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FOOTBALL: Reslife’s actions not consistent

Chris Hine | Friday, August 31, 2007

I am confused.Last winter, Notre Dame basketball player Kyle McAlarney was arrested for possession of marijuana. The University’s Office of Residence Life suspended McAlarney for the rest of the spring semester, after he entered a pre-trial diversion program to expunge the charge from his record. This summer, South Bend police arrested Notre Dame defensive end Derrell Hand on charges of soliciting a prostitute. Hand also entered a pre-trial diversion program. His punishment: a three-game suspension from football coach Charlie Weis and, apparently, little from the University. Here’s why I am confused. Both offenses occurred off campus and involve athletes in high-profile sports. While duLac makes no explicit mention of prostitution, the University surely does not condone either offense. It has decided, however, to handle these cases involving high-profile athletes very differently. Personally, I do not think either merits a suspension for a semester, but my issue is less with the degree of the punishments and more with their relative inconsistency. By refusing to address this inconsistency, the University has created a number of perceptions I am sure it does not want circulating among students and fans. One such perception is that the University considers using drugs a more significant crime than soliciting a prostitute. That would surprise me. This is Notre Dame, right? The place where you can get in trouble just for being in an opposite-sex dorm room after midnight during the week? I suppose all the regulations the University has in place to make this a chaste campus do not mean that much. Just imagine the next time somebody receives a ResLife for breaking parietals. The obvious response of the student would be, “Well, I only broke parietals. Maybe next time I should go out and find a prostitute instead. The University can barely touch me.” Is this the message ResLife wishes to send to students?Maybe the University has acted similarly in the past regarding prostitution and handled the case similarly to Hand’s. If so, then ResLife still contradicts the strict rules it has established over many years regarding sexual relations.Another perception the University has created is that it favors football players over other athletes and students. I am certain it does not want to create this perception. In the past, ResLife has used a stiff hand when dealing with football players. Two years ago, when former fullback Rashon Powers-Neal was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, ResLife suspended him from any extracurricular activities – which meant missing the last half of his final season. Based upon the precedent the University set in the cases of Powers-Neal and McAlarney, its treatment of Hand is suspect.If the police had arrested a regular student for solicitation, there would be no three-game suspension. It is hard to see ResLife doling out a slap on the wrist when possessing marijuana equates a semester-long suspension. Let me be clear – I am not saying the University favors football players – but given this set of circumstances, that argument can certainly be made. In this particular case, perception is just as important as reality.It is hard to know the specific circumstances surrounding Hand and McAlarney because ResLife refuses to discuss individual cases. This policy, though designed to protect student privacy, contributes to perceptions that can sometimes damage the reputation of this University.In the future, ResLife must implement a standard, transparent policy regarding off-campus arrests in which a punishment could be amended with additional penalties depending on the case. This might be more prudent than the current policy, which is hard to decipher from the outside.Such a policy would protect the integrity of the University’s disciplinary system while preventing allegations about favoritism. Until then, people will speculate – and the University will have to deal with its silence.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu