Elections will take place online the final weekend of March. Here are the candidate statements:
Haseeb Waseem (Villanova University)
Hi everyone; I’m Haseeb.
I once debated for NYU in my freshman year before I transferred to Villanova University, where I started my own team in my sophomore year. This past year, I’ve had the privilege of serving as one of the three MALs on the current APDA Executive Board. I’m incredibly thrilled to run for APDA President of the Executive Board.
To put it simply, I’m running to leverage my unique experiences and relationships I’ve formed to give back to the league not just from an operational standpoint, but from an interpersonal one. I’ve faced many struggles in starting and running an expansion team and with debating in large, and I want to take my experience and the experience of those I’ve had the pleasure of working and communicating with, to make the league a more accessible place for everyone regardless of region, team size, and institutional history.
The role of the President within the by-laws is in leading the APDA board in overseeing the body during APDA meetings, delegating and reminding board members of their responsibilities, representing the totality of all United States debate organizations within systems such as the World Universities Debating Council, and be the prime person responsible for corresponding with other debate organizations such as CUSID in organizing events such as NorthAms. However, beyond that, as elucidated by Presidents I’ve spoken to, the role involves a higher order level of accessibility and openness in one’s willingness to communicate and it is in this responsibility that the majority of the role is within. It is an absolute must for the President to act as this figurehead and face of the APDA community in entertaining all conversations regardless of whether it falls within their purview. The need for the person to be open and absolutely ready to help cannot be understated because the way to enact meaningful change and be able to help those willing to reach out is to direct them to the proper resources.
From my past experiences, I believe that I have the communication skills necessary to not only do the role but to excel in it. Having been in the unique situation of debating on both an established team with multiple resources at NYU and on establishing institutional knowledge via founding my own team at Villanova, I have a unique perspective in looking through the structural issues from both ends of the spectrum. Additionally, serving as a Member-at-Large during this past year has expanded my ability to liaise between different schools, the board, and committees. I feel incredibly comfortable in being the person that anyone, regardless of how large, small, or established their team is, can approach in asking for help, and I feel confident in being able to lead them in the right direction when I don’t know an answer.
Beyond this, however, I feel confident in actively reaching out to schools to take proactive measures in directing. This past year, not only have I reached out to schools hosting tournaments to help keep them on track with tournament planning as part of my Member-at-Large responsibilities, I’ve taken the steps to personally reach out to schools that are undergoing resurgences in their presence on the league or have never had historically strong presences on APDA across various regions to ask them what resources they require and leading them to what they need. This is one of the first and most important steps to take in ensuring schools beyond just dominant present voices are empowered to actually take part during important discussions. I was there once, often being too shy to reach out to people during the founding steps of the Villanova team because I didn’t know how to access resources like Expansion, and, for lack of a better word, I didn’t know what I didn’t know in planning things like a tournament. I wholeheartedly believe that serving as President signals that no matter how large or school one’s school is, their voice is respected and deserves to be heard.
One of the statements I want to echo from my candidate statement last year is how important the personality side is. It is far more encouraging to take the steps in reaching out when the person embraces a warm and positive attitude. Not only have I taken the steps to be a person anyone can reach out to about anything, whether it’s league-related, personal, or just to talk, but I value these interactions above any enticing form of competitive success. The draw for APDA for me is the community that is behind it.
Every single individual has a story behind them as to why they debate, and it’s found within their cases, their jokes, and their smiles; delving more into every person’s story through every hug, laugh, and joy is why I’ve stayed over the last few years. Last year, I said that fixing the internal issues within APDA is dependent on listening to all people within the community.
However, what I’d add from over the last year of experience is that listening is not the only piece of the puzzle. Actively encouraging individuals to speak out about their experiences and respecting them as they speak their piece empowers people to speak their stories of encountering prejudice and bias on the league and is absolutely critical toward recognizing equity issues in the league as we try to rectify them. I want to talk more about what this translates to on the ground during this year’s Elections questions cycle.
Overall, this league is not a perfect place; it is very far from it. APDA needs a leader that is passionate about answering every question, concern, and comment. APDA needs someone willing to work with individuals across all regions and school sizes in helping them get the resources they need as fast as they need them. APDA needs a President who will be fair in allowing ample discussion for all policy, even ones that they disagree with, so as to empower the body to the best of their ability. For all these reasons, I know I can be that person.
If you have any questions, ideas, or just want to talk, please don’t think twice about reaching out to me on Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!
Ellie Singer (Yale University)
My name is Ellie and I am running to serve another year on APDA Board, this time as Vice President of Operations. When I first ran, I told the league that APDA is my life. A year later, that is still true. I still compete almost every single weekend, my APDA community is still where the people I hold closest to me are, and I still feel like I learn something from all of you at every tournament. I love APDA for everything it has given me, and I would be honored if APDA elects me for another year of giving back to the body.
After a long period of thought and helpful conversations with multiple past VP Ops, I am confident that I have what it takes to do the job. I have demonstrated competence and compassion necessary to form a better league culture both on and off board.
As an APDA board member, I have acted as EOF board liaison to create a general equity guide for tabrooms and to outline more helpful guidelines for EOs at tournaments with one of last semester’s excellent co-chairs, Monica. The senior members of board can tell you that I am proactive with responsibilities, quick to help with problems, and always enthusiastic about serving the league. I have loved working with this year’s board members as a team, and I would be excited to return to work with whoever comes back next year and whoever else joins.
