What is a “new aff”

In the last 2 months or so I have seen at least 5 blow ups over disclosure and what constitutes a “new aff” . I am going to try and lay out my thoughts in this post, and where I know there is a difference between what I think and what other people think I will try and explain those differences.


However, the blog is inherently an imperfect format as this isn’t really a set of “rules” I’ve made- these are my opinions. In an ideal world there would then be a back and forth where other people would weigh in with what they thought I got wrong or how these suggestions could be better. There isn’t really a place where serious debate discussions like that can take place anymore. Most older/experienced coaches avoid social media debates like the plague- and for generally good reasons. I would love it if people fired back in the comments or on the FB page but I doubt that will happen.


I mention this because you shouldn’t show up at your next tournament and say “well Phillips has spoken, case closed”. Many people will have different ideas about what is new, what should be disclosed etc. and unfortunately many people still do not make this blog part of their nightly routine.  So while I am going to lay out how I think debate should work the impact of this post will be quite limited.


So, lets start with some baseline assumptions. You have been debating since september and you have been reading a Title 1 funding aff with an inequality advantage and a “framing” contention where you dump all kinds of stupid pre-empts.


How should you disclose under normal circumstances? Ideally your aff is on the wiki (in open source) so when a team says “whats the aff?” you say “It will be the same 1AC as round X”. At this point if the neg asks any follow up questions you say “the full text of our affirmative is online, it can answer all your questions” and you start ignoring them/doing your own prep work. How simple is that compared to the average pre-round negotiation? Quite. Those sound something like this

neg: whats the aff

aff: its on the wiki

neg: which one

aff: we have 100 but they are all the same, let me talk to my partner for 25 mn before forgetting to tell you

neg: are you making any changes for this specific round

aff: yes- we read the smith card, but we are taking it out and replacing it with a different smith card that says the same thing but is older




Seriously wtf is going on with this? Coaches- this is your fault. If your debaters don’t know how to disclose/act like adults than you are not coaching them. Your aff isn’t new, nothing about it is new. If they didn’t cut a case neg in the last 6 months they aren’t going to do it now, and if your aff can be beaten by 20 mn of before round research your aff is bad and you are bad and you deserve to lose. If there are no changes the neg should have your full text 1AC as it will be read in the round approx 1 second after the pairing gets posted.



Now, you are “changing” something. What changes matter and therefore need to be disclosed? Well either you are reading a new plan, a new advantage, or an entirely new aff. Let’s look at those scenarios in order


New Plan: You should not be reading more than say, 1 new plan for an aff per tournament. If you are doing more than that you are a cheater. That may sound harsh, I assure you I deleted 25 harsher versions before going with that one. You are gaming the system. You know it. Your coaches know it. Your opponents know it. Why is this allowed/why do coaches and judges, ostensible adults, allow such behavior to occur? Either you did not put any effort into writing your initial plan such that it was full of so many errors you are constantly discovering them or you are “shooting an angle”. An angle shoot is gambling terminology for something that is borderline unethical depending on the circumstances. For example, its not illegal in poker to ask for a “seat change” to get position on someone. If, however, you are getting your set changed every 20 minutes- thats an angle shoot. You are disrupting the game to minisculely increase your own personal chances.


Changing your plan before every round is an angle shoot. You know the negative needs to know what your plan does in  order to prep, and you are pulling a move to deny them that prep. You are a jerk.


Now, I can already hear the legions of cheaters responding with a chorus of stupid replies like “where is the line? don’t punish us for cutting cards!” and other nonsense. And yes, this isn’t a clean brightline the way I would like it. It is pretty easy to see though. When I debated there where times where we read the same case for the entire year. We changed the plan maybe 1 or 2 times. When you know about your case, it shouldn’t take 50 rough drafts to construct the most strategic plan, and if it does you should be going through that at practice not at a tournament.




So what is a “new” plan? Well any plan has two basic parts- the actor and the action. So, if you are changing one of those then it could be a “new plan”. But you have to actually CHANGE them. If you change what you call the supreme court- not a new plan. If you change the phrase “no first use” to “will not initiate nuclear” – that’s not a change. You have changed the WORDS but not the action or actor in any significant way. You should disclose those. If you are not- you are a jerk who is gaming the system. To be clear – i mean if you are changing “United States Supreme Court” to “The Supreme Court of the United States”- you should give them the modified plan, not lie and say you are reading a new plan and not disclose it.


