Candidate statements for the 2017-2018 elections are below. You can scroll down to see them, or use the following links to jump to particular statements:
- Vice President of Operations
- Vice President of Finance
- Member at Large
My name is Mars He, and I'm running to be APDA President. I'm so thankful for everything that APDA has given to me over the past three years. It's been a great way to have fun, travel, and sleep on dorm room floors, none of which would be possible without the great community I've had the pleasure of getting to know. I'm running for President because it's a position where I could give back to the league that gave me so much, make the league a better place for its current member schools, and make APDA more accessible and expansive.
My engagement with and service to the league shows I have the experience and dedication needed to be APDA President. I've worked hard helping connect underrepresented and new debaters with resources and opportunities on APDA: I served on the Diversity Initiative and Novice Mentors committees my sophomore fall, and co-chaired the NM committee the following semester. This year, as the Vice President of Operations, I attended and ran meetings, in addition to keeping the website and forum updated. As board liaison for the Diversity Initiative, I helped connect them with resources they needed. I've also held the positions of VP Operations and VP Training on the Harvard team, where I managed logistics, recruitment, and coaching.
A good APDA President needs to prioritize three things: organization, dedication, and accessibility.
The most important and core job of the President is to make sure the board as a whole is fulfilling its duties. This involves delegating tasks to, and following up with, the board members, so that APDA meetings, tournament scheduling, and committee assignments are completed. When this job is done well, members of the league have the time they need to discuss what bylaws changes or schedules work best for them. This requires a lot of organization to make sure that every committee is up-to-date and each board member fulfills their responsibilities. As board liaison for DI, I've always been in close contact with them to make sure that their members were on track to complete their responsibilities. As VP Ops this year, I've kept track of the results of the discussions of APDA meetings, and making sure they were reflected on our bylaws and on the forum.
The President also needs to be dedicated to their job. In addition to keeping the board organized, the President needs to make sure that the board is always fulfilling its role of representing the league, not just during APDA meetings or on the forum. As a board member this year, I always put in the time to help member schools when they needed it, especially when it was time-sensitive. This year, I made sure that we discussed a bylaws exemption at the Rutgers APDA meeting to ensure that Tulane would grant qual points, and helped schools figure out whether they counted for an expansion qual or how many schools they needed to attend. The President has to take the lead in working with the board to be decisive in time-sensitive situations, such as if a tournament runs into a problem last minute, so dedication is crucial.
Finally, the President needs to promote accessibility. We should care about how APDA benefits all of its members. One of the things I promised I'd do as VP Ops year was to make sure APDAWeb was a helpful source of information for everyone. I think I've delivered on that promise: I made sure that the Diversity Initiative got a website this year, increasing their outreach, and in the minutes from APDA Meetings, I made sure to explain the complicated qual bar and qual transfer changes in an accessible way.
As someone who competes frequently on both the APDA and BP circuit, I've had the opportunity to meet all kinds of people, and will always consider the interests of all schools. My experience on the board has really helped me understand the ways in which schools are affected differently by the bylaws or financial constraints. If elected to represent APDA, I promise to actually represent all of APDA. I'd work with the VP Finance to help make sure registration costs and reg breaks are fair and accessible for schools. I'd work with the expansion committee to help newer schools find dinos to be tab observers. I'd work with VP Ops to make sure that APDA meetings continue to be transparent and accessible. When the board as a whole comes together to decide committee assignments, as someone who really cares about schools from all regions, I'll always try to make sure committees are diverse so that everyone has access to them.
Being on this circuit for three years, as a debater and as a board member, I've gotten to see how the activity of debating, finances, community, resources, and everything else all comes together to make APDA possible. As President, I'd make sure everything runs smoothly, so that the end result -- the great experience I'm so grateful to have had on APDA -- is available to as many people as possible.
I'm happy to answer any questions or talk to you about any concerns you might have. Feel free to email me at email@example.com , or send me a message on Facebook!
Statement lateness exempted for reasons of medical emergency
My name is Pasha Temkin; I am a Rutgers junior and President of the Rutgers University Debate Union. On APDA, I've served as Expansion Coordinator since Spring 2016 and as Novice Mentor since Fall 2016, and I hope you will elect me to serve you as your President.
This league means a great deal to me -- to say that APDA has been the most influential experience in my life would not be an understatement. I care deeply about every aspect of the league: its people, its culture, its history, and its future. To be President is to accept the responsibility for representing APDA in its entirety, from the biggest team to the newest novice, and I have shown myself to be uniquely qualified to do so.
Firstly, the President must have a demonstrated leadership ability to run the Association: ascertaining that board members and committees are fulfilling their duties, APDA meetings are properly conducted, and league matters are expressly and competently resolved. At Rutgers, I have been President for two years, scheduling meetings, resolving conflicts, and ensuring accountability. Under my leadership, the team has nearly doubled in size despite sharp funding cuts, has developed robust mechanisms for resolving equity issues and facilitating conflict resolution, has significantly increased its gender and racial diversity, and has organized two unopposed tournaments (and, this year, Nationals).