Off APDA board, I do a number of things. As YDA president, I run one of the biggest and most active teams in the league. That includes handling the vast majority of team logistics, planning and participating in recruitment, helping run our (rather large and numerous) tournaments, and more. On Yale’s campus, I also partake in activist work with an organization I co-direct, Engender, which I believe is demonstrative of both my unparalleled emphasis on equity and also dedication to what I set my mind to even in the face of extreme adversity.
If re-elected to board, I will continue to push many of the same priorities that I have this year. I still believe in pushing balance over regionalism, and attempting to make sure many schools can host – and are able to access – tournaments throughout the year. I still believe emphasizing equity is necessary to make the league better.
The biggest (and often most forgotten) responsibility of being on APDA Board is one that isn’t strictly codified: being an available and approachable resource. As much as people want to talk about all the changes that we can make to bylaws or ways that we can help committees, the majority of our interfacing with the league is just as people, serving as touchpoints to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. During my time on board, I have focused a lot on making this a personal priority: whether it’s trying to be a resource for those who might be new to the circuit, or being a person for novices to talk to, or just listening to people’s thoughts about APDA when others may not take the time to do so. As a board member, I place a premium on being open as a resource as a person first because that’s the most important thing we can and should do as leaders of this league.
It’s been a great year working for you, APDA. I hope you’ll let me do it again.
Mia Stone-Molloy (Brown University)
Hey! I’m Mia, a sophomore at Brown studying Economics and Political Science. I go to tournaments every weekend and care deeply about making APDA accessible and enjoyable to everyone. I’m currently a chair of NMC and an LGBTQ+ Liaison. I’m really excited to be running for VP Finance and have the chance to give back to the league.
The role as I understand it involves managing the budget, collecting dues, and answering questions about the budget when necessary.
As for managing the budget, I manage the finances for Brown University Women in Politics, a club I founded. This includes initial fundraising and figuring out how to best allocate funds on a pretty tight budget. I also created and keep track of the bank account and authorize all expenses. The process of creating an organization’s budget from the very beginning has made me comfortable with all aspects of a finance role, including explaining it to other members of the board.
In addition to having specific experience, I think the most important thing for VP Finance is being organized, able to meet deadlines, and generally diligent. I’ve been on tournament staff for the (many) Brown tournaments of the last two years, one of which with only one week’s notice, as well as being on eboard. Serving as NMC chair is also giving me experience coordinating group projects for the league and being proactive on the projects I’m working on.
I have two major goals for the role: transparency and fundraising. It can be difficult to have league-wide discussions about amendments that need funding/having to do with finances, while most of the league has little understanding of what the budget is, where it comes from, and how it is spent. I would like to write a semi-annual budget report on expenses- detailing how much we spend on TO/judge subsidies, helping teams get to tournaments, etc.. While keeping important information confidential, I think there is some room to be more open with our finances so APDA meetings can be more productive and have more informed decisions.
I’d also like to continue experimenting with new methods of fundraising, possibly selling different APDA gear, reaching out to alumni for donations, etc.. I coordinate fundraising for the club I mentioned earlier, so I’m always thinking of new methods! This is the best way we can accomplish the goals we care most about- financial accessibility for attending/hosting tournaments and promoting equity.
My main goal, however, is just to do the job and do it well. I know the league well and I am willing to put in the time and effort it takes to help the league run smoothly. I’m around pretty much every weekend, I try to be friendly and outgoing at tournaments, and I answer Facebook messages quickly. I hope that this means people will feel comfortable coming to me with their own questions, concerns, and ideas.
Feel free to message me on Facebook or email me at email@example.com if you have any questions/comments!
Nicholas DeVito (Tufts University)
I think there are several reasons why I would be a good VP finance for APDA Board. I think all of the candidates will likely have large amounts of involvement in APDA, in whatever form it takes, but having experience handling the finances of an organization is a different skill set than simply being able to go to tournaments. On my own team, I handle a majority of the finances and budgeting, organizing all of the travel and spending for the team, along with being the tournament director for both the Tufts tournaments, where I oversaw spending and helped evaluate reg fees and breaks, along with accounting to make sure we had enough money to run an effective tournament.
However, I also think I, as a voting member for Tufts, have seen a lot of the shortfalls with the APDA board. With the desire of the board to implement differing fees and taxes to generate revenue while also aligning interests in a correct way, there needs to be an actuarial force on the board; I believe VP Finance should be that position. Many discussions of fees— see the “18s tax”— have been stilted discussions where people warrant claims and never reach a conclusion, since the answer to whether or not a majority of these policies being good would simply require some accounting instead of a half dozen demonstrations that sound more like LOCs than actual discussions. As VP finance, I want to more greatly expand this such that we can have more efficient meetings but also not obfuscate away from actual issues, as our current meetings have frequently done as a result of a lack of key information.
In the event that I do gain the position of VP Finance, I will drop down to MAL, where I think I can reach out to schools and work with them to make their position on the league more equal relative to others. I have seen the current members do an excellent job at outreach to handle pressing issues that face the league and I think I can expand this as well.
