An influx of new debaters is crucial for the debating community in the Netherlands to thrive. As we have seen a general decline in participation of debating tournaments, as well as many debating societies indicating they are increasingly struggling to find new members, the Debatbond focused on how to get new members in the last board day. In addition, quite some societies autonomously organized sharing groups, so that best practises could be copied. A good opportunity for 720 to reflect on what societies have changed in their promotion plans this year and how successful they were.
In writing this article, I reached out to a couple of societies in the Netherlands to ask them about their introduction period. What stroke me in the responses I received was their general positivity. Most, if not all, societies were quite optimistic about the new member base and satisfied with their efforts in promoting. For instance, Bonaparte achieved an above-average member growth of over 20 new members this year. EDS was also quite content with their growth and the general interest in their societies, with both introductory workshops being attended by roughly 70 people.
Moreover, societies felt they put a lot of time in their promotion efforts. Cicero mentioned how their chair missed most of his lectures in the first three weeks because he was so busy with spreading the debating message, whereas Leiden also felt they spent ‘a lot of their time’ on promotion in the first weeks of their board year.
So far, an optimistic view on the new influx in Dutch debating arises. However, when looking at the participant numbers for the tournaments so far, one might question, at least, the participation of the new members in debating tournaments. Roosevelt Open, UCU Open, Trivium and Cicero all struggled with attracting the kind of numbers they did in the past. Striking was furthermore that UCU Open had to implement a Pro-Am final instead of a novice final due to the lack of novice teams. Given that tournament participation is quite a good proxy for society participation, I think it is important to be wary of these trends.
This brings me to the larger point of this article. The importance of introduction weeks for societies and Dutch debating in general is rather unquestioned I think. And although I am glad to here the success stories of societies, I think it is also important to be critical of what societies do well and what they can improve on. To start off positive, I think one of the best examples of a positive change made by a society this year is the change to being more inclusive and accommodating to international students by Bonaparte. They consciously reached out more to international students and tailored (part of) their message accordingly. As a result, Bonaparte was able to attract a far larger number of international students than last year.
Another positive marketing example is the society positioning of EDS, that specifically highlight themselves as one of the few societies in Rotterdam where English is the first language. By effectively comparing themselves to other societies, they cater clearly to a specific set of needs by a rather large student group in Rotterdam – and quite effectively so indeed.
Lastly, I think many societies did think carefully about some of the comparative advantages of debating societies, in the sense that many indicate to highlight the benefits of debating on personal development, developing skills that are relevant in the workplace and within academia, etc.
There is also room for improvement of course. Perhaps most importantly, I think that societies should be more critical about their marketing strategy and tactics. Formal evaluations of marketing efforts are not as thoroughly and often done by societies as one might hope. Many boards indicate they largely copied the marketing strategy that was followed in previous years, perhaps tweaking little things here and there. Although this is not necessarily a problem, it is easy to not innovate enough and improve the marketing strategy.
Furthermore, societies do not always have a clear idea of who they want to reach. Whereas some target international students specifically, others focus on particular sets of students (such as philosophy, economics or politics), or just on first-year students in general. I think that being aware of who you want to reach is vital in understanding how to convince them. Of course, societies shouldn’t just focus on one group (such as international students), but their ways of reaching out to these groups can be different in order to achieve more success.
When starting a Facebook campaign, you need to have a clear idea about who to target and why the campaign is effective. Many boards, my own board included two years ago, start Facebook campaigns, or similar marketing tactics, merely because it seems hip and new. Carefully thinking about which channels are effective is an important continuation of identifying the target market.
Lastly, my last observation is that many boards intensify their marketing efforts on the beginning of the year, but don’t specifically continue working on marketing throughout the year. I think that having a marketing plan that goes beyond the introduction period will force boards to be consistent in their messaging and increase chances of attracting members throughout the year.
Improving marketing is important for societies, and I think it is particularly a topic on which we can learn a lot from each other. The increasing exchange of best practises at Board Days or via Facebook is very useful for that very reason and I hope this will continue. For any other input or questions on marketing efforts, the Debatbond is of course very much willing to help you with any queries you might have!
The expectations I had for my very first international debating tournament were low. I just hoped I would have a nice time and that I would win at least one debate. I wasn’t expecting to see much of the town or to find new friends. I went to Prague Debate Spring with 14 other students from team Netherlands Young and I had an amazing time.
I never flew before, so when I met up with my team at Schiphol airport, I was very nervous about the flight. For some reason, I’m not nervous about the debates anymore. I immediately found support within the team. They made weird jokes which weren’t funny at all, but they still made me laugh. After a long wait and a short flight, we arrived in Prague. For a girl who hasn’t visited more countries than France, Belgium, and Germany, Prague was an impressive city. The city has these amazing streets that almost give you this Paris vibe. The buildings are old and have this beautiful historical look.
