Its debatable…Speak Up!

March 22, 2008

Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Meeting at CEDA

Filed under: Community Outreach,Debate,Forensics - General,Pedagogy — bk2nocal @ 6:17 pm

Saturday at CEDA Nationals we held a drop-in informational discussion on current issues in debate, including but not limited to the discrimination and sexual harassment policies for the CEDA National Tournament and beyond. The Sexual Harassment Officers (SHOs) for this year are myself (Sue Peterson) and ML Sandoz from Vanderbilt. For those unfamiliar with the constitution, there are two sections in the document pertaining to the discussion. First, the Statement of Ethical Principles:

Preamble: The Cross Examination Debate Association is committed to promoting ethical communication behavior. Its members recognize that the adversarial and competitive nature of academic debate places participants students, educators, judges and tournament administrators in the position of having to weigh the merits of competing strategies that may have ethical implications. This Article attempts to set forth the aspirations of the Association for ethical and
educational debate activity. It is hoped that this statement of ethical principles will promote behavior and discussion which ensure the long-term growth and survival of intercollegiate debate.
Section 1: Competitor Practices
Students competing in CEDA debate contests share a unique opportunity to develop their abilities to analyze, research, organize, evaluate and communicate ideas and to experience personal growth. This opportunity is maximized when participants recognize their responsibility to preserve and promote the educational benefits of intercollegiate debate.
A. Participation
Participants in CEDA debate should recognize that their academic program is more important than their competitive success. Minimally, students who compete in CEDA debate should be in good standing at and be making normal progress toward a degree from the institution which they represent in competition. Maximally, students who compete in CEDA debate will apply their developing abilities in such a way as to achieve the very best academic standing of which they are capable. Sacrificing one’s academic progress for competitive success, or extending one’s college career to excessive length in order to go on debating are behaviors contrary to the goals of this organization While there are exceptional occasions in which a student with a baccalaureate degree wishes to participate in debate (e.g. a non-traditional student seeking certification to teach), CEDA debate is designed to be primarily an undergraduate activity. Competitive fairness is best maintained for all students when eligibility standards and division definitions are respected by all participants. Students should be familiar with the eligibility provisions and division definitions of the CEDA constitution and bylaws and of individual tournaments and should abide by those limits.
B. Competitive Behavior
Students participating in CEDA debate are obligated to adhere to high ethical standards. Such an ethical commitment by debaters is essential because the value of tournament activity is directly dependent upon the integrity of those involved. For that reason, it is the duty of each debater to participate honestly and fairly. Furthermore, students should remember that debate is an oral, interactive process. It is the debater’s duty to aspire to the objective of effective oral expression of ideas. Behaviors which belittle, degrade, demean, or otherwise dehumanize others are not in the best interest of the activity because they interfere with the goals of education and personal growth. The ethical CEDA debater recognizes the rights of others and communicates with respect for opponents, colleagues, critics and audience members. Communication which engenders ill-will and disrespect for forensics ultimately reduces the utility of forensics for all who participate in it and should, therefore, be avoided. Students should recognize the importance of judges to the debate activity. Students should be willing to listen to judges’ statements regarding conduct of rounds suggestions for improvement and reasons for decisions. While debaters should feel free to ask questions of judges, they should be wary of badgering judges for decisions and comments during the course of a tournament; they should recognize that the written ballot is the primary means of communicating reasons for decision and that tournament rules often prohibit revelation of decisions.
C. Use of Debate Materials
The primary creation of argument and the primary research effort in CEDA debate must be the student’s. Students who rely on briefs written or evidence researched by faculty or graduate assistants, on handbook evidence rather than library research, or materials and evidence traded among programs fall short of the goal of maximizing their development as competent arguers and users of evidence. Evidence plays a key role in debate. It is important, therefore, that debaters use evidence responsibly. Responsible use of evidence includes accurate recording and documenting of material, as well as avoidance of plagiarism, misrepresentation, distortion, or fabrication. Debaters are responsible for the integrity of all the evidence they use. Debaters should clearly identify and qualify, during their speeches, the source of all the evidence they use. Omitting the source of evidence denies opponents, judges and the audience the opportunity to evaluate the quality of the information. Claiming another’s written or spoken words as one’s own is plagiarism, a very serious offense against responsible scholarship. Debaters should use only evidence which is in the public domain and, hence, open to critical evaluation by others.

