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20 December 2009

Koc WUDC Debating Guide: First Proposition

Can we squirrel?

What is a squirrel?
It’s when first proposition defines the motion in such a way as to depart entirely from what the adjudication team intended in setting the motion. So: “THBT NATO should be disbanded” should be about the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation, not about that 80’s electro-punk band, which also happens to be named ‘NATO’. Motions have been set with a particular debate in mind, and you should have that debate, even if you think it is silly, boring, or undebatable. The test for whether or not something is a squirrel is this: is your definition something that could reasonably be anticipated by an intelligent first opposition?

Do we have to have a model?
The short answer: Yes.
The long answer: There are two things you can do as proposition: give a model (i.e. a short, clear account of what it is the House is going to do), or in some cases you may just say clearly that you intend this debate to be about of matter of principle. For example, the motion “THBT we should invade Zimbabwe” is a motion which requires a model. See below for a description of a model. The Motion “THBT torture is justified” can be run with a policy (i.e. a change in law), but can also be run just as a principled debate, in which you argue for the truth of the moral claim that torture is justified. The reason why you don’t need a policy in the latter case is that the wording of the motion only mentions the principle at issue. In those cases, you can, but do not have to propose a practical change in the world.

Can we place-set?
There are two issues here: [1] What is ‘this House’? [2] Where is the policy being enacted?

In some motions, both are fixed. When this happens, the House is usually, but not always, one or more governments (i.e. ‘THBT the United States should abandon its embargo of Cuba’), but it can also be any other body which enacts policy (i.e. ‘THBT the Vatican should allow the use of contraception to fight HIV in the developing World).

In other cases, first proposition have considerable freedom in deciding the scope of the debate. For example, in the debate ‘THW invade Zimbabwe’, the house could quite legitimately be the United Nations, the USA, South Africa, the African Union, etc. The debate ‘THW use abstinence to fight HIV’ could quite legitimately be place set to everywhere, the developing world, developed liberal democracies, etc. However, neither the place nor the House can be fictional (i.e ‘Middle Earth’, ‘The Star Wars Universe’ or other such things). Place-setting is illegitimate if it gives first proposition an unfair advantage. This includes behaviour like place-setting to your home country or place-setting it to some obscure location which you have in your case-file. Once again, the test for whether or not place-setting is legitimate is this: is it something that could reasonably be anticipated by an intelligent first opposition?

Can we time-set?
No. The House is always in the present, and cannot move forward or backwards in time. It is legitimate to specify that your policy will occur at a specific point in time (i.e. excluding China from the Olympics, in 2012), but that would have to be some point in the future.

What needs to be in a model?
Not much. A clear, short specification of what is to be done. There is no need to give any more than what is sufficiently detailed in order for adebate to take place (i.e. if proposition is advocating the invasion of Zimbabwe, it probably should specify who is invading, it probably does not need to tell us what sort of tanks are being used).

How long should a definition be?
The rules do not give a formal limit. However, as a matter of prudence, not long. Definitions do not win debates. Arguments do. The length of an appropriate definition will depend upon the motion. Banning things tends to be quite simple. Invading places is not.

Where should the definition be?
In the beginning of the first proposition speech.

Can I add stuff to the definition later?
No. However, if you are challenged on a non-obvious aspect of the mechanism by the opposition, you can explicate, as long as you are making reasonable inferences from common practice, rather than radically changing the scope of the policy (i.e. in the debate about invading Zimbabwe, a quite legitimate definition might not include a specification of precise details of strategy. If challenged on such matters by opposition, it would not be breaking the rules to fill in such gaps).

This guide is from the briefing published by the adjudication team of Koc Worlds 2010. The adjudication team is Can Okar (CA) Josh Bone (DCA), Julia Bowes (DCA), Suthen Tate Thomas (DCA), Will Jones (DCA), Handan Orel (ACA), Ozan Mert Ondes (ACA). This document is based on one drafted by Anat Gelber, Daniel Schut and Will Jones in 2007 for the Amsterdam Open.

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