2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

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2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by theMoMA » Mon Jun 06, 2011 10:53 am

Dear 2011 NSC coaches and teams,

On behalf of PACE, I want to apologize for the logistical issues at PACE. Furthermore, I want to apologize personally. The failures at NSC were not organizational, they were the result of personal failures to anticipate and plan for contingencies. The mistakes were in no way attributable to anyone other than us as the central administrators. Quite simply, we came up short. It's both frustrating and painful to watch my own preventable mistakes affect players and sour their experience. We are quizbowl players, and we host this tournament for the teams, players, and coaches. When what we do negatively impacts their enjoyment, it hurts. We can't apologize enough.

Sincerely,

Andrew Hart
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics apologies

Post by Gautam » Mon Jun 06, 2011 12:28 pm

I would like to piggy-back on Andrew's post and extend my apologies to the teams, staffers, and all others who were adversely impacted by the logistical issues that occurred at the NSC. I will reiterate that all issues that arose were the result of our inability to foresee them well in advance. We did the best we could in consulting with previous TDs and other members who have worked on the organizational aspect of the NSC, but we fell short.

I hope the teams and the quizbowl community can forgive us for how the tournament proceeded and for the errors we made at some critical junctures. Speaking for myself and not as a member of PACE, I would like to be involved in organizing quizbowl tournaments, at least in the near future. I hope that the community gives me a chance to learn from my mistakes and (hopefully) run better tournaments in the future.

Thank you,
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics apologies

Post by Gautam » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:47 am

Hello all,

We know we owe the quizbowl community a detailed explanation about the protest resolution procedure that led us to overturning the decision in the Hunter v. Bellarmine game. As of a little while ago, Hunter and Bellarmine have been notified about everything, but we thought it would be appropriate to post about it on the forums as well.

We cannot apologize enough to Hunter and Bellarmine, all other teams involved in the Top-bracket tiebreakers at the NSC (especially LASA), to the coaches, parents, wards, etc. of students of these schools, and the quizbowl community in general. There were also delays in communicating the results of the situation to all the teams involved, for which we are to blame. A coach who spoke with us reminded it us that the way it was communicated to the teams was "unconscionable;" we can't do much but agree with the statement and profusely apologize for the fact.

I gave an explanation to PACE members about why we resolved the protest the way we did, and I have forwarded it to both Hunter College HS and Bellarmine HS. The following what occurred during the resolution process:
I wrote:The first time we received the protest, we were explained that the protest was that "GTP is not a nucleotide" which we disagreed with promptly and ruled as such.

The second time we received this protest, I was not notified that it was the same protest as the last time, so I assumed that entirely different teams were involved. I am obliged NOT to enquire about the team(s) lodging the protest, so I naturally didn't enquire. We never actually realized that the protest was being relodged until afterwards.

The second time the protest was lodged, we were simply told that "the team said guanine" and they claimed it should be acceptable. I re-read the wording of the question, and looked up whether each of the clues and the ordering of the phrases applied to guanine. I determined that that the first sentence was referring to guanine given my explanation that once the GTP is part of a DNA/RNA strand, it ceases being "the nucleotide GTP," and becomes a guanine, which is a nucleobase and a sugar+phosphate backbone. To be clear, the structure that's on the cap, m-7Gppp, is a methylated guanine molecule attached to a ribose which is bonded to a triphosphate group, i.e. it is technically a "GTP". I understood the question as stating the GTP part of "m-7Gppp" is the molecule from which the nitrogenous base is removed, which was completely false. A biologist would simply not describe the capping process as one which involves a "removal of guanine from GTP." I determined that it would be inappropriate to award points to teams when both the teams have access to a factually incorrect piece of information and that the bonus should be thrown out (which has been the response by protest committees many times.)

Only after the above judgment was made (Andy agreed with me that the bonus part was pointing to two different answers) I informed the moderator that the bonus should be thrown out. It was only later revealed to us that the protest was the same as one made earlier in the day.
The protest was brought to us via the right channels, but it is quite clear that there were major flaws in the way the nature of the protest was presented to us the two times. I speak for both myself and Andrew when saying that we profusely apologize for that. We were asked to make a judgement calls on a given situation when being presented with two completely different cases for making the protest. While we were deciding, we simply did not know (and could not have known) what was going on. It would have been unfair to re-consider a protest, as it would have implied that information about the nature of the protest was not being relayed in a transparent manner. The moderator who was involved in this incident did not deliberately withhold any information from us to help one team or the other; it was just unfortunate that information valuable to understanding the protest got lost when it was being relayed.

