The presence of public audiences in competitive contest rounds, a central feature of early intercollegiate debate practice, was largely eliminated during the ascent of the tournament model over the last century. However, audience participation in tournament designs has recently become a topic of conversation among those committed to transforming the activity in line with the emerging civic and public attitudes of higher education. Given the preliminary nature of this conversation, we currently lack robust models for and scholarly reflection about the role audiences might play within the calcified and secluded structures of tournament debating. Building on recent work in American intercollegiate debate scholarship and practice, this essay recovers a little noted multimodal adjudication system or MAS (i.e., the use of multiple judging styles simultaneously) implemented at Stanford University on April 2, 1925 as an historical design resource for visualizing the role of audiences in debate competitions. Recovering this system provides a context to employ an historical antecedent as a small-scale case study to inform one approach to tournament redesign in the present. In addition, this essay reflects on numerous advantages of translating the Stanford system into contemporary tournament designs, especially: (1) the value of revisiting historical practices to rediscover pedagogical and competitive elements that have been forgotten over time; (2) the importance of acknowledging critical differences between the activity’s past and present; and, (3) implementing experimental tournament designs that generate novel features of interest for debate, argumentation, and rhetorical scholars.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.