Many thanks to all who replied, and thanks especially to Jerusalem Demsas for creating the survey and compiling results! Any questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We received a total of 36 responses, with a relatively even number of men and women responding. The respondents indicated that the role of the Women’s Initiative was clear, however there was disagreement over the overall effectiveness of the program. However, there was overwhelming agreement that the Women’s Initiative was good for gender equity. On the other hand, the EOF program suffered from both a lack of agreement over what the goals of the program should be as well as its perceived effectiveness. One problem may have been that the survey identified the program solely by the name “EOF,” and there were responses which indicated that people may not know how to distinguish that from “Equity Officers.”
Most people believe issues of equity are primarily a league issue rather than a team one. Almost universally, the respondents believed that women are structurally disadvantaged.
The final section includes the free form thoughts and opinions presented without comment.
Feel free to reach myself, Jerusalem Demsas at email@example.com if you have any questions or comments on the survey.
36 Responses Total
Makeup of Responses:
- 19 male identifying individuals
- 1 person identifying as genderfluid
- 15 female identifying individuals
- 1 person who identified as ‘a male trapped in a female body” and whose other responses indicated a troll. Those responses are not included below.
In response to the question “How would you rate the effectiveness of the EOF program?” the mean response was a rating of 4.62, a mode of 7 and a median of 4. Seven respondents chose option ‘0.’ Options were 1 (extremely ineffective) - 10 (extremely effective), with 0 indicating that they did not know how they would rate the effectiveness of the program.
We then asked respondents what they view the role of the EOF program as in an ideal world, providing them with the following options:
Enforcing a set of predetermined rules: 15/36
Creating a safe space for league members: 31/36
Crafting advisory policies for tournaments: 22/36
Facilitating conversations for the creation of standards of equity on the league: 28/36
- Other: “I don’t know what EOF stands for” and “enforcing a move forward on discussions cis white males consistently shut down.”
In response to the question “How would you rate the Women’s Initiative program on APDA in terms of effectiveness?” the mean response was 5.81, a mode of 7 and a median of 6. Three respondents chose option ‘0.’ Options were 1 (extremely ineffective) - 10 (extremely effective), with 0 indicating that they did not know how they would rate the effectiveness of the program.
We then asked respondents what they view the role of the WI program would be in an ideal world, providing them with the following options:
Facilitates discussions on female equity on the league: 33/36
Offers programming and workshops on gender issues (such as Bystander Intervention): 32/36
Creating reading materials for individual schools (for gender equity improvement): 23/36
- Other: “Talking about issues related to gender in a way that gets teams who are not interested in gender issues to pay attention. My team, for instance, is not particularly interested in gender issues, and that manifests itself in how women on the team are treated. Ideally the WI program would talk not just to schools that already care about gender inclusivity, but also those that really don't. It can be hard to get those people to care, but it would be great of [sic] WI could help explain to them why they SHOULD care.”
We asked if they believed that women are structurally disadvantaged on the league:
- 32 people said “Yes”
- 3 people said “I don’t know”
We asked if the respondent believed that the WI program was a helpful force for gender equality on APDA, with possible responses being Yes, No, I don’t know and Other.
- 25 said “Yes”
- 2 said “No”
- 7 said “I don’t know”
- 1 said “I don’t know if it’s an active good, but it sure isn’t an active bad”
We asked if people believe that equity & gender parity are greater problems on the league or on people’s individual teams, with possible responses being League, Individual Team, Equal and Other (which allowed people to elaborate if they so wished).
- 23 said “League”
- 8 said “Equal”
- 3 said “Team”
- 1 said “Societally”
- 1 said “It’s a lot better on our team now, but it used to be worse than the league”
We then asked if there were specific problems that needed to be brought to and/or resolved by WI & Equity. We received a variety of responses:
- I think that the current discussion being raised about issues of racial diversity on the league are very important to encourage and to be addressed by the board.
- I think both WI/Equity can work together to fix a lot of the dialogue people on the circuit have towards lower level teams as we are often very derogatory to them and take their teams less seriously. It should be brought up more often because it really discourages new teams from sticking around.
- As an EOF I feel confident that my biggest issues with the league are being addressed in at least some manner by the equity team.
- I have heard of multiple accounts of harassment carried out by certain individuals. These individuals still attend tournaments, and I was warned to look out for my team members in case they decided to harass them. Is there any way we can bar such people from attending tournaments, or at least give them a warning so they know their behavior is not tolerated? Granted, the veracity of those claims cannot be proven, but if there isn't some sort of punitive mechanism, I feel like we're expecting too much as a league if we think these people are going to change out of the goodness of their heart.
- We have had some issues with judges essentially bullying novices, especially female ones. Being judged by notable people on APDA, especially older males as a novice female, can be very intimidating, and I think a more concentrated effort needs to be made to make sure judges are aware of the effect the tone of their feedback can have on making debate appealing to novices. There's a difference between helpful critical feedback and being rude.
- trans* issues are ignored or shut down by the males (frequently gay) who take over the discussion and make it about them. it'd be nice to see a move forward on gender pronouns without mocking, fewer transphobic jokes around tournaments, and a generally more inclusive atmosphere.
