Sound and fury in college debate

In my Friday column, I leap into the debate about a screaming, obscenity-laced confrontation between two debate coaches that ended up with one of them, assistant professor William Shanahan of Fort Hays State, dropping his pants, bending over and mooning his opponent with exposed underwear.

The shout-down happened at a tournament at Wichita State University earlier this year, and a video clip ended up on YouTube this month, where it quickly became a hit.

It seemed to me a pretty pathetic spectacle, and in keeping with the creeping lack of civility and restraint in our public discourse.

On Friday, Fort Hays State fired Shanahan over the incident. University president Edward Hammond said in a written statement, “Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but these actions are not acceptable for someone who is representing our university.”

Shanahan told an interviewer: “Obviously it got out of control, but to be honest I thought I was in a safe house. I thought I was part of a community that handled its problems internally and that recognized the dangers of exposing ourselves — no pun intended — to the rest of the country. It is so difficult as a nonparticipant to understand what is going on in the debate round.”

Maybe that’s part of the problem?