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FHSU fires Shanahan, kills program

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Even in the “good old days” (which, let’s be honest, never existed outside of nostalgia), the kind of work and dedication the activity demands of those who practice it at the highest level are a hard sell, demanding the kind of time commitment, academic skill set, and, increasingly, money that make it difficult for outsider populations to compete. This is one reason why I support approaches to debate that level this playing field somewhat.

 

. . .

 

I’m not sure if this is a back-handed remark about Bill, or if you are truly directing this at the community at large.

 

 

I want to respond specifically to these two comments.

 

First, I absolutely agree with you, Matt, about the need to level the playing field with respect to full participation without regard to social/economic boundaries. I also recognize that there is a problem in my suggestion that we uphold debate to a specific standard that many see as exclusionary. I get this, and I would be interested in working to create an outcome in which all members feel embraced (on their terms) without removing all standards in an attempt to eliminate unhealthy norms.

 

Second, my comment about shoes and cussing is only based on my very limited experiences on the national circuit. For all intents and purposes, the actions of this coach are largely beyond reproach from me - and I do not ascribe to him any particular blame or finger pointing. Not in the least.

 

These may seem like minor points to respond to, but I would be bothered if there remained any doubt as to my beliefs on these two topics in particular.

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How many times have we both seen Bob Stoops say "you fucked up" to a lineman or other personnel on the field? haha

 

Actually I doubt you ever heard Bob Stoops say that. Some his assistants perhaps, but not Bob. He's way too public-image conscious.

Edited by DeCoach

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Putting sports coaches aside for a moment, if any professor mooned their academic 'rival' at a conference, I can imagine that being grounds for immediate dismissal from the university. I see no reason why Shanahan should be treated as an exception.

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I guess my point is that I've seen coaches in debate go on cursing tirades and they would place themselves in much opposition to champ debate. It's not the style that is the problem but one person who went too far.

 

That being said, I don't think the cursing tirade is in and of itself shocking. I've seen plenty of cursing rants over the last 5 or 6 years ranging from qualifiers to standard weekend tournaments.

 

Like Josh said, this perhaps is just a wake up call that these things are more visible in the internet world...civility can go a long way to prevent these problems from reaching the good folks of KS.

 

I wonder if there's ever been a mooning incident regarding time keepers...I've heard deskboy has occasionally been in trouble with the media.

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Putting sports coaches aside for a moment, if any professor mooned their academic 'rival' at a conference, I can imagine that being grounds for immediate dismissal from the university. I see no reason why Shanahan should be treated as an exception.

 

I agree on one level, but at the same time I feel like he was really fired b/c of a lack of ability on the admins part to accept change and growth in debate.

For sure he shouldn't have mooned 5000 people especially when he's on the job, but it is sad to lose such an amazing coach and influence in debate. Also, I don't really think it's fair at all to shut down the program b/c of this incident.

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Also, I don't really think it's fair at all to shut down the program b/c of this incident.

 

According to people who witnessed the press conference, the president seemed to make it clear that this incident is not the reason that he shut down the program. Putting the spotlight on this incident also put some other troubling things in view... Also President Hammond knew full well that Bill didn't wear shoes when he hired him.

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Mr. Anderson – the two paragraphs implying that this is what Kritik debaters want completely misconstrues the position of kritik debaters – there’s no need to contrast people who “want to preserve debate” with people who read kritiks

I’m not going to say any more on the matter, let alone argue about the merits of Kritiks; I’ll leave it that almost no kritik debaters advocate shutting down a debate program

that said, I agree with the majority of what you've been saying here, and mean no disrespect.

Mld – I think you’re spot on with your analysis about other sports. I think much crazier things happen in more popular sports where the culture can include performance-enhancing drugs (which instead of leading a school to shut down the program, just institutes drug tests) and some pretty intense hazing. This remind anyone else of the incident with Duke lacrosse? I don’t see anyone questioning the culture of modern lacrosse, or shutting down its program

I think one of the biggest questions here is why was this recorded, let alone put up on YouTube then publicized? Furthermore, why wait three months until the season was about to start before posting?

