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Shanahan: 'I have certainly learned several important lessons'

8/12/2008

By GAYLE WEBER

gweber@dailynews.net

A YouTube video posted Aug. 2 was the first time Fort Hays State University had seen or heard anything about an incident at a national debate meet in March involving debate coach Bill Shanahan.

Since then, more than 10,000 people have viewed the eight-minute tirade in which Shanahan curses, moons the audience and carries on an argument with University of Pittsburgh debate coach Shanara Reid-Brinkley.

"Certainly, Fort Hays does not condone what Bill did," Provost Larry Gould said. "We're very serious about who is representing Fort Hays State. We have a brand that has to be protected."

Gould said the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the communication studies department chair are looking into the incident, but they have not been able to reach Shanahan to determine what happened. They also are looking into why it took nearly six months for the video to appear on the Internet.

Gould said his understanding of the incident was that FHSU debaters struck the score of a judge, Reid-Brinkley, during one of its rounds at the Cross Examination Debate Association event.

"That's something very acceptable if someone hasn't been scoring very well for you in the past," Gould said. The argument between Shanahan and Reid-Brinkley began shortly thereafter.

"I have certainly learned several important lessons. I only hope the costs are not too high," Shanahan said in an e-mail. "My greatest concern, however, is that the university, our students or anybody else does not suffer too greatly for my mistakes."

Gould said he and Paul Faber, the past and current deans of the College of Arts and Sciences, had each only received one complaint about Shanahan during his 10 years at FHSU.

"In the classroom and on campus, Bill has been an excellent teacher, very provocative, non-conformist," Gould said. "Students have not complained in any great numbers."

Students who were at the debate tournament also have not given much feedback about the situation. Gould said they did not seem upset about the situation.

"My concern was for the students, though I obviously represented them poorly in this situation," said Shanahan, who also hosts "Democracy Matters" on FHSU's Channel 67. "I am a passionate person and sometimes my devotion to debate and intellectual engagement gets the better of me."

Gould said he could not recall any other incidents like this with any other faculty on campus.

"We would not have seen this if it weren't for the interactive technology, the new media today," Gould said. "If there have been incidents in the past, the media have not brought it to us."

Shanahan has had his share of off-campus incidents. He was arrested in June 2007 for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, criminal trespass and battery for an altercation at a T-ball game in Hays. He also was arrested in May 2006 for battery after an argument with his eye doctor.