Thanks to Sam Hamad, a successful national circuit debater for Churchill HS in San Antonio, Texas, and a business student at Texas A&M University, for providing his reason for decision from the Tournament of Champions final round. His RFD is below:

A huge congratulations goes out to both Rebecca and Richard for accomplishing an incredible feat .I truly appreciate having the opportunity to judge the final round of the most competitive tournament in the country, and from what I saw, I don’t think any two debaters are more deserving. This was a decision I was countlessly going back and forth on and probably could have for much longer. This round/decision prompted great questions/observations from both sides, so at the end of the day I don’t think anyone will ever be 100% satisfied with hot it was evaluated. I know the debate community has a tendency to get hung up on wins and losses sometime, but just know both of you had an amazing showing.

I started off my RFD this way after the round and I’ll start it off this way now. Here’s a quote from my paradigm “…at the end of the day, if you’re upset with the decision, you probably could have told a better story,” and “…I’m not looking for you to go as fast as you can and win every single argument. Use your arguments/evidence to construct the best advocacy/story in the rebuttals that you can. I don’t want to sit there and make applications that you didn’t explicitly make in the round” Just to be clear, the caliber of this round doesn’t change my method of evaluation. The importance of execution and communication in debate should not be undervalued. If anything, those skills are equally important to critical thinking (for a variety of reasons I could expand on in another discussion). As an instructor I firmly believe in that, and don’t hesitate to admit that it played a role in my decision. When I make my decisions, I don’t just sit there and objectively compute all of the lines and arrows on my flow in a way that applies them other than how I heard them. I don’t think a post, drawn-out discussion of the round from Christian, Jake, or anyone else is reflective of how the arguments were actually explained, interacted, or implicated in the round. If every round had a “right answer” there would never be split decisions or any reason for a paradigm. If there were multiple arguments that Richard could have won on, it wouldn’t have hurt to take the time to dive deeper into the explanation of one of them and impact it more to the role of the ballot. My paradigm clearly indicates that plays a role in how I make decisions.

With that being said, here is how I evaluated the round:

1. The framing was the most unclear portion of this debate for me. I don’t think the phrasing in my oral decision “I view racism as the most important impact” did a good job of explaining my approach to resolving the round.
a. Whether I voted Pre-Fiat/Post Fiat:
i. This is the part of the debate that both debaters could have done a bit more. While Rebecca never explicitly made “pre-fiat good” or “role of the ballot” arguments, they were implicit in a) her rebuttal/CX rhetoric b)the impact of Wise and Leonardo cards and c) the “racism is an independent voter” FW arguments (Hoye + Curry). Richard, on the other hand, only claimed that there was an absence of ROB arguments and used his FW and aims of retribution arguments to link out of AC criticism. There was never a moment where he gave impacted reasons why evaluating the round any other way was better. I think it his burden as the negative to give justifications for why I should vote on a post-fiat impact linked to some FW that is justified in the context of the resolution. That never happened and if it did, it wasn’t executed clearly.
ii. On the question of whether or not Leonardo and Wise are warranted: 1. Those warrants are never pressed. All 6 of the arguments Christian makes in his NSD post are reasons why Richard’s position comparatively does a better job of addressing/explaining racism than Rebecca’s does (I’ll get to that later) NOT why instances of white privilege/racism shouldn’t take precedence over anything else and force us to “step out of our comfort zone” our approach to dealing with them. Thus, those two cards give me the only clearly conceded calculus for determining the winner: Whose strategy, arguments, and interpretation of the topic are most detrimental/regressive when dealing with race in the context of debate. The AC itself also says that needs to be the calculus, but within the context of the historical implications of rehab and retribution. The arguments in the rebuttal coupled with Leonardo/Wise change that discussion to the context of debate and this debate round.
b. So as Christian puts it best in his comment: “Rebecca concedes the post-fiat level of the debate in the 2AR (which doesn’t matter at this point), so she needs to win that Richard has done something wrong for which he deserves to lose.”

