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.
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).
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Right after Christmas, most people are getting some rest from the busy days, enjoying the left-overs and preparing for New Years’ Eve. However, a small group of Dutch Debaters will fly to South-Africa to compete in or judge the 2019 Cape Town World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC). This years’ delegation consists of Lana and Zeno on behalf of Bonaparte, Marike and David on behalf of Leiden en Daan (Welling), Fabienne and Linsey as judges. On top of that, Gigi will compete with Tommy Peto on behalf of Oxford. This article will take a quick look at the tournament and the chances of the teams.
First of all, let’s look into what is new this WUDC. Every year, during the Christmas break at WUDC debaters from all around the world, compete for the title ‘World Debating Champion’. However, this year some things have changed to make the competition fairer because there was a general idea within the Debating Community that there were some biases that needed to be resolved. This means that there from this year onwards is a policy that says that for larger delegations with at least 3 teams, ⅓ of this delegation should identify as female or non-cis males. Secondly, team codes will be implemented to make sure it is no longer easily visible from what societies people are and therefore it is less likely that biases against or in favour of certain societies occur.
During the tournament, there will be 9 inrounds in which everyone competes and then the best teams will advance to the outrounds. Making these outrounds, is something a lot of debaters dream about, so will there be a chance the Dutch teams will make the outrounds? Definitely!
First of all, if we look at Marike and David, we see an experienced team that is feared by many in the Dutch Debating Community, because if you debate against them you will have to do your very best to stand a chance to beat them. Both David and Marike have already become the best speaker at tournaments during this season and they won multiple tournaments. On top of that, in the past two years, they both managed to make the outrounds in the European Universities Debating Championships (EUDC) once. This shows that their track record is very promising and they can definitely do very well during WUDC, maybe there even is an open break in their future.
Lana and Zeno are also a team that has quite some experience, as they have been debating together for quite a long time now. When they just started debating together they made a lot of novice and pro-am finals and managed to take home the price quite regularly. Now the time that they were novices is long gone, but they still manage to make outrounds at tournaments on a quite regular base. For example, they recently were in the final of the Tilbury House Open in Cologne this autumn. We should therefore definitely keep an eye on this team for the break to the outrounds.
Lastly, the half-Dutch team from Oxford, Gigi and Tommy. They are probably the most established team with a Dutch influence. Gigi already made an ESL final of Tallinn EUDC in 2017 and Tommy was already the second best speaker at Dutch WUDC in 2017. They are also doing very well together in a team, winning the Birmingham IV only 2 weeks ago. Their other achievements are so many that listing them is impossible, but this definitely raises the question; will half of the new World Champions be Dutch?
With 3 judges that all have plenty of judge breaks, we are also looking forward to them judging some great debates and maybe even getting a chance of judging some outrounds as well.
All in all, this WUDC has a lot of potential for great success for all the Dutchies attending and we are very much looking forward to the tournament. Updates will be given through the Seventwenty Facebook page and some larger articles will be written on the website as well.
Best of luck of all competitors!
This year, three debating societies are celebrating their lustrums. For those unfamiliar, lustrums are five-year periods which allow a company, organization or in our case, a society to celebrate its birthdays. TU Delft Debating Club is celebrating its very first lustrum, Leiden Debating Union its third and as the oldest society of the Netherlands, Erasmus Debating Society is very excited to celebrate its sixth. Naturally, such big celebrations call for huge parties, from dinners, to galas, to lectures, to party weekends; societies are determined to celebrate in style.
Delft’s founding occurred on November 13, 2013 and it was on this date this year that the group got together at Wijnhaven. Wijnhaven holds a special place in the heart of the society, as it is there they head out for drinks every Thursday. Other plans include celebrating with other societies in a more formal manner, including a black-tie party since, as society’s president Cian Jansen says, “debating is best when there’s other societies involved.” The Club also has plenty of reasons to celebrate. Cian also notes that “In a couple short years, we grew from struggling to have a BP debate every week to having an amazing community of people that are present almost every week.” They are also lining up fantastic achievements at debating tournaments, from winning the Pro-Am final at Erasmus Rotterdam Open, to speaking in open finals at Roosevelt Open as well as having members CA and break at tournaments.
The second society celebrating its Lustrum is Leiden. Femke de Wijs, Leiden’s internal officer, says that she is excited for the Lustrum as it gives its members an opportunity to get together to “celebrate the fact that LDU is still providing us the chance to debate.” And what fantastic plans they have for the upcoming year for both their members and other debaters. To foster a more student environment, they are organizing multiple socials over the next year which will culminate with a super-secret party-weekend in April. Last month, the group visited Delft, went to an arcade and organized a pumpkin carving contest, all of which have been a huge success. That is not to say that fun activities will not detract from debating achievements – Leiden is lining up tournament wins left, right and center.
Lastly, EDS is celebrating thirty years of existence in May. Annemarijn Tamminga, the society’s president, says that it’s a big milestone and she is enthusiastic for the opportunity this brings to get together with other societies. This is also a big opportunity to also reflect on the fact that debating has been active for thirty years in the Netherlands, and look at what we have been able to do as the community. EDS has a lot of plans for its members and the debating community. They plan on organizing a dinner and a gala. Along with those, there are plans for an evening with lectures, and its members can look forward to a special edition of the society’s annual members weekend.
On the personal aspects, all board members are tremendously excited to be able to share their board experience with this milestone celebration. “It’s a big responsibility” says Annemarijn, but she’s looking forward to it. Femke also shares Annemarijn’s enthusiasm, by saying that she’s looking forward to getting to experience the year with new members (who are almost all new to Leiden) and do what they all love to do: debate.
Another amazing aspect of being on the lustrum board, Cian reflects, is the fact that they “still have a lot of people who were very important to the founding and early years of the club quite actively involved, which allows us to actually have them present for the celebrations.”
Whether you are a new or an old(er) debater, I hope everyone is excited for what is to come in the upcoming months! The Lustrum is the perfect opportunity for members and non-members to get together, and celebrate the achievements of the societies.
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.