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jennyh

Card clipping

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Debaters and Coaches,

 

I am not sure if I have just been more sensitive to the issue or if it has actually gotten worse... But, I have noticed so much card clipping and cross reading lately. It has ranged from "forgetting" to mark cards to serious cheating where people make zero sense in the middle of cards until someone is standing over them.

 

It stinks for you all to debate these folks--time pressure is such a big element of debate that clipping is a MAJOR advantage. I also know that most judges would prefer to just avoid the issue. So, it seems to carry no consequenses. People win debates, their opponents may be suspicious, but it is rewarded with wins.

 

As a community, we need to give this some thought...

 

Should we...

1) Carry tape recorders to catch and maybe deter offenders?

2) Urge judges to yell "clear" when cards are incoherent and focus in on the issue?

3) Urge judges to unilaterally vote on it when they are positive?

4) Have debaters point it out? Why? Cheating in every other game is up to adults watching the game. Thoughts?

5) Talk more to our own teams about the issue?

6) ???

 

The college community went through some major discussions on this issue and it seemed to make a big difference. Clipping became so shameful that most people stopped. The "oh well, it is going to happen" feeling was replaced by "this is a big issue and needs to stop, now." I think that it is time for the same process to happen in HS.

 

Debaters, I am starting on cross-x because I think that you all may have more influence on this issue than the handful of adults I usually talk to. What norms do we need as a community?

 

Jenny Heidt

Westminster, Atlanta

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Jenny,

 

Thank you for raising this issue. I've noticed it as well and it is something that concerns me a great deal. I am personally reticent to yell "clear" throughout someone's entire speech. It seems to overpower their speech somehow, but it doesn't mean I'm not paying attention.

 

My personal perspective on this issue is if I know you are clipping cards a) your speaks will be tanked and B) you will not get the benefit of whatever highlighting you have put in the card But I agree this alone doesn't fix the issue.

 

I think communicating concerns of this level to coaches (as well as debaters) is critical, because at the end of the day those are the people that work with these teams consistently, and that is necessary for change.

 

My teams know, from a very early stage, that clipping cards is unacceptable.

 

If I were positive a team was clipping cards, I would not hesitate to nuke their speaks, only count the parts of the card they actually read, and talk to their coach later. All three of these actions are necessary to ensure these practices don't continue. The first two punish them in the round, the last makes sure they hear about it later.

 

That said, I've had my hunches before, and have not been able to follow through. I like the tape recorder idea, as it lends back up to one's suspicions...but I don't think shame enough solves the problem. I think that it is only effective if it is reflected in speaker points and wins/losses.

 

You're right, it's time to have this conversation in high school. Thank you for starting it.

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I view card clipping, and many forms of performative dishonesty in debate, as a symptom of a much larger plague within the debate community - the practice of voting for dropped arguments. I liken the situation as eerily similar to the debate-world criticism of government policies such as the drug war, branding them bandaid solutions not targeting the real problem which resides in the illegality of drugs.

 

Instead of determining rounds on the basis of whose arguments and performative skills as a debater were superior in any given round, judges have begun to take 'the easy way out' and vote on drops. The practice of voting on drops encourages debaters to simply provide a large number of arguments on the judge's flow with little to no regard for the quality of those arguments. Dont get me wrong, I think some drops are very worthy of the ballot. Should a turn on a disad be well-articulated, warranted and dropped, then certainly such a large concession is unexcusable.

 

I view card clipping and general performative dishonesty as symptoms of this problem. In any competitive activity, the competitors seek an edge to give them a leg up on their competition. This often results in the breaking of rules (see NFL's Bill Belichik). Card clipping exists for no purpose other than providing more responses to an argument, or more cards to an argument and forcing one's competitors to drop more arguments, thus enabling the team to extend the drops as concessions which merit the ballot.

 

To demonstrate the absurdity of this situation, I encourage you, and others (especially judges and coaches) to read this thread and with specific reference to the dialogue about warrants in evidence.

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I yell ``clear.'' I flow the warrants of evidence. If I cannot make them out, then I cannot be certain that they exist. If a debater continues to be unclear, I'll continue to say ``clear'' louder. I also sometimes say ``slower''. If it is particularly sever, I may completely interrupt the speech with several words such as ``you need to be clearer.''

