When Controversy Comes to CampusPosted April 9th, 2008 by Mary Martin
Most recently, it’s been in the news that three OSU baseball players allegedly fired guns into the home of another during “target practice”. I’m now viewing this incident as an outsider instead of an insider, but I feel like it helps me to gain perspective on incidents that happen on my own campus.
Whenever athletes, particularly high-profile/scholarship athletes, allegedly violate the student code of conduct, it causes major controversy on the campus. Suddenly, the media is on every corner, the Office of Student Conduct/Judicial Affairs is bombarded by phone calls and emails. Some of these phone calls and emails are harassing and threatening for the professionals who work with these students on a daily basis.
FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, makes this all the more difficult because we are prohibited from responding to calls, emails, and media attention. Should we say anything regarding those students’ cases, or potential cases, we can be both sued and/or terminated. On the flip side, the media and the campus community will continue to speculate and create controversy, whether or not that controversy is warranted.
So, we need to create some sort of balance–how do we do this without compromising our integrity as professionals and the privacy rights of our students?
One crucial partnership in this solution, especially at high-profile athletic schools, seems fairly obvious; we need to create strong and lasting partnerships with our athletic departments. How do we accomplish this task? It seems simple because we all have one common goal in mind: the welfare of our students. So, to all of you student affairs types, and to all of you athletic department types, we’re all playing in the same sandbox. Can we find a way to play together? It’s no secret that there are biases and stereotypes on behalf of both departments, but can we use our common goals to create a healthier campus culture?