Leadership is not just about efficiency and organization: it is also about effectuating change. This year, I have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to and efficacy in imagining, popularizing, and implementing change. At the beginning of the year, I spearheaded a complete overhaul of the Nationals qualification system which rescued Nationals from the threat of never being held again without significant and pernicious losses to both competitors and host schools. In doing so, I worked around the clock for over a week, brainstorming and refining proposals and consulting representatives of schools of every size and demographic. I worked with established schools like Brown, expansion schools like CUNY, and western schools like Berkeley and Chicago in order to reach a compromise which no one thought would be possible. It was -- by incorporating five separate amendments and personally contacting over 30 schools, we were able to marshal the votes to make Nationals sustainable far into the future. This is the kind of commitment to the democratic process that only I can bring to the Presidency: I know, in detail, the needs, concerns, and desires of every school on the league. This knowledge allows me to respond appropriately to every crisis, direct political reform in the most productive way possible, and understand the concerns of all schools and debaters, from the most established clubs to the furthest expansion schools.
My candidacy not only brings the capacity for change, but also a vision for progress. APDA has, for far too long, been plagued by nepotism and opacity, where the ability for change was only available to those who were the most popular and most connected on the circuit. Not only have I shown a willingness to work with and advocate on the behalf of those who are traditionally excluded from APDA, I also propose a set of reforms that will open APDA to all those with a desire to make it a better place for themselves and the league. There are five such reforms:
1. Impose transparency and disclosure requirements on the APDA board when making league-wide decisions. In the status quo, the Board is not required to detail to the body the decisions it makes concerning the league (such as VP Operations eligibility exemptions under 5.09B, membership qualifications under 2.02A, etc.) -- I would require that the board reported to the body every such decision that it took (excepting those which require confidentiality, and would have to be approved by the trustees). Furthermore, I would impose rules that require abstention by board members when voting on or discussing decisions which applied to them, their school, their friends, or their teammates, such as when deciding committee membership and chairship (to supplement the current partial anonymization system). Not only would this prevent unfair politicization of the board, but it would also improve the board's decisionmaking legitimacy in the eyes of the body.
2. Reform the proxy voting system. Currently, APDA proxies are managed incredibly inconsistently, which allows for one or several connected individuals to accumulate massive numbers of proxies to vote on measures proposed at APDA meetings. Often, this allows for severe distortions in voting, as the proxied schools are not present during the deliberation and therefore only hear one side of any proposed amendment. Additionally, sloppy handling of proxies allows for proxies to be used for an entire meeting, when schools only authorize proxies for certain particular measures. My reform would require proxies to only be authorized for particular measures, to be handled by the board itself and not by members of the body. Additionally, the following reform (3) would eliminate the need for proxies almost entirely.
3. Move APDA meetings online. APDA meetings are often incredibly inefficient, making hosting unopposed tournaments a scheduling and logistical burden, and, to be frank, boring the crap out of the majority of the participants. Additionally, many schools are forced to travel immense distances in order to advocate for themselves, because many of the APDA meetings are difficult to access, particularly for expansion schools. By moving substantial portions of APDA meetings to video conferences at designated times attended by only those with the desire to do so, we would improve accessibility, efficiency, and tournament enjoyability.
4. Publish the APDA meeting agenda a week before the APDA meeting. When schools don't know what the proposed measures are, they cannot send in proxies or try to convince members of the body.
5. Create a constitutional committee to rewrite the Bylaws. The bylaws are inaccessible, inconsistent, and, in some cases, irrelevant -- the board operates in some areas on the basis of (undocumented and opaque) precedent. This means that the board has vast leeway to interpret the bylaws in order to benefit those with influence, and that the APDA body functionally cannot act as a check on the board's actions, aside from a select few individuals who understand the intricacies of the bylaws. Rewriting the bylaws would remove ambiguities, correct for historical inconsistencies, and allow for the league to be able to amend the bylaws without becoming entangled in a mass of conflicting provisions.
Recognize that while other candidates promise to change and reform, none of them have the concreteness and specificity of my proposals, nor anywhere near the track record and proven ability to pursue and accomplish change that I have. Take the time to go over the past promises of other candidates who ran for the board (you can find a copy here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QLUVNulUd6AvrYbbD2FuAwjEWqY-OPO-WbvuTQntF8Q/) -- did these board members accomplish what they said they would?
I also propose an additional slate of reforms which require league input and consideration, as well as empirical testing.
1. An advanced rating system to replace TOTY, SOTY, and NOTY. As it stands, there are incredible psychological and competitive harms to those awards (see the following APDAweb forum threads: apdaweb.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=17577, apdaweb.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=17588); a system similar to those used in chess or e-sports would be preferable in many ways. I have developed a model of such a system and how it would be implemented based on GLICKO-2 (http://www.glicko.net/glicko/glicko2.pdf), but it requires discussing, testing, and results standardization, a concerted year-long effort. As President, I would lead a task force tasked with designing and building such a system.
2. A guide and best practices for common sense tournament reforms. There exists a vast disparity between the quality of tournaments on the league: many schools, particularly those that are less integrated into APDA, have fallen behind the league on a number of norms such as consensus panels, calibration, tabulation, and elimination round side-determination: I would authorize the aforementioned task force to perform empirical analysis throughout the year in order to, as best as possible, determine the optimal tournament policies and disseminate them to all tournaments.
These reforms are tentative, and require much development, but I have spoken passionately about them with various current and former league members, and believe that while for many years they were out of reach, this change is finally technologically and politically feasible.
My history of service to APDA only begins at my passion for bylaws reform and accountability. This year, I have served pro bono as APDA webmaster, fixing three bugs which had been affecting the website for over two years, implementing qualification reform features that were passed in the past two years (raising the qual bar, expansion quals, NAUDC quals), and assisting in maintaining result and contact information accuracy, devoting hours of my time.
