TOC Announces Conflict Requirements

TOC Director Andrea Reed has sent out an email pertaining to the TOC’s conflict policy for this year. Please read the following carefully. In addition, feel free to discuss whom you will be conflicting/any concerns in the comment section below.

She writes:

“I have been asked to send out this language again regarding the definition of conflicts.

TOC Statement on Conflicts of Interest in Judging – Lincoln-Douglas.

Fair competition requires not merely the absence of impropriety but also the appearance of impropriety. A conflict of interest is a relationship that might reasonably be thought to bias a judge toward or against a competitor. Such relationships may themselves be quite innocent, but they could reasonably be thought to compromise a judge’s impartiality. The Lincoln Douglas TOC Advisory Committee has drafted these guidelines to be implemented at this year’s Tournament of Champions.

Making judge changes after a pairing has been released really hurts debaters because, in many instances, it is tough to find qualified judges once the rounds have started. Aside from judges simply not showing up to rounds, another reason this happens is because people do not declare their conflicts prior to the tournament.

A judge must recuse himself or herself from judging a student under the following conditions:

1. The judge and the student may be perceived to have a competitive or financial agreement that may bias the judge’s impartial evaluation of the round. Examples include but are not limited to:

a) The student attends a school (or a collaboration of schools) that the judge attended, coached for, or competed with.

NOTE: Two potential exceptions to this guideline would be that if the TOC Advisory committee (or a quorum thereof), felt that enough time has passed since that judges attendance at the school to resolve concerns of impropriety. In addition, if both coaches felt comfortable with a judge that graduated from a school of one of the competitors, the tab room may allow that judge placement.

b) The judge has a paid or unpaid coaching, consulting, or judging relationship with the student or school during the same academic year. NOTE: Serving a tournament-hired judge does not constitute a conflict of interest.

c) The judge has received or provided expressed or implied offers to provide future coaching, consulting, or judging to a school or student.

d) The judge has provided exclusive pre-round preparation to a student either before or during a tournament through any method including electronically, verbally, or through the transfer of resources. NOTE: Sharing of information does not constitute preparation but the discussion of strategies, arguments, evidence, etc would constitute preparation. If such preparation is provided during a tournament, the judge should immediately (before pairings are released) recluse himself or herself from judging the student they prepared for the rest of the tournament. If practice rounds before or during the tournament has occurred between schools that a judge is fulfilling obligations for and could potentially judge, that would be defined as preparation and all parties should consider that a conflict.

2. The judge and the student may be perceived to have a personal or social arrangement that may bias the judge’s impartial evaluation of the round. Examples include but are not limited to:

a) The judge and the student may be perceived to have had a personal relationship that may bias the judge’s impartial evaluation of the round.

b) The judge and the student are or have been in a familial, physical, or emotional relationship.

c) The judge and the student have communications of a personal nature over e-mail, telephone, or the Internet including social networking sites that goes beyond casual exchanges. For example, communications that are extensive and/or repetitive may create a conflict. Judges who socialize with the student outside of the competition arena are considered to have established a personal or social relationship with that student.

3. The judge does not believe they are able to fairly and impartially adjudicate a competition involving a particular student for whatever reason. A judge may choose to recuse himself or herself from adjudicating a student under the following conditions (If these conditions exist, it is the affirmative duty of the judge to make such information publicly available prior to the round beginning):

a) The judge shares transportation and/or lodging with the student’s team on a regular basis.

b) The judge has a personal, financial, or familial relationship with the student’s coach or member of the student’s family.

c) The judge is an administrator of, currently employed by, or anticipates employment from a forensics related enterprise with whom a financial or advisory relationship exists or is sought with the student. NOTE: While these guidelines do not prohibit lab leaders/institute staff from judging their lab students at the TOC. However, if those lab leaders maintain consistent contact with those students and/or engage in personal relationships with them, they should recuse themselves from judging those specific individuals.

The expectation of competitors, judges, and coaches at the TOC is to engage in the highest levels of professionalism and integrity. The tournament may remove all mutual preference requests for all students from a school/schools if a judge associated with that school fails to adhere to these guidelines. The offending judge will also be removed from the judging pool for the rest of the tournament and that school required to pay a fee to cover all rounds remaining at the tournament. In any case, schools must provide judges that fit criteria of being usable by the tab room to actually fulfill its judge commitment.

While the responsibility is on judges to aide transparency, the responsibility exists for coaches and student competitors as well. The tournament will remove all mutual preference requests for all students from a school if a coach or debater fails to disclose known pertinent information regarding a violation of the guidelines above. It is the affirmative duty of all coaches and debaters to assist efforts in transparency. No decisions will be modified as a result of disclosed information. The Tournament of Champions does reserves the right to restrict student and school participation in this years tournament, and future tournaments, if an egregious violation of the rules occurs. The TOC Advisory Committee (or a quorum thereof) shall be empowered to adjudicate such a dispute and its decision shall be final. Appeal of the decision to the Tournament Director shall be at the sole discretion of Tournament Director or a designated agent(s).”