2021-2022 APDA Board Candidate Statements
Rodda John, Columbia University
I’m Rodda (he/him), a junior at Columbia, and I want to be elected as your president. We’ve probably met: maybe you remember me from in-person GAs as the tabber with a Diet Coke, or you have spied me on a Discord server answering questions. You may have asked me to TO your tournament, discussed increasing your school’s participation on APDA, or approached me with an issue in or out of round. Even if we haven’t met, thank you for taking the time to read my statement.
I want to serve as APDA’s president because I’m an effective listener, ardent ‘good norm’ defender, as well as a practiced conflict moderator. Through a comparison between the president and a tournament observer (TO), I aim to describe how I view the role of president, its position in the league, and my qualifications for performing those duties. I will briefly elaborate on my policy ideas in the last section.
The Role of President
Just as a TO serves a tournament, a president serves the league. A tournament’s role is to provide a space for debate competition in a timely, ethical, and agreed-upon manner. The league’s role is to facilitate parliamentary debate in the U.S. through initiatives striving to preserve tournaments’ quality and commitment to equity. Being a TO is often grueling; it requires handling tough situations in tab as well as with the EOs, taking responsibility for mistakes, delegating effectively, elevating voices that are often ignored due to rep differences or systemic inequities, teaching when necessary, working quickly, and ensuring the ethical underpinnings of a tournament are preserved. A TO must ensure that tab scratches or justifications for a first-time novice are treated with the same importance as those for her TOTY-running opponents. Similarly, a president must consider ideas that may improve the league equally, regardless of who originated the idea.
I do not view the role of a president as a personal accomplishment but rather an opportunity to serve the league, like I have for the past three years. In addition to serving formally last year as a Member-At-Large, I have TOd three times as many tournaments this season as everyone else combined, written important additions to MIT-Tab, engineered the Discord integrations used almost every weekend, created and managed results.apda.online, worked on a new video portal (still in progress), led four open tabrooms, developed (along with Hannah Platter, MAL) an expansion tournament guide, wrote and delivered (along with Hannah and Tori Borlase, MAL) a comprehensive tab training session, answered constant Bylaws, -OTY, or results questions.
A president has (though their description in the bylaws is brief and vague) two explicit responsibilities: 1) managing league meetings and 2) interfacing with leagues external to APDA. When leading meetings, impartiality is the most important trait. Just as a TO who declares allegiance to a specific team would be an incapable TO, a president who does not fairly lead and moderate league-wide discussions would be entirely ineffective. I pledge to respect all members of the body (be they on a school’s board or not), protect the league’s discourse, as well as to solicit thoughts from individuals in APDA’s periphery. In my view, board often incorrectly views the league as constituted of member societies whilst potentially glossing over and generalizing the experiences of individual members and groups excluded from the core of member societies. Though true for all board members, it is especially important for the president toseek out and specifically hold space for opinions held by gender or racial minority debaters, ESL speakers, first-time debaters (i.e. without HS debate experience), as well as to continue dialogue with small and expansion schools — all of whose voices are less often heard. Further, I hope I am a responsible TO who declares conflicts of interest when necessary (as I have on board) and am thus trusted by all competitors to create a fair competition. I view the role of a president similarly.
Concerning leagues external to APDA: I have interfaced with Canadian tabbers and debaters previously and have a lot of experience acting as an information conduit between leagues (I served in this capacity for two years on the Board of an HS Parli league).
Last year, I noted the lack of interest I had in detailed policy proposals. I am even more sure of this stance when running for president: a president’s role is not to always prioritize their own ideas but to effectively listen to others and support the implementation of their plans. However, I will discuss how I implemented my policy proposals last year, as well as propose a few more. These proposals, though carefully enumerated, are secondary to listening and supporting the ideas of the league generally, as well as adapting to changing circumstances.
Last year, my three policy proposals were 1) open tabrooms / tab training, 2) increasing connections between HS Parli and APDA, and 3) centralizing reg swap/break requests. All three of these proposals have been completed. I opened the tabroom at multiple online tournaments over the summer, and people who were trained there served in every capacity in tabrooms over the year (tab directing, observing, helping). Additionally, I wrote (as part of Hannah’s expansion guide) the tab training portion of the guide and developed (alongside Hannah and Tori) a recorded tab training. Progress can still be made on the APDA and HS Parli connection front; though many new connections have been formed, most don’t directly translate to the benefits I’m hoping for in terms of revenue for teams who need it. Our unprecedented online season presented severe challenges. I helped tournaments ensure that all tournaments had TOs and EOs, as well as ensure more consistent reg breaks/swaps, schedules, and tab policies than ever before. Many of these changes were effectuated simply by leading through the example of the online tournaments, league-wide agenda setting, and increased participation of the MALs in tournament planning.
Policy proposals for the next year (like last year, these will be brief, elaborated on if people are interested, and not the focus of this document):
- Restarting and emphasizing the Board’s anonymous comment box and continuing conversations with schools and individuals not normally heard in APDA discourse.
- This is specifically important to me because I view the primary obligation of a president as facilitating league-wide discussion and wants.