As Novice Mentor and Expansion Coordinator, I have hybrided with novices from expansion schools across the league, preferencing those who come from minority backgrounds. I have advocated on behalf of expansion schools to acquire reg breaks and scheduling positions, granted generous reg breaks to all schools which requested them at two consecutive Rutgers tournaments, found a hybrid that would allow Moody Bible to be sanctioned within a day, and went beyond the call of my committee obligations to judge and tab direct the Williams tournament, which ensured it a permanent and competitive position on the APDA schedule.
Finally, I have demonstrated my willingness to help anyone to access debate by providing over 70 rides to APDA members over the course of the year, regardless of competitive incentives or financial barriers, often using my personal car when there was not enough space in the Rutgers van, and providing rides to TOTY competitors at a direct disadvantage to myself.
If you have any questions about my candidacy, want to chat about -OTY reform, or want a ride to a tournament, please reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pasha.temkin.
VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS
My name is Harry Elliott, and I'm a Stanford junior running to be your Vice President of Operations. As a debater 2,500 miles away from almost every tournament, and a Member-at-Large from this year's board, balancing APDA with work, research, and family time has always been a challenge, but one I never regret. The last two and a half years I've spent with all of you have been a genuine delight. I wouldn't keep this activity up if I didn't love what it represents and the people who make it as enjoyable as it is.
For the last year, I've coordinated Stanford Debate's logistics and finances as our team has expanded drastically in size and costs have skyrocketed, keeping the ship afloat not only now but also for future generations of west coast debaters. I've also helped institute a raft of changes on this year's APDA board as a MAL and a liaison to the Judging Task Force and Novice Mentors. We've instituted an auto-qual for smaller tournaments, reformed Nats quals, created an all-new Diversity Initiative website, facilitated committees' access to resources, and produced (by Princeton, at least!) a standardised speaker scale and set of judging guidelines for the league.
I'm running for VP Ops for three specific reasons. First, I have extensive experience running the operational side of APDA after a year assisting Mars on the board. I am familiar with APDAWeb down to the code level, and recovered the site overnight when it went down unexpectedly. I've been in charge of adding new members to the forum and shutting out spammers throughout the year, and have helped committees create, redesign, and maintain their own subpages (most recently DI). As a coordinator for the largest APDA tournament in Stanford's history this March -- and for our ongoing bid to host US Universities (BP Nats) next year -- I am familiar with talking to multiple stakeholders, keeping everyone updated, and completing logistical tasks on time and in full.
The bedrock of a successful league is a central association that runs its meetings effectively, keeps its website in order, provides resources to people who reach out, and knows who to contact and what to do if things go wrong. After a year on SDS's and APDA's boards, I have the experience and competence to accomplish these tasks consistently. I guarantee a same-day turnaround on posting tournament results and updated standings to APDAWeb, adding new forum members, posting meeting minutes, and responding to requests from committees and others.
Second, I believe passionately in continuing to build the expansion program whose foundations we laid this year. I promised as an APDA board candidate last year to fight for an auto-qual, which passed in fall; I am excited to see the effects at the Berkeley tournament this spring. I worked hard to ensure that SDS was capable of extending substantial reg breaks to less well-off schools to attend our APDA tournament, which led to our highest historical turnout, primarily from smaller schools. I also took steps to recruit from outside APDA's natural base, extending invites to other BP schools across California.
As VP Ops, I pledge to put these interests first and foremost, and to ensure that every school is able to have a say and receive the support they need to propose policies and changes that help them. As a Western candidate, I am proud to have worked with schools and debaters across the league on everything from updating GEI's online resources to sorting teams' transport to tournaments. I will bring that same magnanimity to how I run meetings wherever possible. I will also continue to advocate for policies that help smaller schools, such as a standardised reg break policy negotiated via the board, regular reminders about tournaments, and logistical coordination for car rides.
Third, I would like to work with the board and the league to engage in some significant modernisations of APDAWeb and tournament postings. Specifically, I would like to switch our hosting provider, streamline and coordinate committees' subpages, update the VTF site and forum, and integrate this year's innovation of an APDA mailing list into APDAWeb itself. These are all initiatives that require technical knowledge, perseverance, and an understanding of how and when APDA members use the league's resources.
In addition, I will set up formal communication with organisers of large BP tournaments to ensure that major APDA tournaments are scheduled in coordination with those organisers, as well as to communicate details of BP tournaments to APDA schools interested in the format. As the board's current point of contact with the BP community, I would be well-placed to ensure this oft-promised pledge becomes a reality.
Nothing has made me prouder over my university career than seeing Stanford go from attending a tournament a month, to breaking multiple teams every weekend. The SDS and APDA community mean everything to me and I could not be more grateful for the respect and help essentially every school has given us in my time. I'm running because I believe I can both keep the league in safe logistical hands and help it grow.
Should you elect me, I pledge to be at your beck and call for the next year as a logistical liaison, board member, and debater. If you have further questions, I'd be delighted to hear from you on Facebook or via email@example.com.
My name is Jasper Primack. I'm a sophomore at Boston University, and I'm running for Vice President for Operations. While I've been doing competitive public speaking for a while, APDA has given me a place of unexpected warmth and camaraderie that I've known in few other places. Broadly, I'm running for Vice President for Operations to keep APDA a positive force in the lives of its members.
I've been a member of the Novice Mentor Committee and Judging Task Force, and am currently chair of the Video Task Force. Over the past year, I've also served as Vice President of the Boston University Debate Society, which entails teaching novices, organizing practice debates, and sharing a pretty significant amount of bureaucratic responsibility with the rest of the e-board.
