WUDC Countdown 6: „We should simply enjoy it“ – Interview with WUDC Deputy Chief Adjudicator Isabelle Fischer

Datum: Dec 23rd, 2012
Category: International

Isabelle Fischer (born Loewe) is Deputy Chief Adjudicator (DCA) at this year’s World University Debating Championship in Berlin. She started debating in 2003, with the debating society of the University of Bonn and has been living in Berlin for five years. After her career as a debater, which led her into the final of the European Univerities Debating Championship in 2006, she started an impressive career as an adjudicator. Lately, she has worked as DCA at the European Championships in Tallin 2008 and Belgrade 2012.

Philipp Stiel talked with her for the Achte Minute about the upcomig event.

Isabelle Fischer

Isabelle Fischer

Achte Minute: Hi Isa, thank you for being available for an interview so shortly before WUDC starts. Thinking about the size of the tournament – 800 speakers, 300 judges – isn’t your chief adjudication team incredibly busy with preparation?

Isa: (Is laughing) Well, yes, we indeed still have a lot to do – but we already came a long way. We still want to have some quiet days around Christmas before the start of the tournament.

Achte Minute: What are you working on at the moment, two weeks before the start of WUDC?

Isa: Yesterday, we published the adjudication test every judge has to take before coming to Berlin. Last week, we published our adjudication briefing, which is the set of rules which apply for the tournament adjudication, as well as a lot of explanatory work around possible misconceptions and adjudication questions. At the end, all 300 judges are supposed to apply the same techniques and rules.

Achte Minute: How should we imagine that – do you already know all judges before the tournament and did you observe them during the debating season?

Isa: No, that would indeed be nice… but it’s far too much work. Of course, we do know some of the registered judges: Many of them are among the best judges in the active debating world and many were judging at some of the biggest tournaments and championships. And as our chief adjudication team is very international, we can combine our knowledge. But of course, there are a lot of judges that none of us knows yet, as they come from 82 countries. That’s exactly why we are working with a test: we need at least a first impression before the tournament starts. Additionally, we have a lot of independent judges which applied with a CV and a questionnaire. There were so many judges applying that we could only accept half of them. That’s what I can tell you already: we will have a very good adjudication panel for this year’s WUDC.

Achte Minute: How do you improve your knowledge about all adjudicators during the tournament? With 300 adjudicators and 5 CAs and DCAs, it will be impossible to observe all of them personally…

Isa: Of course! Therefore, we will have a feedback system in Berlin: Speakers will give feedback about judges in their rooms and judges will give feedback to each other…

Achte Minute: …which you will all read and memorize…

Isa: …read: yes – memorize: no. We try to put all our knowledge that we collect before and during the tournament in a grade. Of course, then we lose a lot of detailed knowledge, but there is no other way to fairly distribute 300 judges over 100 rooms. Everybody, including us, will get a grade within our software from 1 to 9. And this grade will change a lot during the tournament, as we learn more about our judges. Also, the performance of judges can change, become better or worsen during the tournament.

Achte Minute: Let’s come back to our original question: I guess you already agreed on your motions?

Isa: No, not at all – we will do that once all five are here in Berlin. But of course we prepared our decision, we will have to set 18 different topics after all. All these topics should be well-debatable, interesting, and diverse. For now, we have a big list with more than 80 potential motions that we collected and we will now check them thoroughly.

Achte Minute: How will you choose your motions?

Isa: Firstly, all motions should be debatable, meaning that there should be enough material for argumentation on both sides. And all topics should be accessible for all participants. That is, it should be possible for the better part of all participants with their diverse backgrounds to recognize and access a motion within a short time. So, you are not going to attend a debate about the German health service, that’s something I can tell you already. (laughing)

Achte Minute: Do you still remember where you were adjudicating your first international tournament?

Isa: (thinking) No, I’m sorry, not exactly – but it should have been in 2007. In that year, I took part in my first European championships as a judge.

Achte Minute: What was your most exciting final as a judge?

Isa: That was definitely two years ago at WUDC in Botswana. There, I could judge the open final, which is open for English as a mother tongue. For me as a non-native speaker, that was a big honor. And the topic was also incredibly interesting: „This house would invade Zimbabwe.“ – the neighbor country of Botswana.

Achte Minute: That lets us hope that all participants can differentiate between their personal opinion and the debating situation…

Isa: Oh yes, that‘s a basic requirement in debating. Eventually, everybody has to argue for a position that is not his own.

Achte Minute: And if this is not working – there’s a lot of potential conflict included…

Isa: Definitely. But we are well-prepared for that case. An equity-team will handle these conflicts, when participants take something the wrong way. But of course, we hope that all participants will act professionally. Fairplay in debating, in a manner of speaking.

Achte Minute: Will you miss a lot during WUDC in Berlin? At least, you’ll have a lot of work to do during the course of the tournament.

Isa: That’s right – this tournament will be a very different experience for me than for many participants. But at least, I always live in Berlin… (laughing). No, seriously, we as chief adjudication team aim to be an open and accessible team. That is, we don’t want to hide, but try to send at least one of us as a floater into the tournament who will talk to participants and capture the atmosphere.

Achte Minute: Atmosphere, that’s a good keyword. Will there be a lot of atmosphere in Berlin with this icy temperature? It’s not comparable with Manila or Botswana…

Isa: No, definitely not. But I know that the organizers have been preparing all participants for months for the weather in Berlin. I am convinced that the atmosphere will be great. Berlin is a city that has so much to offer – If you are fed up with debating in the evening, you just rush into the city and look for some other experience. The applications for this tournament were huge and many stay after the tournament for some days. I personally am very much looking forward to the tournament, great volunteers, a nice atmosphere. We should simply enjoy it.

Achte Minute: You’ll also enjoy it as it is your last big tournament. You already announced that you’ll retire from the debating world after this tournament. What will you do afterwards?

Isa: At one point, my job is simply becoming too stressful – and I also can image a nice New Year’s Eve without being at a World Debating Championship. And I think, after 50 tournaments as a judge, I also deserve retirement.

Achte Minute: And all the volunteers, what should they do after the tournament?

Isa: They all deserve a long sleep in. And then they should look for a different hobby… (laughing). But I know, that doesn’t work. Debating just makes you want more of it.

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1 Kommentare zu “WUDC Countdown 6: „We should simply enjoy it“ – Interview with WUDC Deputy Chief Adjudicator Isabelle Fischer”

  1. Henrik says:

    Das erste internationale Jurieren? – Spätestens bei den IUB Open 2007, und gleich als Co-CA.
    Das waren noch Zeiten … 😉

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