- Ensuring the transition of norms from the online space to the (potentially) in-person space.
- I’d like to solidify norms around the involvement of MALs with all tournament planning, consistency of reg breaks and swaps, availability of experts to answer tournament management questions.
- Finishing of a video database (continued from previous work)
- This database allows for access through forum accounts to a large, organized, video repository. It also preserves appropriate visibility permissions.
- Continued tab training, expand to tournament running training — create sessions for people to ask questions, restart the pre-tournament calls, screen TOs as needed.
- Integrate policies and procedures for interacting with EOFs to tournament running guides.
The best way to reach me is via FB, or email (email@example.com). I would be more than happy to answer questions/chat on these platforms in addition to any on the forum .
APDA is a home for me: its members are my closest friends, and its governance, my strongest passion. Thank you all for your consideration of my candidacy.
Hannah Platter, Smith College
My name is Hannah Platter (they/them or she/her) and I am excited to be running for President for the 2021-2022 APDA Board! For those of you who don’t know me, I am currently a junior at Smith College studying Engineering and Jewish Studies. I was a Member At Large on APDA Board last year, and before that, I was on the Expansion Committee for two semesters, including one as the chair. Within Smith Debate Society, I have served in multiple board positions, including one semester as VP of Operations, one as President, and most recently, two as VP of Recruitment and Retainment. I am currently in my sixth semester on APDA. In that time, I’ve debated hundreds of rounds, tabbed, tab observed, or tournament directed multiple tournaments, and spent countless hours thinking about APDA and working to make it a better place for everyone.
Most people don’t read these full statements, so I’ll make it somewhat short and sweet: why do I want to be your President? I love APDA and want to make it the best that it can be. When I first joined Smith Debate Society, we were a very small team. In the last three years, I have grown the team to new heights that I never thought would be possible, both in terms of unprecedented competitive success, but more importantly, creating a kind and caring environment that fosters a positive relationship with debate for our many new members. Inspired by my love for watching my team thrive, I have worked with countless schools over the past two years, many of which were small or new to APDA, to do the same. The best thing a leader within the APDA community can do, in my experience, is to help other teams create their own success. In the past, I have helped schools that were new to APDA in ways that many people don’t realize are important. Everything from finding a hybrid to learning how to ask for a reg break to knowing where to find EOFs for a tournament are specific problems that schools face and often don’t even know are issues that can be solved. Finding the resources to join APDA can be difficult, something that many teams take for granted. Last summer, I spent hours creating pages and pages of expansion resources (check out Committees > Expansion > Resources on the APDA website), including a comprehensive tournament directing and tabbing guide in collaboration with my fellow MALs. I’ve used these resources myself to learn how to tab and TO, and no matter if I am on Board or not, I look forward to helping other schools by TOing for them in the future. Having online co-hosted tournaments has helped teach new schools how to tab and run tournaments so that when we return to in-person debating, more schools will be able to host better tournaments. A large part of being the President of APDA is being able to connect schools to the resources that they need, whether that be committee members, other schools, or help from APDA Board. I have a unique experience working with schools of all sizes and look forward to collaborating with many more schools in the future.
Secondly, communication is a key part of being on APDA Board. I strongly believe that everyone should have equal access to APDA Board no matter their personal connections or COTY status. Last year I promised to increase the amount of transparency and communication surrounding APDA meetings, and I have delivered on that by messaging or emailing all of the voting members within my assigned region before each APDA meeting with information about the agenda and by answering questions about all sorts of proposals and bylaws amendments. The ability to vote online has been key for this — for the first time, all voting members have the opportunity to show up and engage in APDA policy, rather than just sending a proxy when they don’t have the time or budget to attend far away APDA meetings. Communication spans even further than APDA meetings. My DMs and email are always open, and I look forward to working with all individuals and schools on APDA to answer all of your questions, concerns, or comments.
Finally, there are a few aspects of the role of President that are different from my previous role on APDA Board. One of these is working with CUSID to plan NorthAms and representing the US at WUDC. In the past year, I have gotten much more involved with debating at the international level, both in terms of learning BP, IAing at NorthAms, and keeping up with WUDC votes. More generally, I have the organizational and communication skills necessary to collaborate with other debate bodies. Secondly, the role of the APDA President is to run APDA Board. I have a lot of experience in peer leadership, both in my roles on Smith Debate and in my previous summer jobs. Using my extensive knowledge of APDA and my previous leadership skills, I am confident in my ability to run APDA Board effectively and efficiently.
Just like everyone, my experiences with APDA have not been all positive, but I hope that you will elect me to a position in which I can help shape the league to be the best it can be. Feel free to reach out via Facebook messenger or through my email, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any questions or just want to chat about APDA!
Vice President of Operations
Robin Gloss, George Washington University
Hi all! I’m Robin (she/they), a junior at GW studying International Affairs and Economics. In the three years I’ve spent on APDA I’ve spent nearly every weekend at a tournament, and while I might regret a few of the tournaments that cost me good grades on midterms, I would never give up the friends I’ve made and the amazing experiences I’ve had. Truly, this league means so much to me and I’m excited to be able to give back even a little of what I’ve gotten.
