Jaarlijks archief 2019

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Principled arguments in debating

Written by Ybo Buruma

Principled argumentation is arguably no longer as prevalent as it was when I first started debating. Back in those days (long, long ago) proposition teams were basically required to bring at least some principled justification for their plans. Sometimes, these justifications were rather short. For instance, when the government already had very similar policies in place, or when a prisoner’s dilemma occurred. However, quite often, the principled discussion was the more important one in the debate: is the government allowed to protect you from yourself to this extent? Is the government allowed to torture someone to save millions of innocents? Those questions happen less and less frequently in the debates I’ve seen over the last few months and I think that’s a shame: principled arguments are both extremely interesting and can be very compelling.

In this short piece I’m going to look at the three things I believe are needed for a principled argument to stand, on top of that, I’m going to look at a few different ways for principled arguments to be used in the current ‘meta’ of debating.

  1. The speaker should explain that the principle is true.

The very first step of explaining principled arguments is that the principle should be true in general. This might seem obvious, but even at the highest level of debating this often goes awry. Think of all the times that people have stated there’s a right to property, without actually explaining why it exists in the first place. For a more recent example, think of the Dutch Nationals semi-final where one team tried to make the principled argument (on the motion that the Netherlands should veto any further extension of the Brexit deadline), that governments should never overturn decisions before they had tried it out. This principle might sound intuitive, but without further explanation it’s easy to dismiss, for example by pointing out that when we know we’ve sent an innocent man to death row, it might be better to change our decision before it’s carried out.

This brings us to the way we can explain whether a principle is true. Explaining principled argumentation is very similar to many other ways of debating: you start out by something that intuitively feels right (you own your own body) and you proceed logically from there: because you own your own body and you sacrificed parts of that body (the time, blood sweat and tears of working), you, by extension, own whatever you earned with your body. Refuting principled analysis on this level is often done by explaining why one of the logical steps doesn’t work, or by attacking the core premise, which is usually done by giving counterexamples such as the one above.

  1. The principle is relevant in this scenario

The second part of explaining principled arguments is about explaining why this principle is relevant in this scenario. To illustrate the importance of this step let’s look at the right to self-defence. Even if you explain the principle really well (for instance by giving examples describing that people have the right to fight back when they’re attacked, even if it harms them in the long run), and the argument is impacted well enough (see nr. 3), it might still not win you the debate if you don’t explain the relevance of self-defence within the context of the debate. That makes sense, since obviously just randomly attacking someone else, who’s not threatening you, wouldn’t be allowed under the principle of self-defence, so you have to explain that the person you’re harming was attacking you, and thus that self-defence applied here. In essence: if Johnny comes after me with a knife, I’m not allowed to hit Hank, unless you explain A) hitting Hank helps you as well and you have a right to self-preservation or B) Hank was also culpable of the attack and therefore deserves to be hit.

  1. The impact of the principle

However, the most difficult part of principled analysis remains the last question: what’s the ‘impact’ of the argument. The impact here is usually not measured in happiness (such as with utilitarian arguments), but with the impact it has on a debate and I think we can split that up into three different categories of impact:

  • The absolute principle: we’re never allowed to do something
  • Using a principle to raise the burden of proof for the other team
  • Using a principle to show a special duty towards someone or something

The first category of impact is the one that most of us associate with principled argumentation, but it is, in my opinion, the one that’s least likely to actually work in a debate. For example, when someone tells us property rights are absolute, that’s refuted by pointing out that we limit your property all the time, by taxing it or by forbidding you to buy weapons. Or when the right to your own body is brought as a principle, that could be refuted by explaining that we sometimes have to lock people up to protect society. One of the only cases where an ‘absolute’ principle holds out a little longer is when we talk about torture. Most people (luckily) believe that the state shouldn’t torture people, and many of them still believe it even when torturing would bring a utilitarian benefit to society (by for example saving hundreds of lives). However, explaining that argument is really quite difficult and often doesn’t go much further than ‘but you’re not allowed to torture someone’, or by falling back on utilitarian (non-principled) reasons (such as the extreme suffering of the tortured, or the political ramifications such an action might have).