 

I believe that clipping cards is just as bad as fabricating evidence or quoting evidence out of context. I'll give both speakers 0 points. If the other team points it out and is correct, I'll reward them with 30's. However, if a team makes an ethical challenge they cannot back, then they lose the debate.

 

If fabrication or distortion of evidence (which _I_ believe includes card clipping) occurs at the Novice or Varsity State tournament in Michigan, the following applies -

 

The individual or team that is alleged to have violated one of the guidelines for use of evidence in a round of debate will then have five days to respond in writing through its director of debate to the particular allegations. The MIFA Forensic Council or its representative will then consider the issue with the option of implementing sanctions which may include the forfeiture of a round of debate, the rescinding of awards, and/or specific sanctions against the individual debater(s), director(s), and/or school(s), such as the expulsion of the individual, director, or school from future MIFA events.

 

For the NDT tournament in college, the following applies to distortions and fabrication -

2. Adjudicating evidence challenges.

a. The individual judge in a round shall make his or her own judgment on the basis of materials available to him or her at the time. If he or she determines that distortion and/or falsification has occurred, he or she shall award the offending team a loss and award zero speaker points to the offending speaker(s). In situations where both teams have violated the evidence integrity standards, both teams may receive a loss.

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I won't mention the team or tournament, but last year there was a round I was in where it became apparent to me that the other team was clipping cards. I stood up and read over their cards as they spoke - this apparently didn't deter them because it continued to happen and I annotated each sentence I heard read.

 

I made a short theory argument in the 1AR and debated the rest of the issues. The 2NR's response was basically "no, I didn't," and the rest of the debate, and my partner extended the argument and also debated everything else.

 

At the end of the round, although we won the debate based on merit (not that i remember what it was otherwise about), the judge said that although card clipping was a very serious ethical issue to her, it was impossible for her to verify the examples of 2NC cards that were clipped that we presented and she was forced to evaluate the debate in ignorance of that.

 

Just a sad little anecdote.

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Card clipping happens, its serious, and puts a team at a serious advantage. There are only two realistic solutions.

 

1. Make it the responsibility of the other team to assure that all cards are marked- e.g. before cross-x starts, please mark exactly what/where you read.

2. The stand over routine.

 

Ultimately disciplinary tools the judge will use (like recording, calling a team out etc) is probably not good either. We shouldn't go on a quest to hunt down people who card clip. It is hard to tell who is clipping, especially when teams over-highlight there ev as is.

 

IF the other team wants to call them out, its a serious ethical question that should be dealt with I suppose. But how does one weigh which infractions are worse then others. E.g. stealing prep, cutting cards via internet in rounds, getting outside help during the round etc.

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I believe that clipping cards is just as bad as fabricating evidence or quoting evidence out of context. I'll give both speakers 0 points. If the other team points it out and is correct, I'll reward them with 30's. However, if a team makes an ethical challenge they cannot back, then they lose the debate.

 

See, this worries me a bit - teams can't always neccessarily prove that an opponent is clipping, and would be too frightened by the possibility of losing to bring up the issue...

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But how does one weigh which infractions are worse then others. E.g. stealing prep, cutting cards via internet in rounds, getting outside help during the round etc.

 

I pretty sure "stealing prep" although annoying and will result in point deductions (from me anyway) is very distinct from the other issues mentioned.

 

In terms of in round research I don't see this as being dishonest as much as it privlidges those with internet access. You have to have some skill to find an article, cut it, and quote it in such a small amount of time. But rules are rules.

 

Outside help (which is largely a myth), clipping cards, falsifying evidence, stealing evidence (not cites but taking actual files in an attempt to sabotage a team), or use of physical violence should be rejected in no uncertain terms and result in some level of punishment (like taking them out and beating them behind a shed, but then that violates the violence rule and would result in a literal cycle of violence).

 

Personally not a big fan of the cheating.

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See, this worries me a bit - teams can't always neccessarily prove that an opponent is clipping, and would be too frightened by the possibility of losing to bring up the issue...

 

One of the semis at Witchita State last year was decided based on the lack of proof for an ethics violation (card clipping).

 

It does not seem that there can or will ever be proof of clipping, baring the use of tape recorders, which are very uncommon. As a judge (and I know this is fairly common), I flow the first and last word of each card read. That way if there is an ethics violation it is easy to evaluate. However, as a debater, I agree that I would feel very at ease to base a round on something I could not prove were the judge not flowing a very specific way.