Best, Nicholas DeVito
Aba Tieku (William and Mary)
Hi, I’m Aba Tieku, a junior from William & Mary, and I am running to be APDA’s VP Finance for the 2020-21 year. I’ll try to keep things brief. The day to day responsibilities of VP Finance are things I think any candidate you vote for could do easily, so I want to talk about what I’d uniquely contribute to the role, both specifically as VP Finance and as a board member generally.
1) The Role of VP Finance
As is implied by the name, the role of VP Finance is to manage APDA’s Finances. This job has some very obvious responsibilities that come with it, collecting dues, keeping track of the budget, purchasing trophies etc. I think there are some simple improvements I could make upon the role.
The first thing is on fundraising. It’s always been apparent to the league and to the Board that APDA simply does not have enough money to do all of the things it would like. There is a huge, untapped opportunity in merchandising that I think we should really take advantage of to solve this problem. Stickers are a good first step but, gear like mugs, sweatshirts, sweatpants etc. are relatively inexpensive to make. And I think would be pretty popular. These are easy ways to increase funding that don’t involve doing things the body has rejected in the past like raising dues or increasing league taxes.
The second thing is on accessing funding generally. A lot of people don’t know or don’t understand how the league’s money gets used beyond the fact that it pays for trophies. Making it known early and often that money exists for the league to use would go a long way in actually impacting people’s ability to access APDA in meaningful ways. Having a standardized system by which teams and committees can request funds to subsidize travel, do extensive committee data collection projects etc. would help ensure that the league’s money gets used the way the league actually wants it to
2) The Role of board members generally
The first is serving as a committee liaison. As someone who has been a committee chair for a few years, I think the most significant thing I would change about committees if I were on Board is making them a year-long instead of semester commitment. In my time as chair, one of the biggest problems is that it is incredibly difficult to start and finish long term projects because a lot of members are shifting in and out every semester. With the exception of novices, joining in the 2nd semester of their first year, and people returning from a semester off, I think committees should include the same members for a whole year.
The other thing is on scheduling. Proposing the schedule is one of the most significant things the board does but it also tends to be the least transparent. As someone who’s own team is pretty significantly impacted by where we end up on the schedule and whether or not we get two tournaments, I think it is pretty important that the Board works significantly harder to make these decisions transparent and give the body the most reasonable options to vote on.
Lastly, a brief thing on my qualifications, I have served as a co-chair of GEI for two years now, am a member of the W&M Debate exec board, and ran for APDA board before. Last year I, like I imagine many people will this year, campaigned for a spot on the board based on pie-in-the-sky proposals to solve significant problems on the league like issues of equity and expansion. What I learned from that experience is a lot about what the board does and what it can’t do. I still care about those things, but I have substantially more realistic expectations about ways I can actually make improvements.
I think some small improvements could make a big difference and look forward to talking to anyone who feels the same. Feel free to reach out to me in the next few weeks, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on how we can improve the league!
Devesh Kodnani (University of Chicago)
Hi! Formatting on this page is a pain. View my statement here: https://cutt.ly/Devesh-MAL
Have a good one 🙂
Charlene Canning (University of Pennsylvania)
Hey! My name is Charlene Canning and I am running to become one of your Members at Large. I understand that the purpose of the board is to act as an administrative body that uses its voice to facilitate necessary measures and to address the concerns of the body. Debating and judging on APDA has provided me with skills that are applicable to other academic realms and has exposed me to niche topics and overarching concepts. I want to join the board to ensure that this valuable experience becomes more accessible to all debaters.
In the past, I have used my voice to uplift others.
As a member of the DI committee, I have taken every opportunity to encourage underrepresented minorities to use their voices on APDA. I have gone out of my way to uplift students that would otherwise be discouraged from engaging in the competitive sphere of APDA. This has included organizing my own hybrids with underrepresented minorities, especially those from expansion schools. I have also communicated with those with the power to revive informal chat groups for minority debaters. These chats have acted as safe spaces where people could share their thoughts and concerns unique to their identities.
I also serve on the league as an Equity Officer. This position has required respect, compassion, and discretion, which are three traits that I will continue to inhabit as a Member at Large. My commitment to equity also goes beyond that of the league. I have experience advocating on behalf of others and fighting to make spaces more inclusive for groups of people that have been historically excluded. I have been selected to advocate on behalf of my peers while speaking with state representatives and arguing against other representatives on publicized panels in order to advocate for fair funding for public education. I have a passion for fostering the equity of opportunity.
Furthermore, all of my experience with debate, both positive and negative, would fuel my passion to make the debate space more inclusive as a Member at Large. I personally believe in a social-connection model of responsibility. This model of responsibility calls for collective responsibility and reform rather than attaching liability to a single person. Instead of focusing on specific scenarios, it is forward-looking because it acknowledges structural injustices and accepts that an individual is responsible along with others. Collective responsibility leads to collective reform. This way, changes made on APDA acknowledge that background circumstances are often the initial problems and thus responsibility falls on all members of our group to change them. It has been known to better prevent future repetition of inappropriate behavior, and I believe that adopting the mindset that all of us debaters have the shared responsibility to make APDA a more equitable environment would be best.
I intend to speak up to improve APDA, and my platform consists of two main ideas.
