Sunday, February 24, 2019

2018 NDT Finals

Last spring, I neglected to post the news that the Kansas team of Quaram Robinson and Will Katz won the 2018 National Debate Tournament. Rock chalk!

Robinson was also a finalist in 2016. Has any other Kansas debater appeared in two final rounds of NDT?

This is a video of the 2018 final round.

Monday, February 27, 2017

RIP Bill Arnold

Bill Arnold, who won the National Debate Tournament for University of Kansas in 1954, died November 17, 2016. Interested readers can find his entire obituary here and here.

In addition to being a KU debate alum, Bill was also a long-time faculty member in the Sociology Department. When I was an undergraduate, I had at least one class that he taught and recall our having a friendly conversation in his office about debate. I was going to miss an exam because of tournament travel and he was quite understanding -- making only vague reference to his debate career. I did not know that he was an NDT champ until some time later.

Over the years, I talked to Bill at various Kansas debate reunions in Lawrence. I believe the most recent was in 2013, when at least one member of four out of five KU NDT championship teams posed with Dr. Parson for this photo:

Left-to-right, that's Bill Arnold (1954 champ), Robert C. (Robin) Rowland (1976), me (1983), Dr. Parson (the "Head Jayhawk"), Brett Bricker (2009), and Mark Gidley (1983).
No one from the 1970 team was in attendance. 

Parson coached the 1970, 1976, and 1983 championship teams. Current director of the program Scott Harris coached the 2009 team. Scott started college a year or two before I did, but we were contemporaries on the national debate circuit and debated against each other on a number of occasions when he was an undergraduate at Wayne State University. Kim Giffin coached the 1970 team. He was a professor at KU during my undergraduate years at Kansas though I did not take any of his courses. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Looking Back

Parson Roast                       
Lawrence, KS
October 20, 2007

Remarks by Rodger A. Payne

When I describe my time at KU, I have occasionally told outsiders that "I am a made man in the Kansas debate mafia." Most of you are too, or you wouldn't be in this room tonight.

Don't worry, I'm not really going to compare Dr. Parson to that Joe Pesci character in "Goodfellas." No, he has behaved more like the Godfather. And I mean that in a good way, though it might not always sound like it.

Everyone here knows what they call the head of a mafia family, right?


Consider the parallels between debate and the mafia before I get to my punch line:

There was almost no separation between our private life and our debate life.

We were together during late afternoon or evenings when other students were relaxing.

We traveled together on weekends.

We spent our holidays together on trips politely called the "east coast swing" or the "west coast swing." Obviously, we had a full time job. After finally leaving KU, I calculated that I spent maybe 50 or 60 hours per week working on debate.

We even spent summers working for the family – roughly at a nickel an hour, as Zac Grant once calculated.

Why did we do it?

It certainly wasn't for money or sex. We were mostly poor and the team was predominantly male. Across America, I represented KU in nearly 500 debates.

Only about a dozen involved a woman colleague. "Fifi" is not here tonight…

Again, why did we do it? Did they make us do it?

Though this family wasn't especially violent, keep in mind that the mafia generally succeeds by using intimidation. I still remember little Kevin Wilson explaining the thrill it gave him to write "Kansas" on the chalkboard before a round.

After a few years, we used to call this "rep." Who built that fear? Donn Parson.

I remember that Gidley used to quote from that Bill Murray movie "Stripes" when teaching high school kids in the camps:

WINGER: Fair??!! Who cares about fair??!! The world isn't fair! ... Is it fair that you were born like this?! No! They're not expecting somebody like you in there. ... You're different! You're weird! You're a mutant! You're a killer! You're a trained killer!

I never killed anybody, at least not physically, but I was forced to break Mark's ribs during our senior year. He might deny it, but Rhaesa can confirm it.

Anyway, back to my point -- the organization was obviously a hierarchical pyramid and we know who was on top:

Debaters were the regular foot soldiers of the organization. We ate bologna. Most of us didn't survive. My freshman year, there were nearly 25 first-year/novices on the team. At the time, I kind of wondered why there were so few seniors on the team. By the end of my days, only a handful of us were still around.

The grad students were captains. On tournaments, they called the shots – and controlled the cash (which they called "the budget"). They even decided where we slept and when we got up in the morning.

During my first three years in Lawrence, it was pretty clear Rowland considered himself the consigliore. Personally, I think it was Keeshan. Explain this: after spending practically his entire life living in Lawrence, Rowland was suddenly sent off to Texas before my senior year.I figured it went down this way for Parson: Why share the glory?

Or maybe Parson thought Rowland was too flashy, kind of like Christopher on the Sopranos. He's "family," but could not be trusted with the future of the organization.

The man at the top of this pyramid is the man we're honoring tonight:

The Donn's office was the mysterious (and somewhat frightening) epicenter of – well, let's just call it "the family." Who didn't quake when called to a meeting in that office? Who didn't live in fear of appearing on the shit list he used to post on his door?

Like Tony Soprano, Parson had all the perks of the American dream – a nice house, cars, kids, a wonderful wife. Did the foot soldiers or captains have these things? Of course not.

I don't want to make it sound like the life we led was all bad. We were often distracted by booze, and even more frequently comforted by lots of easy victories over other teams – especially others from the neighborhood (which we used to call district 3 for some reason).

In my case, the rewards were even bigger.

So, I raise my glass and offer a toast to Donn Parson, for I am truly grateful to be a lifelong "made man in the KU debate mafia." Coach, may you live a long, healthy and prosperous life and experience all its pleasures – family, friends, community and peace.

Rock chalk Jayhawk.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Video: Robert Prentice

This interview with Professor Prentice focuses on how business ethics scandals have affected political campaigning -- much discussion in 2012 about Mitt Romney.

This one is from a conference for alums. "We're all Lance Armstrong."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gregg Walker, Mediators Beyond Borders

Mediators Beyond Borders on mediation to help address climate change:

And at a conference

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Video: Tuna talks about Debate to Teach Public Speaking

Thriller in Manila 2. Tuna Snider visits the Philippines:


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Monday, November 25, 2013

Video: Josh Zive

Kentuckian Dwight Yoakam on coal (from "Paradise"):
Well, the coal company came with the, world’s largest shovel,
They tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Lord, they dug for their coal ‘til the ground was forsaken
And wrote it all down as the, “Progress of man.”

And, “Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County?
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay?”
He said, “I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”
Josh Zive responds:

Note: Video of Yoakam singing this song can be found here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Video: Diana

I found a couple of videos featuring Diana Carlin talking about a conference paper and about presidential debate.