Covering crime on campus
The Massachusetts Daily Collegian staff gets no joy from publicizing the mistakes of their fellow students. We’re college students too, and some of us have done some dumb things during the weekend. So we don’t enjoy publishing the names of four Minutemen football players who were arrested and charged with possession of a Class B substance (cocaine) several weeks ago.
Yet it’s something we have an obligation to do.
Although your friend getting arrested for possession downtown on a Friday night wouldn’t likely appear as more than a blurb on our police blotter, student athletes warrant more scrutiny. There is a never-ending discussion in collegiate sports – and professional sports, for that matter – about whether or not this scrutiny is fair. We’re not arguing that it is.
What is clear is that student athletes are often brought to this University on large scholarships, after being courted through an expensive recruitment process, and take part in an athletic program that deals with millions of dollars annually. Thus, it’s far more significant when a student athlete slips up than when the woman in the dorm down the hall, who is here on student loans, makes the same mistake.
But it’s important not to blow their alleged crimes out of proportion. All four men are presumed innocent until proven guilty. James Carven, Bob McLaughlin, Mike Mele and Shane Viveiros were all charged with possession of a Class B substance (cocaine). Viveiros and Mele allegedly had fake IDs.
Right or wrong, this sounds like a pretty typical night on the town for a chunk of the UMass population, which has been ranked nationally in the past for its party habits.
The UMass Athletic Department finds itself in a difficult position in dealing with student athletes accused of crimes. The four players have a pretrial hearing scheduled for Nov. 16, yet a verdict won’t likely be reached until the end of the season. As of last week, they were participating in practices and facing a partial suspension.
The four players were suspended under the athletic department’s policy on failure of a drug test, though The Collegian has not been able to confirm that any of the students failed a drug test.
Ten percent of the season is 1.2 weeks, roughly one game, which seems like a slap on the wrist for felony crimes. Yet the University would be even more in the wrong if they were to throw the book at students later found innocent.
Coach Kevin Morris and his staff did the right thing this weekend by not allowing the four men to dress for the game. Although the four men should certainly be presumed innocent, their arrest warrants an internal investigation on part of the athletic department into whether they had been abusing Class B substances. Until they are cleared or punished, they present a liability to the University’s image.
In an interview on Tuesday, Oct. 20, Morris told The Collegian that the department had made no final decision on how to handle the process of integrating the players back onto the playing field.
The Collegian hopes that Morris and his staff continue to treat the issue as seriously as Morris has said they have, while continuing to respect the rights of the four men who are accused of having made a terrible, but forgivable mistake.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian editorial board.