 

It is true that the universal public big brother phenomenon is occuring, but I guess I wonder if that means we need to call out the people who are calling people out (i.e. the people who posted this video)

There seems like an ulterior motive (That may just have been fulfilled)

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This remind anyone else of the incident with Duke lacrosse? I don’t see anyone questioning the culture of modern lacrosse, or shutting down its program

 

umm, they did.... they fired the coach and shut down the program for the season, and Nancy Grace was on TV every night talking about how horrible they were and how the culture of sports caused the whole thing.

 

Turns out they were totally innocent.

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I guess my point is that I've seen coaches in debate go on cursing tirades and they would place themselves in much opposition to champ debate. It's not the style that is the problem but one person who went too far.

 

That being said, I don't think the cursing tirade is in and of itself shocking. I've seen plenty of cursing rants over the last 5 or 6 years ranging from qualifiers to standard weekend tournaments.

 

And I've seen such tirades dating back more than fifteen years. I've also been witness to such lapses in professionalism on the job and in random encounters in daily life. These things happen, and occasionally you get called on them. Thankfully it is only occasionally because, as I often tell my students, if we got called out for every stupid mistake or lapse of judgment nobody would be able to bear the consequences. Even the smartest people make mistakes and engage in stupid behavior.

 

I see no proportionality between the "crime" and punishment, however, and I find the pious and aggrieved tone of FHSU (and the public at large) disingenuous at best. You can't spend more than five minutes with Bill and not what you're getting into. Moreover, it's the rare individual who has not either been a party to such a flare-up or intimately connected to one (albeit perhaps less flamboyantly executed). Hell, we live in culture that celebrates irrational tirades for their entertainment value. It reminds me of Captain Renault in Casablanca who is "shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here."

 

Matt

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Bill needs a good lawyer and probably an anger management course. Took a long time for OSU to fire Woody Hayes for actual abuse of kids; ditto for Indiana and Bobby Knight. Bill acted stupidly, but it's hard to believe that a suspension woudl not have sufficed -- and terminating the program strongly suggests a politics-based decision with First Amendment implications. Sorry Bill, I don't practice in your state. Call the ACLU.

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"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."

 

One might ask President Hammond whether the cursing he thought deprived debate of benefit also occurs among athletic teams. I read this particular quote the first time and laughed. When I came to debate, I quickly learned that racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise derogatory language was unacceptable. I learned no such lesson in my 9 years of competitive basketball. I'm not sure what sort of idealized image Hammond has of his athletic programs. I would be willing to bet that the things said in the locker rooms or on the sidelines of athletic events sponsored by the university are far worse than the things said in the debate that caused him to cancel the program.

 

Jamie, it is sad. It is sad that a man with a wonderful family has lost his job. It is sad that two seniors who have already made enormous sacrifices have to leave their school to continue pursuing the activity they love. Think back to how you and I behaved after Big Mike dropped us against Tom and Eric in the outrounds of JDI. Our behavior wasn't very different from bill's in the eyes of an administrator. If either of our schools funded us to attend and then witnessed on youtube how immaturely we behaved after that loss, they surely would have stopped paying thousands to send us to camp.

 

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Hartney are correct to point out that there is a need for greater civility. I also agree that the national-circuit style of debate, already under intense scrutiny from many coaches in this activity, may have special reason for pause.

 

However, I don't view the particular forum of national-circuit style debate as being more likely to produce jaded community reactions than others. For example, at SME we had a teacher named Mr. Nickels who never debated in HS but liked to watch rounds. One time he watched a round between KCC and Manhattan, where KCC criticized the foundations of debate as racist and Manhattan ran a complex strategy centered around language and the writings of Dada. He sat through the entirety of the round, and afterwards remarked "that was some crazy shit. I wish my students had the freedom or passion to express themselves that way in a classroom." It should be noted that the particular debate (AFF challenges institutional norms, NEG reads complex K centered around language and subjectivity) isn't all that different than the Towson v. Fort debate.