2. Did Richard’s approach to the topic (interpretation, substance, line of questioning, all things considered) link to Rebecca’s criticism:
a. The first conceded link that none of the NC arguments answer whatsoever is Richards argument that resolution is a question of the aims/intent of rehab and retribution. Aff’s argument is that we have to look to the history of retribution and rehabilitation to determine whether or not we should value them and their impact to racism. Richard frames the resolution in a way that allows us to ignore those problems. Whether or not the NC FW explains racism (I’ll get to that later) doesn’t matter. It’s the NC’s application of the FW that is problematic because it creates a lens for determining the way we ought to act while excluding all of the perpetuated racial problems in the CJS. Just because intuitionism/sentimentalism explains the psychological source of our view towards racism, they don’t address the material impacts of it in the CJS.
b. The second conceded link is Richard’s CX questions. Namely, “why is racism bad? What card in the AC proves racism is bad?” Relying on a philosophical FW to justify or explain why racism is bad isn’t necessary (and diverts us from talking about its impacts). So all of the arguments for why the NC FW does this better don’t matter. We know racism is bad, so the round should focus on which policies in the CJS make it worse. According to Rebecca, trying to justify a ballot any other way is bad because it masks the real issues (whether or not that’s true, it’s never answered). All of the AC evidence/offense is much more relevant to this than anything the NC says, Those do not rely on any appeal to moral intuitions as Christian says in his #4 (the only offensive argument of the 6 besides #1). You don’t need any moral FW to justify why their bad, the real, tangible impacts the AC cites do that for me.
c. Richard constantly claiming to solve for racism better. The link here is that a problem as real as racism (in and outside of debate) shouldn’t be a question of “which moral philosophy is best at explaining it” but instead “how can we take actions that reevaluate and better the way we view it.”
Ultimately I think all of the arguments the NC and Christian make completely overlook the broader criticism the affirmative is making of the negatives position. Even attempting to answer them with the NC FW fuels the link. This impact is bigger than “whose FW’s best at explaining racism” Instead it is “whose approach to the topic creates the best discussion/arguments about the racist problems with the CJS.” I didn’t hear one good argument the entire round that answers that question from the negative. Regardless of if some of those substantively hold some truth; they don’t have any impact to the calculus I established in the round. If anything, they just prove why intuitionism is a better moral theory than the one Rebecca doesn’t even have.

3. This didn’t affect my decision at all, but just in case you are wondering “what else could have the negative done to answer this aff?” Well, I think that’s what makes this Aff a good case, but there is definitely an answer to that question. That question is never really pursued by Richard because there are no extended, theoretically impacted reasons why this position isn’t fair or educational. The only thing close to that is the “bullying off” but I think this answers that question:
a. In an ideal world, the round would have clash on whether rehab or retribution can be used to suppress the racist problems in the CJS. The negative could have ran turns saying Rehab just masks these problems and is another form of punish. That the CJS uses racism to expand the scope of these impacts. You could run an over identification argument that says fully embracing retribution will destroy the CJS because it’s the only way we will realize its problems. That would allow us to focus on the root cause of crime and solve socio-economic problems that create racism (I know that’s a little farfetched, but it works and exists.) He could have also made arguments that proportionality is less racist than rehab and that the problems are caused by other things in the CJS (he sort of does that but the round didn’t play out a way in which it mattered). Anyhow, I think a world in which this debate happened is clearly a better link to the established calculus than the round that actually did happen. Richard had the choice. That is one of the more intuitive, deeper links the affirmative is making and in my opinion describes the essence of the criticism.

I am very busy this week with finals and real life stuff, so I wrote this decision as briefly as I could. There are probably some typos or things that only made sense in my head, so If you have any specific questions about specific arguments or things referenced in the comments/what other judges said, please feel free to ask. I will try and get to them in a timely manner. This round was a great clash of style. I think the way I teach, judge, and even debated is reflected in the way I judged it. If you want to give me reasons why your view of debate is better than mine, I’d love to give you some reasons why it’s not. Because at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. While all views are different, I don’t think one is more right than another. I think they all contribute to a community that is diverse in thought and experience. That’s why I joined debate and that’s why I love it. The cheating claims and post-round arguments can make us forget about that sometimes. Congrats and good luck to both of you in achieving your next great accomplishment.