If true, the details on the hazing in the football and baseball programs at Northwestern are deeply troubling. How many times must we live through these college sports debacles before university presidents realize that college athletic programs are to colleges and universities what wealthy clients are to banks and toddlers around swimming pools are to their mothers? You watch them all the time and you never leave them unattended.
Perhaps more stunning is the difference in experiences of those who were part of the athletic department. Some saw nothing and others saw players forced to practice au buffo. If witnesses were uncomfortable raising the issues related to nakedness, they could have hung their hats on the legal liability of players practicing without padding.
Perhaps most stunning is that Northwestern was aware of the allegations in November 2022 and took no action until July 2023. In the interim, alumni were filing lawsuits and even the student newspaper was cracking the case wide open.
Northwestern’s brand spanking new president is slow on the uptake. He has offered that there was a culture driving the behaviors. The only cure for a culture is cleaning the leadership house along with a good portion of those aligned with them. The football coach is already gone following a bone-chilling two-week suspension (?????). He is lawyered up because $5 million per year is a tough gig to lose. And all this before the new president even had a chance to take off his cap and gown from his inauguration ceremony.
Therein lies the lesson for all college and university presidents — never mind the pomp and circumstance. Assume chicanery is afoot. Forget the faculty and alumni donors. Heigh thee down to the field house, stadium, or locker room for a surprise visit or two. Oh, the things you will see, and the fixes you will need.
Dana Goldstein and Billy Witz, “Accusations of Abuse and Racism Plague Northwestern,” New York Times, July 30, 2023, p. A28.