 

Anyone who followed the news reports leading up to the current state of events was sure to notice a gradual trend. At first, FHSU Provost Gould and others were quick to say that while they didn't defend bill's actions, they were proud to have him on the faculty. As the news coverage mounted, however, the statements became more pointed. What began as an informal investigation turned into a trial by fire. Statements like "bill is a maverick who reaches students" were quickly canned for ones that sounded better on CNN and Fox News like "the University is pursuing a full and thorough investigation on this matter."

 

People can differ over the administration's final decisions. However, it is clear that President Hammond was trying to save face, not save debate.

 

 

I agree that it is sad that the program got cut. And I have behaved TERRIBLY in front of critics but there are lots of things in the collegiate debate community that would not be tolerated in any other collegiate activity. Thinking before acting is in everyones best interest, and behaving in a childish manor often yields negative consequences. I REALLY sucks that the FHSU program got cut but the part about Bill losing his job is something that he brought on himself. I think that whether it is sad or not is pretty irrelevant, the community brought this on itself. Bill had to be the one to get fired for the community to wake up. I don't miss the collegiate debate community because it is full of people who act out and act unprofessionally. It blows my mind that the level of intelligence in a community can not yield professionalism and common sense. I do think that you are an exception to the Rubaie, however you understand that most of the people in the community carry themselves in a manner that would not be appropriate in a professional environment. I just don't understand why people think that this is someone else's fault except Bill's and then their own fault. As posted in another thread on this question. this behaviour should have and could have been stopped in the past. It is the norm for people to act this way, it is the norm for illicit drug use and binge drinking to happen. The least of the three is what has been exposed here, it will get much much worse before it gets better. Other programs will take hits and potentially other people will lose their jobs. Debate is not above administrative ruling because there are no spectators. If they want to be camera's should have been turned off long ago.

 

Jamie

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Bill acted stupidly, but it's hard to believe that a suspension woudl not have sufficed -- and terminating the program strongly suggests a politics-based decision with First Amendment implications. Sorry Bill, I don't practice in your state. Call the ACLU.

 

Whoa. I hope this mindset is not widely held in the college/national circuit communities or else our activity is truly doomed. To suggest that we have some inalienable "right" to debate, regardless of our rhetoric, decorum, or behavior, is entirely wrongheaded. Our programs exist because administrations support them; administrations support us because our activity has, on balance, a positive educational effect on our students and the community. If they believe that this purpose is no longer being served, they are well within their rights to choose to use their limited resources for more productive ends.

Edited by ESkog
wrong word, nothing major
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Whoa. I hope this mindset is not widely held in the college/national circuit communities or else our activity is truly doomed. To suggest that we have some inalienable "right" to debate, regardless of our rhetoric, decorum, or behavior, is entirely wrongheaded. Our programs exist because administrations support them; administrations support us because our activity has, on balance, a positive educational effect on our students and the community. If they believe that this purpose is no longer being served, they are well within their rights to choose to use their limited resources for more productive ends.

Eskog, I believe you have an incorrect view of your rights. FHSU is a state institution, I believe (if that's not so, scrap everything I've said). It is therefore subject to the 1st Amendment. You do not have an inalienable right to debate, but the FHSU (do I have those letters in the right order?) should not be allowed to close down a program because of disagreement with its content. That was my point. Forgive me if I did not make that clear enough.

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The first amendment does not require a school to sponsor a debate program.

The Constitution does not permit a state to close a program because of the content of its speech.

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The Constitution does not permit a state to close a program because of the content of its speech.