If your plan said “congress” and you change actors to SCOTUS- that’s new, don’t disclose

If your plan said “Do ABC” and you change to “Do XYZ”- that’s new, don’t disclose


Now lets get at some tricker ones. What if your plan was a list, “ABC” and you remove one so its now “AB”? That’s not new, you haven’t added anything, you’ve only taken things out. You are reading less than you did previously, you should disclose the text of that new plan.


What if we change all the words, but the effect is the same? I can’t believe you’d ask this after the above discussion- no matter how many words you change if the effect is the same you should disclose that new plan, not disclose a “new aff”.


What if… oh wait, there aren’t that many hypotheticals because this is so easy.


So lets move on to advantages. This one is almost as clear cut,but people try to make it as complicated as possible.


What is an advantage? Well it could be a lot of things, but for this discussion the important parts are the internal link (what causes what) and the impact (why is it bad)


So if your advantage is “hegemony”, your internal link could be EITHER soft or hard power- that difference affects the neg’s strategy. The impact could be US use of force or liberal internationalism- that difference affects the neg’s strategy. Whether you are reading Kagan 17 or Kagan 18 is not a meaningful difference (yes at the margin the neg may have some link or impact turn that applies to only a very specific line of a card or something but that is a fight for another day). So when you have an advantage what makes modifications to it “new”? Either a new internal link, or a different impact. If your 1AC internal link to heg was soft power, and you are ADDING hard power- that’s new. If your 1NC impact was great power war and you are not reading a different impact but just another great power war card- that’s not new. Hopefully you are getting the gist of this “does it affect the other team” standard- that will be the theme of this post.


If you are “modifying” your advantage by adding new impacts/internal links I think you should say “heg adv- new internal link, new impact” and that’s it. You don’t need to get into anything more specific to be fair to the neg. This does not mean, however, you jam in 5 add ons unrelated to heg and just read them on that sheet of paper. For any minor modification this should be the format.


If your “new” isn’t a modification, its a new internal link and a new impact unrelated to your previous advs, then you say what you are reading from the old aff, plus new. “Round 6 1AC- yes econ advantage, no heg, new adv”.


Entirely new- this should be the easiest of all. “We are reading a new aff”. That should be it- you don’t have to answer any follow up questions presuming you are being truthful that it is in fact new. Some people say new when reading an aff another team from their school reads- that’s nonsense imo but a fight for another day.



Yea, I mean its really quite simple when you get down to it. Keep a good wiki, be honest/not a trickster and your pre-round disclosure conversations don’t have to last for 40 minutes.


One response to “What is a “new aff”

  1. I agree with almost all of this, especially that if someone else on your team has read the aff, then it should not be considered “new” if you are reading it for the first time. The only thing I really think differently about is that when you break up the plan into those two parts of actor and action, I would argue that treating the two parts as discrete for the purpose of disclosure would be preferable.
    For example, if you change the actor and the action stays the same, I would say something like “The action is the same, but we’re using a different actor.”. I’m probably in the minority with that view, but I think that if your action is entirely the same as previous rounds, the negative should be entitled to prep against it, and that leaving out the actor is all that is necessary to reward the immense “research” that a lot of teams claim to do in finding their new actors. Part of this is because if the actor change was really so significant, it would likely also change the action itself enough to merit an entirely new plan text, and thus teams can still be rewarded for doing in depth research into the mechanisms available to the different actors. I’m less convinced that a team should have to say “we use the same actor, but use a different action”, since a lot of plan texts just end up using the USFG anyway, and the information probably isn’t telling the negative team much besides “finally, we can use the XO CP for some enjoyable and interesting debate”. But, I don’t see any harm in disclosing the actor in case that is what a team wants to do.
    The other thing I’m thinking about is what to do with a plan text that changes from ABC to ABD. I would be tempted to say that the AB portion of the plan text should still be disclosed, since that portion of the plan is not changing, and that the team would say that the “C” portion is being replaced with something new. Again, a lot of people might see this as disclosing too much when a change is indeed happening to the action, but when I think of disclosure I tend to think that things which remain the same should be disclosed, and things which were changed should not. Of course, some features of all plans stay the same, and disclosing all of those could get a bit ridiculous and make the disclosure process far too complicated, so I think that the lines you drew were more clear and useful in general.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s