The second category of impact is a lot more useful: the principle can convince the judges that something is only allowed under very specific circumstances: for example, we’re only allowed to limit your ownership of your body under extreme circumstances where you would otherwise be a threat to society (prisons), or we can only take away your property when that’s necessary for society to continue to thrive (such as with taxes). That means that simply arguing that the government is *sometimes* allowed to take away your property doesn’t mean they’re allowed to do so in this specific scenario, because apparently that only happens under strict circumstances.

Lastly, principled argumentation can be used to explain that the state has a certain duty towards a group of people. For example, the state might have a bigger responsibility to protect its own citizens than the citizens of a different country, or the state has a bigger responsibility towards innocents than towards villains.

Importantly, making a principled argument doesn’t automatically win the entire debate by saying “this is the only thing that’s important”. Weigh-offs still have to be made within those arguments: for example, we might all have an intuitive feeling that innocents should be protected more than villains and when a building is on fire and we can only save one individual, most of us would try to save the innocent person trapped in the fire instead of the pyromaniac who lighted it in the first place. However, that might change as soon as the pyromaniac is relatively innocent themselves (they’re only 12), or when there are 10 pyromaniacs and only 1 innocent person and we must choose between both groups. Explaining which group is more important comes down to simply debating: explaining why your group is the most important, why our duty towards children is bigger or smaller than towards the other people in burning buildings etc. etc.


In conclusion, I’d like you to keep three things in mind when you’re considering running a principled argument. First, most principles shouldn’t be run as absolute truths or falsehoods, but as an argument on a spectrum that’s to be weighed off just as any other argument within the debate. Just as when we say that it’s not 100% believable that a practical argument would be true or important, but we still value the argument, so it should be with principled argumentation. Second, principles often work on the basis of examples. Principles can in themselves be refuted by examples, but, more often, can be mitigated and coaxed by examples: yes, you have a right to not be locked up, but not in all scenario’s, yes, you have a right to property, but not all the time. Working well with examples is thus key to working well with principles, explain why your example is more true, or more analogous than the example of the other team: in short: explain why this measure is closer to taxing than to stealing the clothes off your back. Third, running principled arguments isn’t scary or that hard to do, keep on trying it out and keep getting better at making those arguments.



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Who is… the Debatbond?

Written by Lena

Now that the Debatbond board members are in the final months, it was a good opportunity for 720 to interview them once more. Importantly, the Debatbond will be recruiting for a new board soon. If you are thinking of potentially applying, this is where you can get to know everything your heart desires to know about the Debatbond!  Who are the board members? How have they changed during their board year? What have they done in the past years? Those are all the questions you might be asking yourself. We are hoping to inform you all about the organization for you by getting to know the members, what they do and what they have been able to accomplish.

For those that are unfamiliar with what the Debatbond is, Debatbond is an umbrella organization that exists to help other societies. Membership was recently expanded and Chronos joined the other eleven societies. Board members are elected for a two-year term. If you are keeping track, current board members’ term is due to end at the end of this academic year, and it is a good opportunity to review what the Debatbond was able to accomplish.

As any board member would tell you, being on the board can be both challenging but also quite rewarding. You are able to put in a lot of input in tweaking and improving the legacy of the previous boards. This is something that Jelte recognizes. Initially, it is a tough experience. You are thrown into a board “with five other people you did not necessarily know very well personally”, as well as having to align your own individual visions with others. Jos shares Jelte’s sentiment. It was hard, but the experience of working with different ideas and visions of what they want to see makes the experience worth it. This board consists of six individuals who have gotten together to work on implementing a strategy to make debating in the Netherlands more accessible.

  • Ybo Buruma, Leiden Debating Union, president
  • Adrienne Huisman, Leiden Debating Union, secretary
  • Linsey Keur, GDS Kalliope, treasurer
  • Jelte Schievels, Utrecht Debating Society, general board member
  • Tom Pouw, ASDV Bonaparte, general board member
  • Jos Buijvoets, TVD Cicero, general board member

Over the course of two years, board members implemented various projects. Some were more successful than others, but all deserve to be mentioned. Here are some of the highlights.

