Do Adjudicators Need to Research?

I have heard from a friend that she was trained in a way so that debate adjudicators are supposed to research upon the prepared motions, prior to adjudicating in the said competition. This post will explain my perspective on the matter.

I have posted another article on “How to adjudicate a clash of facts”, yet that article emphasizes on a very specific problem. This shall be more general to the role of an adjudicator with respect to research –finding facts.

My view on this goes three folds:

  • It is not imperative, despite a good bonus, for adjudicators to conduct indepth research on motions
  • Adjudicators whom choose to conduct so may only apply the result of such research when providing constructive feedback –not as judgment consideration.
  • This may not be construed as to a bar for adjudicators to rule on wrong facts which can be identified by average reasonable persons, or that an adjudicator may be completely clueless on a motion to the extent that e.g. they think “Free Trade” is “trading goods for free”.

The following are my reasons:

Role of Adjudicators

An adjudicator must be a passive 3rd party to the debate, where they only judge based on what appears in the debate and brought by team government or opposition (audi et alteram partem. Its a legal term for this principle. Its unnecessary, but I just think its cool. HAHA).

They must be neutral as an average reasonable persons, in the sense that they may not have their own personal specific knowledge to be used as consideration. If I, personally as a law student, knows that a team is bringing a wrong fact/theory which is a very detailed matter of law, then I should not rule it out. It is unfair, because other teams in other chambers can bring the same fact/theory and get away with it simply by sheer luck that the other adjudicators are not law students.

As addition to that, adjudicators must not second guess an argument/rebuttal of the teams by providing a counter argument/rebuttal. E.g. a team bringing an argument that “homosexual parents can not provide different figure-models for their children, thus may not adopt”, and the adjudicator sees that it is a bad argument because “these gender based figure models are simply a matter of construction, and has nothing to do with whether or not the child can grow normally or not”. This is stepping in to the debate. This is wrong because the debate should be only between Team Government and Team Opposition. Adjudicators remain in between.

Even if the motions are prepared where every adjudicator has the chance to research equally. A debate must be determined by the efforts of the teams in researching and building their case, NOT by the extent of research which the adjudicators have done (which may vary between adjudicators).

Therefore, it is not necessary for an adjudicator to research upon a prepared motion in order to prepare him/herself to perform the primary role as an adjudictor: to judge. Any results of these research, if applied to the debate, will result in interference.

It is however very nice if an adjudicator decides to research, in order to provide constructive feedbacks to the teams. Debate is more than a competition, as it is also a part of a learning process. But it must be remembered that these researches and knowledges of specific facts/theories must strictly be used for evaluational purpose only. NOT JUDGING.

Average Reasonable Knowledge

Despite the aforementioned explanations, there are some certain facts/theories which is safe to be assumed known by everyone –and therefore, getting them wrong would sound riddiculous for anyone regardless of academic knowledge (or people not knowing them are sadly ill-informed). For example, it is safe to say generally people would know that poor people tend to starve and that they should not be in such condition. Or, an extreme one, is that Ahmadinejad is not the president of USA.

Now on these facts, adjudicators may rule them out. One may assume that it does not take specific research to know these things. But it would help to randomly scour the newspapers/internet for random facts. (further anaysis on how to rule out clashes of facts of extreme nature, kindy refer to my article “How to adjudicate Clash of Facts” which can also be found in this blog.)

Plus, as I said that everytime you enter a chamber to adjudicate, adjudicators must make sure that they have an idea of what the motion is generally about. Not to the extent that they try think of arguments that teams are supposed to bring, definitely not whether or not they personally agree/disagree with the motion. But at least what is the motion about.

E.g. A motion about eco terrorism. At least you should know that the debate is about groups of people terrorizing environmental offenders, not Al Qaeda.

This is just my opinion, though. Please let me know if you have other ideas upon this matter.

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