Seeing the best in life's challenges

Instead of Kicking the Dog…..

on October 3, 2013

The situation at UD could have played out differently….

I like to run “what if” scenarios in my head.  It’s how I work out what I decide to do, or how I figure out how to improve my interactions with others and the world.  I strongly believe that in most situations, if we think creatively and carefully, that we can come up with win-win solutions.  Rather than getting stuck on what went wrong, isn’t it better to focus on what we could do better next time?

So I’m thinking about an alternate scenario.  Remember, I don’t know anything more than what I’ve read in the paper, so I’m just going to imagine what could have happened.


What if….

It’s the day after the “riot” and the administrators are trying to figure out what to do.  This is bad.  They have to decide how to respond.  Information has come in that this incident started at The Rugby House, and that two rugby players, among others, had something to do with the party that went wrong.

One of the Administrators says, “We need to get more information on the role of the Rugby Club in this incident before we make any big decisions.  Somebody call the Coach and the Captain and get them in here ASAP for a meeting.”

The Coach and the Captain get the call, and the meeting is set up.

Admin:  “OK, thanks for responding so quickly and meeting with us.  As you can imagine, we, the Administration, are deciding how to respond to last night’s  incident.  It was totally out of control and we can’t tolerate this kind of behavior.  Students are here to learn, not go crazy.  Our reputation could take a big hit with parents, not to mention the people who live near campus.  What can you tell us about how this started and the involvement of the Rugby Club?”

Coach:  “Yes, I agree, I want to know how this could have happened.  I certainly didn’t expect something like this to be instigated by my team.”

Captain:  “I totally understand how this might look like the Rugby Club was involved.  That house where the party started we all know as The Rugby House, and team members live there.  However, the party was not sponsored or funded by the Rugby Club.  As far as what we have been able to gather, all but a couple of the team members were either studying or watching Monday Night Football last night.  We are not at all happy to be associated with this incident.   We had no idea that anything like this would occur. ”

Coach:  “So what are you thinking is the best way to handle this?  We will support you in whatever way you would like us to.  We want to make sure the reputation of our team and the University does not suffer any more than it already has.”

Admin:  “We are considering expelling the students that instigated the party.  Two of them are rugby team members.  I think what I would like to do, is to have a joint press conference or make a joint statement announcing this.  What I would like is for you both to make statements that this party was not associated with the rugby club and that you believe the incident was unfortunate.  Use your own words, but we think that if we all – administration, coaching staff, and players – come out and make a statement condemning this type of behavior, it will have a bigger impact on the student body and the community.  We want to present a united front.”

Coach:  “That sounds like a good idea.  I have a great group of players who are dedicated to their team.  I would hate for a couple of students to ruin what we have here, all because of a night of stupidity.”

Captain:  “I really appreciate you bringing us in to talk.  We were just as stunned to learn how out-of-control this thing got.  Our team works very hard to represent the University and make it proud, and to be associated with this nonsense is very disappointing.”

So, that evening, the Administrator, the Coach and the Captain stand before the cameras.  They stand together, they talk about the unfortunate circumstances, they ask the students to learn from this and to think about how their actions affect others.  The Coach and the Captain are clear that they value the character of the players on their team, and they are disappointed to be associated with destructive behavior.

The Administration has just given the Captain an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and he rises to the occasion.  Students are more likely to listen to another student and will respect the fact that this incident was handled with student input in a way that seems fair.

The Coach, the Captain, and all the rugby team members gain a level of respect for the Administration.  They are handling this incident together.   After all, they each want what is best for the University and its students.

A book called Practical Wisdom provides a lot of food for thought about our approach to our problems.  As we rely more and more on enforcing rules to control behavior, our “rules culture” limits imagination, empathy and courage.  See the TED Talk below or this article or google to learn more about the book. 

3 responses to “Instead of Kicking the Dog…..

  1. Magnus says:

    You seem very in tune with the situation with a hindsight type view, but what suggestion would you make to the school to save face and allow the team to reinstated/suspension dropped?

    Another insight, 55 letters from parents were sent into the President, AD, student life and club sports. All sent in before the appeal. No parent received a reply or acknowledgement till 2 days after the appeal denial. Furthermore, the admits ration will not have a face to face meeting. Ignore, ignore and ignore

    • jlcmom says:

      Believe me, my brain has been working on that one. It’s hard not to feel cynical.

      I went to Penn State.

      In the situation with Jerry Sandusky, the crime committed was orders of magnitude more horrible. Yet, the same thing happened — the NCAA handed down sanctions and punished players that had absolutely nothing to do with crimes that had happened well before they were even at the school. In my opinion what they did to Joe Paterno was horrible.

      But what has happened is that they are quietly backing off of the sanctions.

      People who wield unreasonable power have a hard time saving face. If those at UD really were comfortable with their reaction, they’d be meeting with you.

      What I think could help in these situations is if people outside of the situation would stand up and speak up. And the sooner the better.

      In this situation, I do wonder, do any of the rugby players know Elena Delle Donne? Would she be willing to stick her neck out and put some pressure on? Would all the other sports teams at Delaware be willing to go on strike because they recognize this situation is wrong?

      I’m still thinking…

      • jlcmom says:

        So now I’m googling “saving face” and someone mentioned a mediator — maybe Elena or someone else (who do people around there respect as reasonable?) would meet with them on the team’s behalf?

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