First of all, there is the most famous project which is the Dutch Debating League. The aim of the league is for eight societies to get together over the course of 8 months and debate against one another. Societies accumulate points and at the end, the society with the most points is Dutch best debating society. In its second year, the league has faced some problems surrounding attendance, however Jelte still believes in the project as it still does what it is meant to do: contribute to inter-society engagement. In the summer, the Debatbond will be working on reviewing the current format and improving it where necessary!

Second, it was identified that the previous speaker ranking was ineffective and the manner in which the ranking list was made was not representational. Now, only the top four tournaments in the academic year are counted and they are based on the percentile. This is meant to show a more realistic overview of who is the best debater as it highlights the more active debaters.

Thirdly, the Debatbond created platforms for its members to receive help. Throughout the first year, guidelines were published on various things, from organizing a tournament, to recruiting members, to judging manuals amongst others. Providing guidance did not stop there, however. To get a more accurate view of where societies stand and what they need help with, Tom and Jos visited other societies to get their perspective on what they need help with the most. Finally, to give an opportunity to board members to learn more and to discuss things amongst each other, Debatbond created a board-day. So far two were organized, both aimed at training societies how to cope with certain problems such as recruitment, promotion or fundraising.

Fundraising is also a vital part of Debatbond. One of the aims of the board was to provide more opportunities for societies for activities, however that was not always possible due to funding difficulties. The new plan that Tom and Jelte are hoping to work in the last half-year is two-fold. First is to help individual societies to develop a sponsoring strategy to attract sponsoring for specific things that benefit their societies. Second is to look for sponsors as the Debatbond which would benefit the community as a whole.

One thing that was identified over the course of the year is the fact that debating in the Netherlands has been on a downward trend not only in terms of membership numbers but also in terms of tournament participation, and a natural question that was asked was

“How can the Debatbond step in?” Tom’s solution is to “organize events for new groups of people that are currently not being reached” and this is something that will be looked into over the last couple of months. What is a unique quality of the Debatbond in this regard, is that is the optimal platform for inter-society discussion. Jos and Tom note that on their many board trips, they noticed similar issues and discussion kept popping up in their discussion with different societies. Discussing these issues on a national-level can be to everyone’s benefit.

In addition to all of these projects, there are other smaller tasks or projects the board works on. It aims to occasionally spark a discussion within the community, on topics such as judge quality, mainly through the 720 platform. Also, there is the infamous Debatbond board chat, where literally all current ongoings of the Dutch debating community are discussed. If you want to stay up to date with all the rumours from different societies, the Debatbond surely is a great place for you.


The most important part for the next few months? Firstly, Ybo says it is important to “institutionalize what has already been made to ensure that future boards have an easier time implementing their ideas and continue what has already been started”. Secondly, recruiting an excellent board that will be able to take over and continue what was started, says Jos. Societies can also expect a final Board Day organized by Linsey, which aims to  “focus on how to have a smooth transitions and all the things new board members need to know to get started, as well as specific sessions on how to lead training evenings.” As the president, Ybo’s hope for the future is the creation of a “more lasting legacy [with] Debatbond as a functioning and useful institution in the debating world.” As with any board, it is sometimes easy to overreach and try to do more than you are able to. This sometimes can result in situations where the board doesn’t do as much as it could be doing. Nevertheless, the accomplishments the Debatbond was able to implement are important accomplishments. Debatbond struggled over the past years to really define itself and set expectations as to what it is and what it is supposed to be doing. We made important steps in that regard. Hopefully future boards will continue what this board has been doing.

And on a personal note, how do the board members feel about being part of a board-year? Ybo enjoyed his time because of everything being so vague and unclear in the beginning. This was an opportunity for everyone to create and start something new. It is also a good opportunity to work with and get to know other board members, as Adrienne and Jos explain it. Because of the fact that the board members come from different societies, this was effectively a rare opportunity to work together. The position of being the central platform for all debating societies to engage is what Jelte enjoyed greatly whilst being in the board, since you truly start thinking about what’s best for everyone and not only for your society.

Thinking of applying yourself? Keep an eye for out the application procedures to be posted in the upcoming months! If you want to know more about the mysterious board, they all assured me you can send each one of them a message – or if you want the less formal answers, contact 720.


