Frustrations and questions: my MINT9 experience

For some people, the 9th Manila Intervarsity was like any other debate tournament. It may have been slower than most, and there may have been some delays, but when haven’t there been delays? They’re part and parcel of the local tournament experience.

Not so, if you’re behind the scenes and seeing how things actually fuck up monumentally. Since this is a safe space –though naturally nothing in the Internet is safe, I plead to your humanity to reserve judgement on me–, I’d like to vent and hypothetically cry.

Disclaimer: I carry part of the blame.

And for my readers out there who don’t understand what I’m saying or who don’t know how collegiate debate works, skip this post. I’ve got happier things to post about in the future. Or maybe treat this post as an extended, unanswered MBA case.

MINT OrgComm
the mint9 fam! minus people who went to lb/thesis work/etc

Frustration #1. The Basics of Adjudicating.

I’ve always wanted to be an adjudicator. Not gonna lie, it was a dream of mine to enter a debate room, Starbucks in hand, ready to pass rational judgment on the hopes of would-be champions. Naturally, my Starbucks had already melted by the time Round 1 of MINT began, but the rest could have still applied without any trouble. I was excited. It took me literal years before UPMDC trusted me with decision-making (joke lang pls).

But I think my positive valuation of the “adj career” or “adj track” is rarer than I’d like. I feel like people put more premium on being a debater, as if there’s a clear hierarchy to the myriad of ways humanity can express complex thought. And this perception has led to a less-than-competitive adj pool.

When we, as the Adj Core, first saw the CVs of the people judging the tournament, we were vaguely worried. There were only 22 or so people with solid resumes to their names. The rest were functional novices. We said, okay. Let’s have a short adj briefing to get everyone acclimatized. A good and competitive adj pool makes a tournament healthy.

During the two-hour delay to the start of Day 1, we had enough time to give an adj briefing and ask for any questions. Naturally, we only got one or two questions and not much else.

Rules of collegiate debating that should have been cemented in people’s minds include:

  • Giving a speaker score within the range of 67 to 83
  • Giving a reply speaker score within the range of 33.5 to 41.5
  • Not giving low-point wins
  • Averaging the score of the panel, excluding the scores of the minority
  • If there was a 2-man panel, the score of the Chair would be doubled
  • Voting as a panel, instead of giving a consensus
  • It’s okay to use a calculator and scratch paper

It is sombering to note that all of these mistakes were evident in Round 1, and some (like the speaker range) extended up to Round 3. By Round 2, reports were coming in of judges having a consensus. And sometimes, it’s not even about clearcut mistakes. How is it possible that a single speaker, seen through the eyes of three different adjudicators in the same round, get such drastically different scores, ranging from a 74 to an 80? Where’s the credibility in that?

Is it possible that our current adjudicators have different rules when they train, and that’s why our tournament rules were so hard to follow? Isn’t it necessarily standardized by the national tournaments in every season?

Problems like these could be fixed if people would just ask. But apparently there were reports that both runners and the tab team would demand for the minority score (apparently it is needed by the system, though it is really irrelevant to the grand scheme of things), confusing the ballot even further.

Would simple communication have solved this better?

Looking back, I think that’s where I failed. I should have included everyone, including the Tab Team, into the adj briefing, instead of assuming that everyone would follow the standard tournament rules. I should have also thought of a contingency. But as someone whose last experience in organizing a tournament was the 8th MINT, I quite forgot that such errors could even exist.

Frustration #2. No Checks.

In the busy scheme of things, as an individual, it’s easy to overlook one thing over the other. When it’s a team of people, however, you’d expect someone to speak out when something’s obviously wrong.

But there wasn’t anything of the sort. The reason why we dropped the tab system mid-tournament, and later the reason why the Adj Core manually backtabbed the tournament Saturday night, was because of persisting irregularities in the existing tab.

After we announced the adj breaks in front of everyone –at 9 or 10PM– we looked at the team breaks and had to stop after announcing the first breaking team. There was a 130 point difference between the total speaker scores of the first breaking team and the second. No matter how you slice it, that wasn’t possible.

