30 November, 2007

What is a legitimate institution?

The agenda for the Worlds Council is now out.

One of the issues being discussed is what counts as a legitimate debating organisation.

In the past, there have been issues with the Inns of Court and ULU (University of London Union), but these would seem to have largely been resolved.

There are now two main issues which are under discussion:
1. When there is a single university where there are two -or more- established debating societies, are those societies allowed to compete separately, or must they compete jointly in the context of Worlds (and the n-1 rule)
2. Where there is a single debating society but it covers more than one academic institution, should people from two of the member institutions be allowed to debate together or should they be forced to separate.

An example of the first type is the Irish universities where a great many (all?) have more than one debating society attached. Their argument as to why this isn't a problem for them is 'that it's already been discussed and we're not talking about it again'. However, the University of Dhaka and one European University (I can't remember which one - one of the Baltic ones, I believe) also have a similar system (one university, multi-unions) and whether they are allowed to compete is being discussed.

As for the second type (one union, multi-unis), the MDU is an example of this type as is Berlin and Helskinki. Other Unions which do it, but where it hasn't been a problem as it hasn't affected Worlds teams, include Oxford (where Oxford Brookes students can join) and Cambridge (Where E Anglia students can join). The reason for banning the second type is that it may encourage composite teams "Oxbridge A" for example. My view is that it won't. European Unions has been competing like this for ages without there being a problem.

The constant wrangling over what constitutes a legitimate team is ruining worlds. My rule on it would be 'real and genuine connection'. If a person wishes to compete for an institution and it looks like it may be a bit messy, they have to show a real and genuine connection to that institution. For instance, that they train with that institution every week and have competed with them in the previous term. The 'competed in the previous term' would be a particularly easy one to prove if the issue of attendance on a weekly/training basis was more difficult as all you need to do is look at the tabs.

I obviously have slightly less interest in the first problem, but I find it ironic that the people leading the charge against "one uni, many unions" institutions are often the Irish themselves. In my opinion, if there is a problem with this type of union, one should look at all unions which operate in this manner. To simply say 'oh, but we signed the piece of paper before they were a university' is a cop out. Either there is an inherent problem with all institutions of this type, or they should be allowed to compete. If the problem is n-1 judges, say that the institutions can compete separately but would be considered jointly when it came to n-1 if there were any problems over a lack of judges in the judging pool.


Alex said...

I take a very liberal attitude to this kind of thing, but I do think the Irish are a bit cheeky. They get double allocation for worlds and euros by doing the whole "UCC Phil / UCC Lit" thing, but then at regular IVs (particuarly in Britian) they often just go as 'UCC' with one debater from the Lit and one from the Phil. It's not the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night but it seems that if the above is allowed, then things like 'Inns of Court' should probably be allowed too.

I feel sorry the most for those people at a rubbish little London college like Heythrop or Royal Holloway who can't just go at ULU... although having said that, ULU seems to be making a comeback this year. I note that there have been years in the past when ULU have appeared at worlds, but I think that was in the days before it became the monster it is now. In fact, did you know that until about the mid 90s, when worlds was held in north america it usually took the form of two on two (four people per room) instead of the two on two on two on two it is now.

Liz Ford said...

Until Stellenbosch, it was up to the host institution what format it took. So in Australia, it was Australs style, in USA it was two on two etc.

I prefer BP because that's what I'm used to but I think it's better to have a single, fixed style as it allows people to practice it where necessary.