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An update from the Bondsraad

Yesterday evening, the Debatbond hosted the first Bondsraad of 2019. At our usual spot in the always sunny Utrecht, the Dutch debating societies came together to discuss our collective futures and make important decisions. After relocating twice on the UCU campus, and shoving the last kaassoufles down our throat – everybody was ready! To get everyone up to speed, 720 put together a quick post-Bondsraad brief.

As always, the Bondsraad started with some general updates from the board members, explaining what they had been up to. Some of the bigger project will be discussed later separately, but apart from the usual tasks such as DDL, 720, finances, or managing the website- there were a few highlights. For instance, Ybo has been working on organising a Dino-tournament with retired debaters. On a Saturday in September, the precise date will be announced later, we will invite lots of alumni to remind them how fun debating used to be! Moreover, we briefly touched upon the board visits we have made in the last few months, travelling to every society in the Netherlands. Lastly, Linsey announced she is working on the next Board Day – taking place at the end of June!

After the initial boring updates, we got right to the juicy part of the evening: voting on the motions put forward. The first motion we discussed was the instalment of the national equity officer, a role proposed by the Debatbond at the last Bondsraad. Unfortunately, the idea was to have a team of three equity officers and we have only received one application. Therefore, the Bondsraad decided to postpone the instalment to the next Bondsraad and keep searching for national equity officers in the meantime (send Ybo a message if interested).

Second, we voted in Chronos as member of the Debatbond. Hurray! We are very confident that our favourite southerners will contribute a lot to the Dutch debating community for a long time.

Subsequently, we discussed two motions tabled by Bonaparte. The first motion instructed the Debatbond to manage a central platform keeping track of all the information about Dutch debating tournaments. Everybody liked the idea and in the near future our website will be updated with all necessary information, finally giving you an excuse to delete Facebook!

The second motion was slightly more controversial. Bonaparte wanted Linsey (who has been voted in as country representative at EUDC… again) to lobby for lower judge fees at EUDC and WUDC. The rationale behind the motion is that more people want to speak rather than judge, which makes finding judges quite hard and limits the amount of teams that can participate due to the N-1 rule. Other societies, however, did not agree with Bonaparte’s characterisation of judging, claiming judging is an experience in itself. Moreover, Linsey noted that getting support for this plan internationally would be very challenging. Ultimately, these and other reasons led to only Chronos siding with Amsterdam on this motion.

After a four minute break, we moved on to discussions on various issues. First, we discussed the sponsoring plans drafted by Tom and Jelte. The idea to help individual societies more, as well as look for more funding as the Debatbond, was welcomed by the societies. We aim to bring you positive news on our next sponsor in the foreseeable future! Second, we discussed the decreasing participation in the DDL. After a lengthy discussion, we discussed on various changes: iron personing will be allowed in the DDL from now on, and will be implemented retroactively. Moreover, we will allow all societies to participate within the DDL from now on, and will be allocating team spots on a first-come-first-serve basis. Lastly, a committee will be formed in the summer to come up with solutions to improve the DDL competition, hopefully ensuring its future.

Two more issues were discussed. Jos outlined his plans to improve the process to find a new board, which will need to happen this autumn. More information on this will follow later. Second, Ybo spoke about the GDPR and privacy. Basically, Ybo explained in ten minutes you can ask him for help if you need any guidance on privacy issues.

That concluded our Bondsraad, and as true friends we all rode bus 8 to Central Station! See you at the next one.

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Should our politics be influenced by judges? – The Debate at Leiden Open

Written by Ybo

Leiden Open Highlight Rail:

Pre-social drinks – former minister of justice Ard van der Steur opening the event – five excellent debates with lunch and dinner in between – epic social – headachy Sunday with great semi’s and a brilliant novice final – fantastic grand final – home in time for supper.


LAST week was the Leiden Open. A wonderful tournament that, almost since its inception, has drawn teams from all around the world. This year debaters came from India, Pakistan and Canada, as well as Turkey, Serbia and the rest of Europe. This short article describes my favourite argument from this year’s Leiden Open.

The argument was made in round three, on the motion: TH regrets the judicialization of politics.

