Commentary : Here Are 2 Views of SMU Scandal

SMU Faculty Senate President

Editor's note: The football scandal at Southern Methodist University has created turmoil not only on the campus but throughout the state of Texas. Herewith are reactions of an SMU student leader and the president of the faculty senate in two dispatches written for UPI.

Recently the Board of Governors, which is the Executive Committee of SMU's Board of Trustees, released a statement expressing the members' judgment that the present system of governance at SMU has not worked. This statement is consistent with the opinions of many of SMU's faculty, who for years have shared the view that the fundamental problem here is SMU's governance structure. The recent football scandals have helped to forge virtually a unanimous consensus within the University that it is time for major changes in that governance structure. We may bemoan the fact that such changes are late in coming, and at enormous cost to the University's integrity, but the energy which could be dissipated in such complaints will be better invested in effecting the necessary changes.

In the best of all possible scenarios, Southern Methodist University will be led by its president, and will be served by a Board of Trustees who understand their roles to be that of providing support and advice to the president, while at the same time holding the president accountable for fulfilling her or his responsibilities. The president will be understood by all as the president of the faculty of the University, and in continuing consulation with the faculty will provide the leadership of the University as an academic institution. "Institutional control" of the athletics program will be returned to the faculty and administration, with the support of the Board.

I believe that we are in sight of bringing about just these kinds of changes. It will be a long time, however, before the University reestablishes in the mind of our various constituencies and supporters, their deserved trust. To be worthy of that trust, again, I believe that it will be essential for us as a community to find ways of reconciling the members of our community now virtually at war with one another. By and large, the faculty is contemptuous of the leadership of the Board of Governors. United Methodist church people are experiencing the pain of deep embarrassment about an institution to which their denominational loyalties have linked them. The University Senate of the United Methodist Church inveighs against the manner by which the entire University conducts its business. Many supporters of the University are angry about being held guilty by association with a small number of their group who have callously brought ruin to the University's football program. Some of these latter seem mired in paranoia directed against the NCAA, and others cry out betrayal by their best friends. Practically everyone is feeling revulsion toward those student athletes who have accepted improper payments, at the expense of their peers who have not. Indeed, there is a deep sense of alienation from all those who have been party to the recent travesties who have not been courageous enough to admit their own complicity and to begin to seek ways of making restitution. As a kind of paradigm for the dividedness which we are now suffering is the specter of a Board of Governors whose members are increasingly fractious with one another.

I do not have any serious doubts about this University's capacity to restore itself to integrity of operation and clarity of vision. My hope is that, in the process of institutional reform, all of us who have in many different ways contributed to the problems may begin to experience some sense of reform within ourselves, in order that a genuine healing might take place, of a sort which brings about transformation both of persons and communities. The Wesleyan ideal of "Christian perfection" is especially relevant to our situation as participants in an institution with a Methodist heritage. In recent months, we have had vivid experiences of just how corruptible the human spirit is. What we now need is similarly vivid experience of how refining can be the fires of grace conscientiously internalized.

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