We've debated the concept of the debate community imposing travel limits on itself through the MDTA. With the MDTA general membership meeting approaching, I'd like to make the case for a resolution that makes some limitations on the travel schedule of MN debate teams.
First, some summary of the debate so far.
Reasons we like national travel:
- Students that have access can go meet the best competition in the country in front of excellent critics, and receive all the attendant educational benefits.
- These students bring these skills back to Minnesota debate tournaments, which raises the bar for everyone
- Being part of a national community and national debate organizations helps knowledge sharing, outreach efforts, professional networking, and other intangible benefits
- Students who succeed nationally "put us on the map," for lack of a better phrasing
Arguments for restricting national travel:
- Some programs just can't afford it, which raises fairness concerns
- Huge costs for programs that can, in terms of dollars and also in livability
- The "arms race problem" - teams travel to gain a competetive advantage, pressuring everyone else to travel more to keep up with the joneses.
- The expectation of travel makes "single coach" programs harder to start and maintain, adding additional obstacles to new programs
Additionally, the MSHSL has recently restricted travel for sports citing the same fairness/livability concerns, and has discussed extending a similar regulation to fine arts. If we choose not to regulate ourselves, the MSHSL may decide to regulate us in a way that is less compatible with our activity than we would like.
I think that the following proposal offers the best chance to mitigate these fairness and livability problems without regulating away the benefits of national travel.
- Schools can debate as much as they want in Minnesota and its contiguous states (IA, ND, SD, and WI)
- Each squad is limited to three out-of-region tournaments from August-April
- The number of tournaments is counted "per school per event." If Rosemount sends policy debaters to Harvard and Berkeley in the same weekend, that uses two of our tournaments. If Rosemount sends a Policy team to Greenhill and a LD debater to Wake, both the policy squad and the LD squad have two remaining out-of-region tournaments
- Any round robin that is held in conjunction with an invitational tournament does not count as an extra tournament. Attending both Greenhill and the Greenhill Round Robin counts as 1 tournament.
- Any "post-season" tournament that requires qualification does not count toward the limit. This includes (but is not limited to) TOC, NFL, and NDCA
Under this proposal, most schools can continue with a "status quo" level of travel, Some will have "status quo but a little less" travel. This has the effect of ending the "arms race" now, and leaving some question of how much travel is desirable up for further debate. If, in a few years, we want to change the number of allowable tournaments from 3 to 2 or 4, we can have that debate on its own merits.
The question of enfrorcement is a good one, and here I'll admit that my knowledge is not deep enough to submit a proposal. I'm not sure if I know what the MDTA could "hold" from violating teams, so I won't make any suggestions along those lines. It has been suggested that the MDTA craft a trophy/prize/scholarship that would only go to students whose teams do not violate the rules, and I do like where that idea is going. I also think that this rule is a good idea even if they only enforcement mechanism we have available is "public shaming."
Credit where its due: I'm far from the first to suggest such a proposal, and pretty much none of the arguments in favor of it were my original ideas.