This debate centers around the question of whether activists, political parties or other groups should seek to change the law by going to court, or by lobbying, voting or otherwise persuading politicians to change the law. My debate was truly excellent and three of the four teams explained (among other things) whether change would happen faster, stay longer and be more meaningful if politicians, or if courts would be persuaded. Opening Government won this part of the debate by explaining that change will come through both ways, and even though change might be slower when it comes through a political change, it’s a better and longer lasting change, which is ultimately more worthwhile.
One of the arguments I found most persuasive centred around the need for political and democratic buy-in after a specific law has passed. They explained that often a certain right is given by a court ruling, or by a political change, but that that right in and of itself is not very worthwhile. Examples given included the fight for civil rights, gay marriage and, best explored, abortion in the United States. They explained that the right of abortion, although immensely important, only truly becomes accessible when clinics are funded, available nearby, and when people are not forced to jump through all kinds of hoops to access their right. Furthermore, they explained the difference between how abortion became legal in the south of the US, and the equally religious Midwest. In the Midwest activists had a apparently lobbied immensely and therefore changed the hearts and minds of individual voters, which meant that abortion not only became legal, but was also supported by the population. Before these same activists had the chance to come to the southern states to persuade people there (or before they were successful there), Roe v. Wade had legalised abortion all throughout the United States. This meant that, even though people in the southern states now had access to abortion years earlier than they would otherwise have had, they were never convinced of its importance and value. Campaigns for legalising abortion slowed down, because backers were less willing to fund them and because activists thought that they had won completely. Unfortunately, that wasn’t entirely the case because of the roadblocks mentioned earlier: clinics in Alabama and the rest of the south are legal, but they’re still incredibly difficult to access. The conclusion seems simple: earlier access is fantastic, but longer change can only be gotten when change happens through politics, not the judiciary, and therefore we should regret the judicialization of politics.

This line of argumentation, coupled with arguments about the politicization of the judiciary convinced the judging panel that the Opening Government had won the debate about which side would get more meaningful change. Yet, the Opening Government only placed second overall. I mentioned that three teams had debated about this issue, the fourth team (closing Government) didn’t engage in the debate about whether or not meaningful change would happen faster or slower, better or worse, through the judiciary or parliament. Instead, they posited that we don’t know whether change is good or not. That good changes (such as the examples mentioned above) could very well happen by going through parliament or via the judiciary, but that bad changes were equally likely.

To bring this point home they gave examples of the Trump presidency and recent court ruling about migration, abortion and voting rights. Their position was that we don’t know whether change is good or bad, and that therefore the discussion about where that change is faster or longer-lasting is relatively useless. Instead it’s important to know what route to change is the one who safeguards the democratic rights of citizens in the best possible way. They then explained why citizens had these democratic rights, and why going through the judiciary was a violation of those democratic rights. They didn’t go so far as to say that this is an absolute right, or that democratic rights could never be violated, but they did win the debate by explaining that change itself isn’t good, and that having a more principally legitimate process of getting that change is then much more important.

This is, I think, my favourite argument from the Leiden Open, edging out the fantastic Opening Opposition material from the Grand finals and a great Opposition case in round five concerning the need for self-actualization. I think it shows how, when you make an argument really well, a principled argument can win from even the best made practical cases. Obviously, this can be done in many different ways, but here the simplicity of explaining the redundancy of practicalities and therefore the importance of principled rights worked extraordinarily well.

After round three I saw some great other debates, and if I would’ve been able to give speaks for the finals, it would’ve been even higher than the 85 we gave to the maker of this argument, but this is the one argument I’ve kept thinking about this last week, and I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I did.

The Leiden Open was won by NYAUD  (Novice finals) and Oxford Traitors A (grand finals), the best speakers were Rifka Roos (Novice) and Tin Puljic (open).

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Niche knowledge coming into play

Written by Mike

I have loved the DDL’s concept from the start. I quickly dismissed some concerns that people had with sending new debaters to the DDL because it was deemed to be a competition between the best people of each society. Sure enough, this was the initial thought behind it, but more and more societies have become comfortable with sending new debaters to the DDL. I just love this. Also at this edition of the DDL in Nijmegen (the fourth one of this academic year already and the twelfth one overall), I met with debaters who were not necessarily veterans but who certainly proved their worth. Let me tell you more about this clash of (young and old) titans.