The most frequent duty of the Vice President for Operations is keeping APDA's website updated. If you know me, you're well aware of my love of debate history and results; APDA Web has been among my three most visited sites for the past four years, and I'd update the website promptly to take into account tournament results. I pride myself on being extremely responsive to messages and time-sensitive issues -- as running werewolf solo last summer with no prior experience demonstrates pretty handily, I'm willing to work at odd hours to get things done. While campaign promises aren't well suited to this sort of race, I can commit to putting up tournament results within one hour of their being posted, so long as that's not 5AM.
The Vice President for Operations also runs APDA meetings and takes minutes. By and large, the open forums of APDA meetings are a valuable way to bring attention to league-wide issues, from team equity to the needs of expansion schools. Keeping a record of what's said at these meetings will help future iterations of the league benefit from our discussions, and mediating well can help to resolve otherwise difficult disputes. I've held open forums on my own teams over the years, and while I won't claim to be perfectly dispassionate, I'd like to think that I'm on good enough terms with most of APDA to be a sufficiently neutral secretary and mediator.
Finally, the Vice President for Operations will tabulate the Jeff Williams and Chris Porcaro awards, as well as chairing the Distinguished Service Awards committee. I have a great appreciation for the living history of our league -- our alumni have made incredible contributions to public life, but also gone on to lead lives of service. In both high school and college, I've actively sought to improve the diversity of the teams I've led, because every voice deserves to be heard equitably. As a member of the Video Task Force, I've watched hundreds of debaters across generations from every background and actively tried to catalogue those not just those that are excellent, but also representative of APDA's diversity. I'd make certain that the Distinguished Service Awards reflected both a commitment to excellence in service but also a willingness to listen to every nomination fairly. In the same spirit, I'd help ensure that people were assigned to committees where they could represent the best of APDA's volunteerism and dedication. Serving on committees has been extremely rewarding for me, and I'd like to help others find that spirit.
If you have any questions or concerns, I'm always on Facebook and can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VICE PRESIDENT OF FINANCE
Hi everyone! My name is Pallavi Gulati and I attend UNC-Chapel Hill. I'm President of the Carolina Debating Union as well as a current Member-at-Large on the APDA Board and I'm running to be your Vice President of Finance. These past three years of APDA have been an incredibly positive and empowering experience, and I have worked to create one for others as well, and would like to continue to do so.
Having spoken extensively with the current VP Finance about the requirements of the job, I feel my past experiences have made me well suited both to complete the necessary jobs and to serve as a representative of the league. I have a strong background of participation in APDA (previously VP Finance for my team, and served on both Expansion Committee and Novice Mentors the previous year) that has given me the opportunity to meet schools from every area of APDA and really understand their particular concerns and grievances.
As VP Finance for my team, I know the importance of filing for 990-N status with the IRS and handling a nonprofit's bank account. I have successfully managed an extremely underfunded team, creating and balancing that budget, filing documentation, and working with schools to negotiate reg breaks and subsidies. As President, I have continued to play an active role in these areas, alongside novice mentorship and training. My experience in these matters is something that would translate well to the VP Finance position since the actual APDA budget is of comparable size to ours, and would need to be handled with the same amount of care and detail, though it facilitates different ends.
However, the more substantive job of the VP Finance is to collect dues and facilitate our finances. As Member-at-Large, I facilitated the creation of a bi-monthly newsletter and APDA listserv, managed the Bylaws Best Practice updates, the creation of an autoqual for expansion schools, the editing of the Nats qual, created a Climate Survey, kept my campaign promise to judge heavily, helped run multiple expansion tournaments including Washington University and Binghamton, and am in the final steps of the creation of the How To APDA guide. As tournaments are the primary way that expansion schools are able to fund themselves, I think I've really held well to my prior goal to increase expansion access both through help with funding and ensuring they're informed through the listserv. This has also given me the opportunity to meet many of the schools on APDA and really understand the specific issues that affect each school, something I think is central to facilitating dues collections and honest discussions of finances.
These experiences demonstrate my dedication to and skills in APDA.
There are three major issues that I want to center my platform on. I believe that targeting the issues of financing, external sponsorships, and judging are things that I care deeply about and would largely be able to impact as VP Finance.
With regard to financing, being able to literally afford APDA is necessary for new schools to grow and thrive. One mechanism to do this is allowing schools access to tournaments through things like registration breaks and hybrids. I mentioned this last year as well and to that end, have worked with many schools to provide them with both, as well as creating a guide to tabbing to help schools learn how to do so quickly. However, the way I think I could take this further as VP Finance is through the creation of a database that tracks the financial situations of schools and serves as objective knowledge to tournament organizers of when they should provide registration breaks. I am also well suited to the second role of VP Finance -- collecting dues -- because the same work that I have done and would continue to do to understand each school's situation would help me collect dues and assessing teams' finances to determine whether they should receive dues waivers. Making the financial burden easier on schools will help bring in new schools, whether they're expansion schools or BP schools looking to try APDA.
The second issue is external sponsorships. This is something that I have background in: I ran a non-profit debate focused summer camp that was entirely funded by external sponsorships and work with businesses on campus to help lower costs for UNC's tournament through restaurant- and store-based sponsorships. This on the ground experience would be very conducive to the work that VP Finance does, and I would put a great focus on soliciting and working with external donors to increase funding for the league writ large. This could be through outright sponsorships of specific tournaments to help facilitate cheaper registration costs or through sponsoring of specific events. For instance, mentioning restaurants by name in the tournament packet has been a useful mechanism to cut food costs and it is smaller measures like that which could be used to help many schools make APDA more affordable.
