El Cerrito DS Victorious at the UOP Jon Schamber Invitational

Thirty-two open teams and eleven novice teams congregated at the University of Pacific for the Jon Schamber Invitational on October 26th through October 28th in Stockton, California. In the final round, El Cerrito’s Audrey Dowling & Maxime St-Jean defeated Archbishop Mitty’s Jon Telebrico & Mayank Killedar on a 2-1 decision, debating the resolution,“This House should take a knee.”

During the round, both teams agreed that the metaphor resolution was about NFL protests concerning United States racial tensions. El Cerrito argued that “taking a knee” would lead to better activism by highlighting racial divides and social injustice. Meanwhile, Archbishop Mitty contended that “taking a knee” increased potential for polarization and backlash, while also masking the need for real social change.

One judge on the panel suggested that one way of clearing up metaphorical aspect of the resolution was by looking at the resolution in a policy lens, thus creating ground for trichotomy arguments in the resolutional analysis. Curiously enough, the tournament explicitly stated in their tournament invite packet that there would be no metaphor topics given. Any reasoning for overriding tournament rules was not provided during the tournament.

This three-day tournament featured five preliminary rounds, with a break to octofinals for both the open and the novice divisions. Compared to last years nearly 70 competing teams, this year’s open pool featured barely 35. The parli prep room was located in Grace Covell Hall— the same building that facilitated postings, tabbing, and ballot distribution. Many competitors noticed the tournament directors trying to push out ballots for different events to any adult or coach present, regardless of anyone’s predetermined judging obligations. This may have been a factor in delaying topic announce times, round times, and consequently, the entire tournament.

Archbishop Mitty’s Jon Telebrico said, “The general feeling of the competitors was just that of disappointment because we expected an efficient tournament but got bogged down by UOP’s lack of punitive measures for schools that didn’t meet their judging obligations.”

UOP’s lack of organized ballot pushing also impacted many of the in-round dynamics that competitors experienced. Thinking that their assigned judges were more flow-oriented, teams wrote out technical arguments during prep time, only to enter their rounds with completely different judges than expected.

Since the ballots were pushed out to any available adult on the campus, many first time judges were unfamiliar with the procedures of parliamentary debate and the speaker point system. Friendship Academy’s Esha Dadbhawala said, “[the tournament] didn’t give a baseline for speaker points,” causing many first time judges to be unfamiliar with the speaker point system, using the entire 0-30 scale rather than the milder, normal range of 20-30.

Additionally, Archbishop Mitty’s Jon Telebrico and Mayank Killedar noted that in their second preliminary round, the partnership was awarded an average of 22 speaker points, even though nothing egregious occurred. Another point of concern regarding the tournament’s transparency was when the tournament’s website explained their use of the previous 7-7-7-7-5-5 speech times, but then hastily making an announcement before Round 1 to change the times to the newer 7-8-8-8-4-5 format.

Lack of room vacancy due to concurrent flighting of multiple events also contributed to delays. For instance, two teams who wish to remain anonymous experienced an hour delay in starting their first preliminary round due to a public forum round taking place. This issue persisted for many other rounds as well, pushing the tournament late into the Friday evening until 11 PM. In addition, with a 10 minute forfeit rule, debaters ran to find their designated rooms, with many finding the campus difficult to navigate even with the help of a map. Enforcement of the forfeit rule fell flat when teams who arrived at rooms that were occupied had to wait past 10 minutes to start rounds anyways.

With more and more tournaments shifting towards an online tabbing system, many debaters agreed that UOP could have been more efficient had it used digital rather than paper ballots. Friendship Academy’s Suhas Kotha said the tournament “would have been a lot better if it was run on Tabroom and the ballots were uploaded on the website.”