Although protests for originality in Toastmasters speech contests may be rare, it would be nice to have rules/guidelines on how they are best handled.
I could not find an official guide to handling a protest for originality in a Toastmasters speech contest, so here are my initial suggestions.
THESE ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT OFFICIAL! They are also a first draft. How would you improve them?
(I am not sure anyone if anyone could claim the individual did not “… alone prepared [their] speech …” so this addresses only protests of originality)
1. Anyone in attendance may believe that a contest speech is not “substantially original”. (From the 2104 speech contest rulebook: “Twenty-five percent or less of the speech may be devoted to quoting, paraphrasing, or referencing another person’s content. Any quoted, paraphrased, or referenced content must be so identified during the speech presentation.”)
Although protests may only be lodged by contestants and judges, anyone may request to speak with the (identified to everyone) chief judge or contestant and present the information specifying the published source of what they think is the original and uncredited source of a substantial part of the speech.
Note: Only contestants and judges may file a protest! If they receive compelling information that a speech is not original, it is their duty to file a protest.
2. The chief judge (or contestant or judge who is protesting or received the protest information from an audience member) would write down the evidence presented to them by any person, whether a contestant, judge or audience member.
NOTE: a protest can ONLY be filed by a contestant or judge – but a contestant or judge they may decide to file a protest if they receive evidence from someone who is not a contestant or judge. This is allowed, despite the fact that judges identify is not openly publicized. Most likely someone would tell a contestant to file the protest, since they have a strong interest in the contest being judged fairly and the rules followed fairly.
3. The contestant or judge officially lodging the protest with the Chief judge presents the evidence to the chief judge verbally and be given some time (maximum 10 minutes) to prepare a written originality protest. The Chief Judge informs the Contest Chair that a protest is being lodged and that some time is required.
3a. If the contestant has been disqualified for time, the chief judge ends the protest process here.
4. If the evidence alleged is not available in writing at the contest (this is probably close to 99% likely) a web search via computer or mobile phone could be done. Bear in mind that not all information on the web is accurate. The chief judge could allow an additional 10 minutes for this online research.
The contest chair is to be advised if this time is required.
5. All evidence collected is to be duplicated/photocopied if possible, with enough copies of the written protest and any printed evidence/references for each judge and the challenged contestant.
6. The chief judge convenes the judges and the challenged contestant in a private area. The chief judge chairs the meeting and maintains control (including passing control of who is the speaker and time limits.) The Chief judge reads the written protest and distribute copies (if available) to all judges and the challenged contestant. All attendees are given “adequate” time to review any written material. Do NOT include or identify the tie-breaking judge – they are NOT of this process.
7. The contestant is given 3 minutes to orally make their case defending their speech as substantially original. If they chose to withdraw from the contest, that is done in front of the chief judge and the convened judges at the meeting in progress. If the challenged contestant has already left the contest meeting for the duration of the contest and is not available, the process should be completed without them present.
8. The judges are then given 3 minutes (total) to question the contestant if desired.
9. The Chief Judge asks all judges if any of them prefers a written ballot. If ANY judge requests a written ballot, then all voting done by having each judge take a piece of paper, print their name, sign their name and write “Contestant Disqualified” or “Contestant OK” on their paper. The Chief Judge collects the ballots, tallies them and announces the results to the judges. One judge is selected to audit the counting.The Chief Judge does NOT get a vote.
If ALL judges agree to oral vote, the judge polls the judges for an oral Yes/No vote on the protest. Each judge gets one vote and may abstain. If a majority of the judges (more than half) vote for the disqualification, the contestant is disqualified. There is no requirement to inform anyone, audience or contestants about any originality protests filed, voted on or enforced.
10. If the Contestant is disqualified, the chief judge revises the final standings of the contestants.
From TI judges training pdf:
“If the Contestant is disqualified, the contest chair will notify the contestant of the disqualification prior to that announcement before the meeting at which the contest took place is adjourned.”
This process needs to be done in the event of a protest no matter what the results of the voting are.
This process is not to be skipped because someone believes that “it doesn’t matter in the results”. There are many cases where runners-up further down and the top three have been eligible to compete in the further rounds of contests.
Of course all protests on originality must be done before the results are announced.