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Should UI officials look to student-athletes to support 21-ordinance?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | APRIL 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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YES

Let me pose a question: Who are the “outstanding leaders” on the University of Iowa campus? If you guessed the myriad dean’s scholars or student activists, you’re wrong. What about the young men and women who fill the UI’s proverbial trophy case? Bingo.

Last week at a meeting with the Presidential Committee on Athletics, UI Provost Wallace Loh brought up the idea of officials encouraging student-athletes to support the contentious 21-ordinance.

So is it wrong for the university to play puppet with student-athletes in an attempt to sway public opinion? No. Will their methodology be effective in quelling agitated students? Probably not, but I can’t blame officials for trying.

First and foremost, the UI is an institution of higher education. But among many purposes, it’s also a business. The university is a corporation with an extremely profitable athletics department and, as a member of the Big Ten, one of America’s most powerful collegiate conference. Sports obviously rule the land. So why not take some of the school’s most valuable assets, student-athletes, to lend pro-ordinance support?

Additionally, student-athletes share responsibilities often attributed to public figures. Their lives are constantly under the microscope, and part of their duties include acting as student liaisons to the community. It may reverberate negatively for a student-athlete to oppose the ordinance, possibly calling into question the character of that person. It’s in the best interest of student-athletes to publicly support the UI’s pro-ordinance agenda.

While I understand why the university would call for athletes to stump for 21-only, I don’t foresee it affecting the largely anti-ordinance sentiments of UI students. Nevertheless, I see the reasoning and potential benefits behind the plan.

— by Michael Dale-Stein

NO

Using student-athletes as part of the UI’s public-relations campaign to win over support for the 21-only ordinance is a potentially unethical move that would place unwarranted responsibility on the shoulders of athletes.

Although student-athletes are in a prominent position among their peers and may have a strong influence over the decisions of students, putting pressure on them to advance the agenda of the university would be an unscrupulous use of power that pushes the boundaries of the relationship between the university and the athletes.

Let us not forget that student-athletes are on campus to perform the roles that their titles indicate: learning and playing sports. Asking them to act outside of that role is essentially a breach of contract on the part of the UI. These students did not enroll to become representatives of the UI, and they should not be used as such.

It is simply unfair to even consider them as candidates for these roles unless they have explicitly expressed interest in doing so. Otherwise, that role should be reserved for employees of the university who were hired to perform such tasks. After all, the UI is paying a new employee to “strategically communicate” regarding issues like the 21-ordinance to the community.

Some of our collegiate athletes may support the ordinance, and their vocal sentiments are welcome as an act of free speech. But persuading or requiring them to do so would be a clear stretch of the requirements placed upon student-athletes.

— by Tyler Hakes


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