Benjamin Mann Judging Philosophy


*If there is anything I can do within my limitations as a critic to facilitate student mental health and well-being in the round, please get in touch with me/send me an email at ( Student safety is always my top priority.

**I’m really sick of misogyny in debate. If your debate style involves being disproportionately demeaning or insulting toward non-cis men, this may not always be grounds to vote you down, but will probably tank your speaker points. Same goes for racism, disabilism, and other forms of hurtful rhetoric.

Hello! I’m an assistant parliamentary debate coach and Ph.D. student in Communication at The University of Utah. This is my third year out of competition: over the last two years, I coached and judged parli extensively as a forensics coach and Master’s student at University of the Pacific. Before then, I competed in parli for four years at Lewis & Clark College on the national circuit.

I take my role as a critic very seriously and make decisions based off a careful evaluation of the flow and strategic decisions made by debaters that attempts to avoid judge intervention and minimize adaptation. I am also comfortable with a variety of different arguments, including counterplans, Ks, theory, performance, etc, so long as they are sufficiently defended should another team call them into question. Additionally, I am comfortable with quick debaters, but will yell “slow” if you are speaking too fast for me to follow or “clear” if I cannot understand your articulation. I encourage debaters to say advocacy texts/interps slowly or repeat them to make sure I have them word for word. I am familiar with a lot of K literature, but encourage clarity/explanation on more complicated terminology. Unless told otherwise, I believe perms are tests of competition. I assign “average” speakers 27.5 speaker points and go up or down from there. Call points of order if they’re close: I’ll protect against blatantly new arguments.

Debate is a limited-time offer to compete how you like to compete, and I value debate rounds as a chance to learn and watch people on their game. As a result, I do not have a particular preference for certain types of arguments over others, and do not aim to steer the direction of the activity with my ballot. Feel free to run a variety of arguments, including conditional positions, but know that I will also do my best to evaluate any theory raised against them fairly. A few people last season asked me what types of arguments I “liked.” I do not believe this question is especially important, but I reward debaters who make logical, coherent arguments, make strategic decisions, and compare/weigh arguments in rebuttals, and I think that these are elements that make for strong debates in a variety of areas.

Generally speaking, I will evaluate rounds based off of comparative access to comparative impacts. In other words, I’m inclined to vote for the team with the biggest risk of the biggest impacts. What those impacts are, and how I end up evaluating them, is up to the debaters. Below is what I’ve found to be my typical decision process:

  1. Are there particular arguments I’m asked to prioritize that will decide the debate if won? (such as theory as a priori, a critical framework that asks me to evaluate pre-fiat representations first, etc)
    a. If yes: is there any dispute from the other team that these arguments should be prioritized?
    i. If yes, I will attempt to resolve this dispute by comparing extended claims/warrants from each team to determine who presents the best case for whether certain arguments should be framed over others.
    ii. If no, I will evaluate these prioritized arguments first. If a team wins their own prioritized argument (like the neg winning T), I will vote for them on that argument after comparing claims/warrants and impacts from both teams.
    b. If no, or if neither team has won their prioritized argument, go to 2.

  2. How am I asked to evaluate the rest of the arguments in the debate?
    a. If no framework has been given, I will default to a net-benefits evaluation that assesses the hypothetical, post-fiat implications of the plan verses the status quo or negative advocacy.
    b. If an agreed-upon framework has been presented in the debate, I will use this to assess the rest of the arguments.
    c. If there is a disputed framework, I will attempt to resolve this dispute by comparing extended claims/warrants from each team to determine who presents the best case for how I should frame the debate.

  3. Has either team used impact calculus/impact prioritization to frame the debate? E.g. have they told me that timeframe comes before magnitude, or that death outweighs dehumanization?
    a. If one team has provided impact calculus, but not the other, I will use this team’s impact calculus to evaluate arguments.
    b. If neither team has provided impact calculus, I will assign relatively equal concern to timeframe/magnitude/probability, and will also assume that both death and dehumanization are equally important.
    c. If there is disputed impact calculus, I will attempt to resolve this dispute by comparing extended claims/warrants from each team to determine who presents the best case for how I should evaluate impacts.

  4. Under the impact calculus I’m using, which impacts does each team uniquely have access to? I will generally answer this by closely looking at my flow (such as an advantage’s/disad’s uniqueness, link, etc). I will also compare the aff’s solvency to the solvency of the squo or a negative advocacy.

  5. Which team has the greatest risk of the greatest impacts under the framework/impact calculus I use for this debate? The answer gets my ballot.

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