The first idea revolves around the importance of retention. Each year, the league struggles to retain novices that would add to the diversity of the league. There was a Diversity Panel at Yale ProAms earlier this year that consisted of people of color. I anonymously asked questions about retention of minority novices, and one question particularly prompted a positive response; the idea that having senior members of the league to turn to is a key part of retaining novices of color. If we as a league can find a way to initiate better retention of such novices, this will have a positive long-term impact. Thus, I propose two methods of action: first, to encourage all schools to have novice training separate from general training. Novices tend to be the debaters with the most questions, and underrepresented novices of color tend to be the novices with the least experience. Not only will this increase the retention of all novices, allocating additional time will help offset the learning curve underrepresented novices often face when coming to the league. Moreover, having separate novice training would give novices the chance to practice league norms such as CW and TW ahead of competition, instead of first being introduced to those things right before round 1.
A second idea is more closely related to the benefit of being able to talk to more experienced debaters on the league that are also underrepresented people of color. This includes creating a Dino database for underrepresented minorities. This would provide an additional group of people that debaters of color could contact in order to gain the institutional support that could mean the difference between retention and a lack thereof. These are both rational and feasible things that would have massive impacts.
At the end of the day, I, like you, value debate and discourse.
Even more than this, I particularly believe that everyone ought to have equitable access to enjoying debate. I understand that APDA has its shortcomings, and I have personally experienced some of these as an underrepresented minority. Thus, my motivation for running for Member at Large stems from my personal belief that I can be a part of a board that makes it better. So far, APDA has given me a voice. Now, I would like to use that voice to speak up for others.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to message me on Facebook or to reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.Thank you,Charlene
Rodda John (Columbia University)
My name is Rodda John — I’m a Columbia student on a gap year between sophomore and junior year, and I am seeking election for Member-At-Large. You have likely seen me at the front of a GA with a Diet Coke or maybe hunched over a laptop diagnosing a tab problem. Perhaps we have interacted online when you needed two results pages merged, or you have had an MIT-Tab idea that you would like implemented.
On a personal note — I care deeply about debate, and it means a lot to me. A few examples: I have founded High School debate leagues because I believe parli to be more pedagogically useful than alternatives; I call people out on breaking good norms because I think that from good norms a health community is derived; and I do what I can to ensure the highest dedication to equity on the league — be that supporting expansion tournaments through helping them tab or working closely with EOs as a TO to create a safe and welcoming community for everyone. I hope to use a board position to achieve these aims, and to foster the continued growth of the activity I love most.
I have always found it frustrating during election cycles to compare policy platforms which voters seem to understand have remarkably low probabilities of coming to fruition. Additionally, from my conversations with present (and past) Board members, much of the Member-At-Large role does not entail proactive policy, but rather reactive crisis handling, and ensuring smooth functioning of standard league business. Thus, though I will provide policy ideas (see the list towards the bottom), I will focus on my ability to engage in the crisis handling and smooth functioning of the league.
The reason I’m running, in short, is because I believe I am uniquely qualified to fulfill the two functions of board mentioned above: calmly, and efficiently resolving crises, and maintaining smooth functioning of the league. I also believe I have the background in the various systems the league uses, be them the website, best practices, or implementations of norms to make improvements when and where necessary.
If nothing else, I am someone who keeps calm and resolves crises. Those of you at Fordham, you got a more public view of that than perhaps anyone wanted. This skillset is directly congruous to the skillset that makes a good TD or TO (both roles I inhabit frequently) with an emphasis placed on impartiality, efficiency, and accuracy with regard to solving issues. Furthermore, my experience in these roles means that I have been able to interact with large swathes of the league on any given weekend, and am usually intimately embedded in the staff of the host school. Not only do I believe my record speaks for itself about the efficiency and propriety with which issues are handled, and tournaments ran, I also value the ability to very quickly enter, and constructively participate and oversee, a team of tabbers from the host school. This is a role that requires flexibility — different schools have different levels of competence in a tabroom — but also tact: issues arrive frequently, and it is reliant on our newly formed team to solve them. Furthermore, I think anyone who has interacted with me in most capacities would not disagree with an assessment of me that emphasizes rational and deliberate decision making.
In terms of ensuring smooth league operations, there are three components as I see it: governance (APDA Meetings, handling scheduling), maintenance (OTY boards, websites), and management (approving TOs, overseeing committees, ensuring tournaments can run properly). I have founded debate leagues in the past, and continue to oversee their governance. Furthermore, I serve on the board of the NPDL (the national HS Parli league) in a gubernatorial capacity. For maintenance, I think my engagement with APDA’s web presence is clear: I developed the results pages, I update it following all tournaments, fix bugs, respond to the feedback form. I also have added a plethora of features to NU-Tab. In terms of management, I support tournaments who require assistance with NU-Tab, frequently train tabrooms while TOing. And specific to the obligation of Board to appoint TOs: I am a frequent TO, and have opinions on who makes good TOs and who doesn’t. Though I have not served on APDA committees, I have served on a plethora of committees for other organizations, and functionally act as a web committee of one currently (and am working on some new functionality to support centralized registration right now). Members of Board have a unique ability to encourage norms developing through pre-tournament conferences with TOs, TDs, and EOs. It is through this mechanism that Board can encourage inclusive equity norms (standardizing an anonymized scratch framework, emphasizing cooperation between EOs and TOs) and competitive fairness norms (reemphasize the harms of leaking, review strange tab policy edge cases).
