Opinion

Those who know me well know that I am very supportive of those who acknowledge a mistake and apologize - whether they are friends, colleagues or students for whom I am responsible. We all make mistakes. Acknowledging and accepting responsibility for them is a wonderful human trait. Supporting someone who is trying to do that is the right thing to do, I think.

Watching the Alex Rodriguez situation unfold was embarrassing. Whether people admired him or his accomplishments or not, a lot of people hoped that he was a "clean" player who could become a hero by surpassing the records of those who were tainted in some way or another. He had looked people in the eye and repeatedly said that he had never used drugs. That ended, of course, when proof emerged to the contrary. The apology at that point felt quite different. It seemed that it was not because he had acknowledged his mistake and accepted responsibility for it but because he had no other choice.

I have been involved in many disciplinary cases during the course of my career. Obviously, the seriousness of the matter is the primary factoring in determining the appropriate disciplinary action but not far behind that is the degree to which the student appears to genuinely understand and take responsibility for his/her actions.

The cases which are the most troubling to me are the ones in which any acknowledgement seems simply pro forma, particularly if it involves lying. What these young men and women do not seem to realize is that once one is known to be a liar, one can no longer be trusted to the same degree one once was. One cannot say - or say and be believed - "I lied about this but trust me about everything else." Over time a person may be able to regain more and more trust through their words and actions but "fessing up," particularly if it only comes when there are no other options, as in Alex Rodriguez's case, does not clear the slate.

Society, or at least a good portion of it, seems willing to ignore the behavior of certain superstars and celebrities. Some young people who see this may take away from it that similar behavior on their part in school, in college, or on a job will be treated similarly. Perhaps they will be lucky but many people expect one's word to mean something. Perhaps growing skepticism about whether Alex Rodriguez has really come completely clean will be a cautionary lesson to them.


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