Debaters should not fabricate, distort, or misrepresent evidence. If evidence is misrepresented, distorted, or fabricated, the conclusions drawn from it are meaningless and ethically suspect. Fabrication of evidence refers to falsely representing a cited fact or statement of opinion as evidence when the material in question is not authentic. Distorted evidence refers to misrepresenting the actual or implied content of the factual or opinion evidence. In determining whether evidence has been distorted, debaters should ask if the evidence deviates from the quality, quantity, probability, or degree of force of the author’s position on the particular point in question. Any such deviation should be avoided because such alteration can give undue rhetorical force to an advocate’s argument. Distortions include, but are not limited to:
1. quoting out of context;
2. misinterpreting the evidence so as to alter its meaning;
3. omitting salient information from quotations or paraphrases;
4. adding words to a quotation which were not present in the original source of the evidence without identifying such as addition;
5. failure to provide within a reasonable time complete documentation of the evidence [name of author(s), source of publication, full date, page numbers and author(s) credentials when available in the original] when challenged.
D. Commitment to Program
Debaters should recognize that when they join a forensics program, that program commits substantial teaching and monetary resources to their education and personal growth. Consequently, transferring from one CEDA debate program to another is not encouraged. A student who is considering transferring to another debate program should notify his/her current coach as soon as possible. The student should consult with his/her coach about the desirability of the transfer prior to making the final decision and should notify the former coach as soon as possible after the final decision is made.
Section 2: Educator Practices
Because CEDA debate is primarily an educational activity, forensics educators should emphasize learning before competitive success and should try to pass on this view to their students. It is the responsibility of the forensics educator to maximize the opportunity for ethical development and behavior among all debate participants. Ethical principles for forensics educators participating in CEDA include:

A. Forensics educators should enter student competitors in accordance with national, regional and individual tournament regulations for eligibility.

B. Forensics educators should encourage their students to compete honestly, fairly and ethically in each and every competitive debate round in which they participate.

C. Because students differ in talent, experience, motivation and purpose, forensic educators should adapt pedagogical methods to student needs. In all cases, however, coaching efforts should supplement, not substitute for, student efforts. The primary creation of argument and the primary research effort in debate must be the student’s. Forensics educators may engage in limited research designed to teach students research techniques, demonstrate model evidence or briefs, or identify key areas of argument while teaching scholarly techniques in debate, but the fundamental arguments, cases, briefs and research must be the students’ own.

D. Forensics educators should maintain and teach their students to maintain, the highest ethical principles of logic and reasoning, evidence and behavior in debate. Forensics educators should teach students the principles and objectives of sound reasoning and the value of rigorous scholarship.

E. Forensics educators should encourage behavior that will insure ordinary progress towards the completion of students’ undergraduate degrees. Forensics educators should also recognize the importance of students’ development as whole persons, including positive relationships with family, friends, employers and community.

F. Because all students can benefit from debate experience at some level and because all students, at whatever level, require and deserve coaches’ attention and efforts, forensics educators should treat all students fairly and promote equality of opportunity for appropriate and challenging learning experiences for all students.

G. Forensics educators should recognize that the recruiting and transfer issues in collegiate debate are sensitive ones. The standard in recruiting and transfer should always be the overall best interests of the student. CEDA endorses the following guidelines for forensics educators:

1. Forensics educators should be honest with students concerning the educational opportunities of their schools and of their forensics programs and of the educational opportunities and forensics programs of other institutions

2. Forensics educators should avoid unduly influencing students from another program. When transfer between programs becomes a serious possibility, the student’s new coach should seek professional contact with the student’s current coach to discuss the matter.

3. Forensics educators should avoid conflict of interest vis a vis their recruiting efforts when running a workshop or tournament (e.g., granting potential recruits special jobs or opportunities), or when judging (e.g., rewarding decisions or high points to promote recruiting goals).