It started with a train journey to the far Nijmegen. I had to leave in the middle of class to catch a train at 15:50 so that I could also have some dinner after arriving in Nijmegen. Luckily, I don’t mind traveling that much as long as I have something to do. Well, there was a problem with some code in the class of that day that I had to look at and I had a book with me, so all was good. If all was lost, I could always do some casefiling (apparently good debaters do that or something like that). For example, one can find out that Putin and Maduro have been good friends. Apparently, they have been secretly playing in an 80s Soviet band together, with Putin taking on the glamorous lead vocals and Maduro bouncing up and down behind the keyboard. You can read all about it in this very reliable source:


Now, on to the DDL. Very quickly for those of you that are unfamiliar with the concept, the DDL pits eight debating societies (namely Bonaparte, Cicero, Delft, EDS, GDS, LDU, Trivium, and UDS) in the Netherlands against each other in 16 debating rounds spread over eight evenings. These eight evenings are each hosted by the eight societies. Simple arithmetic then shows that each evening consists of two debating rounds. At the end of the season, the society with the most points claims the cup for the year and can call themselves the best society of the Netherlands for a year.

This edition, Chronos (the debating society from Eindhoven) replaced GDS due to GDS, unfortunately, has been unable to send teams this season and it seemed fair to then allow Chronos as a replacement. Currently, the Debatbond is looking into the possibility to let Chronos enter the DDL in lieu of GDS permanently. Despite this being very sad for our friends from Kalliope, it did mean that we could meet with two members of Chronos: Leon and Inaki. Coincidentally, I actually met up with them at the train station after already having met up with Noémie and Alex from Cicero, my other lovely society. It turns out that Inaki is actually from Gran Canaria, one of my favourite holiday destinations. Anyway, let us talk about the actual debating that took place this evening.

It turns out that my casefiling actually paid off, since the first motion actually concerned Venezuela. Honestly, this was pure coincidence since I genuinely wrote the introduction of this article during the travel towards Nijmegen and it kind of made me laugh. The motion read:
This house supports Western military aid to Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela.
Now, I am a mess on IR motions but this one actually went well. Me and my team partner Roel were Closing Opposition versus Cicero (Noémie and Alex) in OG, Trivi

um (Mara and Thomas) in OO, and UDS (Daan and Harmen) in CG. All kinds of different aspects were considered by the debaters. Of course, as one would, even China and Russia were brought into the debate. CG discussed how building enclaves would be part of the plan as well and how that can provide security for people in Venezuela. We tried to do something else. We explained how the people in Venezuela genuinely have an anti-Western thought process due to the prevalence of Hugo Chavèz in the past and his spiritual successor in Maduro, which consequently allowed us to explain how tensions grew and what other nasty effects are of interfering (actively) in Venezuela. In the end, we took a first, with Cicero taking a second, UDS taking a third, and Trivium taking the fourth place.
Quickly after this, we needed to assemble in the announcement room again for thesecond round was about to start. Luckily, Trivium (the hosting society) anticipated well that people would be exhausted and, as such, they made sure that there were snacks and drinks for us all to enjoy in the tiny break and during the debate. The motion for the second round read:

This house, as the LGBTQIA+ community, regrets the “born this way” narrative.

An infoslide accompanied this motion to explain what this narrative entails and what possible alternatives would be. The draw was quite similar, with only Cicero and Chronos swapping rooms. We were Opening Opposition versus Trivium in OG, UDS in CG (once again), and Chronos in CO. We tried to run a case about acceptance and coming out, after sketching what the LGBTQIA+ community should care for most, being (in our eyes) those people that feel least safe around their identity and who need the help of the community most. As you might know, conversion therapy is sadly rampant as a mechanism to try to make people step away from their sexuality. As horrible as this is, we believed this to increase under proposition’s side. At the end of the debate, the call was that we took a first, Chronos took a second, UDS took a third, and Trivium took a fourth. That means that the ranking of the DDL is now as follows:

1) LDU (31 points)
2) Cicero (25 points)
3) UDS (22 points)
4) Bonaparte (12 points)
5) Delft (12 points)
6) EDS (9 points)
7) Chronos (6 points)
8) Trivium (5 points)
9) GDS (0 points)

That was the end of the evening. I loved coming to Nijmegen and seeing some familiar but also new faces. I would recommend everyone to attend at least one DDL meeting, be it as a judge, speaker, or supporter! I vividly remember Bonaparte bringing supporters last year that even made up songs and yells to support their team. That is what I call dedication. I hope that you will be able to attend the next DDL, which will be on March 18 in the beautiful city of Rotterdam!

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Breaking judges fairly – the case for using judge tests as a metric

By Victor Domen

Tabbing is easier than ever. Tabbycat has all sorts of build-in features that allow for efficient and fair judge allocations and breaks based on the imported data. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion we currently do not use Tabbycat to its full potential. In this short article I will make the case we should use standardised tests to assess judges and create a more fair and equal judge break.


The Problem

The decision of which teams will break is pretty objective. They get scored based on their team results and only in case of a draw does speaker score come into play. That in turn is based on a standardised scale. There are still humans involved and making decisions, but a lot of subjectivity has been removed. Nobody really complains about this. We roughly know what a 75 is, what a 70 is and what an 80 is.

The odd thing is, that we do not use similar standardised scales when it comes to judging. Judge feedback forms are increasingly used in the Netherlands, but do not always use standardised scaling to assess the qualit

y of judging. Moreover, not all CA-teams use judge feedback consistently in determining the judge break. Or, at least, that process is currently not standardised and far from transparent. Therefore, it is pretty hard to call a judge break in any way objective and therefore subject to all sorts of biases. The implication is obvious, the best judges do not always break, whereas traditionally good, or liked, judges tend to do so more easily.

Considering that breaks should be based on merit, we should find a way to make judge breaks more objective. Just like with team breaks, judge breaks should be based on numbers.



The Solution

In a nutshell: standardised testing combined with standardised feedback sc

ores. Before the tournament judges must make test. This test gives their initial score/rank in the tab. A standardised scale, much like with speake

r scores, will be the basis of this test. Judges with higher scores have greater priority to break and chair. If a judges has scored below a certain threshold do not have the ability to vote on a call. This is a process currently done ‘randomly’ be the CA team. That is to say they will give judges scores based on their previous experiences with these judges. Similar problems to those already outlined exist.

During the tournament, these initial scores can of course be altered. This happens with the standardised feedback forms, released by the Debatbond at the beginning of this academic year. Simply put, judges are ranked on a scale from 1-10 and thus receive an average judge score. At the end of the tournament the judges with the highest score break. Tabbycat has built in systems for this exact purpose. It can keep track of submitted and unsubmitted feedback and change a judge’s score based o

n the feedback received.

For this to work as much feedback needs to be submitted as possible. It will be up to the tournament staff to determine how this is encouraged/enforced. One possibility is to deny breaks to those who do not submit feedback. Another is to wait with proceeding to the next round until all feedback is submitted. Each has their own positives and negatives.

This system makes it clear which judges should chair and are more capable and takes performance during the tournament into account. An experienced judge who does well during the tournament will start as a chair and will remain as chair. Novice judges whose skills grow throughout the tournament can also be noticed and rewarded. This system quantifies judging skill in a similar vein as is done to debating skill making the entire process more objective. Of course this does not eliminate subjectivity, but does minimize it’s influence to a greater degree than the way one decides judge breaks.

It will take some time to develop the standardised scale that lies at the heart of this issue. I’ve heard that Maastricht Novice used a judge test. In my opinion the test used there should be the basis of the standardised scale, but your opinion may vary.


Tabbycat should be used in every tournament, because it speeds up the process, negates human error and is easy to use. With some more effort it can eliminate one of the biggest problems plaguing debating tournaments. More objectivity is always good and thus a standardised judge test should be developed and more importance should be given to judge scores when determining the break.

doorBestuur Nederlandse Debatbond

Goodbye Cape Town

By Linsey Keur

Over the Christmas Holidays, the World Universities Debating Championships took place in Cape Town, South Africa. The results have already been posted on facebook and the tournament ended over a week ago, but nevertheless there are my experiences as a participant of WUDC.