Online debate has a ton of challenges – it’s more sexist, it’s more racist, it’s harder to retain novices, and it’s harder to retain varsity. Even with the best intentions, tackling systemic issues on the league feels like a daunting task and, for many reasons, we choose not to confront issues that we all recognize are endemic. These also aren’t problems that are magically going to solve themselves when tournaments are in person again. The one thing I really want to do as VP Ops is make sure that we create the resources to make sure that APDA keeps getting more equitable, accessible, and enjoyable.
Being a part of EOF is simultaneously one of the most fulfilling parts of being on APDA and the most challenging thing I do every weekend. I’m really glad that I can be someone people are comfortable reaching out to, but I’ve also seen first hand a lot of the problems that exist on APDA. While empirically proven speaks disparities don’t tell the entire story of sexism on APDA, our current data collection project for GEI has illustrated the extent to which these issues are structural challenges. Whether that’s the harms of the way that we deify reppy debaters or continue to view equity as punitive rather than educational, the reality is that we haven’t actually created equity norms that are effectively able to deter inequitable behavior.
I’m really optimistic about the league’s ability to address these issues when they’re treated as a priority, and I’ve seen the way that norms can improve really rapidly. More importantly, I recognize that APDA board plays an important role in making sure these conversations aren’t sidedlined and that resources exist. Having worked on GEI and EOF, I think I’m really well situated to help do that.
As President of GWPDS, I’ve experienced first hand what a lot of what board members and leaders of teams across the league are facing right now, and I understand that the challenges schools face vary. Not to sound like I’m giving a PMR, but epistemic humility is really really important. Individual schools know where they need help more than the board can prescriptively decide where to help.
For the next few years, but especially in the coming year, board – and especially VP Ops – plays an incredibly important role in preserving this knowledge. This means ensuring that information on tabbing, posting tournament invites, getting dinos to judge, calibrating judges, teaching novices the essentials of debate, accessing the forum, and getting in touch with people who have these resources is available to everyone who needs it. I’ve helped compile these resources for GW’s team, and I want to ensure that they’re available to anyone who needs them.
I’m not going to make grandiose promises about suddenly solving systemic issues on APDA, because quite honestly I don’t see that as the role of APDA board. The way those changes happen is when APDA board does the necessary logistical and administrative work to ensure committees and teams have the support necessary to improve equity norms, make the league a better place for expansion schools, and give more people the same positive experience that I’ve had on the league.
I am perpetually online, so please reach out to me if you want to chat, have thoughts, or think there are places that I can do better. You can find me on Facebook or email me at email@example.com.
Tori Borlase, University of Pennsylvania
My name is Tori Borlase (she/her/hers) and I am so excited to be running for APDA’s Vice President of Operations this year. My past year as MAL, I have loved being able to give back to the league that has given me so much throughout my collegiate debating career. Assuming the role of VP Ops is an amazing opportunity for me to continue my service to this league, and equipped with my institutional knowledge and passion for equitable debate, I hope to fulfill this purpose to the fullest extent possible.
My experience on this league has been far from ideal. Faced with gender biases and inequitable debating space, the struggle to enjoy debating in college is one that I am sure many novices and expansion schools constantly face. As a queer Latina woman, I naturally saw debating as a space in which I was not welcome yet a space that I desperately wanted to be a part of. These unique perspectives drove me to become the EOF for countless tournaments, train future EOs as the EOF chair, and to become the board liaison for GEI, all as an attempt to level the playing field for all debaters. My love for this league drove me to always say “yes” to schools, whether it may be TOing for expansion schools or at the GM tournament, helping teams write their own internal equity policies, or planning a tab training with my other co-MALs. The lens with which I view debate has always led me to wanting to give back, and as VP Ops, I will work tirelessly to ensure that underrepresented debaters know that they can always come to me for assistance.
My experience working on Board this past year has taught me that the role of VP Ops is largely functional. That is, the VP Ops role includes keeping the website and rankings page updated, ensuring access to the forum, and ensuring that the league generally functions smoothly. Through this statement, I will go on to explain my applicable experiences, and why it is critically important that any VP Ops have a high understanding of APDA board proceedings, which I have gained through my past year on Board.
My experiences on and off the debating circuit have all prepared me for the rigor and detail-oriented job of VP Ops. Liaising with member schools from across the league in my role as Member at Large for APDA or my role as Vice President External for Penn Debate Society make me uniquely positioned to be able to understand the needs of other debating clubs. Additionally, serving on my university’s student government and working with administrators on a weekly basis allows me to have an understanding of the limitations and common practices of school administrations, helping me to understand and empathize and effectively problem-solve with debating clubs who may need extra accommodations when organizing tournaments. I spend hours a week optimizing the distribution of funds (over $2.5 million) between diverse student groups who all have competing claims and interests. These pressure-rich environments have prepared me to take a neutral perspective on issues and transcend the regional conflict while still acknowledging that regional divisions on APDA are important to recognize in decision-making. These other roles, along with my numerous secretarial positions, mean that I can simultaneously understand the needs of individual APDA schools while also being able to find solutions quickly.
