The Future of Topic Selection Reform

The Future of Topic Selection Reform

Steven Adler

I am writing this to inform the community of plans for topic selection reform moving forward and to let interested parties know how they can make a difference outside of the round.

After much careful consideration, Paul Zhou and Adam Hoffman have elected to discontinue running their micropolitical position, at least for the time being. As of January 1st, the NFL convened a new Subcommittee dedicated to reforming the LD topic selection process. Given the NFL’s newly-announced changes (or impending changes), we do not think there is sufficient need for our micropolitical position as to justify taking the ballot away from other debaters. There might come a time when we feel such a call is necessary to inform the NFL’s changes and to express through wins and losses which suggested reforms are popular, but for now we are thrilled that the NFL is taking up the discussion.  Joe Vaughan, the Head Coach at Scarsdale, is leading the Subcommittee; we encourage all interested parties to strike up conversations with him or other members of the NFL’s Topic Selection Committee and to express constructive feedback about how the selection process could be improved.

The shift away from the round does not have to be the end of calls for reform; while I know that our decision to call for the ballot was controversial and that online discussion was often heated (or rather, that I too easily got heated), those issues are now detached from the issue. At this point, everyone has a stake in ensuring that the topic selection process becomes as optimally fair/democratic/whatever-positive-value-we-choose, and talking with prominent figures in the community is the way to access that change. High-profile coaches, such as Steve Schappaugh and Jay Rye, have already expressed support for increased transparency measures for topic selection, and it is our hope that others will join them in asking for specific reforms.

Finally, I have embedded a video of Paul Zhou running the micropolitical position from elimination rounds at the Blake School Invitational. We hope that seeing a more fleshed-out version of the case will help make our suggestions more concrete for those who could not attend the tournament. The video is also available offsite at this address:

Paul Zhou of Lexington (MA) affirms against Elana Leone of CESJDS (MD) in triple-octafinals of the 2011 Blake Invitational. The decision is a 2-1 for the negative (*Stein, Ruff, Greenfield).