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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.

Comments
6 Responses to “Covering crime on campus”
  1. Scott Harris says:

    Is cocaine possession really a typical night on the town for UMass-Amherst students?

  2. Mike Antonellis says:

    As a UMass alum, I can tell you that possession of cocaine is definitely not a typical night on the town for UMass-Amherst students. Very unfortunate choice of words by the author to slander his/her fellow schoolmates like that. Defend you school’s honor and don’t interpret seemingly popular opinion as fact.

  3. Scott & Mark:

    We at The Collegian would never want to mischaracterize the campus community, so I think we were particularly careful about our word choice.

    We didn’t say it was a typical night on the town for UMass students, but that it was a typical night on the town for a chunk of the student population – not all or most, but a significant chunk. Read the UMPD crime log after a particularly festive weekend and you’ll see.

    Possession of cocaine isn’t the status quo, but it’s relatively common on a campus of 18,000 students. If our editorial board gave the impression that we were painting with a broad brush, I apologize on behalf of the ed board.

  4. Pac Man says:

    When you have to start explaining “chunk” as “not all or most,” you know you chose the wrong word. The board of a college newspaper couldn’t have thought of a word that didn’t give the impression of a large number? Chunk implies a somewhat significant figure, at least over 10%, if not meaning more. Unless the board is so out of touch with reality they think that is the case, it was a mischaracterization.

  5. Ed says:

    There is an issue of equity here.

    Yes, those merely arrested are considered innocent until proven guilty. But that has never stopped the university before.

    The code of conduct says that anything that impacts on the reputation of the university can be punished – yes that is a lawsuit against the university waiting to happen, but I digress. And whenever there is a “riot” and the Amherst police arrest a bunch of people, UMass dutifully expels them all without even giving the accused students the right to actually have the Amherst cop show up at the hearing.

    I ask a flip side of the Collegian’s point, which is that the football players should be treated like all other similarly situated students. Not a single one of the alleged rioters (who didn’t take the plea deal) has ever been found guilty in court, yet all got booted. Before trial. And hence the football players should be treated the same way.

    It is a Billy Budd issue, if people are going to respect the intregity of the athletic program, it has to boot them.

  6. kris says:

    Hey let’s not go all bill clinton here playing the word definition game.Let’s look at the facts ahhh we don’t have them all.But we do know that those who represent us all are and should be held to a higher standard by not doing or expecting this has lead to the down fall of all governing and law enforcement agents thoughout our country.
    IF guilty these men made a deal to uphold a certain standard and chose not to. they should pay the price for that.these are thier actions not anyone else on campus and will only be given to those actions not your actions or mine.

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