Most importantly, however, I have learned incredibly valuable things while serving as committee chairs and MAL. As I mentioned, my approach to solving problems on Board will always come from an egalitarian lens, and equipped with my understanding of equity, my familiarity with Board proceedings, and my tab experience, I will prioritize transferring my institutional knowledge to individuals who may face barriers to engaging with the league, be it financial, logistical, or otherwise. Having a full year as MAL has been a wonderful crash course on how to successfully communicate with teams hosting tournaments, which will come in handy as VP Ops when maintaining the results page, posting on Committee News and Resources, or helping new novices make forum accounts. Because my learning curve will be less steep than for most other candidates, I can spend less time learning the ins and outs of the Ops role and more time serving the league. My Board experience, combined with my experience of running committees, will allow me to serve most effectively to facilitate league operations.
Although I recognize that the role of VP Ops is largely functionary, I hope to work on promoting the following:
- First, VP Ops being the face of more comprehensive expansion club education. This means going beyond written documents and making myself available for teams that need to learn how to find EOFs, TOs, or how to run a tournament.
- Second, creating a culture of inclusion by working more closely with committees. This means working with GEI and DI to create proactive programming while balancing the reactionary role of EOFs in maintaining a healthy league culture, and with my extensive committee leadership experience, I can ensure positive collaborations.
- Finally, developing a more collaborative approach to board and league engagement. By making myself available for all member schools, and using the skills I learned as MAL to help schools plan tournaments, I can ensure that schools will have all the resources they need to succeed.
Overall, I am the best person for this job because I know tab like the back of my hand, I have the best interests of the league in mind, and because I will approach this position on board through a lens of inclusivity and equity, just as I have approached my roles as EOF chair and GEI board liaison.
Please feel free to reach out to me on FB, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice President of Finance
Emmanuel Murphy, College of William & Mary
Hi all, I’m thrilled to run for VP finance! I’ve outlined my thoughts on why I am running below, and I’m happy to follow up with anyone who has other questions. There are a few reasons I am running for Board.
– I’ve had a unique experience with debate. Growing up and in college I’ve lived through class differences that differ from the mainstream league. This means I’m aware of many inequities that aren’t commonly talked about. For example, I know what it’s like to pack lunch because you cannot buy Chipotle on the car ride home. I know what it’s like to not have a sleeping bag to bring with you for crash housing. The list goes on. But through these uncomfortable experiences, I’ve built a rich context that informs my perspective of other debaters and the league. I will support mechanisms/platforms that give others space to share their experiences, implement solutions to mitigate these inequities, and be an individual to whom people of different backgrounds feel comfortable speaking to.
– I want to mitigate information and pipeline problems that are rife throughout the league. This looks like making recruitment practices more transparent and equitable. It also includes giving the average debater a better understanding of how the league works. As a board member of Branchout (a community service organization at W&M) I was trained to fix pipeline problems regarding fair recruiting practices. I was also trained to make organizational best practices transparent for the benefit of average members. I will lean on this training/practice to alleviate pipeline problems in APDA that prevent minorities from engaging in the community as deeply as they deserve.
– I have the technical skills for VP finance. I’m studying finance and data science which positions me to budget effectively and maintain budgetary or financial data. Furthermore, I was a campaign coordinator for Environment America. This meant I organized logistics for canvassers operating from a field office that traveled across the DMV region daily and helped manage our financials in that regard. Thus, I’m equipped with the skills to execute VP finance with the specificity it requires.
– Lastly and most importantly, I will approach VP finance with the right heart. I am very quick to admit when I am wrong, apologize, and do everything in my power to rectify the situation after the fact. In addition, when making decisions I lean heavily on advisors. Both habits position me to make high quality decisions and be someone who can model owning up to and growing through mistakes, instead of doubling down on damaging decisions.
Nicholas DeVito, Tufts University
I think we are, in a phrase, in uncertain times. This year has defied expectations and brought with it a slew of new challenges. Granted, I have no idea what is going to happen in the future and what debate will look like but I do think it matters. I think we need a VP Finance who is always willing and wanting to go the extra mile and who will always want to handle the new problems we are facing. I think there are a lot of ways I have demonstrated this.
I serve as Tufts President, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future, where I have needed to balance the massive shift in my team that online has brought. With teammates virtual and in-person and across time zones, organizing people has become even more challenging now than ever. This is a team that waxes and wanes greatly, with limited institutional support. This is an environment where it is easy to do the minimum, because of how alienating this year can be, that it’s just “online” and doesn’t matter but I think can go above and beyond what is expected.I have managed the finances for this club directly and indirectly for two years and know how to balance a team that focuses on both APDA and BP. Also, I think my responses from last year showed that I can deduce quantifiable answers to many policies.
However, I also think that this has translated into a league-wide problem as well. Succinctly, I think APDA has failed to adapt well to online and, even more worryingly, has not recognized it. So many tournaments this semester have had logistical problems of varying degrees but a fundamental issue I have is that there was not a way to pre-empt this. Judging is more limited; training is dwindling if not nonexistent; and tournament tabs are less able to handle very fundamental issues. However, this is not to push blame onto them. These experiences are fun for no one involved and the response until now has largely been void. We should be better at pooling resources— monetary or otherwise—to prevent immense burdens being thrust onto individual teams.