Section 3: Judge Practices
Judges are important to the debate activity. In addition to supplying decisions as judges, they educate the student participants through their reasons for decision and suggestions for improvement. CEDA recognizes the inherent tension and potential conflict between these two roles. In an attempt to facilitate both functions, CEDA encourages judge-educators to acknowledge their two-fold responsibility and act with competence, integrity, fairness and courtesy before, during and after each debate round. Debate seeks to be a full, free testing of ideas. Yet as educators, some feel a responsibility to discourage student behavior they find to be counterproductive. Often judges must delicately balance these two considerations: the need for rigorous examination of any and all views, however unpopular or unrealistic and the guidance and direction of student behavior. If undesirable behavior is discouraged in a positive, fair and courteous manner, the judge/educator roles can be simultaneously satisfied. Ethical principles for judges participating in CEDA include:

A. Judges should strive at all times to render impartial decisions. Judges should excuse themselves from rounds they do not feel they could judge fairly.

B. Judges should be willing to inform debaters, either through a statement of philosophy or through response to student questions, of strongly held beliefs or standards that could affect the outcome of the debate round.

C. Judges should evaluate debate rounds on the arguments as they are presented by the debaters, rather than on personal knowledge of or opinion about particular substantive arguments. Judges need not be “tabula rasa” but do need to be fair.

D. Judges should provide detailed and constructive criticism of any and all rounds of debate they evaluate. Reasons for decision should be in accordance with any beliefs or standards announced at the outset of the round. Judges are expected to provide written comments on the ballots provided by the tournament, even if they also provide an oral critique. These written comments should be made available to all the debaters a judge has heard by the conclusion of the tournament.

E. Judges have an ethical obligation to uphold without exception the tournament rules. Judges should inform the tournament director of any conflicts which could prevent them from carrying out this duty.

F. Judges who have the misfortune of witnessing fraudulent behavior on the part of competitors they are judging should:
1. conform to tournament rules (if any), and
2. act in accordance with their consciences in assessing appropriate sanctions.

Section 4: Tournament Administration Recommendations
In administering tournaments, educators should strive to insure that all students have an equal opportunity to excel. Educators should be particularly cognizant of the issues involved in scheduling and judge assignment. Tournament administration should seek to promote high quality and fair learning experiences for all debaters. Tournaments should be hosted for educational, not profit-making, reasons.

A. In order to give all participants equal information about tournament procedures, tournament invitations should include clear definitions of events and divisions, clear explanations of matching and judge assignment systems, clear explanations of criteria for advancement to elimination rounds and for awards, clear announcements of fees and schedules and a clear statement of tournament rules.

B. In order to provide a fair and educational tournament, administrators matching debate rounds should attempt to allow students an equal number of rounds on each side of the resolution and should maximize insofar as possible the range of opponents encountered by each team.

C. In order to provide a fair and educational tournament, judge assignment insofar as possible should be systematic, bsed upon a predefined process. Debaters should have equal opportunity to be heard by a range of judges and to be protected from judges who might have a conflict of interest.

D. In order to maximize the educational function of tournaments, administrators should make results and ballots available to all participants as soon as possible at the end of competition.

Section 5: Epilogue
Provisions of this article are not subject to adjudication. For specific standards regarding eligibility and their adjudication, participants should consult the CEDA bylaws. Resources used in the preparation of this document include the American Forensic Association Professional Relations Committee Code of Forensics Program and Forensics Tournament Standards for Colleges and Universities (1982), American Forensics in Perspective: Papers from the Second National Conference on Forensics (1984) and the Statement of Ethics for the Northwest Forensic Conference (1985).

The second is the Statement on Sexual Discrimination:

Preamble: The Cross Examination Debate Association is dedicated to the principle of free expression and exploration of ideas in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect. Related to this principle is the belief that all members of this community will have access to CEDA debate activities without regard to race, creed, age, sex, national origin, sexual or affectional preference, or non-disqualifying handicap. These principles should guide the behavior of the organization’s
members and participants.
Section 1: The Nature of the Academic Debate Community
It is the nature of the academic debate community to provide a forum for the robust expression, criticism and discussion (and for the tolerance) of the widest range of opinions. It does not provide a license for bigotry in the form of demeaning, discriminatory speech actions and it does not tolerate sexual harassment. Any member of this community who is threatened by discrimination or harassment is liable to be harmed in mind, body or performance and is denied the guarantee of an equal opportunity to work, learn and grow inherent in the above principles. In the debate community, the presentation of a reasoned or evidenced claim about a societal group that offends members of that group is to be distinguished from a gratuitous denigrating claim about, or addressed to, an individual or group such as those enumerated above. The former is bona fide academic behavior while the latter may demean, degrade or victimize in a discriminatory manner and, if so, undermines the above principles. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination and consists of verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, imposed on the basis of sex, that has the effect of denying or limiting one’s right to participate in the activity, or creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive environment that places the victim in an untenable situation and/or diminishes the victim’s opportunity to participate fairly. Sexual conduct can become discriminatory and harassing when the nature of the interaction is unwelcome, or when a pattern of behavior that is offensive to a “reasonable woman” exists. Discrimination or harassment by one person against another is particularly abhorrent when the first person is in a position of power with respect to the second. At the same time, it should be understood that false accusations, whether malicious or fanciful, have serious far-reaching effects. A deliberate false accusation will be regarded as a very serious matter, as will threats of retaliation by the accused against individuals who have filed complaints of discrimination or harassment. In formulating a policy on discrimination and sexual harassment, CEDA hopes to eliminate a rather narrow range of behaviors and actions from this activity. But, we cannot guarantee that the environment will be comfortable for all members of the community all the time. Often, arguments in debate are unsettling and disturbing. When one’s ideas are under attack the experience can be both painful and highly educational. The simple fact that a situation is uncomfortable does not automatically make it discriminatory or harassing. In this regard, it is central to debate that teachers and students should be able to take controversial positions without fear, in accordance with the principles of academic freedom. Being able to determine when something is outside the bounds of academic legitimate debate strategy or argumentation, or simple civility and good taste comes with education, experience and social maturity. The following policy is designed to foster education and provide grievance procedures for discrimination and sexual harassment complaints and help reestablish a working and learning environment free of harassment.
Section 2: Methods of Dealing with Harassment and Discrimination

A. Direct, Personal Strategies–the Preferred Model

1. You can sometimes stop harassment by taking direct action. Past experience within organizations and academic institutions indicates that many grievances can be resolved without resorting to a formal investigation. Therefore, this section outlines a series of steps that might be followed in an attempt to reach a satisfactory resolution when an individual chooses not to follow formal grievance procedures immediately.

a. Say “No” to the harasser. Ignoring the situation will not make it go away.

b. Ask the judge to intervene. Sexual harassment is a case when judge intervention may be required to comply with the letter of the law.

c. Write a note to the harasser. Describe the incident and how it made you feel. State that you want the harassment to stop. Keep a copy.

d. Keep a record of what happened, when it happened and who might have witnessed the event.

e. Ask another person (coach, friend, trusted colleague, the judge in the round) to intervene in your behalf–make good use of the fact that we are people trained in or learning about argument and conflict resolution. Talk out as many cases as possible.

2. In the event that a personal approach is inappropriate or unlikely to produce change, resort to filing a formal complaint as outlined below.

B. Strategies: Administrative Structure and Duties;

1. The President of the Cross Examination Debate Association will appoint a Sexual Harassment Officer (SHO), preferably a woman, who will chair the Committee on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment (CDSH). The CDSH will consist of no fewer than threeand no more than five active CEDA members. The CDSH will be provided with adequate and appropriate training.

2. The names of the SHO and CDSH members will be widely published: listed innewsletters, included in the national tournament invitation and made known in other appropriate ways.

3. The SHO and CDSH members shall be available to consult with complainants within the procedure as outlined in this procedure. (It is particularly important that the SHO be available at the National Tournament.)

4. The CDSH shall facilitate and review an educational program annually, informing members of the CEDA debate community about the definitions and interpretations of discrimination and sexual harassment and about procedures for initiating complaints.

C. Procedures in Cases of Discrimination or Sexual Harassment (these procedures only apply to incidents that occur during the duration of the CEDA National Tournament):
1. Complainants will have until the end of the following CEDA National Tournament to present complaints.

2. At any point during the proceedings any of the parties involved may choose to be accompanied by an adviser. All parties are free to consult with an attorney, if they choose to do so, but the investigation and hearing procedure is not a legal proceeding and attorneys may not be present or participate.

