Communication studies assistant professor and architecture graduate student awarded Top Paper by Cross Examination Debate Association

December 8, 2023

Alex McVey, director of K-State Debate and assistant professor in the A.Q. Miller School of Media and Communication, and Trevor Turner, fifth-year Master of Architecture student and member of the debate team, were awarded “Top Paper” by the Cross Examination Debate Association. The award was announced at the National Communication Association Conference in November, where McVey and Turner participated in a panel featuring a variety of new scholarship concerning debate theory and competitive tournament design.

The paper, co-authored by McVey and Turner, was titled “Presumption, Performance, and Praxis: Reclaiming Debate as a Site of Freedom.” In a press release, CEDA stated that McVey and Turner’s paper “provides an innovative perspective on new argument trends in intercollegiate cross-examination debate and models the type of faculty-undergraduate research collaboration that strengthens our division as we welcome new thinkers into our ranks.”

CEDA Panelists at National Communication Association convention 2023

“The paper deals with a concept in argumentation theory called ‘presumption’ — much like the presumption of innocence in a courtroom — and offers a critique of the way that teams in debate leverage presumption arguments in debates involving performative styles of argumentation,” McVey said.

Trevor Turner, who co-authored the paper with McVey, is a master’s student in architecture and fifth-year debater on the team’s NDT/CEDA policy debate style. The paper emerged out of Turner’s own experience in debate as a Black student engaging in non-traditional styles of argumentation, and McVey’s ongoing scholarship looking at the ideological norms of argumentation theory.

‘”Presumption’ as it is normatively deployed in the debate space is always something that I have independently pushed back against and Dr. McVey quickly took notice,” said Turner. “Most of my debate-centered research is focused on exposing and challenging structures of anti-Black violence, which we feel ‘presumption’ as a practice reinvests into. Therefore, when he approached me with the idea of documenting my thoughts on presumption in conjunction with researching its histories and contemporary uses, I was quick to agree and join him in this project.”

The paper calls for all judges and debaters to reexamine how they are evaluating performances that are presented within the debate space.

“I think this proposed moment of interpersonal reflection is important as it shapes the future of debate as an activity,” Turner said.

“College Policy Debate offers K-State students a unique opportunity to engage in original interdisciplinary research beyond the classroom,” said McVey. “This presentation represents our attempt to use the high impact research activities debaters participate in during the competition season to connect debaters to academic communities and extend their research profile.”

“This recognition is evidence of how our co-curricular activities, like the Debate and Speech teams, merge research and instruction into innovative applied learning experiences, a key focus area in the Next-Gen K-State strategic plan,” said Heather Woods, interim director of the A.Q. Miller School of Media and Communication.

Turner said that he and McVey were happy to present alongside four other colleagues, all presenting radically different debate research. “This provided an opportunity to draw on their perspectives and open up avenues for new understandings of the activity we participate in and deeply care about the future of,” Turner said of the experience. “We were extremely humbled and excited with the announcement of our paper receiving the Top Paper award, in light of the other great research on the panel that was presented.”


About K-State Debate

The Kansas State University debate team participates in NDT/CEDA policy debate and British Parliamentary Debate. These rigorous academic activities dramatically increase students' ability to identify problems, engage in extensive research and analysis of public policy and to propose solutions to a variety of pressing international and domestic issues. K-State Debate welcomes students from any major, as well as students with no prior debate experience. Students should get in touch with Dr. McVey to learn more about how to participate in K-State Debate.