The final issue is that of judging, one that I hold near and dear. As I mentioned last year, while judging may certainly never be perfect, there are certainly ways it can be improved. While many of the things in my platform have since been implemented (an increased use in calibration for smaller tournaments, a focus on judging myself, and increasing information on TOs and who to contact for schools) there is more that I would like to do. Particularly, wider implementation of judge feedback forms. They are a norm of BP that has been particularly effective at countering many of the issues we face on APDA, and I would like to see them grow in usage here. UNC and a handful of tournaments at which they were used this year saw positive results and facilitating their continued growth, so that we are able to catch things like discrimination based on gender or race earlier rather than later, is something I very much want to work towards.
Through implementation of these ideas, and generation of and response to feedback, we will be able to continue to create a more diverse and welcoming circuit. APDA has been a second home to me, especially this past year, and I would like to provide everyone else with that experience. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions either over Facebook or at email@example.com. Thank you!
MEMBER AT LARGE
My name is Ben Feshbach, and I'm a sophomore at Brandeis running for Member at Large. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found, through my involvement with debate, such a wonderful community of people - both within the Brandeis Debate Society and on the league as a whole.
On my own team, I've served as a tournament director for the 2016 Brandeis APDA tournament; for the 2017 calendar year I'll be one of our team's captains. On APDA, I am a member of the Novice Mentor Committee. I've competed or judged at almost every tournament this year, and I regularly volunteer to judge outrounds at smaller tournaments.
A lot of people have some powerful ideas as to how the league can become a more welcoming and accommodating space. These ideas deserve real and thorough discussion, not simply in the weeks prior to elections but during the summer and into the next academic year. As your Member at Large I will be someone who will advocate not only for my own ideas, but for yours as well. In that spirit, please reach out to me on Facebook or by email not only in the next couple of weeks but after this election. I recognize that not everyone has the ability to make APDA meetings where league matters are discussed; I look forward to being your advocate whether you attend two tournaments every year or, like me, something in the ballpark of twenty.
With that being said, here are couple of the things I'd like to focus on as your Member at Large.
The first is probably one of the most commonly discussed issues on the league - the quality of judging at tournaments. The league is already moving towards a norm of more schools calibrating their judges: I strongly support this trend and will do everything I can to work with committees such as JTF and VTF to support an increasing number of schools calibrating judges. On top of this, I would like more and more schools to use judge feedback forms, something I found to be easily implemented and well-benefited from at our APDA tournament. Sometimes these forms are offered but go underutilized because they are not advertised well enough. I don't plan on reinventing the wheel here: a lot of good progress is being made, and I intend to support that progress. The more we institutionalize practices of calibration and judge feedback, the better-equipped we are in ensuring that judges aren't relying on age, ethnic, gender, or other bias when making decisions.
Second, I'd like to work on increasing tournaments' abilities to accommodate a diversity of dietary needs. Given that MALs work with tournaments big and small to make sure that they have all the help they need in adhering to the APDA bylaws and best practices, I think the position of Member at Large is a perfect one for addressing this matter as well. Although many tournaments opt to make sure there is enough vegetarian food as possible (and as a vegetarian I certainly appreciate this), that isn't always the case - and there are enough individuals on the league with vegan and gluten-free diets - not to mention serious nut allergies -that I think this issue needs to be addressed more closely and more proactively. My own experience, and my understanding of the experiences of others, is that when there aren't adequate accommodations for individuals with special dietary restrictions, one of two outcomes occur: either tournaments take individual guests to their dining halls, which often delays tournaments, or these individuals end up having to spend additional money buying their own food later on. Obviously every tournament wants to be as inclusive as possible, and sometimes it's just a question of resources. But I do think that the APDA Board can take an active role in reaching out to tournaments (especially smaller tournaments) regarding how they plan to meet individuals' various dietary restrictions. This is of particular importance when tournaments also conflict with religious holidays that require its celebrants to change their diets: I believe Vegas Longlois began compiling a religious holidays calendar last year, and I'm sure we can build on her work. I additionally think that league ought to consider adding as a best practice that tournaments post detailed menus further in advance (as we did for the Brandeis APDA tournament this year) and designating in advance a point person for whom whom individuals or teams can discuss additional dietary needs. I'm not going to suggest that all tournaments must be entirely vegetarian - besides, many already try to be, Brandeis included - but I do think modest proposals such as these can go a long way in helping a lot of people have healthier weekends.
I don't at the moment know if I'll actually be able to make it to Princeton. There are a couple of reasons for this, which I'm happy to elaborate on, but as I final note I want to ensure to everyone that I'll be as receptive as possible when answering questions both on the forums and via social media. Please feel free to contact me on Facebook, or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I look forward to working with each and every one of you in making the league a more inclusive and accommodating space. There are so many people on the league already working to make this happen - via committees like EOF, DI, and GEI, as well individuals being there for others independent of committee obligation - I hope to follow in their footsteps as an advocate for inclusivity in this community.
All the best,
My name is Alex Johnson. I'm a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, and I'm running for Member-at-Large. I am currently a Co-Chair of the Diversity Initiative and the President of the Penn Parliamentary Debate Society, and I have previously served on the Gender Empowerment Initiative, on the Novice Mentor Committee, and as an Equal Opportunity Facilitator. I am running for MAL because I have grown to love this community and believe I can do more for it from Board than I can from committees.
