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25 June 2009

Update on Worlds Registration

As many of you are aware there was extremely high interest in attending Worlds this year.  The result is a large number of teams have been "waitlisted" for slots once the team cap was reached.  The organisers are in a very difficult position on this one and here is their response to some queries about why somw teams have 3 teams while others are waitlisted.

Yesterday’sregistration may have come as a surprise to some but to those who have been following global debating over the last years, it was expected. We were certainly expecting it. Whilst 90 seconds is remarkably fast, last year’sWorlds filled up in a similar fashion. However, between the two bouts of registration fever, there was a Worlds Council at which the issue was discussed at length. It is worth returning to that discussion, particularly as we are bound as an Organizing Committee to abiding by the policies (or as is more often the case, the spirit) of Council.

Firstly, we asked explicitly whether we should have a team cap of three or two. After a discussion lasting an hour, it became clear that there was no consensus but that the majority of delegates favored a three team cap. No binding decision was taken and the initiative was left with us. The arguments for three teams over two were many, including a larger number of n-1 judges (your proposal, Rajan, to reduce retroactively the team cap would also remove 77 judges) and the fact that many C teams are highly competitive. We stated at Council that we would go for three teams and that we would share our registration plans with the Chair of Council, which we have since done. We don’t believe that we can now reduce the team cap, even in the face of unprecedented interest in Worlds as this would undo every public and private statement we have made about registration since January 2008. It would also throw our adjudication pool into chaos. Any kind of retroactive, off-the-cuff response to a problem is likely to throw carefully designed plans into disarray and so we simply cannot go back on what we have said we would do.

Secondly, Council discussed internet speed as an issue which undermined registration inparts of Asia and Africa. We instigated a policy whereby institutions from nations with low bandwidth internet connections would get a break and as a result, many new institutions were included in the first phase of registration this year. Thirdly, Council reaffirmed the rule whereby every nation that has competed at Worlds one year get sone team slot as a right at the next round. A look at our registered list shows a remarkably diverse number of nations represented from every continent and region (with the unfortunate exceptions of North and Central Africa). We have done everything that Council expects from us andin this sense, we are happy with how registration has gone.

You are right, however, that a lasting solution is needed to the effect the growth of Worlds Style debating around the globe has had on the World Universities Debating Championships. You suggest a team cap of two but a quick look at current registration indicates that this would still leave around 70 institutions outside the tournament. There are now so many universities that actively debate that a team cap of one would be required to include everyone. We now face a situation where the global debating community must decide what its biggest tournament is about. Is Worlds a tournament solely about finding thebest team in the World? Is it about ensuring that everyone who wants to competegets to compete?

It is in this context that last year’s Worlds Council set up the Future of Worlds Committee, which was charged with looking at an array of issues, including registration. We would suggest that you, and anyone else who has strong viewson this matter, approach the Chair of that Committee, Adiba Shareen, with your ideas. This year’s registration was no surprise – we all saw it coming. Rather than trying to solve the problem by making retroactive knee-jerk decisions, we will need to come together as a community and make some hard decisions. Thismight happen this year but more likely it will take two. What is imperative is that we are prepared to make changes that preserve what makes Worlds such an attractive event whist also dealing with the myriad problems that explosive growth has brought.

We should all be proud that Worlds Style debating is flourishing and at Koç we recognize that we are the temporary guardians of an immensely valuable Championship. We hope that Singapore Management University get in off the waitlist (and our pre-payment policy will ensure that speculative registrations are knocked out much earlier than in previous years).We also hope that you choose to help us seek a long-term solution rather than a short-term one that would throw our plans into chaos and make us go back on our word.

With our warmest regards,
Can Okar
on behalf of the Vehbi Koç World Universities Debating Championships

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