Reject National Synchronous Tournament Requirements

Reject National Synchronous Tournament Requirements

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Haleemah Na'Allah started this petition to National Forensic Association and

In response to the ongoing pandemic, much of the Speech and Debate’s 2020-2021 competitive season will be hosted online. In alignment with possible national AFA qualification policies, a wide majority of tournament directors have chosen to hold their tournaments synchronously - mimicking an in-person tournament by having students competing virtually, in real-time. In reality, the overwhelming slate of synchronous tournaments favors a very select few. 

To compete synchronously or in real-time, a student must:

  • Be able to afford high-quality internet
  • Have access to a private, quiet space for extended periods of time
  • Live in a time zone that aligns with the tournament
  • Have the economic security to clear their schedules from work for an entire weekend
  • Have the optimal lighting and background to support the performance
  • Be able to personally afford a device with the high-grade camera and audio quality necessary for virtual performance

While forensics has never been an even playing ground, it’s undeniable that success in a synchronous format is dependent on access, resources, and privilege. To make no attempt towards easing the barriers in virtual forensics is akin to intentionally rejecting any competitor who simply cannot afford to compete.

In direct contrast, asynchronous tournaments allow students to compete by submitting pre-recorded videos. The format reduces the resource barrier by offering students the flexibility to adapt their internet, space, and technology as necessary. International competitors and students across the country can participate freely. Asynchronous tournaments allow students to present their best work in its best form. Now more than ever, speech must be accessible above all else. Unlike synchronous tournaments, a student’s participation and success will no longer be solely dictated by their means. 

As such, we are urging our leaders to fight for us on two fronts:

  • AFA must remove all synchronous tournament qualification requirements.
  • Regular-season tournament directors must prioritize their students by making their tournaments asynchronous.

The current slate of synchronous tournaments across the country cannot and will not serve students. We love this activity and we want to compete but we need our leaders to do better.


Haleemah Na’Allah I Bradley University’21

Jacob Thompson I George Mason University’21

Kimberly Lee I The University of Texas at Austin’22

Ally Knighton I Lewis and Clark University’21

Join us in demanding more.

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