This week VBI PF Curriculum Director Devon Weis got the opportunity to sit down and ask some questions to the legendary women of Presentation VM: Laurenn Vives and Megan Munce, both of which will be working with us at VBI this summer.
See more of of our stellar 2018 VBI PF staff here.
Hey you two, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. To start, what is your favorite argument you’ve ever run?
Megan: I think it would have to be this argument we ran for january this year about how Catalonia is the only liberal hub left in Spain, and if they seceded, politics would crowd out welfare and we ran a bunch of poverty impacts. I just like weighing poverty because it’s a pretty self-evident impact and a super important issue to talk about.
Laurenn: I like that one too, but I think my favorite one to argue was the domestic violence argument we ran on the gun control topic in November. I felt like it was really easy to run because it was just so true. I like sticking to stock stuff, so yeah, that was probably my favorite one.
What is your favorite topic that you ever debated?
Laurenn: My favorite topic and also the best topic I ever debated, in my humble opinion, is the probable cause topic because it was so simple. There was like trust on one side and SROs on the other side, and those were pretty much the only two arguments. It was so easy and simple that I felt like the person who was the better debater would always win in rounds that simple. I love it and I miss it, and when I’m debating things like immigration and visas and gun control, those are all scary, I just wanna go back to probable cause.
Megan: I actually really like East Asian relations so my favorite topic was the anti-missile systems one from september/october this year. I just liked how many different actors there were getting involved, and also because there would always be updates popping up on the news so it was easy to prep.
Do you have a favorite youtube round?
Laurenn: So I think I know which one Megan is going to say, so I’m going to say a different one. My favorite is the NCFL grand nationals round with Miami Beach and Stuyvesant. That was the first round I ever watched, and it was funny, and they collapsed so well, and I showed it to all my novices last year as their first debate round because I just loved it. It’s such an iconic round.
Megan: Wait Lauren which round did you think I was going to say?
Laurenn: Ardrey Kell vs. Mission, am I right?
Megan: Yeah! Haha. I like it primarily because of when Max says “Keshav say something,” it reminds me of this time Laurenn and I were in a round at camp. Laurenn was second speaking and she just did not lift her head up for the entirety of grand cross and it got to the point where I was like, “Laurenn, say something!” Also, I thought it was really interesting because Ardrey Kell has a very traditional PF style and obviously Mission KW is known for being a very very tech team, so I thought it was cool to see those two styles clash. I think it was the epitome of the “tech vs. truth” debate.
Which is more difficult? Summary or Final Focus?
Laurenn: Ready? 1…2…3…
Laurenn: We switch off, so sometimes Megan’s first speaker and sometimes I am. Let me tell you, prepping before summary is the most stressful thing in the world–especially if you’re first summary–because you wanna extend all the good cards but you also need enough time to explain the warrants of each card, and also start to weigh a little, and extend the overview, and it’s just so much to get done. As for final focus, I just write down Megan’s summary word for word and throw some weighing in there. So I think final focus is literally just summary with more impacts and warranting, which makes it easier.
Do you think crossfire actually matters, and if so, is the same true for grand?
Laurenn: I think grand cross no, but the first two crossfires yes, because it’s an opportunity to poke holes in stuff. But Megan is better at crossfire so I’ll let her talk.
Megan: I actually like grand crossfire specifically for the reason if you don’t say something in summary and you kinda say it in grand cross then the judge is like “Well, maybe it was in summary and I missed it,” but i also think that having cross after summary when you know exactly what they’re going for is a great opportunity to ask more weighing questions, versus just logistical questions.
Let’s change directions really quick. If you could choose one person–alive or dead–to have a 15 minute coffee conversation with, who would it be?
Megan: So I was trying to think of a really deep one to make people think I’m super educated, but I honestly think if anyone ever gave me the opportunity, it would probably be someone from the Roanoke Colony. For those that don’t know, it’s this colony that was started even before Plymouth and all these settler came over. Their ship goes back to get some supplies and then they return and everyone’s gone. There’s absolutely no sign of the settlers being there anymore. I learned about this in like 5th grade and I remember being mind blown over it. Everytime someone asks who you would talk to I try to think of the smart person answer, but secretly, it would always be someone from Roanoke just to figure out what happened.
Laurenn: But wait, that is the smart person answer. Mine would be like Cardi B or something. Just because I wanna know how to get rich, and awesome, and confident, and an amazing role model as a women of color. People think they’re dumb and not that interesting but I hate that, I idolize Rihanna, Cardi B, Beyonce and Nicki Minaj so much for so many reasons.
I love both of those answers. Here’s another interesting question. What’s your stance on theory in PF?
Laurenn: Good. Yes.
Oh, so you like it?
Laurenn: Umm, Megan and I once wrote out a theory shell because we were afraid this team was going to spread against us, and we didn’t want to deal with that. They ended up not spreading against us which was fine, but we wrote out this whole thing, we called our policy coach, we shared all our policy kids on the document and grinded out a shell. I’m totally all for theory.
Megan: I remember the only reason they didn’t spread that round is because we were dropping mad hints before round. We were asking the judges “would you vote off theory in PF,” and the judges were like, “yeah if there’s legitimate abuse like speed or something” and the other team looked over at us, and we just gave them this look back like, “yeah, we have theory.”
Totally with you on theory in PF, but more specifically, what’s your stance on disclosure norms?
Laurenn: Me and Megan would definitely disclose if everyone else disclosed, because I think it’s good for PF, but if me and Megan did it right now, people would totally take advantage of that and just prep us out, and we wouldn’t have a strategic advantage. But I do feel like some of the debaters out there popularizing the disclosure movement are on to something.
