As an opinion columnist, I complain about things going on in our school that make me angry. But does the University of Miami have to make my job so easy? Here’s the latest in a long line of outrages: Football star Andre Johnson is caught cheating and receives a mitigated sentence. Yes, according to the New Times, Johnson was caught cheating in two separate sociology classes. The first time he was let off with a warning by a professor who did not wish to make unnecessary trouble. However, when Johnson turned in a plagiarized paper, the professor turned the matter to the student honor council.
After hearing the case, the council decided to suspend Johnson for two semesters, according to the New Times. However, Johnson appealed the case to a higher court. The appeals committee, made up of Vice President of Student Affairs Patricia Whitely, Vice Provost Perri Lee Roberts, and student government president Jose Diaz, were faced with a tough decision. After all, the two semester suspension meant that the Hurricanes would play an entire season without their star receiver. So, in a decision that has left many wondering what the exact price of integrity is, the appeals committee decided to commute Johnson’s sentence, simply banning him from summer classes.
Now, this might not seem so bad. After all, Johnson is still being punished. However, when one looks at the honor council’s precedents, the picture becomes a little clearer. Although limited records were provided by UM, the New Times states that in 2001, the honor council suspended one student for the entire year and barred three others from the fall semester. Their crime? Plagiarism.
Of course, with a scandal of this immensity, I put my faith in our illustrious student body once again. The question: How do you feel about the fact that a football player can get off so lightly for a crime that has resulted in severe punishment of ordinary students in the past? One student’s answer summed up the situation. The student said she was insulted. She added that she had nothing against Johnson, that she knows he brings in a lot of money to the school, but questions the message UM has sent to other students and the priorities of this institution. UM leaders, as she put it, need to decide whether they are “running an incubator for professional sports figures or an academic university.”
Indeed, as regular students, we should be absolutely outraged at the conduct of our university officials. The bottom line is this: Without football, this university would still exist. Without students, it would not. Thus, I must commend the honor council for their dedication to fairness and honesty. At least my fellow students aren’t as corrupt as their superiors have proven to be.
I guess that there is one positive side to the present situation. Next time I call home, I can truly say that I am getting a good education at the UM. They have taught me that there are no rules where large sums of money are concerned. I have learned that our university prizes bowl appearances over high grade point averages. Finally, I have learned that unless my diploma is more athletic than me, it doesn’t mean all that much in the real world.
Travis Atria is a sophomore majoring in English literature.