There have also been some rumors that some staffer(s) at the NSC may have been involved in giving Hunter College HS an unfair advantage in the protest resolution, and I want to clarify that this is patently false. The only persons involved in making the resolution were myself, Andrew Hart, and Andy Watkins, and we were not swayed by any other staffers at the tournament.

There have also been some claims that the protest resolution was made to accommodate Hunter College High School's travel plans. This is completely untrue. We tried to be as fair to all teams as possible when making any decisions that would affect teams at the NSC, and performing a hasty resolution that benefits one team in light of their travel plans would decidedly go against our principles. To make matters more clear, we were not aware of Hunter College's travel plans until after we resolved the protest. We had reminded teams that we expected Sunday to wrap up by 4:00-4:30, and we expected teams to make reservations around this schedule. If Hunter College would have had to leave to catch its flights, we would definitely have considered it a forfeit loss against their opponent.

Furthermore it is also untrue that the other protest made by Bellarmine HS was completely ignored. We discussed the protest, and agreed that "washing the feet" and "bathing" were not adequate and/or promptable for "ablution." We did not do this because it would have been convenient for us to allow Hunter to win, or to end the tournament as soon as possible, or any of the other claims I have come across regarding this protest.

We really do wish that the resolution to this protest would have been done in a different way. We can't apologize enough for the all the trouble we have caused. We seek forgiveness from teams who were adversely impacted by the outcome. We hope that the community understands that it has been a sobering moment for us when it comes to teams' perception about protest handling and communication, and that we have the humility to learn about what we did wrong and what we can rectify in the future.

Sincerely on behalf of the Protest Committee,
Gautam Kandlikar

EDIT: sorry, I can't get the quote tags to work for some reason.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by theMoMA » Tue Jun 07, 2011 10:09 am

I also want to add a note about a second protest involving the Bellarmine-State College game. The protest was on the "Secretary of the Interior" tossup, on which State College (like many other teams) buzzed with "First Lady." After considering the protest and consulting sources that confirmed that Eleanor Roosevelt indeed could be said to have factually "arranged" the Lincoln Memorial concert, we awarded State College a correct tossup (for 20), as we did for all other teams who buzzed at that point.

Sometime later during the superplayoffs, a control room informed us that Bellarmine challenged our application of the relevant protest rule. The rule states that, in the case that there are two or more answers to a tossup, the clues buzzed on must be "reasonably uniquely identifying," or the protest must be denied. Bellarmine challenged our application based on the fact that, because the "Lincoln Memorial" clue applied to two different answers, it was not reasonably uniquely identifying.

We discussed the rule and determined that the wording was intended to deny protests on something akin to answering "One character in this play..." with any play, not to disallow a buzz on a clue that seems reasonably uniquely identifying but in actuality applies to two answers. Indeed, we believe that under Bellarmine's logic, there would be no situation in which the more-than-one-correct-answer rule would apply, because the clue would either apply to two answers, and thus not be "reasonably uniquely identifying," or uniquely identifying, and thus not trigger the rule. In order to ensure that our ruling was correct, we consulted Matt Weiner, who drafted many of the NSC rules, and he confirmed our interpretation and the ruling. The control room that brought this to our attention agreed with our ruling as well.

We informed the control room of the ruling and later discussed it briefly with Bellarmine's coach over the phone, though I regret that we were not able to explain to them the full procedure of what happened in a more timely manner. Bellarmine's players and coach were extremely well-composed during this whole process, even in the face of our communication lapses and the disappointment of the protest resolutions. I want to thank them personally for showing such sportsmanship.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by youngster68 » Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:33 pm

I don't contribute much on these forums and I don't want to waste people's time by reiterating things that have already been said, but I'd like to add my perspective on what we here at Hunter have been referring to as "our asterisk". Let me apologize in advance for the word count.

If you look down at my signature you will see that I refer to myself as an Advisor and not a Coach. I have learned a lot about good quizbowl and bad quizbowl over the last three years, but I still feel very much like an outsider here. The only Roman Emperor I know is Caligula, I thought "1001 Arabian Nights" was the correct title, and I definitely don't know what a nucleotide is. I support the kids in our program, I handle the finances, I arrange transportation, and I chaperone. Well, I guess I give a few pep talks every now and then. Lily Chen, and previously Guy Tabachnick, is the person who makes the real decisions about what tournaments we participate in and how many teams we bring.

Hunter is a public school with very little money for student programs - this year we got a $3000 grant from our PTA, and we raised about $1500 on Prison Bowl (including mirror fees), and asked parents for an additional $2500. Our trip to PACE alone cost about $4500 for the two teams that attended. We were hoping to bring a third team but could not afford it. And there was no way that we could have also gone to Atlanta. We choose NSC over HSNCT because we like the questions better.

I mention this because our transportation choices were fairly limited. I was a little concerned that our return flight was too early, but when I asked about this,
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=10436&start=50#p216895
I was directed to a document that said that everything would be completed by 3:30 pm the latest. I underestimated the amount of time it would take to get from Northwestern to O'Hare, and for that I have no excuse (I used to live in Rogers Park). In addition, I remember another 7pm finish on Saturday night at George Mason a few years ago, so I should have anticipated - or at least left some wiggle room - for additional snafus.

After finishing 9th last year at NSC, our A team felt that they had something to prove on Sunday. They were lucky to be in the tiebreaker on Sunday morning, and from there it was an exhilarating run against teams that we respect, love, and fear. Then I realized that our 5pm flight was way out of line with our day. I called United to switch flights, and was told that the remaining flights that day were sold out. That's when the panic set in.

To add some perspective, I want you to know that two days earlier we were late for our flight to Chicago, and we were bumped from our flight. This was a truly harrowing experience that got resolved after a great deal of yelling, pleading, and handwringing. So the prospect of more airline drama made me sick to my stomach.

I'm not sure how far the panic spread. I know Lily caught it, and for that I feel quite guilty. Maybe some of it got passed along to Trygve and Andy, I'm not sure. I saw Coach Flowers on the way out to lunch and he offered to come right back if a tiebreaker was needed. So yes, we were under some real pressure to get a resolution quickly, and that pressure stemmed from me. For this I would like to apologize.

My team has been pretty glum that this day, which really represented for us our greatest day of quizbowl, was now sullied by controversy and even a few thinly-veiled allegations of cheating. We haven't even announced yet to our school that we placed second. And the thought that we took something away from Bellarmine / LASA / State College - three teams (and Coaches) who we have great admiration for not only as players but as people - was truly upsetting.

I'd like to add to what Coach Powers said in one of the forums - I am really shocked at some of the vitriol recorded here. I understand full well the anger felt by many of the participants, and I share that frustration. For as seldom as I've engaged in these forums, I think I've even displayed a bit of that myself. But in these threads it has simply gone too far.

Congratulations again to (a shorthanded!) State College, who beat us twice in some great matches. I know that LASA was longing for revenge from the previous week, and if I had to do it over again I would have asked Coach Flowers if we could run that tiebreaker just in case. I'm going to put our asterisk in the bottom drawer now, ask once again politely for your understanding, and we are going to start celebrating an amazing year. Let's hope next year there's an NSC without all the grief and chaos.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Down and out in Quintana Roo » Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:37 pm

youngster68 wrote:now sullied by controversy and even a few thinly-veiled allegations of cheating.
Can you explain what you mean by this?
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Cheynem » Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:43 pm

I think the "allegations" (which are just sort of flittering rumors and not worthy of full analysis) merely stem from the confusion of how the final protest was resolved.

I'm not speaking for PACE, although I assume members would agree with me, in that no vitriol in any of the attendant PACE threads should be at all directed at the teams. The protest resolutions are unfortunate, but they cannot be Hunter or anyone on Hunter's fault. Neither State College nor LASA nor Hunter nor any team at this tournament should feel embarrassed or defensive about their final outcomes (aside, of course, from being understandably upset at the way the tournament's problems contributed to them). None of these teams should feel glum in that sense.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Edward Powers » Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:14 pm

Coach Young,

You might not think of yourself as a Coach, but anyone who guides his team as you do, as a gentleman who displays wherever he goes the principles of fair play, sportsmanship, collegiality and conviviality, as you always do, is surely a Coach, and a Coach in the best sense, and your example has clearly been reflected in the character of your players, none of whom deserves any asterisk next to their names, and my bet is that the kids from Bellarmine, LASA, and State College would all agree, as would almost all reading this forum---that at least is my guess and my bet. So, a piece of very friendly advice: Tell your school ASAP that your kids finished 2nd in the entire United States, because they did, and then encourage your kids to go out and celebrate their wonderful accomplishment. To go undefeated on Sunday in the Superfinals, against that terrific field, before sucumbing to the best team in the US during the last 2 years in the winner take all Final is an amazing accomplishment. And if you read the sportsmanlike comments of players from the Top 8 who competed with Hunter on Sunday and which are interpersed throughout these forums on the NSC, you will certainly discern and know that Hunter's opponents do not seek to put an asterisk before your 2nd place finish. So---celebrate, celebrate and celebrate. Then, when you are finished, celebrate some more. And my guess is the vast majority of readers of this forum, especially if they know Lily and York and Richard and Zihan, would offer the same exact advice.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics apologies

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Jun 07, 2011 10:32 pm

gkandlikar wrote:The protest was brought to us via the right channels
There have also been some rumors that some staffer(s) at the NSC may have been involved in giving Hunter College HS an unfair advantage in the protest resolution, and I want to clarify that this is patently false. The only persons involved in making the resolution were myself, Andrew Hart, and Andy Watkins, and we were not swayed by any other staffers at the tournament.
I have to dispute both of these assertions. The protest was brought to you by the team approaching Trygve Meade and him giving out your phone number, and then you talking directly to the captain of the team in question. This violates both the "teams and staff are to go through their control rooms only and not talk directly to the TDs" edict that is eminently sensible and was given to all teams and staff at the opening meeting, and the principle of hearing protests without knowing the teams involved.

Also, Trygve had no authority to decide to give a particular team direct access to the TDs (to re-hear a protest or for any other reason) and it's obvious that, regardless of any role or lack thereof in your final decision, he did in fact give Hunter an unfair advantage by allowing the protest to be re-heard in the first place.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Remember-the-Alamo-Remember-Goliad » Tue Jun 07, 2011 11:06 pm

With my own team finishing farther down the standings, I have the luxury of sitting back to watch and learn about all of this drama which sailed by me while in Dallas.

However, as a clergyman, the acts of contrition, seem to be about as 'from the heart' as one is going to find. With 30+ years of ministerial service, perhaps this is a point on which I have a better perspective than most.

Through it all, I would suggest that if we keep the good of the students -- nothing else -- as the principal focus, then all will be well, eventually.

With expressions of regret and acceptance of responsibility, I can only wonder aloud when the constructive and, perhaps, reconstructive phase of this moment will begin.

If PACE is to continue (and be better) next year, then a moral equivalent for the Law of Diminishing Returns ought to come into play at some point regarding all the drum beating and Angst.

Once the mea culpa's, bloodletting, apologies, and clarifications are all done, I hope the QB community still has a vibrant, functioning organization called PACE.

. . . . .A perspective from one coach not involved in the heat of the moments but one who cares about the larger community.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics apologies

Post by millionwaves » Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:19 am

Matt Weiner wrote:
gkandlikar wrote:The protest was brought to us via the right channels
There have also been some rumors that some staffer(s) at the NSC may have been involved in giving Hunter College HS an unfair advantage in the protest resolution, and I want to clarify that this is patently false. The only persons involved in making the resolution were myself, Andrew Hart, and Andy Watkins, and we were not swayed by any other staffers at the tournament.
I have to dispute both of these assertions. The protest was brought to you by the team approaching Trygve Meade and him giving out your phone number, and then you talking directly to the captain of the team in question. This violates both the "teams and staff are to go through their control rooms only and not talk directly to the TDs" edict that is eminently sensible and was given to all teams and staff at the opening meeting, and the principle of hearing protests without knowing the teams involved.

Also, Trygve had no authority to decide to give a particular team direct access to the TDs (to re-hear a protest or for any other reason) and it's obvious that, regardless of any role or lack thereof in your final decision, he did in fact give Hunter an unfair advantage by allowing the protest to be re-heard in the first place.
I don't normally bother to directly respond to things that Matt Weiner says, but since this is a relatively important thing to get clear, I'll break my well-considered policy. The problems with this is that my control room was full of four teams who were stuck in a four way square of death die, which was being fairly tensely negotiated, so my control room operator was very busy trying to figure out how to deal with that, rather than protest resolutions; I can't swear to this, but I am at least pretty sure he told me to call Gautam about it instead of bothering him. I certainly didn't consider that there would be anything improper about that. Nevertheless, perhaps that wasn't the most well-considered decision on my part to not simply ask them to wait and be patient while DCC A and TJ A, et al, figured out how they were going to resolve their situation. If I did play a role in how this came down, I sincerely apologize to all the teams affected.

