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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Thu Nov 11, 2021 11:50 am
Message reputation : 100% (7 votes)
Dear AMTA, invitational hosts, and fellow mock trial competitors,

Throughout our years competing at the high school and college levels, we’ve always been taught to stand up for what’s right, to be a voice for ourselves and others, and to ensure that the environments we allow ourselves to be a part of are conducive to positive and inclusive learning experiences for all involved. Because of the lessons we’ve learned in mock trial, we’re writing this open letter to make sure our college mock trial community is informed about a judging experience we had this past weekend at Duke’s Tobacco Road Invitational.

Harry Tilis walked into our first round of competition to preside. From the moment he opened his mouth, we knew it was going to be a horrific round for everyone involved. We want to preface this by saying that words alone cannot convey how degrading our experience with Mr. Tilis was, and frankly, we don’t feel that what we’ve written does justice to the experience we had; we worry that those reading this will only understand what we felt if they’ve personally been in a round judged by Mr. Tilis. In our courtroom with two all-female counsel tables, Mr. Tilis began by actively yelling at both teams’ pretrial attorneys. After a ten minute spiel about how much experience he has judging mock trial, and how he knows AMTA rules and procedures, the following ensued…

Tilis: “Now. Is there anything so important to you that I haven’t already covered that you need to use my time right now to discuss before we proceed?”
Pretrial Attorney: “Your honor, we’d like to ask your preferences-”
Tilis: “No! Do what you will in the courtroom and I’ll stop you when I want to.”
Pretrial Attorney: “If we could direct your attention to-”
Tilis: “You’ll direct my attention to something on your own time, not mine! Do you really have anything else right now?”

Mr. Tilis went on to passive aggressively mock our team’s opener after her statement…

Tilis: "Thank you, Prosecution Opener, for that opening argument. Do we have an opening statement from the defense?"

Mr. Tilis also screamed at attorneys when they asked for a witness to step down for demonstrative purposes…

Prosecution Attorney: “Your honor, permission for the witness to step down and make use of a visual aid?”
Tilis: “I don’t know what you’re saying. Are you asking me something? All I’m hearing from you is statements! Are you asking for a motion of relief? What are you saying?”
Prosecution Attorney: “I’m just asking for permission for the witness to-”
Tilis: “Again, all I’m hearing from you are statements! What are you asking?”
Prosecution Attorney: “Your honor, may the witness step down?”
Tilis: “May she? Yeah, she may, that’s a question.”

When we left the courtroom and reported the judge to the tab room, we were thankful to hear that the opposing team, the University of Florida, had actually already reported the issue on our behalf. For that, we’d like to thank UF both for their sportsmanship and for the way they handled the round alongside us. We’d also like to thank Duke’s tournament directors and staff for the way they responded to our complaint and ensured that Mr. Tilis would not preside again. We later learned that after our complaint had been filed and Mr. Tilis was notified he would be scoring and not presiding for the next round of competition, he promptly left the courthouse and did not return to judge. In the same way that we were unaware of the reputation that preceded our round one presiding judge, both UF and Duke did not know about this judge’s attitudes and in-round behavior, yet we hope both programs’ responses will serve as a model for similar situations in the future.

After we reported our experience to the tab room we believed that our dealings with Mr. Tilis would be over. Having competed in mock trial tournaments for years we certainly aren’t strangers to tough or mean judges. We’ve had federal judges tie us to a podium, we’ve had judges fall asleep mid-round, we’ve had judges give us straight 3s, and we’ve left a round of comments with some team members crying. And while all of those experiences paled in comparison to what we dealt with from Mr. Tilis this past weekend, we still believed that our experience with Mr. Tilis was an isolated instance. However, when we looked up Mr. Tilis online after our round we were appalled to see that our experience was not the first of its kind.

While there were a litany of posts on Mock Trial Confessions describing other competitors’ experience with Mr. Tilis, two were especially alarming to us. In fact, the reason we’re writing this letter is because of two confessions in particular. The first, linked here , regards another competitor’s reported experience with Mr. Tilis, and the second, linked here , regards statements that Mr. Tilis made in a 2019 ORCS tournament packet.

It’s our understanding that Mr. Tilis is still involved in mock trial communities and being asked to judge rounds of competition because the community at large is unaware of the aforementioned, as we were. Not only has he hosted ORCS in 2019, but Mr. Tilis is also heavily involved with Empire Mock Trial for high schoolers. We cannot shake the idea of a fifteen year old girl being subject to a round where Mr. Tilis is presiding at Empire this coming weekend, which is why we’re bringing our experience and what has been posted online to the community’s attention. We know that the goal of those who host mock trial tournaments is to fill judge seats only with those who will create a positive and healthy learning environment for competitors of all ages. Our round with Mr. Tilis was the opposite, which is why we feel that it is our burden to put our community on notice of what we have read and experienced.

This is the first time that we’ve ever complained about a judge, and certainly the first time that we’ve ever done so in a public manner. That is why we are attaching our names and programs to this letter. It is important to us that this is seen as more than just a frivolous MTC post or as a program complaining about a judge; we won Mr. Tilis’s ballot. We are writing this letter because we want the matter looked into further by those with power over mock trial judge pools.