- People need to be better at trigger warning cases about sexual assault, suicide and domestic violence. It's not that hard and pretty clearly necessary. The league has gotten okay at it but novices often don't know the situation and it's up to their varsity or the equity officers to remind them. We educate our novices about this on day 1 of case-writing practice. Not that hard.
- People yelling at judges.
- I think one of the biggest problems on the league is that good male debaters do not pick female novices to become their littles or trainees. I think they often pick debaters who come in with the most talent and, because high school debate tends to be very male dominated (from my experience anyways), that tends to be male novices. I don't think initial skill has a huge bearing on where that person will end up on the league but I think a lot of people do. This leads to the problem I mentioned before.
- One issue I have perceived revolves around the league's problem solving mechanism. [Newer team] has only been part of APDA for a year now, so this might be an unfair characterization, but it seems that the league will lament the issues of inequity and intellectually identify the problem, but provide little tangible help for minorities/women. One member has said that he feels like the league doesn't really understand how to take meaningful steps to address the problem, that they would prefer to, as the question below states, wax poetically about issues of equity without acknowledging our shared complicity. I realize that this question asks for a specific problem, whereas this is a statement on norms, but I think the WI/EOF needs to undergo a normative shift from an academic body to a policy body. This implies a transparent outline of the steps that will be taken to improve minority participation and to create equity. Status quo, the intellectual commitment that lacks tangible action creates more disenchantment with the league.
- I think that there is a significant lack of racial diversity, especially from the latino and african american community.
- It's really a deep, structural and ideological problem of ingrained sexism and racism.
- Minor thing: I personally haven't seen preferred pronoun policies properly enforced after the first or second round; There is also the discussion on the forum about possible policies around sexual assault
- Sometimes I wish you could anonymously report situations where you feel like you've experienced equity issues. like when you don't want to confront that person in any way but you don't want it to go unresolved either.
Then we asked respondents: “What do you feel the best way is to encourage racial diversity on the league?”
- 6 respondents mentioned active recruitment of minority debaters, especially through Black student groups
- 5 respondents mentioned outreach to high schools, especially urban debate leagues
- 3 respondents mentioned better judging
- 3 respondents mentioned abolishing tryouts and/or cuts
- reaching out to minority high schools
- Encouraging minorities to tryout/presenting more minorities in prevalent roles within the league
- Develop partnerships with Urban Debate Leagues to encourage them to come to our schools and join APDA.
- Starting at the team level. Having discussions with team executive boards about how to achieve maximum retention for novices and even varsity members who identify as non-White.
- More general publicity during tryouts
- I think it's really important that we do it, but I honestly don't know what the best way is. I think a good place to start is realizing the implicit bias that judges often have (and the fact that non-white people may get lower speaks or may be seen as less legitimate when giving speeches by some judges). This leads to them doing well and breaking less often and is overall just discouraging. We should then work to train judges to watch out for this bias and avoid it in much the same way that we are trying to train judges to avoid subtly sexist judging.
- Insuring non-whites are turning up to auditions and admitted to the team, this is achieved by promoting tryouts as widely as possible.
- APDA working alongside high school leagues
- Under-representation of racial minorities on our league is largely a symptom of greater systemic oppression i reckon. As the league exists today, most (if not all) of us are very welcoming.
- Encouraging the writing of cases that have to do with people's real lives, instead of hypotheticals and pie-in-the-sky theoreticals
- Active recruitment/no cuts
- encourage diversity of all kinds (intersectionality FTW)
- Outreach to urban debate leagues, focus during recruitment, this box is too small
- Stop doing try-outs. Try-outs require that someone did debate in HS to succeed in a freshman year try-out. This then just reflects the whiteness that already exists in HS debate leagues/teams. It's also not necessary for debate success. APDA is different enough from HS debate that any hardworking college student with a desire to get better can pick it up without prior experience. [School’s] first top 10 TOTY, [redacted and redacted], never did debate in HS and probably would have done other activities if they felt put out by a try-out process.
Reach out to poorer public high schools instead of private schools and wealthy public schools with built up debate teams. Schools like [redacted] and [redacted] exclusively reach out to schools like [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], etc. which all are either expensive private schools or public schools in extremely wealthy areas. Race is pretty strongly connected to class and this exacerbates the issue.
Stop treating novices as lesser members of the team (and oftentimes this is minor hazing). I think that in combination with the already existent obstacle of entering a mostly white league makes students decide that there are other things on campus they can do with their time.
- Giving teams better recruitment and retention strategies
- Having strong role models of a variety of under-represented races who win on the league and are highlighted in that way. Connecting new members of under-represented races with older, more accomplished members. Also, showing a diversity of races and gender in the calibration round videos before tournaments.
- If you're going to keep a committee devoted to gender inequality, then you should probably also have a committee for racial inequality because otherwise that seems to imply a hierarchy. To be honest, there's only going to be so much APDA can do because often people of color who participate in primarily white activities are going to be viewed as "whitewashed" and that doesn't really encourage other students of color to join such activities. APDA needs to reach some sort of critical mass, and a lot of that burden probably falls on individual teams.