Below is a curated list of policy proposals. All of these proposals are ones that I have specific implementation plans for that I would be more than happy to divulge if asked — they’re all within the purview of what APDA Board can do, and are within my wheelhouse of things I have done in the past. Feel free to ask questions if you have any.
● Tab training for inexperienced tabrooms — open tabrooms early in the season
○ Poorly run tournaments rank among the worst experiences for competitors (and dinos) on APDA, and providing a path to improve this has the potential to have wide affects on quality of life for us all.
● Increased support for APDA Member schools to run HS Parli tournaments as a fundraising mechanism — networking between universities and high schools and sharing of HS norms.
○ There is a HS Parli (APDA based) league — they would love more tournaments — you all would love money, I have ideas on how to work on more integration between the HS circuit and the college circuit.
● Centralizing registration / reg swaps / reg breaks for tournaments — through a results.apda.online registration portal.
○ This can help to reduce the inaccessibility that reg breaks / swaps may present to some in the status quo — by making it centralized and consistent, it is something that can be explained and generalized.
○ This will also make the running of tournaments much more straightforward — many tabbing issues are a result of poorly imported data.
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 on the forum (which I am likely in the minority in saying I love).
Hannah Platter (Smith College)
My name is Hannah Platter (she/her or they/them) and I am excited to be running for Member at Large for the 2020-2021 APDA Board! For those of you who don’t know me, I am currently a sophomore at Smith College studying Engineering (rip I’m a stem major who doesn’t know how to write, sorry) and Jewish Studies. I have been on the Expansion Committee for two-semesters and currently serve as the chair. On Smith Debate Society, I served as the VP of Operations last fall and currently serve as the President.
I’ve been on APDA for four semesters and (in addition to all of the brainpower required by tournaments, APDA meetings, and practices) I’ve spent countless hours thinking about and acting on what I perceive to be APDA’s most pressing problems.
Since I know that no one actually reads past the first paragraph, I’ll get right to the point: why do I think I would be a good MAL? Based on my conversations with people who have been MALs in the past, my understanding of the job is that it consists largely of advocating for and communicating with members of the league – especially, helping to make sure small tournaments actually run and smaller teams can access them, which is something that I already spend a lot of time doing. In addition to advocating for my own small expansion school with our school’s administration, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time this year helping other expansion schools navigate communication on APDA with other teams and APDA Board. Growing Smith from a team with only a few novices and varsities last year to a strong team with more than twice as many novices consistently showing up to practices and tournaments has honestly been more gratifying than the incredible personal and competitive success our team has achieved over the last two years. Learning from my own expansion team’s successes (and many mistakes) over the past few years, I have been able to pass that knowledge onto the leaders of other expansion schools – helping them to attend their first tournaments, connecting them with their first hybrids that allow them to get better at debate, introducing them to APDA’s online resources, and ensuring that they get the reg breaks necessary to continue improving throughout the season. Some of these things may sound small, but coming from a team that has almost no institutional memory, it can be hard for small teams to gain the respect that is needed to self-advocate on APDA. As the leader of an expansion school, I understand those barriers and know how to work around them in a way that enables expansion schools to grow in the future.
Communication goes hand in hand with this. I have a really good track record of liaising between schools (particularly small and new ones) helping them, and my own team, access the resources that they need form APDA Board. Being a MAL would give me the opportunity to access even more schools and increase communication and transparency in Board communications. In keeping with the goal of long-term growth for these schools, I was able to co-run a decently sized tournament in September with minimal help from people who have run Smith tournaments before me. From this, I learned the intricacies, and potential pitfalls, of running a successful tournament and was able to share them with other teams. This included helping Williams College run their first-ever tournament in January with an entirely new team. I was able to transfer knowledge that I had accumulated over my years on APDA and help people with even less institutional knowledge about tab, league norms, equity, and running a tournament in general.
Most people who run for APDA Board (or honestly any elected position) promise a lot and then don’t deliver, so I want to make my plans simple and achievable. First, on transparency. One of the main issues that I’ve seen in the past year is a lack of accessibility between Board and individual schools. Things like knowing if your school is able to vote at APDA meetings or knowing if your scheduling slot has been changed without being informed are really important pieces of information that often get dropped. While institutionally advantaged teams can just text their favorite board member to ask about these issues, teams from newer schools are forced to struggle without adequate information. This is not ok since it excludes schools from being able to vote or schedule tournaments, limiting their already minimal influence on the league. Everyone should have equal access to APDA Board no matter their personal connections or COTY status. In the future, I see this playing out as publishing more information publicly and accessibly, especially before APDA meetings and making sure that everyone who should be represented in a conversation actually is there to speak for themselves. This means that the Board should reach out to small schools that don’t know that they have a stake in certain conversations, especially regarding changes to the schedule or policies that affect their schools. Secondly, in terms of equity issues, I intend to create resources for teams about how to deal with internal equity concerns, ranging from approaching EOFs to dealing with school administrations or APDA Board if necessary. Giving individuals and teams the ability to give their own initial, in-depth equity training and continued equity education (through Skype-in equity training for teams’ internal equity officers) is a key starting point to creating a more equitable league. This would also come in the form of a more formalized system of follow-up for people who have committed multiple equity violations over multiple weekends, rather than just at the tournament when an event occurs.
