[eDebate] My Statement on Shanahan

Andy Ellis andy.edebate
Sun Sep 7 00:36:34 CDT 2008

There is enough talk i figured i should say something.

First a few things i didn't do

1) I didn't post the video
2) I didn't contact any press outlets
3) I didn't contact anyone at ft hays with the intention to either alert
them or to advocate for Bill's firing.

Some things I did do
1) Call for CEDA action to address the situation
2) Discuss the situation with the provost, when contacted
3) Suggest to Adam after some consternation that the video was ok to post.

I don't know exactly what Adam's motivation was for posting the video, it
seems from the email he sent that he thought it was a spectacle and had no
idea it would leave the community. Given the number of people who expressed
desire to see the video, and even more expressed the desire to see it on
youtube, i can see how he would have felt that way. Once it got posted it
was easy to say oh my god thats so terrible, i can't believe they posted
that omg, but many of you know that you suggested it be posted and where
more than happy to request it, perhaps because you wanted to see the
spectacle, perhaps because you wanted to share it with your friends, perhaps
because you thought it could be the communities private joke.

I bet if adam had it to do again he wouldnt, but i can't speak for him.

I can however speak to why i did the things i did

1)Call for CEDA action-a) It was CEDA nationals, ceda had a responsibility
to do something. President Hammond seems to indicate that he expected as
much as well, and that the lack of notification left him surprised and
somewhat without options. b)CEDA's customers are Universities, not
University Debate Teams. C) As a member of CEDA i have a right to use the
processes the organization has in order to seek to remedy situations that
occur within the course of organization business. I believe like president
hammond that this situation required organizational action. As a side note
my desire to issue an official complaint had no material impact on CEDA's
actions. Perhaps someone else on the EC can shed more light on that.

2)Discuss the situation with the provost- The provost wanted to know how the
video got posted, i gave him my best answer. As the conversation progressed,
within the context of agreement that Bill need not lose his job, and that
the team not be cut, the provost asked the video to be taken down. After
consulting with several PR professionals to gauge the effect this would have
on Bill's prospects, and coming to believe from those consultations that
having the video down would make it easier for ft hays to help deflect the
negative press, i advised adam to take the video down. I was also led to
believe that legal action to get the video taken down may have been eminant.
In my discussions with the provost, i was left with the conclusion that he
had talked to many members of the community, and that many of those
consultations had led him to believe that many well intentioned people in
this communiy where telling him what they thought would save bill's job, but
where not helping the provost to do his job (which from my understanding was
not to get bill fired, but to help the president to understand how this
could have happened, and no one at ft hays was notified)

3)Suggest to Adam that the video be posted- I believe that the video
documented a news worthy event. I thought it problematic that no one had
really openly discussed the events, and that many in the community thought
it funny and somewhat normal. I felt differently and after showing the video
to many teachers, parents, and former debaters, i recognized how aghast they
where at what they saw, many expressed that it discouraged them from
promoting college debate amongst their children and their students. They
also suggested amazement at the fact that organization had done nothing, and
that is just the way college debate works.

If i had it to do over again, i think the one thing i would have done
differently is to post the video myself instead of allowing Adam to post it.

When i watched that video and showed it around what i came to realize was
that the insularity of our community, and the desire to keep what we do
entirely behind closed doors, while a great and fun part of the activity, is
a serious threat to all of the benefits debate has to offer, and if CEDA as
a body that claims to govern college policy debate was going to continue a
culture of insularity, that sooner or later all of this was going to
crumble. Indeed by observing the fallout my intial inclination seems to have
borne itself out, as president hammond indicated when he was forced to
confront what we think is normal but peopole outside our community think is
deplorable, it is also telling that he felt that not being informed was
perhaps a sign of the decline of standards in the activity.

Academic freedom works best in an open environment, when those expressing
that freedom do not feel that they are in a safe house. A safe house is a
very different thing than a safe space, and i don't think bill was imprecise
when he used this term. State colleges reasonably don't like to fund
safehouses, even if they have an undying commitment to safe spaces, because
no matter how much we would like to pretend that nobody cares what we do,
the people of Kansas and the alumni of fort hays have clearly disproven that
belief. If we are to grow and thrive we must stop hiding and pretending that
we live in a consequence free zone, and begin to be open and vocal about the
academic freedom we enjoy and its benefits, but beyond that we must be
reasonable. We can't ask for 5 or 6 figure budget allocations with little to
no accountability to universities, unless we have someone else willing to
pony up the millions of dollers it takes to do what we do.

If you have experienced harship or scrutiny as a result of all of this i can
empathize. However, to think that we could continue to hold together the
fragile construction that we called community without that scrutiny coming
eventualy, we probably have speant to long in the safe house.

You can hate me, you can scorn me, and you can bemoan the loss of the glory
days, but we can also begin to work together to engage the difficult
challeneg of explaining the benefits of the freedom we enjoy.
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