On a personal note and without speaking for the other undersigned individuals, Florida State University will not sit through another round judged by Mr. Tilis in the future. We will instead conflict out of a round if he is ever placed in front of any of our teams again. We don’t write this to create issues in the community. Rather, we as a program hope to shield our competitors from what we feel to be unacceptable and potentially harmful situations. We write this letter in hopes that, with this information, college invitational hosts, AMTA representatives, and anyone else who has power over mock trial competitions will choose to shield all competitors from such situations.

Fernando Yzquierdo, Florida State Mock Trial | President
Abby Branham, Florida State Mock Trial | Captain
Brianna Sanchez, Florida State Mock Trial | Captain

Sophia Athan, University of Florida Mock Trial | President
Samantha Silverio, University of Florida Mock Trial | Vice President
Brianna McKnight, University of Florida Mock Trial | Captain
Lillian Phillips, University of Florida Mock Trial | Captain
Paul Kim, Duke University | Tournament Director
Nhu Bui, Duke University | Tournament Director

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Re: Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Thu Nov 11, 2021 2:58 pm
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I totally support this letter. Before anybody tries to respond and act like Tillis isn't a problem for the AMTA community I just want to say this isn't a holier than thou situation. Nobody cares if Tillis liked your team or if you think you responded to Tillis well. The fact of the matter is, he is a problem. I competed in AMTA for four years and on top of all of the obscene harassment he gives to students during trial (which is all true), in my time I have seen Harry Tillis openly flirt with competitors and ask them out for drinks and Tillis has even approached a competitor I know personally and commented on the size of his penis. It is crazy that someone like this has been tolerated this long. It doesn't matter if people think they're tough because they got through a Tillis round without damage to their mental health, he is not fit to judge. This is an intercollegiate academic competition, not an open forum for someone with an inflated ego to publicly insult and harass students and comment on them sexually. It's about time this letter came. And it's about time something is done about him.

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Re: Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Thu Nov 11, 2021 3:34 pm
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I've seen Tillis make homophobic comments, throw things at competitors, and generally be a complete jerk in round. Every round is an opportunity for him to go on a power trip. I really hope he is kept away from all AMTA-affiliated events in the future.

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Re: Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Thu Nov 11, 2021 3:49 pm
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As someone who experienced the absolutely abhorrent and disgusting nature of Harry Tillis' comments as a high school competitor I support this letter in its entirety. I competed at Empire in my high school career, and I was fortunate enough to not have to compete the round Harry Tillis judged us, but many of our 15 year old competitors were not so fortunate. They left the round on the verge of tears because of this man. I can not even begin to list the reasons why it is unacceptable to criticize 15 YEAR OLD competitors to the point of tears. That can have lasting effects on their confidence, mental health, and general ability to speak publicly. Many of the young competitors I captained contemplated not wanting to continue in their mock trial career and I am thankful that most of them did as they are excellent advocates in their respective college extracurriculars. The fact that this man has and continues to judge in the AMTA circuit is bewildering to me. I can not say enough about how much courage it takes from the FSU, Duke, and Florida Mock Trial programs to come out against this deplorable behavior as it should not be allowed to continue in the AMTA community.

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Re: Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Thu Nov 11, 2021 5:09 pm
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Harry Tilis is a bully and a menace. He should not judge again.

But he will. And that’s the saddest and most awful part about this letter: none of this—absolutely none of it—is new information. Harry Tilis has been doing this to mock trial competitors since before any of the people who started this thread were in high school or college. The notion that AMTA didn’t or couldn’t know about his behavior is absurd. AMTA is an old boys’ club and Harry Tilis is an old boy.

Thank you to the competitors from Florida State, University of Florida, and Duke for writing this letter. I hope AMTA chooses to listen.

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Re: Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Fri Nov 12, 2021 2:11 pm
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I agree with all of the sentiments expressed in these posts and won't try to add to them except to say they match the experience of our program. Thank you to the brave students at Florida State, Florida, and Duke who put their names on this letter.

AMTA has full control over their IP and they happily use that control to restrict the use of said IP. There is nothing preventing them from doing the same thing to restrict the use of their IP from certain judges, and I hope they do so immediately.

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Re: Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Fri Nov 12, 2021 5:27 pm
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I second everything that has been said on this thread. AMTA prides itself on making mock trial an educational and inclusive activity. Harry Tills’s behavior doesn’t serve to educate anyone. He humiliates and embarrasses students who work hard on an activity they love. His behavior is abhorrent and in many cases constitutes harassment. I urge AMTA to ban Harry Tillis from judging permanently. Given the scope and severity of his conduct, AMTA has an obligation to its competitors to act immediately.

—Arvind Goday, Tufts ‘20

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Re: Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Fri Nov 12, 2021 7:51 pm
Don’t forget the running joke in the AMTA community about his borderline disturbing interest in nearly underage competitors. Absolutely preposterous he has a platform in AMTA.

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Open Letter re: Harry Tilis Empty Re: Open Letter re: Harry Tilis

Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:36 am
It's certainly one thing to be an exacting or demanding judge to help teams sharpen up, if done well it can make for a good round especially with two good teams. But not every round requires that and NO round EVER calls for the behaviors that have been well documented of Harry Tillis. Spend 10 minutes searching for Mr. Tillis and you will find that this is no where near a first time event, and not the first time his behavior has been highlighted. Mock Trial is always full of folks who can really overreact to a situation but when the same allegations are made, over and over and over and over again, it can't be an overreaction.

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