On Friday, the debates began. It was weird and awesome at the same time to debate against a country like China. It wasn’t necessarily a different debate from one I would have with another Dutch team, but it was the whole experience around the debate that was different. After every debate, you talk to each other about where you come from, what your school is like and so on. I’m not used to talking to people who live in a city which has more inhabitants than the Netherlands. A team that I really liked was South Africa. The positive energy that they spread throughout the whole competition was so amazing and lovely.
As I heard from other debaters, my expectations for the food shouldn’t be too high. They were right. The food wasn’t bad, just wasn’t meant for me. Luckily, Prague was filled with cheap supermarkets which had a lot of great food. As for where we slept, it was better than I expected. Besides a broken shower, a lack of cups and a lack of good pillows, we all had a bed which was comfortable enough to sleep in. We stayed in a quieter area of Prague, so there wasn’t a lot of noise at night.
In the late nights with my team, unexpected bonds came. As we liked to call them, bonding nights, we talked about things that otherwise never would have been talked out. We laughed, cried, talked, but most important we supported each other. We talked about tensions and nerves. We discussed the other teams, Prague itself and our expectations of the other debates. We were able to have a cup of tea and at the same time discuss how nervous some were about the debates. That form of support is rare, but something that is so lovely when you find it.
We also bonded with the coaches. On Friday evening, I fell ill and I wasn’t able to sleep, but one of my coaches was able to give me the best help possible. They were the biggest help you could hope for. Talking with them about how you feel is very important and the solid support they gave was probably one of the most important things during the whole trip. The coaches and my team formed this kind of safety net for me and that gave me the power to keep going even on lesser moments.
A debating tournament makes you realize a lot about yourself. It increases the self-knowledge you have and the knowledge you have about others. It learns you even better than a national tournament how to deal with the stress, how to spend your prep time as efficient as you can and how you are able to calm each other down. It’s one big teambuilding assignment.
In the end, it’s important to remember that a debating tournament like Prague isn’t just to win all the debates. It’s about support, fun and learning new things. Prague gave me those things: the amazing support from my team members and my coaches, laughing, learning and exploring all day.
For the upcoming General Assembly of the Nederlandse Debatbond, the Board proposes to introduce a new article 20 of the policy manual. During the General Assembly, the article will be voted on in Dutch, but for the sake of discussion, we have translated the article to English.
Proposal on Central Equity Officer
Realising that there are several issues within the Dutch debating community that could use a central equity officer.
Proposes a new article 20
20.1 A national Equity team exists.
20.2 The members of the equity team are appointed by the General Assembly after being nominated by the board. The members of the equity team are proposed for a period of one year. A member can not be appointed more than three times. Board members can not be part of the equity team. There are no more than three members of the equity team.
20.3 During the nomination a diversity in gender and debating society will be sought. There will also be sought for people with previous experience as an equity officer at their society or on debating tournaments.
20.4. The Equity team has four tasks:
– They write a (national) equity document specifying what equity is and in which ways they can help.
– They advise the board, the General Assembly, equity officers of debating societies and tournaments and the members of the Dutch debating community on matters regarding equity.
– They handle complaints from individual members of the Dutch debating community, when these members can not go to a different equity officer. For example because no equity officer was appointed for the occasion when the matter regarding the complaint happened, or because it is impossible to go to the appointed equity officer.
– They keep a so called ‘black list’ of people who, because of extremely serious transgression to that what is accepted within society, are no longer welcome on Dutch debating tournaments. This black list can be shared, when necessary, with Equity Teams of tournaments so these equity teams can make a decision as to whether these people should be banned from their tournaments. When a tournament does not have an equity officer, it can be shared with other parts of the organisation.
For the upcoming General Assembly of the Nederlandse Debatbond, the Board proposes to introduce a new debating ranking list. However, to come up with a new policy that got support from our members, we would like you to inform us about your thoughts.
We have deleted the old debatranglijst due to the new privacy law. We’re uncertain whether we should have a debatranglijst: leave your thoughts down below.
If we would have a debatranglijst, we want to have it start afresh every year and have your four best tournaments count. We wish to count your accomplishments based on a percentile, and we don’t let any tournaments weigh more heavily than others. Only certain tournaments are counted, tournaments with special selection-criteria or with themes are excluded.
For the last few years the debatbond tracked all Dutch debaters on a debatranglijst. A list of all debaters, giving points on how well they had done at different tournaments and ranking them accordingly. Last year the old debatranglijst had to be removed from our website because it was no longer GDPR compliant. Since a new list had to be started in the new debating year we felt it was the perfect time to discuss updating its rules. To do so a Brainstormcommittee was formed and we discussed whether a debatranglijst should exist, and, if it should exist, in what way. This document is a summary of that discussion. It includes recommendations and a new proposal for a debatranglijst, should the bondsraad want one.