Fundamentally, I think VP finance does have actuarial responsibilities that should be expanded. Maintaining better information about how to allocate dues or calculate the financial impact of by-laws changes, the Board should take the active role in preventing meeting discussions from becoming a stream of LOCs which often devolve into loud assertions. Additionally, improving the progressivity of dues to improve revenue is a policy the Board should undertake as a prerequisite to nearly any potential amendment— either from board, committees, or the league writ large— that could be undertaken.
I think APDA board needs to be proactive; reaching out to schools to help them go from point A to B is more important not just because more teams need the support but that need is no longer axiomatic. Now, this is not to deride the league of the past, but it is a matter of collective action and the league should realize that signals are not being made clear.
Additionally, I think being on board is about being representative of what APDA can be, not what it often becomes. Despite some *questionable* meme page activity, I think I have wanted to be a positive representation that you can do well and also have fun. That your rounds aren’t zero sum and you don’t have to make people have a bad time just so you can win. I think this does go beyond Board power—which, despite what this and nearly every other post during elections will say, is titular and dwarfed by your demeanour in rounds and at tournaments.
Katrina Hotaling, Tufts University
Hi! I’m Katrina and I’m a sophomore at Tufts. I started doing APDA last year, as someone who had no prior debate experience, and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made since coming to Tufts. I’ve had fun, learned a lot, and made some amazing friends through debate, and that’s something I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience. I would love to be a MAL because I want to be able to contribute to a community that has given so much to me. As far as qualifications go, I have been on the TDS e-board for three semesters, first as VP Admin and currently as VP Ops, so I’m used to working as a member of a board. I also compete or judge almost every weekend, even in the online season, so I’m very accessible and present on the league. If I’m elected, I hope to focus specifically on GM and queer representation within APDA, as well as novice retention in the upcoming year, whether we are online or in person. As someone who has partnered with novices multiple times outside of ProAms tournaments and had the experience of being a novice that didn’t really know what debate was, I think I’m in a good position to be effective at reaching out to novices and understanding what makes people want to stick around on the league. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions and I hope you’ll consider voting for me for MAL!
Cecilia Szkutak, Boston University
Hello APDA people!
My name is CeCe (she/her) and I could not be more excited to have the chance to be your Member at Large for the 2021-2022 APDA Board. A little about me, I am a junior at Boston University double-majoring in Political Science & Economics. I have been a member of APDA since transferring to BU in the fall of 2019 from the University of Vermont where I competed in British Parliamentary debate. Since joining BU’s debate team, I have tried to be as involved as possible. Over the past two years on APDA, I have spent two semesters on the Gender Empowerment Initiative (GEI) committee and three semesters serving as the Secretary of the Boston University Debate Society (BUDS). Outside of debate, I am an Office Assistant at BU’s School of Law and also an active member of BU’s chapter of College Democrats. I spend my free time color-coding my Google Calendar, collecting plants, cooking, crafting, & watching horrible reality TV or crime shows.
Okay, now let’s talk about why you should elect me as MAL! I believe I am a great candidate for the position because I am incredibly passionate about filling the role. Although I was not a high school debater (thank goodness?), the past two years on APDA have made me fall in love with debate and I would really enjoy getting the opportunity to give back to the community that has shaped me into who I am today. I could go on and on about how debating has helped me academically or how it has made me more comfortable with my communication skills, but this is not a cover letter. Simply put, I love debate because of the people who make up this league. I have met so many amazing debaters on APDA and it would mean so much to me to be able to represent all of you as MAL.
Although passion is important, I also think my personality and skill set make me a desirable choice for the position. I believe that I am an approachable person who can easily be a resource for anyone on the league who needs assistance from the board. I pride myself on my ability to listen and promise to use my position on board to voice concerns that are brought to my attention. The last thing I want to do is waste the time I have, so I will make an effort to address any problems that come up throughout the school year. Most importantly, I am someone who puts all of their energy into their commitments. I am not someone to flake or shove responsibilities to the side, partially because I have a ridiculously organized to-do list, but also because I care a lot about the things I do. If you take anything away from this statement, I hope you understand that being MAL wouldn’t be something to put on my resume or use in a job interview, I am running because I want to be more connected with the schools in our league and commit my time to give back to the league that gave me so many friendships and opportunities to better myself.