3. At all times throughout the procedures outlined below confidentiality will be preserved carefully whenever appropriate.

4. All written records pertaining to case shall be kept permanently in a confidential file held by the CEDA Executive Secretary.

5. Procedures:
a. If agreeable to the complainant, an informal meeting with both parties and the Sexual Harassment Committee will be the first step pursued. If an acceptable outcome is not reached, then the complainant may proceed to the following steps.
b. The complainant submits a detailed complaint, in writing, to the SHO.
c. Once the complaint has been filed and accepted by the SHO, the complainant shall be considered solely as a witness in an investigation by the CDSH.
d. As expeditiously as possible, the SHO and CDSH (or appropriate replacements) will investigate, meet with all parties involved and ensuring that the accused has an opportunity to see and respond to all statements made against him or her.
e. If the CDSH finds that no discrimination or harassment has taken place, the matter will stop at this point and the immediate parties shall receive notification that the case will go no further. Copies of this report and other relevant information will be kept on file permanently.
f. If the CDSH is convinced that discrimination or harassment has occurred, they will prepare a complete report including their findings, the statements of the accused party as well as the other witnesses and their conclusions about the nature and seriousness of the event that has taken place.
g. This report shall be submitted to the President, who shall review the evidence and, if necessary, request additional information.
h. In consultation with the CDSH, the President shall determine an appropriate sanction. Depending on the severity of the event, this sanction may include any of the following (this should not be viewed as an exhaustive listing of all possible sanctions, just the most likely): oral reprimands; written reprimands to be sent to directors of forensics and/or Deans of Faculty or Students and/or College or University Presidents; removal from future participation at the National Tournament (either competing or judging); removal of CEDA points; or suspension of membership in CEDA.

D. Appeals Procedures:
1. If the individual(s) found guilty of discrimination or harassment wishes to appeal the President’s decision, he/she or they may request that a hearing be held to review the decision. Ordinarily, such an appeal will be possible only if the individual(s) involved can present new evidence not previously considered or evidence of procedural violations during the formal procedures.
2. The Appeals Board will consist of those available members of the Executive Committee, not previously involved in the formal hearing and not having conflicts of interest. Replacements may need to be appointed to produce a committee of at least five members.
3. The Appeals Board shall review the written evidence in the case, consider new evidence provided to them, interview witnesses as they deem necessary and shall consider the proposed disciplinary action in relation to the evidence provided.
4. The findings and recommendations from the Appeals Board are considered final.
5. All reports are to be filed permanently with the Executive Secretary
Section 3: Epilogue:
Resources used in preparing this document include Sexual Harassment in Higher Education: Concepts and Issues, NEA, 1992; Sexual Harassment: It’s Not Academic, Dept. of Education, 1984; Sexual Harassment, Cornell University, 1990; Statement on Discrimination and Academic Freedom, Carleton College, 1990; and Whitman College Staff Handbook, 1992.

The meeting brought out a number of concerns about the constitution, how it is written and some things that we can improve. We are definitely considering some revisions to the constitution and would welcome input on that. But, the other concerns raised/suggestions made were:

1. The Sexual Harassment Officer(s) and committee should be more visible. The guidelines and statements from the constitution should also be made more visible/better communicated to the greater community.

2. We should figure out a way to provide educational materials/best practices guidelines to participants, including judges, coaches, directors and debaters, in how to deal with situations of perceived discrimination/harassment.

3. Question as to what procedures (if any) should be applied to situations outside of the national tournament. This included both other tournaments and other areas including hotels, vehicles, etc.

4. Regional SHOs (a title which the current SHOs do not embrace) could be named for each region and be sitting members of the Commitee on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment.

5. Issues/concerns about the area of the constitution describing possible sanctions, especially those that include notification of home institutions, etc.

6. Larger efforts to contact new coaches/grad students/directors in order to disseminate educational materials and best practices.

7. Revising the constitution to make clear inclusion of racial discrimination, gender and sexual orientation discrimination.

I would like to thank Omar Guevara for offering to help with constructing the Best Practices document for educational purposes and I would like to encourage others to get involved in the process as well, either through this blog, through email to me, and/or talking to me or ML Sandoz in person!


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: