University should prioritize morals over athletic success

The university’s choice to clear two football players awaiting trial is a lapse in judgment.

JennyRoberts.jpgThis past weekend, Temple’s football team played Notre Dame at Lincoln Financial Field, and student fans packed the sold-out stadium.

And while I, along with many other students, found myself caught up in the excitement of Saturday night’s game, I did not forget about the controversy surrounding two players who regularly take the field.

Haason Reddick and Dion Dawkins are currently awaiting trial for aggravated assault, conspiracy, simple assault and reckless endangerment.

The two were originally arrested last March, and both players were suspended from playing on Temple’s football team. A month later their aggravated assault charges were dropped, the Student Conduct Board cleared them of their offenses and their suspensions from the team were lifted.

But in June, the Philadelphia District Attorney refiled all charges. The university did not reinstate the players’ suspensions.

Stephanie Grey, a second-year law student at Temple, said the university’s actions are not necessarily contingent on court proceedings.

“What the DA is doing is totally separate from the school’s decisions,” Grey said. “Just because [charges] are [filed] doesn’t mean they’re criminals or that they’re guilty.”

I am not sure, though, why the university would suspend Reddick and Dawkins after these original charges were filed, but then not suspend the two players again once the very same charges were refiled.

Jack Farrell, a second-year law student at Temple, said new evidence is likely the reason for an ADA to refile charges in any case.

“It’s possible that initially they didn’t have the evidence they wanted, and got themselves some new time, and then were able to gather new evidence and refile,” Farrell said.

Taking this into account, it seems to me the refiled charges should be taken at least as seriously, if not more so than the original filings.

The fact that the university does not appear to be taking the refiled charges seriously is concerning, especially when considering aggravated assault is a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania, and the fact that the person whom Reddick and Dawkins allegedly injured is Benjamin Wood, another Temple student.

I hope Temple officials are not taking these charges less seriously because of the university’s recent push to promote Temple football—student athletes should not be treated any differently than any other students.

Last year, Temple student Abdel Aziz Jalil struck another student at Temple Fest and was charged by the Philadelphia District Attorney for simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.

In response, then-Student Body President Ray Smeriglio said Temple would be holding its own hearing on the incident to look for any violations of the Student Code of Conduct.

Theresa Powell, vice president for student affairs, also said at the time in an open letter to the Temple community the university would “not tolerate violence of any kind toward members of the Temple community.”

The university responded with more vigilance to the charges of Aziz Jalil than to those of Reddick and Dawkins, even though the incident Reddick and Dawkins are accused of  taking part in also involved another Temple student, just like in Aziz Jalil’s case.

While it’s difficult to determine the severity of a sentence prior to the trial, based on the charges, Reddick and Dawkins could be facing a serious sentence.

Some might say this difference in response by the university exists because the charges brought against Reddick and Dawkins are said to have taken place off campus, but I have to wonder if their successes on the field are being prioritized over the university’s ethics code.

The Student Code of Conduct clearly states that its rules and regulations also apply to “off-campus incidents or conduct that adversely affect the university community and/or the pursuit of its objectives.”

It is disconcerting that these student athletes seem to be treated differently from the way the rest of the student body would be and that these same individuals are representing the university as a whole every time they suit up and take to the field at a game.

The university needs to consider the message it is sending by allowing these students to continue playing.

Are student-athletes of more value to the university than other students, like Wood?

While I have been drawn into the excitement of Temple football’s recent successes, I hope football doesn’t become all-consuming at Temple, because we are not Penn State. We are not largely known for our football team, not yet, at least.

And even if we were, shouldn’t the character of student-athletes matter both on and off the field?

I think so.

Jenny Roberts can be reached at jennifer.roberts@temple.edu.

1 Comment

  1. If the charges were dropped, and the Student Conduct Board cleared them of their offenses and their suspensions from the team were lifted, why do you think these two students should CONTINUE to be punished for something everyone (except money hungry Benjamin Wood and his family) are trying to move on from? The incident happened before the season. The hearing happened before the season. No one could have predicted the success of Owl football at that time. The University has ALREADY determined that what happened did not violate the code of conduct or else these two would have been suspended or expelled the first time. The changes are the same, so ask yourself if everyone needs to go through the same thing again?

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