I want to use the rest of my statement to outline a few ideas I have for the league:
One project I would like to spearhead is working with the leaders of various APDA committees in order to increase the amount of accessible recorded rounds on our website. At first glance, many of the rounds are either not publicly accessible, outdated, or lacking in diversity. I completed understand why many debaters do not want to publicly post their rounds, but I think as a league we can do a better job thinking about the importance of recorded rounds. Although the VRC is primarily in charge of this process, I think there is a strong case to be made for why the GEI, DI, and Expansion committees should make this one of their priorities. I would argue the primary problem with the rounds we do have is that they fail to represent what the league actually looks like. It is almost impossible to find more than a handful of rounds that provide racial and gender diversity. On top of that, there is almost no expansion school representation because of the outdated nature of many rounds. Seeing as online debating is probably here to stay for at least some of next year, I think it is incredibly important to make a plan to encourage judges to record the rounds they judge. With Zoom, it’s so easy! Simply hit record then download to Google Drive to share with either the debaters or make public if consent is given. As one of your MALs, I would work with the committees to make this initiative happen. More inclusive rounds (and more rounds in general) will be greatly beneficial to the league because we
will have better resources to give our novices, increase the ability for our debaters to learn from their rounds and allow for teams to utilize more inclusive rounds for judge calibrations.
The other big project I’m sure all of the board will be focusing on is planning for the second year of APDA in the age of COVID-19. I think the online format we have created has worked really well. That being said, one major problem that still exists is the lack of connection between schools. Although bonding over songs queued by Groovy is one way to make connections, I still feel as though nothing we currently have can replace having a real GA and being able to make new connections which is why I think the APDA Board should work on is organizing more ~virtual~ social events for the league. One idea I had was making it the board’s responsibility to organize tournament socials as opposed to the individual schools. I know it takes a lot of work and manpower to host tournaments, so alleviating some of the burden from the hosts might make these socials more feasible. The other problem that has come up is with unequal distribution of Discord experience when it comes to tournament staff. I think it will be really important for the board to host a training session for incoming e-boards over the summer to make sure that all team leaders have a general understanding of how to run a tournament on Discord. We should really try to prioritize the reliance we currently have on Rodda and Hannah who have both done a lot of work to hold up the league! This could also include creating a more extensive tournament guide that is easily accessible on the website for schools to reference. This is especially important for schools that are just starting out or just for newly elected e-boards who may not have been able to participate in online tournament planning.
If you have any questions for me, please feel free to reach out! My email address is email@example.com or feel free to message me on Facebook (Cecilia Szkutak). Regardless of whether or not I’m elected, I look forward to another great year with you all 🙂
Dominic DeRamo, Georgetown University
I’m Dominic DeRamo (he/him) and I am incredibly excited to run for Member-at-Large! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a sophomore at Georgetown studying Government, Philosophy, and Disability Studies. Outside of debate, I’m a part of Georgetown’s public speaking club, student government, and student disability organization.
I am currently serving as the Georgetown Parliamentary Debate Team’s Vice President of External Operations. During my time in this position, I have connected with most of the teams on APDA while growing and supporting the Georgetown team. My time on this team has given me some amazing skills and experience that I hope to share with the league.
I have also been on the EOF committee for three semesters, two of which I have served as a co-chair. I have significantly enjoyed my time on the committee, but I especially appreciated the opportunity to develop materials for the committee to use during the virtual semester. I have also started to collect resources to update the equity guides on the website and I hope to have the rest of the committee working on this project by the end of the semester. As a board member, I would support and uplift the efforts of the committees. The committees do essential work for the league and we need to ensure that they have enough members by increasing advertising and reaching out to teams that are underrepresented in this work.
Given my past experiences on the league, there are three things that I want to focus on as a Member-at-Large.
Firstly, during my time on the EOF committee, I have noticed that the online environment has exacerbated some equity issues, especially for gender minorities. One of the best ways we can address equity issues at tournaments is just through better judging. Some ideas I have to improve the judging process include better calibration rounds that represent multiple marginalized communities and training on implicit judge bias done by the MALs. We can also further update resource guides for teams, such as the diversity recruiting, training, and retention guides, and create a more thorough list of best practices for tournaments, including consulting equity officers when tournament staff receive a concern.
Secondly, the online tournament season has helped make a lot of tournaments more financially accessible because of the $30 reg caps and many schools no longer have to worry about other travel and food costs. However, many schools, especially expansion schools, are still struggling with funding their teams and revenue from tournaments has been cut. As we determine whether debate will be online, in-person, or a hybrid of the two, I think we should continue to strive to make tournaments financially accessible for all schools attending. This will likely take the form of continued reg caps and breaks for APDA dues in order to tailor support to the needs of individual teams. As MAL, I hope to proactively communicate with teams and hear about financial issues before they inhibit teams from engaging with the league and ensure that tournament attendance continues to be financially accessible for as many schools and teams as possible.
Lastly, I think there are still a lot of questions around what the fall semester, or even next spring might look like. While I know all of us are eagerly looking forward to in-person APDA, I believe that schools and teams should not travel until we have a safe competitive set-up that can be equally accessible and affordable for all schools.
Nicole Kagan, Harvard College
My name is Nicole Kagan and I’m running for Member-at-Large. For those of you who have never met me: hello! For those who have: I’m sorry. I’ll be trying to make this statement as page-turning as possible to keep your attention. I’m currently a junior at Harvard University (serving as the VP APDA for the Harvard team), and I have been very active on the circuit this season and in previous years (read: I am extremely dedicated to this league, format, and activity more broadly). Over the course of my time on the league, I have had the pleasure to work with the VRC, NMC and EOF Committees.