EDIT: This is, of course, definitely not to say that responding to a comment made by Matt Weiner would be beneath me. Sorry if it came out that way.
Last edited by millionwaves on Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:37 am

If you are referring to Fred's control room, I was there and seem to vaguely recall a moment during the four way tiebreaker kerfluffle when Hunter tried to get in. I hope Fred weighs in with his take because I don't remember any discussion of a protest at the time (unless it happened after I left, but I didn't leave until the tiebreaker was resolved).
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by millionwaves » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:44 am

Again, as I said, I wouldn't swear to him saying that I should call Gautam in that instance, although I know for sure that there were other times that he instructed me to contact the TDs when he was busy dealing with other things.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:48 am

Okay--I just wanted to confirm you were talking about Fred's control room.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by millionwaves » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:52 am

I was.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by lchen » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:56 am

Matt Weiner wrote:I have to dispute both of these assertions. The protest was brought to you by the team approaching Trygve Meade and him giving out your phone number, and then you talking directly to the captain of the team in question.
Just to clarify, it was not our intention to lodge the protest a second time. We had been told various conflicting things by various different staffers, so we were not sure what the official decision in the protest was, or whether it had even been resolved yet. Since no one was able to give us a definite answer, we went to the control room to ask for an official confirmation of the decision and, if possible, the rationale behind the decision. When we reached the control room, we saw that Fred was occupied with the teams involved in the aforementioned four-way tie, and were informed that we would probably get kicked out of the room if we tried to ask him about something else. Since Trygve was sitting by the door, we asked Trygve about this instead, and he claimed not to know about the situation. He called Gautam, who asked me to explain the protest and called me back shortly afterwards to inform us that the committee had decided to award us the protest.

At the time, we were not aware that this was the second decision on the protest, as official word of the original decision had never reached us. It was not until after the tournament that we realized that our enquiry had been interpreted as a relodging of the protest.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Jun 08, 2011 3:00 pm

Lily, I don't think anybody here has any problem with what you did. We all know Hunter's team is both eminently respectable, and we know that this tournament was such a confusing mess that if we were in your position, we all would probably have done something similar. Everybody should have the highest praise for the excellent play and amazing sportsmanship you and all of the other top teams have shown, both at this tournament and throughout your playing careers. It makes this game worthwhile, especially after Amit's disheartening show of craven immorality just last year. You all are excellent kids and you did nothing that should need to be justified to the public, and you have nothing to apologize for.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Galstaff, Sorceror of Light » Wed Jun 08, 2011 3:39 pm

Remember-the-Alamo-Remember-Goliad wrote: With expressions of regret and acceptance of responsibility, I can only wonder aloud when the constructive and, perhaps, reconstructive phase of this moment will begin.
Mr. Schweers, I'm not sure if this exactly addresses your concern, but in case no one has yet made this clear, internal discussion about what went wrong and how to address those issues in order to minimize them as much as possible at future NSCs is ongoing (and, of course, taking into account what people are saying in these discussion threads).
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by millionwaves » Wed Jun 08, 2011 3:46 pm

MLWGS-Gir wrote:
Remember-the-Alamo-Remember-Goliad wrote: With expressions of regret and acceptance of responsibility, I can only wonder aloud when the constructive and, perhaps, reconstructive phase of this moment will begin.
Mr. Schweers, I'm not sure if this exactly addresses your concern, but in case no one has yet made this clear, internal discussion about what went wrong and how to address those issues in order to minimize them as much as possible at future NSCs is ongoing (and, of course, taking into account what people are saying in these discussion threads).
Yeah, I can't emphasize this enough. We started talking about how next year's tournament is going to be better Saturday night, and I have every confidence that we'll be able to do a much better job next time.
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Re: 2011 NSC logistics and protest resolution apologies

Post by Remember-the-Alamo-Remember-Goliad » Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:23 pm

MLWGS-Gir wrote:
Remember-the-Alamo-Remember-Goliad wrote: With expressions of regret and acceptance of responsibility, I can only wonder aloud when the constructive and, perhaps, reconstructive phase of this moment will begin.
Mr. Schweers, I'm not sure if this exactly addresses your concern, but in case no one has yet made this clear, internal discussion about what went wrong and how to address those issues in order to minimize them as much as possible at future NSCs is ongoing (and, of course, taking into account what people are saying in these discussion threads).
Sarah, I'm glad to hear this. My students DID have a good time at PACE, 'pace' all the delays, etcs. Thank you for your kind response and reassurances!
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