Should there be a debatranglijst?
The brainstormcommittee isn’t certain whether there should be a debatranglijst. A debatranglijst can be fun, because people can compare themselves with other debaters, even when they aren’t regularly speaking at the same tournaments. It can also be a way to track your own progression over the years. However, the debatranglijst can also be used to cultivate toxic status-relationships and to keep them intact. Moreover, the debatranglijst can be used to look down on people within the debating community and some people feel less certain and good about themselves because of it. There’s already a lot of competition within the debating community and people are ranked after every weekend. It might be wise to keep that to the (necessary) minimum of tournament rankings. It remains to be seen how strongly the debatranglijst plays into this, especially because ranking debaters already happens in so many ways.
The brainstormcommittee advises to only have a debatranglijst if a large majority of the member-societies want it, and to permanently abolish the list if it would play too much of a role in the way debaters see and treat one another.
What’s allowed with the GDPR?
Roughly speaking (and in no way to be seen as legal advice): every tournament needs to ask permission to publish someone’s name online (via the TAB), when asking this permission the tournament could and should also ask whether we can use your name for the debatranglijst. On top of that, there should be (as there always was) a way to get yourself removed from the debatranglijst.
This means that using foreign tournaments becomes almost impossible, but using national tournaments would be fine, as long as this permission is given.
How should the debatranglijst work?
To answer this question we looked at four different aspects: How many tournaments should be counted in what timeframe, what tournaments should be included, how should accomplishments be weighed and should different tournament be weighed differently?
Our proposal is to have a cyclus of one year. This means that every year the debatranglijst starts afresh: a blank slate where everyone has the same amount of chance to do well as everyone else. At the end of the year a prize could be handed out to the winners. This would mean that more value can be given to the list, since inactive debaters no longer pollute the list with their presence, and the list becomes more accessibly to newer debaters. Every year the four best tournaments of every speaker are taken into consideration, which means that players aren’t obligated to compete in all competitions to get a better score, but also that inactive speakers won’t be ranked too highly on the list. If someone does not speak Dutch they can request the Debatbond board that their three best tournaments are counted, to make it easier for them to participate and do well on the list, without them having to participate at more than half the tournaments in their chosen language. They have to make such a request in the first three months of the year.
What tournaments should be included?
The bondsbestuur will make a list with all the tournaments that count that year. This list is open for everyone and all tournaments can apply. The Bondsbestuur will actively encourage tournaments to do so. The board makes this decision on the following criteria: the tournament must be held in AP, BP or in a different format that’s used around the world, such as Australs. The tournament must be open, so no selection-criteria exist in order to compete . This means that, amongst others, novice tournaments, schools tournaments, internal tournaments and the mace are excluded. Lastly, there should be no restrictions to the CA-team, so themed tournaments are also excluded. A first list for this year could be:
How are accomplishments weighed?
Several different options exist here, we’ll outline four and argue for our preference.
The committee wishes to go for option 1, but has no preference for 1a or 1b in what way we’d count the outrounds. We believe that debating is a team sport and people should therefore mainly be marked on team-accomplishments. Even though we do see a compromise could be useful, we fear it would be highly unpractical to implement, and we would still value team-accomplishments more than speaker accomplishments.
Should different tournaments be weighed differently?
Because we propose a percentile-based system we do not feel the need to make a difference for different tournaments. We cannot easily or objective weigh the toughness of the competition at different tournaments and therefore the best thing is to look at how many other teams are participating. Importantly, we believe that Dutch nationals should be counted differently from other tournaments, since now it influences the debatranglijst way too much. We do see that someone who wins a tournament with 40 other teams doesn’t get more points than someone who wins a tournament with 20 other teams, but we feel that the outrounds are, in a way, equally tough, no matter how many other teams first competed. Moreover, we believe that the list should focus on the average debater, for whom the difference between a 12th place and a 15th place does matter a lot, which is taken into account really well, and for whom the different tournament size also matters a great deal.
The debating year is almost starting again, and so is 720. Before we overload you with all kinds of debating stories, wisdom and reports – an article from the old box. Last year, Jelte was on exchange in Singapore. He wrote a small piece on the differences between debating in Asia and the Netherlands.
Last semester, I spent some time abroad studying in Singapore at the Yale-NUS College. It defines itself as a college that bridges the East and the West, captured in the amazing slogan (and source of countless memes on campus): ‘In Asia, for the world’. When I went to Singapore my plan was to join the debating society. I told myself I did it because it would be an excellent opportunity to mingle with the local students and get to know new people. That’s of course partially true, but let’s be honest: I cannot go a fucking whole semester without debating. Plus, Yale-NUS is super rich – like insanely rich – so I figured it would be a good way of financing some trips throughout Asia.