As alluded to above, in my relatively short time on the circuit I have already taken on a vast set of roles.On my own team, I created a novice training program from scratch (to fantastic ends! my novices are amazing!) when I was a Novice Trainer last semester, and in my ~2.5 months as President, I have instituted a formal practice system, set up a newsletter, founded a Fundraising Committee, and established regular board office hours. I have served as an Equity Officer at seven tournaments so far this year, which has been an incredible privilege, and will serve as an EO at Temple, Princeton, and Swarthmore as well. Most importantly though, I have co-chaired the Diversity Initiative for two out of my three semesters on it. In that time, I wrote our mission statement, created our website, centralized and advertised our hybrid program, and established our active Facebook page. I am most proud of the the comprehensive outreach guide I put together that outlines opportunities for APDA member institutions to teach debate to predominantly minority and low-income students near their campuses, and I would be thrilled to liaise for DI as MAL.
If I am elected, there would be two main changes I would support. First, I think APDA suffers from a massive lack of centralized data - not just on things like Gov & Opp win rates, but on how schools raise and save money, train novices, assign the free seed, etc. Some of these might sound like lower-level concerns, but these are legitimate conversations that all but the luckiest teams must have. As many of you may have heard me lament, the Penn team has a long history of institutional problems. I am lucky enough to have many friends on APDA - one of the reasons I adore this community - who gave me advice on how to save money on travel, teach novices how to LO, and generally run a successful team, but this was not without massive effort on my part. This should not have been the case. Lack of knowledge on how to run a team just like those high on COTY is a massive barrier to entry and upward mobility for many teams on APDA, who would benefit greatly from centralized data. As MAL, I would easily be able to disseminate a wide survey on a variety of team practices (ex: How does your team determine who attends title tournaments? Where does your team get its funding?) to which teams could submit optionally anonymous answers such that every team would be able to learn from their peers on how to improve their internal structure. Making these results consistently and publicly available would benefit every single team on APDA and on balance, lead to a more level playing field, which is what competitive activities like debate should be all about.
Second, I want to look into establishing a judge sensitivity training that hopefully, with time, would become just as expected and encouraged as judge calibration. Given that judging is arguably the factor with the largest potential to influence one's debate experience, it also has the largest potential to ruin it. Having been the recipient of not only bad RFDs, but downright insensitive and offensive RFDs, I cannot think of a better place for the league to focus than on its judging. I believe a judge sensitivity training that includes confirmations of submitting proper tab scratches, commitment to abide by the tournament tab policy, reminders to make the best effort to understand debaters with accents or speech impediments, etc. would help to formally cement the kinds of things the league has always considered best practices. I attempted to begin this process as a wee freshman, successfully utilizing a Judging Honor Code at the Penn tournament last spring, but I realized that I did not have a platform to actually bring this idea to fruition writ large, even though I was on two committees at the time. One of the limitations of committees is their specificity, which means ideas that span a multitude of committees - such as a judge sensitivity training that would probably involve JTF, GEI, DI, and EOFs - are uniquely difficult to attempt from that position. As MAL, I would be much better able to coordinate collaboration between multiple committees such that it would actually be possible to produce results, and my track record of making a Judging Honor Code work at my own tournament means I am in a unique position to do so.
My platform is short because I strongly believe in following through on my promises, which means I do not believe in making long lists of lofty ones I cannot keep. If what I have done for my own team in an elected position is any indication, when I say I want to do something for an organization, I will do it - I just need to be given the chance. I am also strongly in favor of feedback and suggestion mechanisms, like the ones on the DI website and the ones I employ for the Penn team, so please reach out to me at email@example.com or on Facebook with any questions, comments, or other ideas. Thanks!
Statement submitted late
Hi people who have decided to read candidate statements, I'm Alexander Mericola a sophomore at Franklin and Marshall where I am the president of the debate team and I'm doing this whole election thing for member at large. Why am I doing this? A few reasons, first I like debate, I think it's a good time, and I want other people to have a good time too. Second, I've always wanted to be on a board. Third, I have a deep seeded power complex that makes me want to stand up in front of APDA during meetings and look important. Finally, I think I could be a check on the APDA elite as I am very poor in terms of qual points (any donations will be readily accepted). A few of my goals are, being a good person and acting on the interest of the entire league not just a single school or group of schools, treating expansions schools nicely but also realizing there is a need for well-developed large teams in the league, giving people free money, making APDA meetings quick, enjoyable, and productive, undermining the shadow government that has slowly begun to take over APDA, providing free and fair elections so that all schools can vote, and not disqualifying candidates for arbitrary reasons. Well that just about covers it, hope you had a good time reading this and have a good day.
Statement submitted late
My name is Sraavya Poonuganti, and I am currently a sophomore at the College of William & Mary. I am running for Member at Large of the APDA Executive Board. I've been an active part of the league for almost two years now, to the point where it's become my "weekend friend group." Being on APDA has made me more confident, open, and knowledgeable. I want to take any opportunity to give back to the league and debate community, as it has given so much to me.
Unfortunately, I will not be at Princeton Elections this year. I'm in a William & Mary program that allows me to work and take classes in Washington D.C., as well as participate in several networking events, and my schedule does not permit me to travel to Princeton during this weekend. I'm very accessible through social media, and will answer any questions people may have about my candidacy.
I have actively taken steps to show leadership while being a part of William and Mary's team. During the first semester of my sophomore year, I served as the Vice President of Campus Affairs. I was elected because of my organizational and interpersonal skills. I took efforts to better bring together the team's members through academic and social events, as well as run public debates at the College. I created a public calendar for the team to better organize our events, as well as create more transparency in team-wide events. I also took steps to improve the popularity of W&M's Debate Society on campus, in order to bring more attention for future members and for fundraisers. I welcomed any criticism during my term by having an anonymous equity form, and made changes based on what members voiced.