This WUDC took, as said, place in Cape Town. This definitely had some benefits for the tournament, one of them being the relaxed venue and accommodation. All participants stayed at the campus of the Univerisity of Cape Town, which had a lot of green scenery to relax in, as well as an amazing view from the main debate venue over the city. With all the surrounding beauty, it almost was a shame to go inside and debate. The actual rounds of debating started on the 29th of December. People definitely were nervous before the first round was announced, but nevertheless all Dutch people were in for judging and participating in some good debates. The results of the inrounds were mixed, with teams sometimes doing better than expected and sometimes doing worse.

After 9 rounds of debating, all teams and judges definitely had some chances of break night, so on new years eve, we were in for a nervewrecking evening. Luckily there was free Yakka to help us get rid of the nerves, and the break was already announced around 23.00. Eventually, David and Marike broke open and Daan and Linsey broke as judges. A great result for the Dutch Delegation. After a day for recovery on New Years’ day, the outrounds started on January 2nd. David and Marike got through a Partial Double Octo, but unfortunately got kicked out in the Octo finales. Gigi and her partner Tommy from Oxford made it through the Octo’s but got kicked out in Quarters. This meant that there were no Dutch teams participating anymore when it came to the last day of the tournament.

Finals’ day took place in CTICC, a big conference centre in Cape Town. From the high way it already showed that WUDC would take place there and everyone was all dressed up and excited for the finals. Now up until the open final, the whole tournament ran smoothly in the eyes of many particpants, but right before the open final was about to start African participants entered the stage while singing and dancing. They declared that they were done with structural racism in debating and were not going to leave the room until they had gotten apologies from different teams within the organisation. In this article I do not want to go into the discussion these actions caused, or my opinion about this, but I will describe how the event ended because of this.

When the protest was going on, other participants were led into the dinner hall, where we got food as soon as it became clear that the finale was not going to start soon. In the meanwhile, the protesters were negotiating with the organisation about resolving the issue at hand. This took a couple of hours and a lot of stories and gossip surrounding the event spread. Eventually, the organising committee and tab team apologized to the protesters and the protest ended. During the protest however, the open final, judged by Daan (!), had already taken place.

Given the situation the organisation also felt it was not the best idea to hold a closing ceremony, which meant that everyone just went there own way. Most of the Dutch participants went into the city center to drink cocktails and recover from the evening. Eventually, after midnight, the results of all finals and speaker scores were posted on Facebook. We found out that Gigi had become best ESL-speaker in the world, an amazing achievement! And just as impressive was Marike becoming 7th best speaker in the ESL category. The results of the tournament therefore were great, but to me, the ending in this way felt quite surreal. Nevertheless, we can look back at a good tournament with great results and great achievements from all teams and judges.

doorBestuur Nederlandse Debatbond

Nederland levert beste spreker op Wereldkampioenschap Debatteren

De afgelopen dagen vond het WK Debatteren voor studenten plaats. Het WK debatteren is één van de grootste jaarlijkse studentenevenementen ter wereld, waaraan ruim 400 teams meedoen van universiteiten uit meer dan 90 landen. Dit jaar vond het WK plaats in Kaapstad, in Zuid-Afrika. Nederland was vertegenwoordigd door twee teams (Leiden: Marike Breed en David Metz; Amsterdam: Zeno Glastra van Loon en Lana Moss) en drie juryleden (Linsey Keur, Daan Welling en Fabienne Ellemeet). Daarnaast deed de Nederlandse Gigi Gil mee namens Oxford University.

De Nederlanders hebben het uitstekend gedaan. Leiden is als derde Nederlandse team ooit gebroken in de Open categorie en standde pas in de 1/8 finales. Daan en Linsey mochten beide verschillende finales jureren. Tot slot werd Gigi Gil uitgeroepen tot beste spreker met Engels als tweede taal! Een fantastische prestatie! De Debatbond is trots op de deelnemers, die het Nederlandse wedstrijddebat uitstekend hebben vertegenwoordigd.