[eDebate] Bad News For Everyone

Harris, Scott L sharris
Fri Aug 22 09:49:31 CDT 2008


Bill has been fired and Ed Hammond (who has been instrumental in developing the debate programs at both Fort Hays and Louisville) made it an indictment of college debate in general.
 
 
Fort Hays Debate Coach Dismissed

HAYS, Kan. -- Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, announced today that the university had dismissed Dr. Bill Shanahan, assistant professor of communication studies and coach of the school's debate program, for violating the university's faculty code of ethics. 

Shanahan became notorious over the past two weeks after a video was posted on the popular YouTube Internet site that showed him in a wild confrontation with the debate coach from the University of Pittsburgh during a Cross Examination Debate Association event that was held during the spring 2008 semester at Wichita State University. 

FHSU just learned of Shanahan's actions when the video was posted the first week of August. "No one from the tournament staff notified us about the incident last spring, which is a surprise given the scope of what happened," President Hammond said. "Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but these actions are not acceptable for someone who is representing our university." 

The president continued: "Professor Shanahan's conduct falls below the standard established to protect our university, its faculty, students and alumni. As a representative of FHSU, he had a duty of care that was seriously breached by his behavior." 

"If the coach of one of our athletic teams became angry and 'mooned' officials, student athletes and fans during a sports event, he or she would no longer be a coach at Fort Hays State University," President Hammond said. "Standards for our debate program are certainly just as high." 

The YouTube video showed Shanahan in an angry, prolonged, obscenity-laced shouting match with University of Pittsburgh debate coach Shanara Reid-Brinkley following a debate between FHSU and Towson State of Maryland. The FHSU team had exercised its prerogative under the debate rules to dismiss Reid-Brinkley as a judge of the FHSU-Towson State debate. Both the Towson State debate team and Reid-Brinkley said the decision to remove a black female judge was an act of white hegemony, which is to say an exercise of the power whites enjoy over people of color. At one point early in the post-debate argument, Shanahan turned his back to Reid-Brinkley, pulled down his shorts and bent over to expose his underwear-clad backside. 

The president also stated that the FHSU debate program was suspended, effective immediately, until problems were addressed at the national level. He said steps were being taken so as not to disadvantage the FHSU debate students in the coming year. 

The president said it was equally important for FHSU to take a stand against the declining standards of college debate. "We are an institute of higher learning, and this incident provides a valuable 'teaching moment,' " he said. "Our society has become increasingly confrontational and uncivil. Our investigation revealed that those ills have also infected college debate. We have a responsibility not only to deal with the specific incident but to stand up against this decline in the standards of college debate." 

"I was a college debater," Dr. Hammond said. "I place high value on college debate as an exceptional learning opportunity. However, I had no idea that college debate had degenerated into the kind of displays that we witnessed when we watched CEDA events on the Internet. College debate has changed greatly. The lack of decorum and the lack of civility are not compatible with the educational standards at FHSU, and I doubt they are compatible with the educational standards at most universities." 

He added, "If anyone doubts my conclusion, that person should view the entire debate, which was laced with four-letter words, a lack of personal respect and a lack of civil discourse." 

Shanahan and a debate coach from the University of Pittsburgh are seen on the clip screaming obscenities at each other in front of a room filled with students. At one point, Shanahan lowers his shorts and shows his underwear to the students.

?  The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

 




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