Posted here with permission from Bob Dolan —
An open letter to all my colleagues in the Public Forum Debate Community:
It’s time to end the non-enforcement of evidence rules! In both a quarterfinal round that I observed and a Final Round that I was privileged to be asked to judge this weekend, NEITHER team verbally gave one DATE for the evidence that was read. In addition, citations such as “Johnson says”, “Harvard says”, and “the Fordham Law Review says” were routinely expressed without any objection from the opponent or challenging of the citation. I noticed this trend last year and was appalled by it at the NSDA National Tournament; now it is pervasive!
As coaches, WE are to blame for allowing our debaters to take this incredibly lazy route to research and citation. The NSDA has very clear (and very minimal) rules regarding what MUST be done regarding evidence citation: In the speech, the debater must orally present the name of the author and the date. Excluding one of these elements is grounds for (temporarily) disqualifying that evidence and, at minimum, calls for the challenging of the opponent to provide the information within the next speech (Yes, make them use speech time to make up for their intentional omission!). The NSDA rules also state, quite clearly, that full citations (with author qualifications) be readily available if requested.
Tournaments that claim to operate under NSDA rules should be willing to publicize their intent to adhere to the rules, support teams who call out the violations, and penalize teams who violate the rules.
Those of us who travel the National Circuit are also aware of the violations that occur with evidence clipping and (in some cases) deliberate misrepresentation of evidence. It is time for action to be taken against teams and debaters who violate these rules, actions other than just dropping a round. We are all aware of how cheating and plagiarism is dealt with at our school, at Universities, and in Public life. Why are we holding our students, who are in their formative “Life-Lesson” years, to lower standards?
We must deal with this NOW, and we have to start with our own teams and our own responsibilities as Judges. I have, and will continue to, publicaly announce before rounds that I will not consider any evidence that does not follow NSDA guidelines, and I will suggest to teams that they should challenge all faulty citations: I, for one, will certainly listen to those arguments and assure myself of the validity of the answers. I hope others will do likewise.
There are many more issues regarding the transitioning of Public Forum into “Policy Lite” that need to be taken up in coaching discussions and forums (the support for “counterplans” at a recent tournament has caused a lot of concern.) Again it is us, coaches, who must take back this activity. I welcome an open or a private discussion of any of the points I’ve raised here and hope that my views don’t get me “struck” by too many Circuit coaches! I love judging and helping debaters to improve their argumentation skills; I can’t do that from the Judges’ Lounge.