The most powerful force in the United States of America right now is that of public opinion. Many offices of leadership around the country have demonstrated that they are unwilling to act justly, rule bravely, and walk surely along a personal course of rightness that does not bend to the whims and wishes of the entities they lead.
If not for the power of public opinion, injustice, treachery, and oppression would continue to reign in the USA.
From the NFL, to Universities to the White House, leadership operates not for the good of people but for the purpose of wealth, control and power. Make no mistake, people's interests are being served, but only a few. Very. Few.
To some extent, I expect the White House and government institutions to be corrupt. The NFL is no different. It's a for profit non-profit, that operates no differently than a cutthroat corporate entity intent on riches, fame, power and market control.
However, I expect something different from institutions of higher education. Those communities that should exist for the purpose of educating, developing and shaping our nation's youth. Unfortunately, the lure of power, greed, control and riches knows no boundaries, and many colleges and universities succumb to their overtures.
The irony of this dilemma is that the very institutions that represent the ideal of education, that is, that learning and knowledge will naturally reduce the individual and communal ills that plague society, are themselves perpetrators of the very evil that education should eradicate. The theory is no longer passing the litmus test.
The latest episode of hypocrisy comes to us from the highly esteemed University of Virginia. This university released a statement today apologizing to a student who was gang raped by several members of UVA fraternity in 2012. The student reported the assault to her superiors and eventually was given an audience with a Dean over her area of study. This conversation was ultimately unproductive because an investigation was basically a farce and no arrests or convictions were ever made.
The UVA president, Teresa Sullivan, has expressed rage and sorrow in an official statement. As well she should. But, the sobering and terrifying reality is that a University president can only do so much. Based on the Rolling Stone magazine article which first broke the student's story, there were multiple layers of resistance to the student's attempts to tell her story and get help. This fact belies the deeper issue: too many cultures on universities are more loyal to tradition and reputation than they are to justice and student safety. Forget about student development. Many universities cannot even protect their students, let alone develop them into men and women of character.
This hypocrisy cannot continue. Hopefully public opinion's strength and influence will continue to force change in higher education across the United States.
Too many students are being damaged. Too many students are not safe. If you work in Higher Education, please use your influence to facilitate change in culture so that our students can focus on learning and developing. Otherwise, the price may be more than we can bear.