To My Fellow Alumni

By Yilin Li


Hi! I'm a fellow alum (phew! feels so nice to say that) and wanted to reach out to fellow marginalized judges/coaches/individuals involved in the activity. As someone who has left the activity and attempts to remember my time in the activity as little as I can, I doubt I'm the only one who constantly weighs involvement to promote equity in the activity versus my personal mental health of entering somewhat isolating spaces. In the midst of that mental battle that occurs every time a current debater asks for judging or debate stumbles back into a conversation I'm having, these are a few tips I have after strong arming people in power for change.

TLDR: Leverage for actual progress, ask for fair compensation, be who you needed when you were in high school!

1. You have the power to change the community to be more welcoming now, that is if you somehow (magically) have overcome the burnout and stress, for which I commend you 100%! With that power comes great responsibility, so use your leverage with tournament staff or camp directors to engage in discussions about promoting equity and/or negotiating for higher pay. They need you now, more than you needed them before, so ask the uncomfortable questions about their behind the scenes processes. What else did this activity train you to do other than write a strongly worded case demanding change to something? Just kidding.

*Not sure what to say? Need a template? Find them below. Side note: there's a template for asking for fee waivers down there too, some tournaments are open to helping cover costs.*

2. It is not your responsibility to fix the community anymore. If you want to forget this experience, live in Rhode Island, own cats called Meredith and Olivia, write songs that I will stream endlessly, please do! You do not have to give anymore Teardrops On (your) Guitar if you do not want to.

3. Don't sugarcoat too much to current debaters what they might encounter. Don't freak them out either! It's important you prevent and prepare them so they can avoid traps and be aware of individuals to keep distance from.

4. If you can, help out the underdogs :). Give a chance to the small schools, to the marginalized debaters who overcome fear to reach out to you for coaching, and ask for less compensation (from underprivileged debaters, not large institutions and well known teams: from them you demand more). Imagine and remember what it might be like to pay for entry fees AND club dues AND coaching fees AND stable wifi AND clothing AND the actual prep work, and consider charging for less or nothing. Unsponsored plug: Work with organizations like Beyond Resolved!

5. Also, cut off toxic people. Nothing else needs to be said here.

Potential Templates:

For hiring more equitable staff (can be altered to ask for more equitable judging pool):

Dear __(name)___ ,

(Demand/Thesis) I realize the power of the position I have being a part of this staff, so I am asking to hire another gender minority instructor.

(Explain why, for example --> ) I have too often had to speak out in representation of all marginalized debaters, too often been the only ___ in the room, too often stayed silent in fears of losing favor that most men take for granted. Bringing another _____(specify)____ on staff would demonstrate to the other students ______(what do you want to accomplish)________. It would also make myself more comfortable teaching on the staff.

(Explain the benefit of it and/or why just because you had success does not mean the problem doesn't exist -->)Most of the community has over time accepted me as a debater first and a marginalized debater second. However, as there is a reckoning happening in our community, I would like more voices that have not had my privilege. Hiring based on success and fame is something camps often do, and I truly hope that _____(blank organization)_______ understands that numerous barriers prevent marginalized debaters from succeeding and reflects that in their business decisions.

(Summarize -->) Overall, The burden of winning to prove marginalized debaters can debate in outrounds, the new burden of judging to prove marginalized debaters can judge, and now the burden of teaching to prove that marginalized debaters can teach, is unbearably heavy and I hope you understand how I am tired of carrying it alone.

Best,

(Your name)

Asking for more compensation:

Dear ____(name)______,

(Express gratitude) Thank you for this opportunity!

(Raise concern) Unfortunately, I have noticed that there seems to be an issue with ___(specify)__ representation in judging/competition. What measures has ___(their organization)______ put in place to make this space more welcoming for all? (add any recommendations or specific issues)

(Explain why you are asking) Personally, I've experienced firsthand the detrimental effects of _______(lack of representation)______.

(Place your demand) If this space does not become more welcoming for current competitors or myself, I would like to be paid ___($)___ more. While I appreciate the offer, I cannot be a bystander and supporter to harmful practices in this community.

Best,

(Your name)

Asking for fee waivers:

Dear ___(name)____,

My name is ______(name)_____, and I'm a __(year)____ at ___(name of school)____ School in ___(location_______. I compete in ____(activity)___ and am considering attending your tournament next year.

However, the ___(name of your school)_____ team lacks support. (explain your situation, for example --> ) Because our team is so small and almost never travels, neither the school nor the public school district will subsidize our travels. We pay for most of our travel tournaments out-of-pocket. This is compounded by the fact that we were one of the first debaters on our team to pursue _____(activity)___, and our coach can't miss school to travel with us, we almost always end up paying the additional judging fee since we can't bring judges. As you can probably imagine, the costs add up fast, and out-of-state tournaments become prohibitively expensive.

(explain your qualifications, not necessary) In spite of this, I am extremely passionate about debate and am consistently successful on the ______ circuit. For example, I/we _____(list your experience)_______. But without experience outside of _____(your circuit)____, it's hard to adapt to other styles and expand our horizons as debaters, limiting my/our success.

We would be incredibly grateful if your tournament would help subsidize the cost of attendance in any way you can. Please let us know if there is anything at all you can do to help - we would be grateful for anything. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Best,

(Your Name)

~~

Note: The Beyond Resolved blog reflects the ideas of individual authors and not necessarily of the organization as a whole.

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