Letter to the Editor

The Editorial Board

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Dear President Thomas,

I am disappointed in the response to the recent rash of fist-fighting on campus. I understand that you felt a need to strongly denounce such conduct; let us consider the matter adequately denounced, and move forward.

The fact of the matter is that people are people all over the world. Fighting is an activity not unknown to mankind. At its root, the issue here is one of lack of official sanction. Considering official sanction, such as the bombing of the opera house in Dresden, the genocide of the German people following World War II (while decrying the genocide of the Jewish people), biological warfare against Native American peoples, the Tuskegee experiments, et al., it appears as if official sanction is virtually worthless, if not outright baneful.

Let us then pause a moment to be grateful for the lack of official sanction of these events.

Through the course of my many years, I have learned to be cautious of judging others. In order to judge another, I must first sit in judgment of myself, and I am intimately aware of my own failings, maintaining an awareness of my goals and intent through those times, with knowledge of prevailing conditions and context of those acts. And I find that most, if not all, of the worst things I have done I did when I acted in ignorance.

Let us then pause a moment to take joy in our rightful hope— that ignorance is a disorder curable with proper treatment; though a number of resistant strains show little to no improvement by available means.

So, we have two distinct problems upon us, and it is proper that we should give them both our attention to the extent amenable toward ensuring future outcomes in accord with established goals.

First, dealing with those students involved in those altercations is necessary. An interim suspension appears a given, though we must be careful to avoid equating unwarranted aggression with defending oneself. Chances are, were I walking to the library and someone took a swing at me, I would be likely to swing right back, thinking little of it, though going to my car to get a jack handle to do the swinging would strike me as out-of-line. So, a bit of caution is in order.

I am of the mind that police involvement should end with breaking up the fight, with, perhaps, the exception of the non-student. It is one thing to err and err badly, and quite another to bear a stain that cannot be washed away. President Thomas, the very fact that these, my fellow students, engaged in such conduct is indication that they are needy of your leadership and guidance, and, most likely, now more than ever before.

If you recognize this as that same principle which holds that it is not when rights are well-established, agreed on, and observed that one need rely on authority to uphold them, but when one voices an unpopular view, worships a different god, or votes for an opposing candidate that one most needs their rights protected— then you are quite correct.

My own suggestion follows two established management principles: 1) At times, one can gain more control through allocation of tasks, and 2) those most near a problem are often most likely to recognize issues with proposed solutions.

Whereas I would be inclined to suggest involvement of the student government, in this particular case, I find the recurring fundamental misunderstandings of Mr. Gradle quite disconcerting, and therefore propose to maintain a low level of involvement by the SGA.

I propose that the SGA form a committee to review the facts, permitting the suspended students to appear to offer what justifications they might, resolving these with available video, to make formal recommendations as to the deserving sanction imposed on each student; the SGA selecting among those students who were present at these various altercations to do so. The SGA would then forward these recommendations on for institutional approval, after having read them into the record.

Let the students sit in judgment of the students. I have every reason to believe you will be quite pleased with the results.

Let us not forget that these are students under discussion, and not rabid animals. President Thomas, your benevolence should remain available to these who sorely need it, though it should not be too easily available, while shielding them from the worst of the harm. They learn by watching, and they know what a measured approach looks like, to some degree. Now is a time for leadership; these students have already demonstrated they have a discernible need for it.

And this brings us to the second problem, which I am uncertain of a meaningful resolution for, as it requires some introspection; and I find, on the whole, an aversion to such introspection generally.

It is often the case that our criminal justice system acts as a means of assigning personal responsibility to societal problems; we would do well to avoid the same. What was our part in these fights? Why did these students hold grievances they felt inadequately expressed but through violence? Why were they not separated before they came to blows? What could we have done differently? What resources were available to these students, and why did they feel unable to use them?

Are we devoted to denying a context for their actions? Will we permit these same conditions to prevail on future occasions, unimpeded? Do you suppose that, if we say bad words at them emphatically enough, conditions and context will simply disappear?

President Thomas, the current decline in enrollment has given you an unprecedented opportunity. Generally speaking, a smaller vessel will have greater maneuverability. Institutional changes not feasible before now show greater viability. The one thing for certain is that it is unclear how long this window of opportunity will last. If history is any indicator, it will not remain open forever. Now is the time for leadership.

President Thomas, your best source for information on these issues at present is those very same students who were involved in the fighting. They can provide you insight free of conjecture. This will be integral in achieving a lasting resolution beyond the immediate incidents. These are pieces of the puzzle of a lasting peace. In this way, your benevolence toward them is very much to your own benefit. I advise you to not neglect it.

Finding solutions feels a lot better than dwelling on problems.

Thank you for your time.


William M. Hart

General Studies Major

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