We eventually found the final team ranks to be different from their initial ranking, at literally every point.

And I remember wondering why no one bothered to correct the input of grades beyond the 67 to 83 range. I looked at the current tab and saw that some formulas didn’t include the reply speeches. I was so mad. How could anyone accept these scores as legitimate? Now we had to scramble to correct before the announcement of breaks.

I wondered, hysterically laughing, why it became my responsibility to call up judges at 12AM Saturday night, asking what they meant by a reply speaker score of 32. I wondered why we had to call up Chairs and panelists, asking for an explanation to their mistakes. Thank god there was pizza.

It was also only during this backtabbing that we belatedly found that some teams gave ‘1’ to their adjudicators, raising a conflict. I had to thank the stars no one received a judge they already conflicted the round before, by sheer luck and happenstance.

And was it even possible to catch some mistakes? Recently a team raised a concern –they were supposed to have won the third round, since that was what everyone in the room, debaters and adjudicators alike, knew. Everyone, that is, except the ballot, which they incorrectly filled out by switching the team and speaker names between Aff and Neg. How can a mistake like this happen? Did both teams fill it out, realizing nothing was wrong? Did the judges not notice at all? Was this a mistake I could have caught? Anyone?

What’s frustrating is that even with my background in editing and spreadsheets, I’m not a machine, and neither are the rest of the Adj Core or Jeca. It feels like a cop out to say that I was neither trained nor prepared for manual tabbing. But it was past midnight after a long day. This meant that there would be mistakes, and even up to my third backtabbing I might still find an error (see Disclaimer). And I’m so, so sorry to everyone that were disenfranchised by my mistakes.

I’m trying to look for a silver lining.

Good Things #1. The Adj Core.

But I can safely say that this Adj Core –Andrei, Gino, Jason and Reine– is the best Adj Core I’ve ever been with. Naturally, it’s my first time being part of an Adj Core. I thought we were doing so well when we finished all motion sets two days in advance of the tournament.

There’s also something to be said about trying to rationalize mistakes in the dead of the night that just breaks all the ice. They’re like new friends! Who I’ve known before! I think.

Good Things #2. The OrgComm.

There were so many constraints to the competition, the first being the giant sinkhole in UP Manila. I’m incredibly proud of the OrgComm for pushing through, though there were necessary risks and costs. Bless us that there weren’t any more serious traffic accidents.

Thank you for the cake. I’ve been comforting myself with Mary Grace ever since.

And naturally thank you to my friends –Maryan, Jeca, Mort– who aren’t necessarily part of the OrgComm, but who were there when it counted. Specifically in The Shitstorm version ???.

Good Things #3. The Rounds and the People.

I did like the motions (duh). And more importantly, I’m heartened by the people who say that the motion sets were good. I sincerely hope you lot weren’t just paying us lip service.

Congratulations, naturally, to the winners and top contenders of this tournament. Every year, the novices get better and better. (Seriously, during my MINT novice year, I wasn’t anywhere near their caliber.)

In the end, the Manila Intervarsity had always been envisioned as a tournament that would bridge the gap between older and younger generations. Whatever the case, I feel like we did accomplish that in many respects. There’s nothing like trial by fire and injustice to light the passion and keep it burning.

how am i in the same category as these people rip


I look forward to more efforts to generate more efficient tournaments on the parts of everyone. Maybe this would mean a community which values adjudicators and tournament briefings, debaters who would more carefully wield their power to score judges and who would be more careful in filling out ballots, judges who would stay within the range and calculate responsibly, and tab teams that would more closely align with the tournament and would come prepared with contingency plans.

For now, I’m looking forward to tomorrow, this weekend, and this summer. And also to the baby I’ll be greeting tomorrow in the labour room (assuming I wake up on time!)

Is this the most condescending, self-affirming post you’ve ever seen? Unfortunately I am tired enough to be unapologetic.

Officially signing out until some other error crops up,



This has been a scheduled post.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on medschool panacea and commented:
    Debateland. And its imperfections.

Say something back.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s