I am running for MAL because, as it is plain to see, I love APDA. I see APDA Board, as the governing body, as uniquely able to make the changes that I would like to see on the league. Namely, I want to see APDA Board do more to tangibly aid expansion schools, and be more actively transparent with Members. I also want to make sure that I play my part in representing the diversity of students that participate in APDA. Many competitors on the circuit are not
American, but are international students (many of whom are ESL speakers) who very rarely come from formats like PF, LD or Policy that feed well into the structure of APDA. Without a substantial investment in resources for these competitors and for others from schools with less institutional capital, it is easy to see why so many may be easily unretained. I also want to achieve, by the end of this season, the establishment of a robust training program with a speaker series (as seen in other formats).
Two key components to my platform:
1. Expansion + Inclusion
Helping expansion schools & smaller teams is broadly popular on the league, but we often get stuck without actualizable solutions. What I will uniquely do as MAL is push for realistic, easy-to-accomplish solutions that can reduce the barriers that expansion schools & debaters face in accessing the league. This looks like:
i. Writing a comprehensive guide to introduce new teams to APDA. This would include:
1. A novice training guide, with complete breakdowns of speaker roles & links to further resources (some already exists due to the great work of the NMC, but should be consolidated)
a. This should include an ESL section that provides a comprehensive explanation of how best to adapt to APDA when English is not your first language.
2. Logistical guides on how to set up a team, manage budgets and properly register for tournaments
ii. Directly establishing coaching relationships between APDA Board members ,interested varsity & expansion schools.
1. Establishing yourself on the APDA circuit with limited experience is difficult – as a result, it should be the role of APDA Board to take on those League-wide coaching responsibilities.
2. We can also consider opening the League up. Unlike BP or Australs, APDA has had little international reach. This may be a good revenue source (particularly in the motions format).
iii. Making APDA Board pro-am with novices from expansion schools (especially those that are English Second Language)
1. I believe that APDA Board owes the highest obligation to those teams just breaking into the circuit & ought commit itself to this sort of action.
iv. Requiring APDA-Board to each contribute at least 1-2 cases to an expansion school casebook
1. One of the biggest barriers for expansion schools is the lack of cases.
Case-writing can be overwhelming and tedious at the best at times for the most well-resourced teams. Therefore, it is easy to see why this may pose an undue burden on teams wanting to enter the circuit.
v. Providing subsidies!
1. As per the statements I have made in previous years – The Board can create APDA-specific merch (we’re talking hoodies etc. whatever the league wants), that it can sell to debaters at a reasonable cost. All proceeds would go to a fund to support expansion schools. This has been popular in the past & can be fairly easily accomplished. It’s a simple, low-capital way to generate money that can be used to subsidize access to tournaments for expansion schools.
vi. APDA Mentor-Mentee
1. One of the reasons I was retained on my team is because we had a strong mentor-mentee program that allowed for a varsity to partner with me and show me the ropes of debate. I would love to see something similar occur on the league, and would be happy to organize this between interested varsities and novices.
2. Developing connections with people not on your team makes tournaments more enjoyable & boosts retention.
2. Standardization & Transparency
Many of the issues that the league has encountered in the past are related to a mis-match of expectations between APDA Board & Members. I want to take steps to make sure that there is increased consistency in tournament policies & a more concrete relationship between Board & Members.
i. Standardizing judging
1. Many of the equity issues raised at tournaments involve inequitable judging practices. I want to ensure that this is minimized going forward, in these ways:
a. Performing a judge briefing at all tournaments (in addition to existing equity briefings, briefing specifically on speaker scale expectations). We’ve done a great job in introducing calibration rounds, but judge training can still go further. Hosting dedicated sessions for judge-training throughout the season are some of the best ways to keep judges in check.
b. Uploading best-practice judging guidelines to apda.online/including them in the aforementioned guide
2. Standardizing equity call outcomes.
a. At the moment, it is incredibly ambiguous whether an equity opt-out during a round via an equity-call is sufficient ground to drop Gov. This warrants a firm policy standpoint.
b. Standardizing equity opt-out procedures.
i. Texting Gov to opt-out is not always the most equitable approach. An anonymous google form whose link is written up on the Board should perhaps be considered a preferable option that takes no longer to do.
ii. CW/TW standards need to be formalized.
iii. Standards surrounding whether chances to opt-out should
be offered only once before case statement, or twice (also
offered after case statement) should too be set.
ii. Standardizing in-round practices
1. Producing a guide detailing common procedures, including whether construct should be considered on OR off time.
2. Clear guidelines on what constitutes “new” material in PMR/LOR.
3. Aforementioned equity opt-outs.
iii. Timing rounds more charitably
1. Almost all of the tournaments that I have attended recently have seemed to run late. It would be tremendous if we were able to budget more charitably for rounds (2 hours each instead of 1.5)
2. We could also consider spacing competitions out. Teams this season require significantly less funding than they have in the past, so this may help more people be able to participate – particularly across timezones.
iv. Simplifying the re-aff process
1. This is a genuine no-brainer for me. If somebody would like to re-affiliate from a team which they feel is not charitable toward them, let them. The league has passed amendments to this effect. I will continue to support any in future.