- A more publicized and easily accessible mentorship program would help create racial diversity. I also think we need to collect more data concerning the impact of race on speaks and ranks in rounds. From talking with my team, some members have felt as if they were unfairly ranked down due to their race. One especially telling moment was during one oral critique, a judge attributed an argument made by a black member of the team to the white member. I don't mean to suggest that some judges are racist, but I think there are underlying racial preferences that lead judges to pay more attention to people of their same race and gender, while also leading them to ignore or be more skeptical of those of different races.
- To encourage schools to recruit from traditionally diverse pools (Black Student Movement, etc.); Encourage expansion to HBS; Work with NAACP to increase APDA awareness
- Probably by having examples of non-caucasian debaters that have been successful.
- Having more expansive judging. I feel like one of the largest problems is that the existing judging pool is biased against women and minorities and that is something that is immediately felt upon entering the circuit.
- Active recruitment from groups like BSUs, Posse Scholars, etc.; Reframing debate as an opportunity to discuss social justice issues. In my experience, people outside the circuit assume APDA is solely about topics of politics and economics and that formal dress is required and in my opinion this codes debate culture as white.; I support any programs to increase racial diversity in high school debate as well, which is where APDA draws a lot of its debaters from; Abolish tryouts as a league
- I think individual schools should make an extra effort to recruit minorities and make sure they feel welcome.
- Also I think people are discouraged from joining debate because they think it's a white man's activity.
- If the league of the image changes so that people don't think that anymore, we would encourage more minorities to join.
Finally, we asked respondents for any final thoughts on these issues:
- At least in my experience, one of the biggest problems for women on the league in terms of sexist judging is from campus judges and/or random non-APDA judges that teams bring to tournaments to fill their judging requirements. I've had far fewer problems with sexist judging when I was being judged by people who regularly do APDA, but I've had a lot of problems with "random" judges. I think there should be some sort of effort to train these judges (even just by putting something about it in the tournament packet, having a very short presentation at the beginning of a tournament, or having teams talk to these judges in advance).
Thanks so much for all you do, guys!
- A lot of male APDA members seem to regard tournaments and tournament parties as a way to pick up girls. Some of these guys don't seem to understand that if a woman is romantically interested in you she'll try to let you know in some way and that if a woman is constantly finding excuses to run off, or invite others into the conversation, or rejecting your invitations to hang out it means she is NOT interested. It is always the men who do this and it can make tournaments and social events really uncomfortable. I have even heard girls discussing certain teams, which I won't name, that they desperately avoid because multiple guys on those teams relentlessly pursue women. This is NOT okay. If two people are mutually interested in each other and over time a relationship develops that is okay, but I don't feel like debaters should be actively seeking out romance (or just sex) with women who have not done anything to signal interest at all. During tournaments people are somewhat confined and basically forced to socialize with everyone else. It's just not ethical to make advances towards someone in those conditions. What makes it worse is that often guys take advantage of the fact that they're hosting people or the fact that they're judging to pressure people into things. Varsity also sometimes use practices and social events as an opportunity to prey on novices, who don't think they have enough influence on their team to say anything against it.
I am the sort of person who just doesn't like being flirted with, touched, followed around, etc. and I try to be as nice as I can about while doing everything I can think of to discourage them. But people only hear one side of the story, and that's the person with the most seniority in the league and that's usually men. This is probably one of the reasons so many female novices leave.
I wouldn't ban romantic relationships the way that some other teams/clubs have done, but now I understand why so many leagues have policies like that. Especially when there's alcohol involved; I am here to debate and to socialize in a platonic way and I wish everyone could respect that. This is more of a league-wide problem than a team problem; my team is better than most on this issue though naturally there have been problems as I am sure there are on every single team on APDA.
- I feel that there have been a lot of strides in awareness of equity issues in APDA - as far as I am aware we have always been pleased with how our equity complaints have been dealt with on our team.
- womens tournaments are a good idea. ignore those who say otherwise.; it *is* possible to fill in pronouns on ballots.; allowing people to identify out of checks and boxes would be great.; encouraging trigger warnings for certain cases is a good idea. these should be presented to all people, not just female presenting teams (and/or judges). dartmouth has done this at least some in the past, and they're awesome for it.
- If equity could actually disqualify people for being shitty instead of telling them to apologize, that'd be great. Obviously this is a selective tool, but if someone, for example, makes a snide comment about rape during an outround and causes their opponent to have a panic attack, that's the type of obvious example that merits disqualification. APDA is better than that and it needs to send a message that it won't tolerate people who do that in our activity.
- You guys are running great meetings though I feel that those who need to hear your message simply don't attend WI meetings so you are only preaching to the choir (I love that phrase). It may be a good idea to suggest that tournaments talk about women's issues on the league while they are in practice, training judges and doing the calibration ballot. This could help reach a large audience. Besides that keep being fantastic
- The issue of socioeconomic diversity should probably also be addressed.