In the third week of the semester, the first evening was hosted. I already told some older members which I met before that I debated, so I was allowed to hang with the cool kids while all the beginners had to sit through an introduction session. The motion was a bit weird if I recall correctly, but I liked the debating – so I kept attending meetings in the following weeks. I experienced debating ‘in Asia, for the world’. During my time in Singapore I went to some major regional tournaments (in Malaysia and Thailand) and a small local one. While actively participating as an Asian debater, I have observed some differences between Asian and Dutch/European debating communities.
The first thing I need to get off my chest is that the quality of tournament organisations in the Netherlands is something we should cherish. Althoguh the organisation of the largest tournament I attended was actually quite good, two tournaments in Singapore/Malaysia were a lot worse. .
The first day of my first Asian debating tournament started with stress. We were in a hurry to make it in time for registration. When we arrived at the venue five minutes before registration would close, I walked into the announcement hall and saw about ten people. There were supposed to be 150. Thinking I was in the wrong building, I asked where everybody was. One of the other YNC’ers told me people usually arrive late. This marked the beginning of my, seemingly endless, stream of irritation caused by the orgcom. The tournament was delayed for hours, the food was terrible and judging panels often consisted out of only one or two judges (who made some strange calls in my opinion). My team was also beaten by some 12-year old kids, which didn’t really improve my mood and confirmed the stereotype that no matter what you do, there is always an Asian kid better than you. I am not joking if I say at the end of the second day I was capable to kiss the bare feet of a Dutch orgcom that would organize a ‘normal’ tournament. The weirdest thing of it all was that most people accepted this as a given, not demanding better run tournaments. Guess the free market doesn’t work after all.
On a more positive note, the people I met in Asia were often super nice, friendly and approachable. I know there is sometimes this stigma in the Dutch/European debating scene that some societies or debaters think they are better than others. Now, although I don’t think this is always entirely true – it was certainly my experience in Asia that every debater is very easy to chat with and that ‘debating status’ doesn’t seem to matter as much compared to, for instance, when I was at EUDC.
Moreover, the level of interesting drama going on within the Asian circuit was very high, and thus very enjoyable. Societies taking out their internal dirty laundry and discussing it in the council at the Asian championships made for some good gossip. During Asians, almost the entire hotel was occupied by debaters, and well, that turned out like one would expect. Every morning at breakfast, there was no shortage of stories about sex, drugs and rock ’n roll.
Overall, it was definitely a lot of fun going to tournaments in Asia. I’d say the Asian Championships was definitely one of my highlights while being abroad. The people I met and the friends I have made (yes, I’m a cheesy motherfucker) were a lot more important than the organizational capacity of most orgcoms. Nonetheless, I am also happy to immerse myself in the Dutch debating community once again. I realized debating is so much more to me now than a fun, competitive game. Tournaments are rather moments where I meet my fellow-debater friends. See you soon!
Begin augustus werd het jaarlijkse Europese Kampioenschap debatteren voor studenten georganiseerd. Deze editie vond plaats in Novi Sad, in het Noorden van Servie. Bij het EK debatteren komen studenten uit heel Europa samen om te debatteren over allerlei onderwerpen. De studenten doen mee in teams van twee. Grote namen zoals de universiteiten van Oxford en Cambridge zijn vertegenwoordigd, maar ook veel Nederlandse universiteiten doen mee aan dit evenement.
Veel Nederlandse universiteiten waren dichtbij een plaats in de kwartfinale binnen de categorie ‘Engels als tweede taal’. Uiteindelijk waren er twee teams die een plaats veroverden. Bonaparte, de Amsterdamse studentendebatvereniging, bestaande uit Tom Pouw en Marike Breed, en de Leiden Debating Union, bestaande uit Romée Lind en Jeroen Wijnen. Het laatstgenoemde duo wist zelfs door te stoten naar de finale. Hier debatteerde zij tegen teams uit Zagreb, Moscow en Tel Aviv over het thema collectieve trauma na ernstige misdaden tegen de mensheid. Het team uit Tel Aviv won.
In 2019 wordt het Nederlands Kampioenschap Debatteren door ASDV Bonaparte georganiseerd in Amsterdam.
Op dit moment bestaat de organisatiecommissie uit vier mensen: Ezra Glasbergen (voorzitter), Jan-Pjotr Komen en Amber en Britt van Lochem. Zij zullen jullie op de hoogte houden van relevante vorderingen via hun website en de evenementenpagina op Facebook.
In 2019 wordt het Nederlands Kampioenschap Debatteren door ASDV Bonaparte georganiseerd in Amsterdam. Het toernooi zal plaatsvinden op zaterdag 6 en zondag 7 april, in het voor velen bekende Cartesius Lyceum (Frederik Hendriksplantsoen 7A, 1052 XN Amsterdam).