TOC Procedures Regarding in Round Discrimination

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To whom it may concern,

My name is Philip Bonanno and I am a three year debater at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York. This weekend at the Tournament of Champions I had a very interesting and problematic round I believe our community can learn from as a whole. In this round, disclosure theory was read against us, and I made the response that disclosure theory pushes those out of debate with chronic illnesses, such as myself as I personally do not have the time and energy to go through a pool of 120 and prepout each one. The response made in return is that those with chronic illnesses are already mostly out of the debate space, and the impact of further doing so is a minimal impact.

Just taking a look at this response from outside the round, I view this as problematic for a couple reasons. First, because as someone who is chronically ill and has had success in this activity in the six years I’ve been doing it, all of my contributions would be considered unimportant under this view. Second, and arguably more important than me, is the realization of invisible chronic illness. For example, one of my illnesses is rheumatoid arthritis, which would not a appear if I did not have other health challenges. There remains no possible way to know how many of us are chronically disabled. I cannot stress enough how discouraged I felt about my ability to provide discourse.

I want to make especially clear to those who know the team to which I am referring that I am not calling for any confrontation, condemnation or vilification. They apologized for their remarks and that is just part of being a student, truly learning from mistakes and progressing. What I truly felt was unacceptable came from both the judge and the response from tabroom.

The judge, Anson Fung, in his decision, while stating that he did not want to vote off of theory, did so anyway because we did not extend any case offense, and as we did not offer a counter interp (we had no idea what this was) we had to lose the round. No mention of the problematic argumentation was made in either verbal or written comments of the round. To make this clear, I find this lack of touching on uncomfortable subject matter comes from a place of extraordinary privilege itself. The fact that the judge, the adult in the room supposed to realize and educate, took his platform as a position to avoid a necessary discussion was cowardly.

In response to this, I felt it appropriate to inform tab of the discrimination that just took place in one of their rounds, an admittedly difficult task since I did not want to risk looking as though I was complaining. In response, they too hid behind their privilege and told me their blanket policy was not to change decisions, saying they trust the judges they put in the room. However, they did admit Mr. Fung was an unfit adjudicator making their last statement about the judge making the right decisions utterly ludicrous. They did, to their credit, remove Mr. Fung from the judging pool. To be clear, however, the only people to suffer the consequences of the discrimination were me and my partner. To remedy this I propose tabroom should be able to either change the decision of the round or to give both teams wins, or basically any other decision to make sure that the victims from discrimination do not get further victimized with a loss on the ballot.

This is where I get incredibly upset as for the sake of convenience, despite already admitting he was an unfair and problematic adjudicator and educator, head of tabroom Chris Palmer put Mr. Fung back on an octafinals panel. Despite lying to my face to avoid a positive discussion, he for the third time that day, made me feel uncomfortable and unwelcome at his tournament. As Mr. Palmer seems unwilling to have a discussion regarding ableism in the debate community and punish those who express and implicitly endorsed those views, I hereby call for him to change the policy regarding switching decisions in rounds regarding discrimination. This is needed to fix a systemic problem in this community and people need to be held accountable for their actions after receiving an explanation of why their actions were problematic. For the record, the ONLY apology I received this entire weekend was from the students, who are supposed to be the least mature.

To be clear, I am hoping to change the fact that in the status quo, debaters who face discrimination in round and still lose the ballot, do not get any signal that they are still welcome in the debate community.

Thank you for reading and if possible please sign and share this message to every coach and debater you know.

Philip Bonanno

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