Harvard Debate Clubs Compensated Fairly

To the editors:

Contrary to the portrayal in the article “Debate Tourney Highlights Inequality,” (News, Feb. 19) both the Harvard Debate Council (HDC) and the Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society (HSPDS) are compensated fairly for their roles at the Harvard National Invitational Forensics Tournament.

I have served as the co-director of Lincoln-Douglas debate at the tournament for several years. As a result, I have had the pleasure of working closely with members of both teams. Former parliamentary team president Allon S. Kedem ’02 is correct that the relationship between the teams is “symbiotic.” This year, members of both teams made contributions that were vital to the tournament’s success. Their contributions, however, were not equal.

The article reports that the teams earn unequal compensation for their services connected to the tournament. But not all inequality is unfair.

The HSPDS is generously compensated given its proportional contribution to the tournament. The HDC may “profit far more” but they also do far more of the work needed to run the tournament.

Coaches and members of the HDC work for months to prepare for the tournament. The article reports only that they are the tournament’s “organizer.” It fails to mention any of the arduous tasks that goes into “organizing” a tournament consisting of 3,000 high school competitors and 400 judges. Rest assured that in the days leading up to and during the tournament, these tasks frequently require around-the-clock attention. For example, on the Friday preceding competition, the policy team coordinates the arrival and registration of the thousands of competitors (and their coaches and judges) at a work-fest the HSPDS does not attend.

The HSPDS’s contribution is significant, but it comprises a fraction of the work. And for that fraction, the HSPDS earns handsome compensation. For each round judged by a team member, the HSPDS receives compensation at a $5 premium compared to the compensation offered to independently-associated judges. The HSPDS’s compensation for running the ballot table approaches a thousand dollars. A generous and devoted alum of the policy team runs the individual events ballot table for free.

The article ignores differences in the realistic budgeting needs of these teams. Both forms of debate are valuable activities that administrators would be wise to fund generously.

Elizabeth Rogers, Law School ’00

Feb. 19, 2002