I want to establish where I am coming from at the outset. I have seriously considered quitting debate over the last twelve months. One major factor was the work/life balance was all out of whack (especially with the tournament hosting obligations). I have and am hopefully taking more steps to correct that.
Another major factor was going to tournaments and just feeling drained. Was debate any fun? Was I burnt out? Had too many people moved on? Was the grind too extreme?
I came to realize that one of my major issues was my sense of camaraderie was at an all-time low. The reasons for that are many. The one I am going to talk about today is judging and being a good debate citizen.
I have developed a reputation as a judge that is not engaged in the rounds they are assigned, particularly in regards to how attentively I flow. I could quibble to an extent, but this perception did not come out of thin air. There are two major issues with how I judge:
First, I too easily divide my attention. Second, is how I deal with parts of a debate that are hard to follow (due to phrasing, clarity, the initial premise, lack of structure etc.). Where most judges do their best to slog through it I grow frustrated and give up.
A third factor might be something to do with speech docs, but I don’t think this is the case. Other judges manage speech docs fine and provide high value engagement.
This perception of being a bad judge was earned by me and has put a strain on the camaraderie I feel going to tournaments. I am looking to rectify that situation. My plan involves two parts—an apology and a form of accountability.
I wanted to say I am sorry to any students who felt like their time was wasted and their effort disrespected by my lack of attentiveness as a judge. I think what undergraduate students have to do to be successful at school and debate is overwhelmingly difficult. Judges should be as helpful as they can in helping debaters develop, not an undue burden. I regret my past lack of seriousness and I apologize.
The form of accountability I have chosen is to use this site as a repository to post my flows after I judge. I went to the St Marks tournament so that is the first set posted. I will continue to do this after every debate I judge.
Why jump through hoops, why not just judge? Audience costs are one of the most proven motivators for me. I commend those judges that can get it done with other motivations, but that is not me.
My outlook going forward is to put my efforts towards being the best debate citizen I can be in all facets, not just judging. I am hoping this recommitment to the craft and community will help keep the debate fire strong into the future.