Name: Butt, Neil
School: Wayne State University
Region: East Central
Years judging CEDA: 17
Short Version: Be Nice. Be Clear.
Long Version: I have personal predispositions on a number of arguments and theoretical positions, but so far that doesn’t seem to affect how I judge. I’ve always been open to just about anything, and often surprise myself with my willingness to vote on new things that I didn’t think would be persuasive until I heard them debated. If you are going for critical arguments make sure the explanations are clear (I haven’t read much critical theory, so don’t assume I understand it). Be especially careful with vocabulary or philosophical terms (e.g. the word “subject” means different things in different contexts). I won’t vote on anything I can’t understand, but if you can get me to understand, go for it. I like to learn.
Important Exception: Don’t ask me to assess individual debater emotions or sincerity. Do not make the claim that you are sincere and they are not. Everyone gets the benefit of the doubt unless there’s evidence to the contrary.
I think teams let their opponents get away with far too much. Affirmatives are succeeding with cases that there is no way a Negative could be prepared for. Negatives are succeeding with counterplans that don’t leave the Affirmative a shred of ground. I’ll buy that just about anything is legitimate, but I’ll also buy that just about anything is illegitimate. (By the way, Affs DO NOT win 70% of the time. It’s closer to 45% this year—check out Bruschke’s site.) I am increasingly concerned that certain “argument” types are marginalizing segments of our community or raising entry barriers too high, but I’m not yet ready to impose those beliefs—you’ll need to make those arguments yourselves. And don’t assume: The argument types and practices I think are marginalizing aren’t the ones I’ve heard most people attack over the last couple of years. It’s almost the opposite! :)
I default to policymaking and/or stock issues if that seems to be the assumption the teams I’m watching are making (and I prefer to view the debate as a policymaker), but it is easy to change my default perspective by making some arguments that I should view the round a different way.
I depend on my flow to evaluate debates. I don’t get every cite initially when I flow, but I listen carefully for references to specific cites, especially in the rebuttals. That said, I don’t think “Jones ’98 answers this” is an argument. “Jones ’98 says fertility is high now so the turns aren’t unique” is much better. I do like debates about evidence qualifications, and don’t see enough of them. I take ethical issues very seriously. If you argue your opponents are taking evidence out of context, then that will become the only issue in the round, and you better be able to prove it. Other than ethical issues or fairness issues, I don’t like punishing people much. For example, I think it would be very difficult to persuade me to vote against someone because they used the wrong pronoun a couple of times during a speech (and yet, I did just that at Augustana this year—so much for preferences and predispositions…).
I pay attention to CX. I don’t flow it, per se, but if you say something in CX I will hold you to it unless there was a misunderstanding or something. It’s OK if there are more than two participants in CX, but not at the same time, and please don’t marginalize your partner.
I like clear debates (fast or slow)—though maybe you should slow down a little for analytical/theory/critical arguments as those can be harder to flow.
Be nice (to EVERYONE). That includes, and is especially true of, your partner. I don’t care if your partner IS a tool—they’re putting up with you too and you’d be nowhere without them.
If (and only if) I am judging you at an ADA tournament: ADA Rules. I am a firm believer in the ADA. I don’t like all the rules, but I regard that as a reason to try to amend them, not to selectively enforce them. I will self-impose rules that apply to me, e.g.: I used to read no more than 5 cards after a debate (then I got that rule changed). I leave most infractions to the debaters to point out, e.g.: full cites, counterplan theory, etc. Don’t bother arguing that I shouldn’t follow the rules. Feel free to debate about how the rules should be enforced, and whether certain punishments fit certain crimes. I will vote on these issues (I have done so in the past).
I totally love debate. I wish I could still debate. Good Luck, folks!