President Richard Englert, if you can name one other college program of any sort that puts its participants at risk of contracting a deadly disease, then go ahead and build that football stadium. If you can’t, then there is absolutely no moral rationale for encouraging an activity that dooms a significant number of Temple students to early-onset dementia, depression and all the other maladies that go along with CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
The days when college administrators could ignore the connection between football and CTE are over. There is now reliable research which indicates that CTE is not confined to professional football players. Playing only to the college level still results in CTE in a significant number of players. The fact that the effect of the brain injuries they sustain typically show up years later in the lives of college football players does not absolve their schools of complicity.
As the ultimate steward of the university’s values, you must ask yourself whether you are willing to promote an activity that burdens its participants with hidden injuries that threaten to ruin their lives. While it is simply a fact that football has been an entrenched institution in American higher education for a long time, that does not give it any special status that would shield it from moral objections. That a practice is part of a tradition, or that it is popular, or that it might enhance the profile of a school when it comes to recruiting, mean little when the question is whether it is ethical. And it would seem that any threat to the moral integrity of a university must be taken with the utmost seriousness and a willingness to make hard choices.
Given what we know now about CTE, football can no longer be viewed as a harmless pastime, but something that raises troubling questions that go to the heart of what it means to be a school, and to the heart of just what it is that a school owes to its students. Like all schools that sponsor a football program, Temple must ask itself whether it can reconcile the damage done to its student-athletes with its basic mission as an educational institution. Given that, at the very least, that mission requires that it not leave its students with a legacy of damage to their bodies which will shorten their lives, I don’t know how you do that.
Temple shouldn’t be building a football stadium. It should be considering doing away with its football program entirely. In a few years it may be forced to do so anyway, when the evil of it becomes too obvious to ignore. You have the chance not to be on the wrong side of history — don’t miss it.
Daniel Touey is an adjunct instructor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.