Social Justice Debates, 2020-2021
Fall Warm Up hosted online by The University of Vermont
October 17-18, 2020

The 2020 Social Justice Debates Fall Warm Up will be held online hosted by the University of Vermont’s Lawrence Debate Union on Saturday and Sunday, October 17-18, 2020. The Social Justice Debates aspire to harness speech and debate as tools for engaging diverse groups of civil society stakeholders and students on social justice topics inspired by the work of leading social justice scholars. The Social Justice Debates were inspired by the teaching and
scholarship of Professor Derrick A. Bell.


Social justice movements should make abolition of police their top priority.

Topic Statement


Registration & Fees

Fees are $50/attending debater, coach or judge. Schools are obligated to provide at least 2 rounds of judging per team. Fees for uncovered judging obligations are $25/uncovered round. These fees will be used primarily to cover costs of honorarium for judges as well as any costs of a platform for the tournament (although I am going to try to have this be free). Depending on how many teams we have and how many judges we need to pay, we hope to lower these fees as our plan is just to recoup costs. To register click here


Saturday October 17:

11:00 Check In & Tournament Orientation, Judge Briefing

12:00 Round 1

1:30 Round 2


4:30 Round 3

6:30 Round 4

Sunday October 18:

11:00 Check In & Judge Briefing

12:00 Semifinals

2:00 Finals

Virtual Awards Ceremony


Students will compete in teams of two or three debaters each. Teams will be assigned to affirm or negate the topic. On teams of two, each speaker will give one 6 minute speech, be cross examined for 4 minutes, and cross examine an opposing debater for 4 minutes. In addition one speaker on each team will also give a 6 minute closing rebuttal. Over the course of the four preliminary rounds, each speaker on teams of two must give two closing rebuttals for their team and their partner must give two closing rebuttals for their team. On teams of three, during rounds each debater must give one six minute speech and either be cross examined for four minutes or conduct a four minute cross examination. (One debater on a team of three will give a six minute speech and both conduct a cross examination and be cross examined. The other two will give a six minute speech and either conduct a cross examination and be cross examined.)

1st Affirmative 6 Minutes

Cross examination by 2nd Negative 4 minutes

1st Negative 6 minutes

Cross examination by 1st Affirmative 4 minutes

2nd Affirmative 6 minutes

Cross examination by 1st Negative 4 minutes

2nd Negative 6 minutes

Cross examination by 2nd Affirmative 4 minutes

2 minutes of preparation time

Affirmative Rebuttal 6 minutes

2 minutes of preparation time

Negative Rebuttal 6 minutes

*For teams of three, the third and last affirmative speaker (instead of the second) should conduct the cross examination of the 2nd Negative speaker. And the third and last negative speaker (instead of the second) should conduct the cross examination of the 1st affirmative speaker.

Finals and Semifinals Judges (more to be added)

Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Vermont on Community Development and Applied Economics with an MS in Educational Administration and a PhD in Educational Leadership. As a local business owner he has been a longtime stakeholder in the happenings of
the locality. A board member of several local organizations, Patrick has also been awarded the City of Burlington’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Diversity and Equity.

Kathy Fox

Kathy Fox is a Professor at the University of Vermont in the Department of Sociology. She came to UVM right after finishing her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 1994. Her substantive area of interest currently is prison reform, and her methodology is qualitative research, using observational research and in-depth interviews. She has long been interested in the application of sociological research for social change. Currently, she is co-creator of the Justice Research Initiative (JRI) with Professor Abby Crocker from Math/Statistics: They recently became part of the Urban Institute Prison Research Innovation Network (PRIN), as the research partners for the Vermont Department of Corrections. In this effort, she (and four other states) will use participatory research methods with incarcerated individuals and correctional staff, to transform prisons in Vermont. Her courses address criminal justice, corrections, and punishment. In the past, she has partnered with Department of Corrections to conduct research for them within prisons, and has brought UVM Sociology students into a facility to take classes alongside incarcerated students. This is part of the Liberal Arts in Prison Program, which she directs:

Craig Mitchell

Craig Mitchell is a local Dj from Burlington and a BIPOC member of the LGBTQIA community who has been a champion for equality. He has worked with NPR, the Lieutenant Governors Office and many other organizations on issues of race and gender equality. A stalwart in the music scene, he is also one of the most popular local figures who is vocal at every turn about putting people first.

Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith was raised on the east coast of the U.S. He moved west for six years, which included earning a B.S. in Zoology from Washington State University. His love for travel has taken him to work in Antarctica, Peace Corps in Tanzania, and Kenya as an Academic Director for the School for International Training program. Working with students has been a large part of his life with experience in student affairs administration at Washington State University, Cornell University and Penn State University as the Assistant Director for Residence Life. Sherwood came to the University of Vermont in 1995 on a Doctoral Fellowship. Since then he has served as the Assistant Director of the ALANA Student Center, Director of the Race and Culture Course and currently has appointments as the Senior Executive Director for Engagement & Professional Development under the Division of Human Resources, Diversity & Multicultural Affairs, as the Director of the Center for Cultural Pluralism and a Lecturer under the Department of Leadership & Developmental Sciences.

His work involves professional development training for faculty and staff, conducting research and teaching graduate courses in Educational Foundations and undergraduate courses in Human Development & Family Studies. Most recently he co-edited a two part series titled: Our Stories:
the Experience of Black Professionals on Predominantly White Campuses. He enjoys cooking, bicycling, fencing and is an amateur herpetologist.

Instructions to Preliminary Rounds Judges

Elimination rounds will be judged by panels of topic experts who will be given the SJD topic, topic statement, and judge handbook. This means that as a prelims judge you are preparing students to debate before topic experts who will be using the published topic, topic statement, and judge handbook provided above to guide their decision making process. Your most important task as a prelims judge is to judge rounds in a manner that prepares the students
advancing to elimination rounds to excel in those debates.

Judges are asked to interpret the research questions raised by the topic in a manner consistent with the topic statement. Students are responsible for analyzing the topic and topic statement and understanding the research questions raised for debate. Students may quote from the topic statement as necessary to establish the parameters of the research questions raised by the topic.

Debaters are asked to provide direct, succinct responses to direct questions in cross examination. Filibustering, answering questions that haven’t been asked, and otherwise failing to provide direct, succinct answers to direct questions should result in lower speaker points and--in very
close debates--assigning a loss. (Obviously open ended questions may require open answers.)

The judge handbook identifies specific obligations for students introducing evidence. This includes being ready to immediately provide copies of relevant portions of the introduced sources to their opponents for review upon request.

Please read the complete judge handbook including the topic and topic statement. This handbook is written for elimination rounds judges who possess topic expertise but who are not necessarily experienced debate judges. Again, your most important task as a prelims judge is to prepare students to excel before these judges.

Speaker points should be assigned on a scale of 90-100 with no ties. Judges should be "reluctant" to give speaker points between 97-100; i.e., absent an exemplary performance reflecting high level research, argumentation, delivery and performance, judges should not give speaker points in this range. "Very Good" performances should receive scores in the 95-96 range. "Good" performances should receive points in the 93-94 range. No ties. Half points are

Judges will be asked to take a picture of their ballot and email it to before delivering their decision. Decisions should be announced and explained. Speaker points shouldnot.