Just like everyone else on APDA, my experience so far on the league has had its ups and downs. But I can confidently say that many of the best things I’ve experienced on APDA come from the ability for those with small amounts of power to do good for others. Between my experience serving my own team and the expansion schools of APDA, I am confident that I will be able to transfer these skills to APDA Board and serve all of APDA in a similar way.
If you have any questions about my candidacy, please feel free to reach out via Facebook messenger or through my email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Kagan (Harvard University)
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 sophomore at Harvard University, and I have competed or judged at 17 tournaments this season (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.
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. For instance, I am going to BC this week to run through case construction. I think that all APDA Board members should take on this responsibility and be directly partnered with at least one school. 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. Current ideas for subsidies are not realistic or are incredible contentious e.g. $500 dues). Let’s actually try to raise some money in a way that will be successful. 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) 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. Publishing tournament best-practices
1. If we expect teams to follow best practices, these teams must know of them significantly in advance of their own tournaments. 2. Providing a best practices guide for NU-TAB/tabstaff detailing proper team inputting procedures, scratches & potential errors would also be useful.
a. Having handled the Harvard APDA tab this year as Tab Director, I know first-hand how challenging Tab (or at the very least negotiating Tabroom) can be. I’d like to ensure tournaments going forward run smoothly and are adequately supported by sufficiently trained individuals.
i. APDA-Board run tab training is also a policy I support
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 (including via the snack bags which already seem to be somewhat of a hit!). If you’d like to discuss any further the points that have been raised above, please contact me at email@example.com or via Facebook Messenger at Nicole Kagan. I’ll almost always reply immediately!
Thank you for considering my statement! Here is an emu, as a treat: “picture of emu”
Ellis London (Brandeis University)
My name is Ellis London and I’m a junior at Brandeis. Over the past few years, participating in debate has been one of the best parts of my life. Of course, the league still has a tremendous amount of room for improvement, which is why I’m running for Member at Large.
At Brandeis, I’m currently Vice President of Finance and one of our team captains. In the past, I’ve been a tournament director and tab director for our APDA tournament, as well as tournament director for our BP tournament. On APDA, I spent a semester on the Video Recording Committee. I’ve competed or judged almost every weekend this year, and I regularly drop in to judge outrounds at tournaments.
As a Member at Large, my first priority would be increasing the amount of attention and resources devoted to mental health and neurodiversity on APDA. College isn’t easy for anyone, but this is especially true for people with mental illness or disabilities. For those who don’t know, I took a semester away from Brandeis last year because my ADHD, anxiety, and Social Communication Disorder (a relatively new diagnosis that would traditionally be grouped in with Autism Spectrum Disorder) were either undiagnosed or unaddressed. Although things have improved and I’ve returned to full-time study since then, I often find myself disappointed with situations people like me end up in on APDA: GA is nightmarish for anyone who has ever been uncomfortable with or barely capable of approaching someone they aren’t close with and having a conversation and spreading can be quite exclusionary towards people who are disoriented by the overflow of information, just to name a few examples. I know that DI had a mental health survey last semester and the Affinity on APDA groups/ chats still exist (and these are great starting points), but I want to make sure the we go a step further and actually improve the league in these areas, as well as invite people outside from outside of the affected groups to become part of the solution.
Secondly, I want to make APDA more inclusive for non-native English speakers. As part of a team that attracts a large number of international students at the beginning of the year but sees disproportionately higher retention among native speakers, this has been a very important issue to me for a long time. I think that the league is partially on the right path to handle this, since many important steps to take regarding this issue are similar to steps taken to improve issues like gender equality in debate. (For example, APDA should begin to track the speaks differential between native and non-native English speakers, similarly to how GEI has been attentive to the competitive imbalance between male and non-male/GM debaters.) Of course, there isn’t an inevitable trend of these sorts of discussions spilling over to issues like bias against accents, so this issue warrants lots of attention as the league moves forward on matters of equity.
Lastly, I’m very concerned with the quality of food at tournaments, particularly vegan/ vegetarian options and food that meets health-related dietary restrictions. As someone who has tried to move away from consuming animal products multiple times in college (and is currently attempting to phase them out of my diet), debate has often made it difficult to pursue my ethical goals. Although few tournaments fail to provide any non-meat options, the offerings are usually limited and may be nutritionally incomplete (we can’t expect people to survive on iceberg lettuce alone). At the very least, I think the league should keep a record of which tournaments are better than others on this front, as there are multiple solutions that can be taken once we have a clearer picture of where the problems are occurring. (For instance, tournaments that excel at providing substantial vegetarian and vegan options should be given extra consideration for APDA meetings and holding multiple tournaments when it comes time to plan the 2021-2022 schedule.)