Megan: If it became a norm to specifically check back against things like paraphrasing I think that would be positive, but as it stands right now, the only way I would support disclosure is if it started with a movement of really big schools disclosing, but right now small schools are disadvantaged. I guess we’re kind of a big school but if we started disclosing and made our sophomores start disclosing, it would directly disadvantage them without giving them the benefits of other big schools disclosing, so I think it has to be a movement specifically started by big schools, but I definitely think that with power tagging and paraphrasing and everything that’s going on right now, disclosing–especially evidence tags–would be good.
On net, do you think evidence ethics are getting better or worse? This is kind of a tough question.
Megan: I think there needs to be a redefining of what evidence ethics are because before it used to just be like, “don’t miscut your cards, don’t fill them with brackets etc.” and I definitely agree with that, but I think some things that are considered bad, like paraphrasing, are necessary to summarize an entire economic study, so in those cases paraphrases are good. But in some cases when teams are even reading direct cards, they’ll be from weird sources or just illegitimate. There was this one piece of evidence on the septober topic by this guy that just said, “I think the probability of war is 40%” with no methodology or empirical analysis. Technically this wasn’t “bad evidence ethics” because it wasn’t miscut, but I think there needs to be a bigger push for using better evidence in general.
Laurenn: I think I agree with most of that, but I think on the national circuit as a whole, I feel like evidence ethics have gotten a little bit better, just out of fear of theory being read against them. Theory has become more popular I guess. I also feel like there’s been a lot of discussions on reddit too about evidence ethics which I feel like scares people into cutting and reading the right types of cards. So I think that because PF is evolving really fast, I feel like evidence ethics are becoming more important because they’re more important in policy and LD, which PF is moving towards. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I think that evidence ethics are getting a little bit better. I think personally my evidence ethics have stayed the same except now we paraphrase a little bit more, but our coach is really strict about these things. We always thought that if you read the card, you read it verbatim, you’re not allowed to do anything else, it’s illegal.
Who’s your favorite music artist? It doesn’t have to be your favorite of all time if that’s too tough, just someone you like right now.
Laurenn: Well I know my favorite of all time is Lorde, I know it’s kinda basic, but Lorde just satisfies all my deep thoughts. Whenever I want to listen to something that’s interesting and thought provoking, and maybe sometimes a little bit emo, I go to Lorde. I don’t ever get sick of any of her songs. But, I feel like in general though, I listen to more hip-hop stuff, so it’s kind of an anomaly.
Megan: The person I consistently come back to is Jon Bellion. I’ve been listening to him since sophomore year and he’s been coming out with some good stuff. The other person I really like right now is Quinn XCII.
Favorite TV show?
Laurenn: Game of Thrones
Megan: I was gonna say Gossip Girl but it’s probably also Game of Thrones
Laurenn: Gossip Girl eww
Megan: Actually, if I’m being honest, my favorite TV show is The West Wing because I love politics and getting to know more than they do when they bring up debate topics.
What is the hardest tournament?
Laurenn: Well I’ve actually never been, but it’s Glenbrooks, we all know it’s Glenbrooks. From what me and Megan have been to, it was ASU because the pool was crazy, everyone showed up. It was also the first tournament on the January topic, so you know how that goes. Berkeley was our hardest tournament last year and I feel like most west coast kids would probably say Berkeley.
Megan: Yeah, I agree.
Weirdly enough, I’ve been on the circuit for 8 years and somehow have never made it out to Glenbrooks. Do you have any non-debate hobbies you wanna show off to your fans?
Laurenn: Hmmm, I’m very into listening to music and singing if that counts as a hobby. I’m a really big music and art person, like I suck at painting but I draw on everything. I also love fashion even though I’m broke.
Megan: I don’t wanna say it.
Laurenn: Yes Megan, say it.
Megan: Okay, so I really love knitting. It’s a grandma thing, my grandma did teach me how to knit, but it’s really relaxing because it’s the same motion over and over again so I’ll do it while I’m watching TV, or especially if I’m stressed out from debate or homework. It’s just really relaxing to watch it get longer, because you’re directly seeing your progress. Plus, I’m moving to Chicago next year so I definitely need a lot of scarves and hats and stuff, so knitting is also really utilitarian for me.
That’s a savage hobby that I fully expect you to teach me at the Philadelphia session this summer. As a judge, do you think defense in first summary should be required?
Megan: I feel like if there’s a card, an end-all be-all terminal defense card, I wouldn’t require it to be in summary, but I feel like it would be unstrategic to not include it. If I heard “this card takes out their entire case” and I had that in my mind going into the other team’s summary, it would really persuade me. I definitely don’t think you have to because of the time constraints of PF, but I think it would be really unstrategic to not put your end-all be-all card in summary.
To wrap up, do you have any shoutouts?
Laurenn: Shoutouts to Talla and Manush because I love them and they’re my best friends, and I miss them and they taught me how to debate. Shoutouts to Allen too because he just does so much, he mods the reddit, he uploads all these videos.
Megan: Ryan Jiang, I think he’s gonna kill the circuit next year, people can quote me on this, and also Ahana Sen. I think Quarry Lane AS gets a lot of flak on the reddit, and I feel like Ahana is one of the best first speakers I’ve ever seen but most people only ever talk about Allen. So I feel like she deserves credit for what she does.
If you want to work with Laurenn and Megan this summer, register for VBI here!