 

They have funding and can close a program down for any reason they see fit. When KU abandoned it's Men's Tennis team a few years ago they had a right to do that. I don't support eliminating the program and think champ debate provides as many benefits traditional forms of debate does. Heated argumentation can still occur in traditional forms of debate and problems exist there as well. Students have cheated by taking words out of context, lied about what evidence really said, and done other things in traditional debate. Different sets of problems occur in "traditional," or "Champ" debate occasionally. The key thing is reducing this.

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They have funding and can close a program down for any reason they see fit. When KU abandoned it's Men's Tennis team a few years ago they had a right to do that. I don't support eliminating the program and think champ debate provides as many benefits traditional forms of debate does. Heated argumentation can still occur in traditional forms of debate and problems exist there as well. Students have cheated by taking words out of context, lied about what evidence really said, and done other things in traditional debate. Different sets of problems occur in "traditional," or "Champ" debate occasionally. The key thing is reducing this.

No. Study your constitutional law before you make such statements. (And "it's" should have been "its" in second sentence. Study your grammar also.)

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Bill needs a good lawyer and probably an anger management course. Took a long time for OSU to fire Woody Hayes for actual abuse of kids; ditto for Indiana and Bobby Knight. Bill acted stupidly, but it's hard to believe that a suspension woudl not have sufficed -- and terminating the program strongly suggests a politics-based decision with First Amendment implications. Sorry Bill, I don't practice in your state. Call the ACLU.

 

I agree that Shanahan's actions in this case were nothing compared to what Bob Knight got away with for decades at IU. Indiana chose not to fire Knight for years, not just because he was successful but because he made boatloads of cash for the university. The sports example does not hold much water, especially when the president specifically said he would have fired a sports coach for the same thing.

 

The Constitution does not permit a state to close a program because of the content of its speech.

 

The state isn't closing down anything. FHSU's administration do have the right to shut down the debate program for any reason they see fit. Besides where do you get that it was shut down for "the content of its speech". It would be more correct to say it was shut down for the nature of the activity itself.

 

Don't get me wrong, I wish that FHSU didn't kill the program... but I recognize the fact that they have the right to do so. I just hope that other colleges don't follow suit.

Edited by t-money

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No. Study your constitutional law before you make such statements. (And "it's" should have been "its" in second sentence. Study your grammar also.)

 

Explain that. McCain-Feingold limits campaign contributions and basically proves that money alone is not speech if it can be limited. The University has its money and a right to express how they spend their money. They choose to do this based on actions that also probably violated some standard they placed on activities. I don't think the program should have been eliminated but they had the right to do this.

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No. Study your constitutional law before you make such statements. (And "it's" should have been "its" in second sentence. Study your grammar also.)

 

Like you, I am a lawyer, and I disagree with your statement. FHSU didn't make its decision based on viewpoint (which might be impermissible), it made its decision for viewpont-neutral administrative reasons.

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Explain that. McCain-Feingold limits campaign contributions and basically proves that money alone is not speech if it can be limited. The University has its money and a right to express how they spend their money. They choose to do this based on actions that also probably violated some standard they placed on activities. I don't think the program should have been eliminated but they had the right to do this.

Excellent comment. My point (many posts above) was not that firing Shanahan was unconstitutional, but that he potentially had a case. I do not agree that M-F permits a STATE institution to infringe on 1st Amendment rights. I think you are mixing apples and oranges, but nice try.

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Like you, I am a lawyer, and I disagree with your statement. FHSU didn't make its decision based on viewpoint (which might be impermissible), it made its decision for viewpont-neutral administrative reasons.

Duly noted. My point was that termination of the program was circumstantial evidence of an improper motive. We can disagree about the inferences to be drawn.

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FHSU isn't denying the members of its debate team the right to say what they want. They are, presumably, free to go where they wish and to moon whomever they choose. The administration, however, is not obliged to pay for the practice.

 

We need to immediately abandon the idea that administrators and taxpayers are under legal obligation to financially support our activity. They are not, and our game exists at their sufferance.

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