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I think simply refusing to vote for unwarranted evidence is sufficient. If I hear evidence in which a large part of the warrants were left out because of clipping, I would be lost on the argument. I dont think I would vote for it.

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This works if all of the evidence read by a team on a position is unwarranted, but what happens when the teams only clip some of the cards, or perhaps if they only clip out some of the warrants and read some of the others. Then it becomes easy for them to claim they read the entire card and extend warrants they did not read. I have yet to meet a judge who could remember or flow all of the warrants in all of the cards that were read in a round. I know of no good check against this besides the coaching and judging community to strongly advise against the practice.

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The problem with solutions to clipping is that not all instances will be caught. If someone clips in 100% of their debates and gets docked points or ev doesnt count in a handful of them then they are still getting a huge competitive advantage.

 

The penalty needs to be severe enough to actually work as a deterrent, and we all know what the most effective deterrent is.

 

The death penalty.

 

If we killed just one debater a tournament card clipping would disappear. And the great thing about the DP is the debater we kill doesn't even have to be a clipper!! The signal works regardless, so no pesky problems with how do you prove it.

 

The Lottery, Omelas, Brothers Karamazov, all address this basically on poitn and conclude, if i remember correctly, that yes, we should kill a debater every tournament for card clipping.

 

 

But seriously, card clipping should be called out by the other team, throw the challenge flag, the judge should be paying enough attention to know whats up. If the other team doesnt object to clippign I think its no differant from not objecting to conditionality.

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If the other team doesnt object to clippign I think its no differant from not objecting to conditionality.

 

Card clipping is more akin to actual cheating than theory based arguments. I view clipping as something similar to a made up source (ex. a team that writes solvency cards for their own 1AC and invents a source to cite for them) and should be evaluated more as a violation of tournament rules than as an argument in round.

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A way to solve this that would improve the overall communication of the round would be to hold the debaters to the following standard: cards that are read don't count as being read unless the judge can understand what you're saying and comprehend it, and cards should not be called for unless the two teams disagree on a specific point that requires reading the context or looking for a specific word.

Currently, cards are just sort of game pieces thrown out there, and all that counts is saying the words in the card. Debaters should read the evidence so the judge can understand it the first time is read. This would improve the evidence comparison during the round and make it so that judges don't vote based upon an unextended warrant from a card. All too often debates are decided by whose evidence is better on the question and not whose evidence was used better on the question in the round. Yes, good cards should have value, but the way many debates end up happening would be like judging a football game based upon whose players were bigger, stronger, and faster--while those qualities really help, and usually do determine the way the game turns out, they are secondary to the actual play.

 

This would solve for card clipping because what matters is what the judge hears, not what lines are read. Clipping wouldn't have any value in this world.

 

And credit Gordon Mitchell for most of these ideas. I don't know where it is but I read an article a while back that was very convincing about this.

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Good to see we are trying to inspire shame and not guilt.

 

The problem of card cutting is one I can't say I have encountered in my short years, but I have to agree with Teddy's idea. Judges call for evidence even when it isn't contested, which has 2 implications: 1. big name schools have an even better edge because they usually have good cards, which means even when they lose a round on the flow they can pick up for having that techy new heg card that only had 1 warrant extended. 2. Debaters just become better. If you can't just assert the judge look at your card, and are forced to explain WHY, you learn your arguments better, and grow as a debater.

 

Really, why are cards always called for, after almost every round, even when it's only extended as a tagline?

 

EDIT: 100th post!

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Good judges will read evidence only to verify that the warrants people extend are actually in the card. Only a bad judge would evaluate warrants in a card that are never explained and do comparative work between cards on opposing sides. Teams often make fabulous claims in late rebuttals and extend random pieces of evidence that may or may not support them, and because having evidence counts for a lot in debates, ensuring that people stick to what's written in each card is important. Even if people minimally extend them.

 

In other words, saying "even a small economic recession in Russia, India, or China, would cause terrorism, global warming, and would halt space colonization - that's Mead" would clearly call for this - that's blatant misinterpretation of the card and stuff like that should have a check

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The problem of card cutting is one I can't say I have encountered in my short years, but I have to agree with Teddy's idea.

