The front page of yesterday’s Yale Daily News left me seething with rage. Across the top of the newspaper were two headlines: “Athletes’ charges dropped” and “ITS finds anti-gay e-mailer.” While the two issues are entirely unrelated, both articles left me angrily wondering, “Who the hell is responsible here?”
The first article reported that the charges of breach of the peace and criminal mischief against five Yale varsity athletes had been summarily dropped, along with all fines and responsibility for property damage caused by their brawl in front of Gourmet Heaven. The second article detailed that ITS had identified the student account responsible for the recent anti-gay hate e-mail, but Yale has not yet settled on any repercussions, if any.
Both articles made offensively apparent the lack of any disciplinary action by the Yale administration with regard to either issue. This absence was particularly well reinforced by the leading front-page photo of Yale football players and its title, “Facing off for a fourth win.” Here on the front page of the News, at breakfast across this campus, students were reminded not once but three times of the priorities this University and its administration have in mind: complacency, convenience and favoritism.
The motto of my high school, “Freedom with Responsibility,” meant little to me until yesterday. As I read these two articles with both agitation and a heavy heart, I realized the real intent of that phrase. Every day we strive for both freedom and greater responsibility for our own lives. Yalies most of all have spent their entire education reaching for positions of leadership and responsibility, or so we brazenly claim on every application, cover letter and resume we issue.
So where is that responsibility now? These two incidents demonstrate how empty our claims are. By keeping these athletes on the team and this homophobe enrolled in this school, Yale teaches us that some students are exempt from common moral decency, responsibility to each other and even the law. The articles’ quotations above all drove the message home: Since “everything was cool between us and the football guys, so [the police] realized that everything was all right.” It seems the focus of the law is not on justice, or even the issue of financial compensation to Gourmet Heaven, but on the “procedural” maintenance of “cool” between the Yale men’s hockey and football teams. It also seems that unsolicited hate speech in your inbox is just “expressing your opinion.”
My point is not to make personal attacks, but to highlight a pervasive trend: The Yale community as a whole is interested only in the easy sides of responsibility. We lead, coordinate and delegate with boundless zeal. Yet when it comes down to the hard issues, to saying we were wrong and accepting the consequences, we believe no one is to blame. It was no one’s fault. It was an accident. I, for one, am tired of this excuse.
I sincerely believe in the importance of athletics to our community, count many Yale varsity athletes as exceptional friends and even value opinions that challenge my own. Those beliefs, however, have nothing to do with these two incidents. Common crimes and hate speech should never be tolerated, especially by an institution as good and high-minded as Yale. Many Yale varsity athletes justly struggle every day to be taken seriously in the classroom and to be treated with the same respect as all the “regs.” Just as long have the LGBT community and LGBT Co-op struggled for equal recognition and their due respect. These incidents and their conspicuous absence of disciplinary action by Yale mock true student-athletes, the LGBT community and all of you who read this and do nothing. Do not pass off the responsibility for the honor of this community; do not be a passive victim of these inexcusable situations. Let the buck stop with you.
Peter Hamilton is a senior in Berkeley College.