As Member-at-Large, I’ll be in an excellent position to advance the league in these three areas as I oversee tournaments and more importantly, act as a liaison between board and the committees. Of course, none of my priorities should overshadow my primary obligation as Member at Large: making sure all of your voices are heard. Before I even considered which issues I would put at the forefront of my campaign, I decided to run because I am someone who many of my friends feel comfortable reaching out to when debate gets difficult, and others have encouraged me to give the same opportunity to the rest of the league. Many of you will be hearing from me in the time leading up to elections since I’m genuinely interested in what you all want to see from APDA board in this coming year. If you have something that you really want me to know, I’d love it if you messaged me on Facebook or emailed me at firstname.lastname@example.org, since I don’t plan on having time to reach out to every debater on the league.
Thank you for your consideration, and best of luck to my fellow candidates.
Tori Borlase (University of Pennsylvania)
My name is Tori Borlase (she/her/hers), I’m a sophomore at Penn, and I’ll be running to serve as a Member at Large for the upcoming season. You might recognize my name from equity announcements or posts, but that does not mean you know all the things I’m passionate about. I hope my candidacy statement will serve as both a way to demonstrate all the reasons that I care about this league, as well as a springboard for deeper conversation should anyone have any questions.
As a senior in high school, I remember hearing about APDA (and its amazing community) from my friends in college. I knew right away that I wanted to be involved. After years of being yelled at by men in rounds of Public Forum, the idea of a more inclusive debate space excited me, and continues to excite me every weekend. Even after two years on APDA, the amazing opportunities for discourse and community-building that this league provides continue to outweigh the occasional frustrations. Presumably, everyone who regularly competes shares this sentiment; however, my goal is to make the good parts even more salient while reducing the inequities and inconveniences that could make this decision calculus more difficult. I believe I am fully qualified for and will excel in this position because of my commitment to this league and the individuals that comprise it.
First, I think that my dedication to APDA is demonstrated by the fact that I have taken on numerous roles and responsibilities for the sake of the league. Instead of just competing, I have also served as a Tournament Director, Tournament Observer, and Equity Officer. A huge part of APDA Board is simply making sure that things are able to run smoothly, and my actions have consistently reflected this desire and ability. I have stepped up for this league numerous times: TOing Haverford so that it could actually happen, EOing on my weekends off, and even forgoing competing at the TCNJ Gender Minorities tournament so that there would be a GM Tab Observer (while also serving as an Equity Officer). All of these decisions reflect my dedication to not only this league but also ensuring that debate is accessible to all. Serving on Board entails extinguishing inevitable fires, and I am confident that my experience and willingness to assist in any situation has equipped me with the tools to help make this league run smoothly.
Second, I care immensely about the different individuals and interests that exist within this league, and I will do everything I can to make sure that everyone’s opinions and needs are valued. Being able to understand that all schools have different, but equally important needs is critical, and my experience both in and out of debate situates me to help balance all of these concerns. Being an Equity Officer and chairing the EOF committee has taught me how to manage and respond to all types of conflict impartially and making sure that I am approachable to people in different situations. Outside of debate, 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. This understanding, coupled with my dedication to equal opportunity on the league, make me the ideal candidate for APDA Board because I will tirelessly advocate for equity.
Finally, a brief addendum that is less relevant to the position of Member at Large, but nevertheless important to me. I love this league. I never could have envisioned a space as accepting or encouraging within debate. But, there is still work to be done. As a queer, Latina, female debater, I understand that on all types of levels every weekend. However, my love for APDA and the incredible individuals that inspire me make me want to help make it better, and I hope to do that over the next year by serving on Board.
Thank you so much for your time, and please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com or (919) 561-3863 to ask me any questions, or even if you just want to chat! I look forward to it.
Vara Mathiyalakan (Johns Hopkins University)
My name is Vara Mathiyalakan, and I am running for APDA Member-At-Large. Currently, I am a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University who has served on the Novice Mentor Committee for the past 2 semesters. Additionally, for the Johns Hopkins Debate Team (JHUDC), I have served as Tournament Director and now serve as Vice-President of Finance.
To me, APDA is not just a set of by-laws, long scheduling meetings, or even just a debate league. Rather, APDA represents an inspiring and supportive community that, at its core, empowers people to have a voice. Indeed, rather than just being a place for people to blindly talk, APDA ought to have the special aim of allowing everyone to feel heard. I am running for MAL to fight to keep this spirit alive, ensuring that debate is open and accessible for all those who wish to join this activity. Whether it has been pushing for change inside the system (serving on my school’s debate board and participating in APDA committees) or outside the system (aiming to be as friendly and inclusive as possible in GAs and out of rounds), I believe that I am qualified, determined, and enthusiastic enough to represent the league’s values and follow through on making APDA a more inclusive place.
As someone with no formal high-school debate experience, I understand how jarring the adjustment can be, especially for those not at the top. Whether it has been going 0-4 with a bye at tournaments or constantly being doubted as a “serious debater,” I understand that as empowering as APDA can be, there is still much work to be done. Many promising and bright debaters end up leaving after a couple of tournaments because they do not feel connected to the league, do not feel “successful,” and do not feel represented within the larger community. This must change. APDA is great when its people are diverse. We may all be debaters, but what is not debatable is the fact that everyone at every tournament deserves to feel included in our larger league culture and be represented in leadership. These reasons drive my desire to run for APDA Board and much of my current platform, which rests on 2 key issues.
- Providing more resources/access to first-time debaters. Here, I have 3 proposals:
- First is more pre-planning for committees. Here, much of my vision for how to improve committees stems from my time in the Novice Mentor Committee. Having been a total new-comer to debate, completing a Novice Mentor hybrid as a novice my freshman spring, and now serving on the committee in my sophomore year, I have extensive knowledge about committee operations. Oftentimes, while the committee is filled with lots of great people, there is a lag in delivering actionable items because there is no clear direction from the start about what specific projects to undertake. As such, I would endorse Board taking a more active lead with committees — more closely working with committee chairs to choose a specific project(s) within the first 1-2 weeks of the semester and accompanying “project roadmap” for the rest of the semester as to how the project will get done, through what means, over what time-frame, etc. By making project-planning less vague and more active/reasonable with directed deadlines, committees can start to feel more empowered and thus, more productive. Lastly, this same metrics-driven process can be extended to other committees such as GEI, DI, etc.
- Second is more coordination with schools about how they onboard, train, and guide novices. While some work has been done, I endorse expanding efforts to interview schools regarding successful retention strategies, especially for URMs, and then compiling these interviews into some type of deliverable for the general body to see. By taking successful strategies and talking directly with the community as opposed to learning from afar, we will be able to better disseminate these resources league-wide.
- Third is scheduling pre-programmed events more in advance. Currently, there are NMC panels done at various tournaments, but sometimes, these panels are announced too late such that schools have already committed to sending certain people and thus, novices are deprived of valuable learning opportunities. By changing the scheduling/timing of these events to be more in advance, we change the narrative to prioritize/emphasize these league-wide resources. Even if that solution ends up being as pre-emptive as working with certain schools during the scheduling process to be designated “novice mentor meetings,” that gives schools more foresight and pre-planning about which tournaments to send their novices as they are deciding budgets, transportations, and other internal school logistics. Additionally, this approach can be extended to other committees.
- Providing more logistical/organizational support to tournaments. From TDing both Nationals 2019 and the Hopkins Tournament this year, I first-hand understand the difficulties and seemingly never-ending challenges that running a tournament can pose. However, I think the league can help alleviate these problems via 2 proposals:
- First is more visibly advertising and updating the “Tournament Directing Practices Guidebook.” While certain resources currently exist, they are often out-of-date or badly advertised, which render them unideal for most TDs on an everyday basis. Updating, consolidating, and actively sending these materials to school contacts/TDs, even if it reads as a simple checklist with items such as “Remember to reserve rooms,” “Send out judge calibration rounds” or “Create work-shifts,” will be immensely productive. Every tournament is different, but maintaining some form of general reminders will go a LONG way towards improving tournament quality for everything from Gender Minority to Pro-Am tournaments.
- Second is working with schools to better train judges / recruit dinos. Regarding better training judges, I would endorse tournaments allowing judges to ask for feedback on their calibrations after the tournament is over to improve. Additionally, publishing / giving more visibility toward materials that teach judging (i.e. how to arrive at an RFD, assign ranks/speaks, and be a considerate/respectful/empathetic judge) would be greatly supported. Lastly, I think the Board has an important role to play in actively facilitating connections between schools and nearby dinos, using pre-existing resources like the Dino Database created last year, to make sure that judge pools for tournaments are as high-quality as possible.
Ultimately, even if I am not elected, I am more than happy to support the league in whatever capacity I can, doing my part to make sure that debaters always feel welcome, supported, and exceptional for whatever they want to achieve. Feel free to message me on Facebook (Vara Mathiyalakan) or email me at Vara0357@gmail.com if you have any more questions!
Sasha Chuprakova (Rutgers University)
Hi guys! I am excited to be running for a Member-at-Large position for 2020-2021. APDA has been a large part of my collegiate life, and I would like to do my part and give back to the league that I have spent so much time on. I’m always present, I’m always aware, and I have learned a lot about both what makes APDA amazing and also the problems that plague it.
Why am I running and why do I think I’d make a good board member?
Well first of all, I believe that the APDA board desperately needs state school representation. The current board is made up of exclusively private school students, and as far as I’m aware, everyone else currently running is as well. Though issues like budgetary concerns and league acceptance are not unique to public schools, we do disproportionately suffer from them. I realize that a board position isn’t a platform for any individual to advocate for their respective division of the league, but rather to represent the interests of the entire body when running administrative tasks as well as when fixing problems that arise as a part of that function. However, I do not believe that the board can adequately represent the body and it’s interest as an exclusively private school entity. Coming from a public school, I bring a unique perspective of APDA that is shared by a good portion of the league. This perspective not only would allow me to bring certain issues to light, but also to approach problems that the board is aiming to solve in a different way.
Secondly, I am more than adept at handling the administrative tasks that this position involves. I have been involved with the executive board of RUDU since my freshman year and currently serve as the Vice President. Though the scope of work is microscopic compared to the APDA board, I understand the intricacies of not only the specifics of running an APDA team, but also the work that goes into managing any sort of organisation. I am responsible, hard working, and always willing to learn when I find my skills to be lacking. I don’t claim to be an APDA expert, but I promise if elected to this position I will do my best to become one.
I genuinely care about APDA and the people on it. I want to do whatever I can to make this league a better place for everyone involved. I will work to do this regardless of whether or not I’m elected for this position, but I believe that this is where I would be able to help the league most.