At the end of the day, all I want is for the league to offer others the same tremendous opportunities that it has been able to offer me. The closest friends I have, and the best memories at the top of my mind are all APDA-related. I am not, and don’t intend on making unrealistic or idealistic promises because I want to make sure we continue to make tangible and concrete change.
Know that, regardless of the election outcome, I intend to continue to debate and support this league in any way that I can.
I am well aware that the climate of this community is substantially different now that we’re in an online world. Thinking about potentially spacing rounds out instead of stacking them to give more people the opportunity to meaningfully participate is likely something very much worth looking into.
If you’d like to discuss any further the points that have been raised above, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook Messenger at Nicole Kagan. I’ll almost always reply immediately!
Thank you for considering my statement!
Isabella Sorial, George Washington University
My name is Isabella Sorial (she/her) and I am thrilled to be running for Member at Large for the 2021-2022 APDA Board! I’m a current upper sophomore at the George Washington University studying International Affairs. I have been in the Diversity and Gender Empowerment Initiatives for three semesters. In the George Washington Parliamentary Debate Society, I served as VP of Operations this past year and plan to either continue that or move up in position this coming year.
I have been involved in APDA since 2019 and have grown to deeply care about it and all of the people on it. I would be a good MAL because I am passionate about communication and efficiency. I want every team and every member of APDA to have a voice they can use to speak out about issues facing the league and ideas they have to improve it. I want to be as accessible as possible to people on the league. I will always be around to discuss any concerns people have about larger APDA issues, their teams, or any other personal problems they may face. No issue is too small to address.
One of the key aspects of my platform will be transitioning the advantages online tournaments have into future tournaments. First off, I think Co-Hosting has fostered a lot of collaboration between teams that usually wouldn’t be in contact with each other. Online tournaments have been better able to accommodate debaters with disabilities who need to shut cameras off or find it difficult to navigate and/or physically move between buildings at in-person tournaments. It also allows communication between tournament hosts and members to be more efficient and equitable. From requesting music on the Groovy bot to asking questions to TDs about tournament policy, online tournaments have been able to bridge a gap between tournament hosts and members that existed previously when people didn’t have specific ties to boards of other teams and didn’t feel as comfortable walking up to them in person. It is also easier for expansion schools who are far from normal tournaments to get involved regularly. It breaks down travel and monetary barriers in ways that have been so beneficial for attendees. It, of course, has its disadvantages–like lower retention and civility and zoom fatigue, that also need to be addressed to improve the foreseeable future. One easy way to integrate is to have discord servers at in-person tournaments, which allows people the option to debate online, have a chat room for debate rooms that people can put constructs in, allows judges to get their tab codes, and more. This way we can have all of the in-person aspects we love and keep some of the perks of online debate as well. In order to make this more formalized, I would initiate some sort of transition task force that would ensure better safety precautions and accessibility when we do reopen.
Another key aspect of my platform is making the league more accessible to those who prefer a less competitive environment. As a debater with barely any “rep”, I find it more difficult to advocate for myself and my value on the league. I have found some solace in my new-found love for tabbing but I find that debaters that aren’t highly successful find the competitive nature of the league and the resources available to those with rep intimidating and uninviting. I’m assuming that most of you, before reading this post, did not know who I am. You have probably seen my name floating around but have never really gotten to know me. I think that is one of my greatest strengths. I am not the most important member of APDA. In fact, I’m probably not even in the top 50. I am a member of the public and I want to speak to that. Some of my ideas to break down this barrier are to set up more forums for people who specifically like judging or tabbing. These are outlets people who are less competitive can use, and yet often we find that tournaments value judges and tab staffs that are highly competitively successful. This should not be the case–judging and tabbing experience should be valued in and of itself. Even further, finding opportunities to tab and learn to tab are more difficult than they should be and this should not be the case. We should value all contributions to the league equally.
A final aspect of my platform, as was probably obvious from my time in committees, is my commitment to diversity and gender equality on the league. I want to ensure that board is doing everything we can to give minority debaters have access to people they can voice concerns to and share ideas with. We need to break down barriers between teams in order to ensure that minority debaters–especially novices–get the attention they deserve. Some ideas I have for committees include better integrating committees other than EOFs at tournaments so people are more aware of people they can reach out to (especially GEI at GM), celebrating cultural holidays at tournaments, addressing broader social movements and fostering APDA-wide communities for those purposes (e.g. DI and BLM). We should also be reaching out to schools that have not traditionally been on committees or APDA board and get them involved because people in committees tend to help spread word about what committees do to their teams, or at least we should reach out to team leaders that aren’t involved to disseminate information across the league.
I have enjoyed being a part of APDA these past few years. I have learned a lot about how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. I want to bring this knowledge to Board and continue learning alongside the members of APDA in this new role.
If you have any questions about me or my platform, please feel free to reach out via Facebook messenger or by email at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading! I hope that even if I don’t get elected, some of these ideas will be taken up by the next board.