After YouTube infamy, college debaters argue for a return of civility

Last year Kansas college debate coach Bill Shanahan was the latest YouTube hit. Thousands watched him yell, cuss and drop his pants at a competition. His rant not only earned him national attention, it cost the Fort Hays State University professor his job.

The school’s president, Ed Hammond, ended the debate program after Shanahan's antics. He vowed that Fort Hays, once a championship team, would not compete again until college debate associations set mandatory behavior standards for students, coaches and judges.

Hammond wasn't the only one to say that conduct rules for debate were needed.

"We do need, in the interest of public perception, some guidelines to make people comfortable, especially when there are public institutions using public funds," said John Rief, a debate coach at the University of Pittsburgh.

National debate leaders agreed, and this week the Cross Examination Debate Association is ready to put to the test new standards for how participants should behave at competitions.

The rules prohibit "offensive" or "belittling" language or actions and include the potential for violators to be punished. But penalties such as suspensions or firings of university coaches would be left to the school that employs the coach or judge.

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