An American WUDC organization

At USU Nationals there was a bit of discussion about creating a national organization for American universities that do the WUDC format. I have been thinking about this idea for a while and have a pretty good defense as to why it might be a good idea to create one.

The arguments against it are of the general category "organizations bad" - they are bloated, political, don't do a lot except for self promotion, and generally create strife among the members. Although I can't say I haven't experienced this in organizations I've been a part of, I also think that a U.S. WUDC organization could avoid these pitfalls. Here's how I see it going down.

1. Separate the organization from any rankings or competitive elements. This seems counter intuitive to most people. Of course the organization should do national rankings! Of course it should have a national championship! But I think those statements are counter intuitive. Why must a national organization sanction a national tournament or a sweepstakes? Why not let those be different organizations, different set-ups and different groups administering them? The problem of folding everyone into a national tournament system or a sweepstakes system is that it narrows the possibilities for the programs involved to define themselves and define success their way to their administration. Also if an individual or a group decides to act in an inappropriate manner, schools very far removed from that behavior have to defend their entire existence - as what we saw in CEDA this past fall.

Instead, why not let the organization assist in the administration and sponsorship of such things. This breaks the organization's tunnel-vision when it is linked to a tournament. Direct link to a national tournament puts the vision on awards, winning and all of the drama around bids and hosting the tournament. Rules for who can and can't participate consume most of the organization's time. This is not what we want. Let that happen outside of the organization.

2. the organization's mission should be pedagogical and developmental. The primary drive of a US national WUDC organization should be to share and develop best practices of the teaching of argumentation and debate, both within the format and using the format as a springboard for general debate and argumentation education. The organization facilitates access, distribution, and development of teaching resources for all members. The organization hosts conferences where teaching practices are demonstrated and round tables are hosted on pedagogical issues. A mentorship system is established between debate directors who have mastery of the art with those who are just developing that mastery.

On the developmental front, the organization should conduct outreach to universities and colleges that do not currently participate in WUDC to show them the benefits of participation. There should be a "rapid response" team within the organization that can respond to inquiries for help in building programs quickly, professionally and without attitude. There should be an easy to download or access curriculum guide for instructors to seamlessly fold WUDC style debating into argumentation classes at the college or university level. There should be some funds set aside to help offset travel costs for newer programs to attend their first tournament and debate in WUDC format.

3. Sponsorships and Funding. Instead of a membership fee, member institutions pay their way through service - voluntary at tournaments or for the organization's larger goals in development and pedagogy. Sacrificing part of one's conference travel budget to teach a workshop or conduct judge training would be a good example. The voluntary board of directors of the organization will work to secure national sponsorships, funding and endowment monies from national level corporations, individuals and institutions. These moneys will be used to subsidize tournaments in the US in the WUDC style as well as defer travel costs for schools on a basis of merit and need. The goal of this arm of the organization is to make sure the financial playing field stays level at all times, and ensures a balance of participating schools. Unlike some other formats, we do not want financial inequity to become part of our argumentative language-game, nor do we want to brush off the recalcitrance of fiscal reality by claiming it can be solved by allowing for more open argumentative performances. I think the organization should recognize fiscal realities and limits as the most important obstacle debate programs face.

4. National Judge Certification. The organization should create a system of judge training and certification at the national level. Much like medical boards and bar associations, our organization should be self regulating, encouraging open debate and discussion on what qualifies a chair, and what a good judge should look like. Within this scholarly-style discussion, a process of examination should be developed involving a blind peer-review process conducted by a training board who will be selected based on merit and community respect. The materials and tests should be freely available, and certification should last for a few years. The test should be marked by at least two individuals from geographically different parts of the US, and the test should involve using real in-round videos which are becoming more and more easily accessible in the age of cheap digital video.

The certification process should be linked to tournament sanctioning, sponsorship and assistance. It should be assumed that those involved in the organization will sit for the test frequently and no exceptions to testing will be extended to be considered a qualified judge. At sponsored and assisted tournaments the use of qualified adjudicators as chairs must be a requirement.

So that's all I can think of for now, but I think it's a lot to do.

Of course an easy answer to all of this is to say "IDEA does it." Unfortunately, that organization is spread pretty thin. Why not have something that focuses on our unique problems, needs and desires? It doesn't compete with IDEA, since they are interested mostly in high school debating anyway.

this organization as I envision it would be great. Of course in practice things have a tendency to bloat and become lazy. I hope those who would be interested in a vision as I've laid it out here would not allow this to happen. But I think the members would be the best check on each other as long as they remained honest, and remembered that in the end we all want the same thing - successful students.