In addition, I've had experience on several APDA committees. I've served as an Equal Opportunity Facilitator on the EOF Committee for the 2016-2017 year. Through this experience, I've taken a chance to get to know different members on the league, and help further the goal to make APDA an equitable activity. I've taken initiative every time I can attend a tournament to be one of the Equity Officers, and take responsibility for making sure people feel comfortable and open in voicing any concerns they have. As an Equity Officer, I make sure that everyone is aware of the equity policies in place, and handle sensitive tab scratches. As someone who can find any confrontation to be mildly terrifying, I was able to become a voice of reason in resolving interpersonal conflicts at tournaments. Consequently, every time I attend a tournament, people come to me simply to talk about their round experiences, even if they don't necessarily want to make a complaint. I was also on the Gender Empowerment Initiative committee, which was created to raise awareness about issues that women, trans, and non-binary individuals face on the league. This extended my passion about EOF, in that I wanted to make APDA as accessible of an environment as possible. I was able to do this by partnering with a female novice and teaching them from my APDA experience.
My platform centers around inclusiveness. With my experience on GEI, I'm really passionate about retention on the league from females, minorities, and non-cis individuals. I want to work to create a safer, more open environment on APDA. Also, I would make debate resources more accessible for novices. One of the biggest comments I get as Equity Officer is that novices don't receive comprehensive guidance on how the tournaments itself work, so I want to make that information more accessible, and possibly start good practice to make them accessible at tournaments. Furthermore, I would advertise the Facebook practice pages and reach out to novices on different teams to connect them with Varsity members on the league who want to do practice rounds but also teach novices. Specifically, I would work with the Expansion Committee to target expansion schools with less resources, so that we can help retain members on those teams who are interested in learning more about debate.
I would also work to create non-alcoholic social events during APDA weekend tournaments. One of the biggest barriers that novices face (including myself as a novice) was the social barrier between them and other teams, and I think the current social events in place make it difficult to break that barrier down. To keep APDA as inclusive as possible, creating alternative social events, or even novice-specific social events, could help bring the community together. This was an issue that the W&M Debate Society had faced, and I would use my experience there to work towards that goal on APDA. If I were to be Member-At-Large, I would be happy to liaison GEI or EOF and use my experience on those committees to further these goals.
These are only some of the many ideas that I have for APDA (as well as ideas that people have told me), and I look forward to discussing these ideas with anyone. I can be reached through Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am open to any suggestions and criticism (and niceties), so please feel free to reach out!
Statement submitted late
My name is Justin Roach, and I'm a junior who debates for the City University of New York. I joined APDA by chance in my sophomore year and I have received so much fulfillment from participating in this league for the last two years that I hope I am allowed the opportunity to give back to it as Member at Large.
The CUNY team is completing only its third full season on the league, so I am connected to the needs of expansion schools in a very intimate way.The struggles of establishing a team on a league that sees few if any new members join during any given year and maintaining a campus organization with little administrative funding and support are incredibly personal to me. Serving on my team's executive board this year, as President for my campus and novice mentor for the team as a whole, has enabled me to add new perspective to an already diverse set of leadership of experiences.
In addition to serving in my high school and college student governments, I spent much of my youth in the Boy Scouts which led me to the honor of Eagle Scout, which required me to lead a community service project, as well as to serving for two years as the equivalent of vice president of my troop, the responsibilities for which included heavy logistical planning for weekend trips, mentoring of youth, and interacting with many concerned adults often. My time in the Scouts also brought me my first paying job, a summer camp counselor position, over the course of which I instructed adolescents on civic engagement, communication skills, and, surely enough, the value of debate in society, as well as managing other counselors to do the same.
These experiences prepared me well to take on my leadership role on my debate team, which has further exposed me to budgeting and team development. Much like me, the majority of my teammates join without high school debate experience, and going from being in very much need of mentoring myself to being the one needed to mentor at almost the drop of a hat was not easy, but I know I've been personally enriched and I believe CUNY's novices have been as well, and I'm excited to see where they will take CUNY next year and in the future. It is that same spirit that I took with me to the Novice Mentor Committee this semester. As a Novice Mentor, I'm working to reach out to novices who join without experience and I hope to further facilitate this work as MAL and to provide the appropriate support to the committee to do so. I would also like to see NM work closely with Expansion to help newer teams develop proper training regimes, and bring in more public colleges to the league like CUNY which will greatly aid in diversifying the league in many ways.
As the Tab Director for this year's CUNY tournament, I know full well the challenges that come from running a tournament. As MAL I believe it would be my duty to help any tournament facing a challenge that could severely hinder them and I have the background to do so. I had the fairly unique experience of serving as TO of the Binghamton tournament this semester, and if elected I will encourage the board to consider appointing qualified varsities as TO more often if tournaments are unable to recruit dinos. This assistance is instrumental but also should not be limited to Tab and I will personally give every TD my cell phone number if I won't be physically at the tournament so that I can provide my most personal assistance to them.
Overall, I hope to be part of making APDA friendlier, more collegial, and more accessible space for everyone.
Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com with any questions. Thanks APDA, and I'll see you all at Princeton!
Statement submitted late
Hi everyone! My name is Jared Stone, I attend and compete for American University, and I'm running for Member-At-Large on the APDA board for the 2017-2018 year. Since arriving at college, APDA has been formative to my college experience and I think that participation on APDA would be a great way to continue that. I want to take this space to outline my reasons for running and the goals I hope to advance.
