Editorial: Tara Jayakar on the Task Force

February 23, 2012

by

What would Harry Agganis do? | photo by flickr user wallyg

In light of the recent criminal charges brought against another Boston University hockey player, President Brown is forming a task force to “offer the University a thoughtful and impartial assessment of the culture and climate of our team, with a view to answering the question whether that culture and climate could have contributed to actions that, in turn, led to criminal charges.

Brown emailed the BU community this afternoon, and the message was filled with long, repetitive, damage control-oriented sentences just like that one. To the average student, the jargon makes it nigh-impossible to make heads or tails of the situation.

“The letter to you and everyone in the BU Community… really speaks for itself” said Colin Riley, BU’s executive director of media relations. That was the reason why BU’s higher-ups decline comment on the proposed task force. Basically, I’m “welcome” to frame the letter in my perspective.

My English major dreams have come true! I will put the criticism skills I’ve so carefully honed at this University into effect by tearing apart and analyzing an e-mail. In proper academic form, let’s take this graph by graph.

Today we find ourselves at a crossroads for the men’s ice hockey program and the University. As has been extensively reported, two members of our team have been charged with assault this academic year. 

Use of the word ‘crossroads’ implies that there are clear-cut paths to take in cases like this, when really there aren’t. The charges brought against Corey Trivino  and Max Nicastro call the entire institution of BU sports into question, making the vague, stale image of ‘crossroads’ an understatement. Saying the stories have been “extensively reported” before even telling the reader what those crimes are just adds to the mess – it makes a person wonder how many reprehensible acts have BU athletes done that haven’t been extensively reported? What other incidents (to continue with Brown’s road metaphor) lead us down this path?

As if anticipating questions, Brown preemptively answered by drawing a solution between the one thing that connects the two students: hockey.

“The charges in these cases understandably lead to questions about whether the hockey team’s culture and climate have contributed in some way to the actions of the two individuals. The University must address these questions and, if deficiencies are identified, make appropriate and necessary changes”.

This, while not what I was looking for, is actually a great start. With two hockey players accused of sexual assault, the university is prepared to look into exactly what is causing this terrifying trend, if there is a trend at all. When Brown says “culture and climate,” he’s not just talking about how the team interacts with each other; as a university, we put our players up on a pedestal, and this might make them feel like they can do anything they want. But it can also mean that, allegedly, these two players just happen to be womanizing jerks.

Regardless of whether their alleged nature is by nature, or team nurture, BU is determined to weed out what parts of the process they can control. If Trivino and Nicastro’s alleged mindset is fostered by how the team is run, the university is supposedly willing to make changes.

But then there’s this gem:

“The constitution of the task force does, however, reflect a University-level judgment that the two incidents indicate something systemic or habitual may foster a team climate that does not comport with the highest standards of conduct we seek to maintain for all members of our community.

The italicized “may” is confusing. Is BU recognizing its own faults? Or do they already know what those faults are, and the “may” is just a way to save their behinds? Even though the task force could be really good for the university, this paragraph makes it seem as though the university knew what behavior they were fostering in the hockey team all along.

Hockey is a way of life in Boston and BU. Instead of sweeping alleged illegal activity of our beloved sport under the rug, BU has announced that it’s trying to do something about it. That’s a lot more than students at other universities get, so the announcement makes me – as a woman and a student – feel a little safer. But it also make me wonder if we’ve gotten the full story.