST 2014


A great choice and an awesome move by the NDCA.

Sent from my iPhone

> On Feb 24, 2014, at 11:29 AM, Timothy Mahoney <pacedebate at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> The NDCA National Championships ombudsman will be Glenda Ferguson. I appointed her a few days ago.
> 
> thanks,
> 
> Tim Mahoney
> Director, 2014 NDCA National Championships policy division
> 
> 
>> On Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 10:24 AM, Jim Menick <jim.menick at gmail.com> wrote:
>> (I'm cross-posting this to coachean.blogspot.com and referencing it on the NDCA Facebook page. This is my own material, and does not represent the opinion of anyone but me.)
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> My evaluation of conflict and strikes practices has led me to a problem that is real, and that we are not handling well. Every high school debate tournament is by definition an academic event conducted for the educational benefit of secondary school students. Tournaments comprise hordes of adolescent high school students, dozens of judges?many of them independent?not much older than high school students, assorted parents and chaperones who are not a part of the community on a regular basis, and a handful of adults acting either as coaches or tournament staff. For the most part, this group works together well, but there are exceptions, and some of these are unacceptable.
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> From my private discussions, and my own observations (these texts are edited by me):
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> A judge used curse words on a ballot to one of our second-year debaters this year, ballots which were publicly scanned. This judge publicly bashed my student at the tournament where she wrote this hideous ballot. The head coach of this judge's program never followed up on my request for an apology from the judge to the student and that judge has never apologized, despite direct contact from me. This was beyond "alleged" behavior and was more than just "nasty" but outright unprofessional and publicly humiliating to a student? 
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> A judge directed inappropriate sexual remarks to not one, but two, of my freshman female novice teams. I reported him to the coach who brought him and was assured he would never be hired again, but he has been, both by that coach and a number of others. Honestly, no students, or at least no female students, should be judged by this person?
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> [Minority students] are being told, by judges, racism has no impact, racism doesn't matter, slavery was bad, but worth it. I'm tired of having my students racially assaulted. I don't want people around my students who helped create this hostile atmosphere. My students have just as much right to play as anyone else?
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> These are egregious examples of behaviors to which our adolescent students should not be exposed at a debate tournament. Add to this issues such as: judges who are apparently stoned on drugs, judges who pay no attention to a round whatsoever, judges who demand that students partake of actions in rounds that are not debate-related (e.g.,  extra points for juggling or telling jokes), judges who fall asleep, etc.
>> 
>>  
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>> If there are people who are so unacceptable that they need to be struck for cause or conflicted from whole schools because we think they are bad for children, shouldn't we really be doing more than making sure they don't judge our own kids? Is talking to the person who brought them really enough? Perhaps we should be doing more than conflicting or striking them. If a judge is not fit to be around anyone's students, that person be excluded from judging anyone, at least once the judge has been spoken to and told what the community expects of its judges, and then given a chance to be different and better. Judges sometimes need to be educated to be good educators, but if that fails, judges need to find a different source of weekend job income.
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> When issues arise, as often as not they are brought to the tab room. But tab?s job is tabbing the tournament, not solving problems unrelated to setting up the events correctly, and we often can?t give those problems a fair shake because our attention is elsewhere. Besides, we?re not really in charge of the tournament, we?re staff with a specific, limited responsibility. When there are questions of ethical violations, we turn to the tournament directors. It?s their show. But often they are students themselves, at least at many college events, or tied up solving the myriad issues that arise during a tournament, like locked rooms and lost concessions and the like.
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> Let me go further. Many of the problems we?re ascribing to the judge pool, many of whom are immature college students with no particular affiliation, are also problems that apply to the rest of the debate community. My own personal experience has mostly but not exclusively been with inappropriate behavior bordering on assault of high school girls by high school boys, not judges, immediately before and after rounds.
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> One big problem with handling any of this is the nature of the evidence at hand. One must be careful about making serious accusations about anyone, and we are not really equipped to handle any of this at debate tournaments. We?re all busy doing something else. But, if situations are as serious as they appear to be, we can?t just ignore them. If we, the people who are running tournaments, don?t do something about these problems, we are shirking our responsibility to the students in our care.
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> A year or two ago, on my The View from Tab podcast, we were discussing some similar issues, and agreed that one way to begin to handle them was to appoint an ombudsman at every tournament, a trusted, neutral individual (or two) who would be the person students, coaches, judges or anyone with an issue not debate-related but personal/physical could go to get a hearing and, if necessary, help. This did not assume that the ombudsman could solve every problem, but the problems could be evaluated. Let?s say that a judge makes inappropriate sexual overtures in a round. If the accusation is brought to the ombudsman, that person will interview the judge and the students who were in the room. Perhaps the judge simply needs a little education; this will do the job. It will also put the judge on alert not to do this again, that there are repercussions. I have no idea how we officially handle the problem of that judge showing up again next week somewhere else and doing the same thing again, but judges do tend to show up again and again as do schools and coaches, at all the same tournaments, and we?d probably have the same little pool of ombudsmen. I doubt if it would take long to spot and handle repeat offenders with serious issues. I?m not saying that an ombudsman system is perfect, but I guarantee that having no system is intolerable. Child abuse, be it racial, sexual, bullying or any other variety, can?t be something we don?t care about.
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> So, I say that we simply insist that every invitational has an ombudsman or two for handling non-debate issues. That we make it very public who those people are, and very private when they are handling any issues. That we publish in our invitations who the ombudsmen will be, and how to reach them. That we empower the ombudsmen to go to coaches and tell them never to hire this person again, and that we listen and do it. 
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> The alternative to this, or some other solution (I doubt if this solution is the only one possible, and it certainly may not be the best, but it is a start), is the continuation of abuses that we are supposed to be preventing. Let?s start with the first tournament of the 2014-15 season, and go from there. If you?re attending a tournament and there is no ombudsman publicized, demand of the TD that this is unacceptable. If you?re running a tournament, find people you know are trusted by the community as a whole. They can still judge lightly or run a table or whatever at the tournament, but I wouldn?t put them in tab, and I wouldn?t just say that tab or the TD will also act as ombudsman, because running a tournament is already too much to do over the weekend, much less adding this to the mix.
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> If we don?t do this, or something, we only have ourselves to blame for the results.
>> 
>>  
>> 
>> 
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