 

 

Glad to know that you care about clarity after debating w/ you at camp and not being able to understand half of what you said. :)

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I try to audio or audio/video record all the debates that I judge. Most of the time the major purpose of the recordings is educational (I give the debaters copies), but probably about 3 times a year I will use them after rounds to catch someone clipping cards. Which is sad, given that there's an entire paragraph on my judging philosophy (which I hand to kids I judge) that says I'll vote on card clipping. I don't really care if the argument was important in the round or not, or whether the other team notices. If I notice and can prove it, that's game over. While it's not always obvious that someone is clipping or cross-reading etc., I will mark my flow when I suspect it and ask to see the evidence after the round. I probably don't catch all the instances of it and I only have these suspicions in 5-6 debates each year. I'd say that my suspicions are right about 75% of the time.

 

Though as mentioned the overwhelmingly most frequent purpose of my debate recordings is the education of the kids, I started recording debates in imitation of MSU college debaters Eric Cornellier and John Sullivan who would bring miniature tape recorders to their debates in order to catch their opponents. I know there are other ways to catch people such as writing down the first and last word spoken, but frankly I'd rather try to keep up with writing down arguments and my method of catching cheaters is pretty darn accurate.

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Sounds like a much bigger problem than I thought it was, guess I don't listen as carefully as I thought :P I think the easiest solution is to yell clear and if it becomes VERY apparent, or in other words, the judge is 100 percent sure, the coaches of the other team should be notified. This is an ethical issue, and should be dealt with by the debater's "supervisors" or coaches in other words. Think thats probably the easiest way to deal with it.

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I hate to say it, but people who insist on cheating will always find a way. While there may be something that can be done to discourage it, at the root level it comes down to the integrity of the participants.

 

With that said, private schools with honor codes should make sure that their debaters understand that the honor code applies at debate tournaments just as much as it applies during normal school. As for public schools, I don't know what to tell you.

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In my opinion, there are two clear ways to stop this problem.

1) Judges make sure to yell "clear" if they can't understand what they are saying even if it is during reading a card (parts that won't normally be flowed even if read clearly). As a judge I always say clear if I don't understand it and as a college debater I personally prefer judges who yell clear if I or opponents are unclear because I feel it prevents cheating and while I don't cheat I feel like it allows me to regulate myself by understanding what is heard from third-person. So when in doubt, yell "clear," I dislike it when people don't and then complain after the debate that a debater was unclear. This solution makes sure judges understand if what is spoken makes sense.

 

2) Force debate to become slower paced activity. I think a lot of people spread because of the strategic advantage and many people would probably be willing to go slower at a more conversational pace if they knew their opponent had to go slower as well. I personally spread but not so much because I love to spread but moreso that I have to in order to balance out my opponents' rate of delivery. When my opponents do not spread, I normally speak slower. Yes, I agree there are some non-competitive educational benefits of speaking faster and covering more issues but I think the integrity of the activity must come first.

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I saw card clipping at the last tournement I went to. It was actually in quarters, but the judges didn't really seem to care. They were all college students who didn't pay any attention to it, I guess because they probably do it themselves. The team that was doing it had cards that weren't underlined that spanned over two pages. They admitted something like "I read the first couple of sentences" because I guess they realized that we caught them, but even so, we had no idea what they read because none of the cards were marked. My partner brought it up in the 2AC and said they should be voted down because it's cheating. I brought it up in CX but one of the judges made a remark as if she didn't care about it. After the round, one of them even said that it's natural and it's something that happens in debate all the time. We lost the round too, which I got really annoyed about. Do you think the debaters themselves can do anything about this situation?

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I saw card clipping at the last tournement I went to. It was actually in quarters, but the judges didn't really seem to care. They were all college students who didn't pay any attention to it, I guess because they probably do it themselves. The team that was doing it had cards that weren't underlined that spanned over two pages. They admitted something like "I read the first couple of sentences" because I guess they realized that we caught them, but even so, we had no idea what they read because none of the cards were marked. My partner brought it up in the 2AC and said they should be voted down because it's cheating. I brought it up in CX but one of the judges made a remark as if she didn't care about it. After the round, one of them even said that it's natural and it's something that happens in debate all the time. We lost the round too, which I got really annoyed about. Do you think the debaters themselves can do anything about this situation.

Well, you bring up an interesting point. Based on my solutions described above solving the problem of clipping really requires an overall debate community effort particularly amongst judges. Thus, some judges are more likely to be sympathetic to such claims than others. Unfortunately as a debater, I do not think there is much you can do as a debater to essentially win a round just because you suspected or even caught the other team of clipping.

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