I understand that as a freshman, there is a bar to how much I have been able to do. But even with that, I have worked hard this past year to make the league more accessible. As a freshman on the league, I know firsthand issues with APDA retention. I have experience many of the things that lead to freshmen leaving such as unfair judging, issues with reputation, and knowledge gaps. However, I have continued to work hard to overcome these things for myself and in the process, have gained a strong desire to provide that same benefit for things. I have done things to combat these issues including running a more open casebook, hybriding with other novices from a variety of schools, and making a point to be as available and open in GA as possible.
I think that being on board is an excellent way to further do this, and really impact the entire league. Having friends from schools all over, I've been able to understand the issues that matter to them and what their particular experiences are like. Despite not being able to go to more tournaments further than the unopposed, the people I have met at them from every area of APDA make me confident in what is can become and the kinds of growth that it is capable of. With that in mind, there are a few issues I want to discuss in my platform.
The first thing I want to talk about it bringing in new debaters, both through expansion and novice outreach/retention. Bringing new people to APDA is something that is particularly important to me. Having seen a number of my close friends leave the league after initially finding it a place they enjoyed has lead me to see a few ways to improve the status quo. In terms of expansion schools, I'm committed to develop current programs as well as reach out to fledgling programs that are considering joining APDA. Some of the nicest and smartest people I've met have been from expansion schools, and I genuinely think they bring good debaters and better people to this league. The first step is to provide resources necessary to allow these schools to compete.
To accomplish this, I plan on doing two things: First, traveling to and pushing for more expansion tournaments, second, encouraging more hybrids with debaters from expansion schools, and third, expanding the existing resources these schools can access. Inherently, there is some bias towards the East Coast when it comes to availability of tournaments. I think that increasing incentives to travel to tournaments held by expansion schools helps those schools get the funds necessary to in return come to more tournaments on the East Coast. For example, I think the recent change allowing winning an expansion tournament to be a qualifier to nats incentivized people to go to these tournaments that otherwise wouldn't see as large of a draw. These types of policies allow expansion schools that have a foothold in the league the ability to travel and get more practice.
Second under this, I think hybriding and doing practice rounds when possible with expansion debaters allows these schools invaluable experience to be competitive. One of my good friends at a small expansion school explained the problem as such: The lack of team size means practice rounds are difficult, and often times unproductive due to limited cases/partnerships. To many schools, tournaments themselves are the closest thing to practice they have access to. As such, I plan on pushing for established schools to encourage hybrids with expansion schools. I think that experienced members of these teams, with institutional access to resources like a casebook can help new schools improve and become more competitive. This provides experience that is invaluable in ensuring these expansion programs can grow.
Further, I think that equity is something that can be improved upon at every level. Being around APDA has allowed me to see some amazing progress when it comes to fighting all forms of discrimination, but there's still work to be done. I think at the top there are amazing people who have done a lot to encourage policies to promote inclusion and comfort at tournaments. However, one issue I've identified is the unequal use of these policies by schools. To help ensure all schools can feel safe and happy at tournaments, I intend on doing a few things.
The first is taking the feedback of the Equity Committee incredibly seriously. I think EOF's have a unique perspective on how marginalized groups experience APDA, and so hearing what they have to say is something that needs to be strongly considered. Second, I think the way we handle violations of equity policies needs to be reinforced. People make mistakes. We're only human. To help fix these in the long term, I think APDA needs to promote at every level a policy of education rather than punishment. Punishment ought be a last resort when it comes to these issues, as it can lead to feelings of dislike towards EOF's and those who make an equity complaint. Understanding why something shouldn't be done is an easier way of making sure it doesn't happen in the future.
Additionally under this, I support the policy of having teams trigger warn cases that might potentially trigger an individual. Being able to debate in an enjoyable round is something that everyone should be able to experience. Trigger warnings can help ensure this, and allows people to feel included and considered. Finally under this, I want to push for better connections between the Board, Equity, and individual teams. Having teams have someone on the Board who they can communicate with about equity means that policies that promote inclusion can spread to all members of teams.
Finally, geographic discrimination is an issue APDA needs to address, and I want to be someone that helps bridge the gap. Look, let's be real. People are more likely to make friends with the schools closer to them. It's true for everyone, myself included, and isn't inherently a bad thing. However, one thing I've noticed and want to improve is overall communication and relations between various regions. I think that having rivalries between various regions isn't inherently bad, but often times these devolve into echo chambers that belittle the opposite groups.
I think there are a number of things that can help mitigate this. The first is to increase incentives for teams to leave their local area. Better reg breaks for schools traveling a long distance can offset financial barriers to traveling. Beyond this, I want to promote hybrids between people from around the country. If contact theory is as true as APDA believes it to be, than allowing people to spend a weekend debating with someone who has differing viewpoints on cases and meta like tight calls may allow for a greater understanding of these policies.
Finally, I want to push for more inclusive socials. Two problems exist in the status quo- People feel excluded if they don't know many people at a party and if what's happening doesn't appeal to them. I think the solution is to provide a couple resources. The first is an alternative social for those who don't want to drink. This means that individuals from across the league can get together and bond without feeling pressured to do so in an uncomfortable setting. The second thing is to encourage those who do want to drink to do so at a social. Sometimes teams drink together at a tournament, and that's perfectly fine. But encouraging them to also go to socials allows them to talk to people they might not otherwise see outside of rounds and builds potential friendships.
APDA has been a place for me to meet some of the best people I know, and I want to ensure it can be that way for so many more. Feel free to ask me any questions via Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!