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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chanting at NCAA Basketball Game Costs Five Southern Miss Students Their Scholarships

Sometimes, two or more events that are unlikely to occur together by chance are observed to happen in a meaningful manner. This experience is known as synchronicity, first described by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. The concept of synchronicity does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality (one event causing another). Instead, it maintains that, just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by meaning. A grouping of events by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of cause and effect.

I thought about this term today as I read the news. I have written about a particular subject several times recently, so I fear another post on the subject may make people think I am purposely harping about some personal agenda. However, since I try to find timely material for blogging, I can't help but report this news because the synchronicity seemed to smack me squarely in the face.

The News Story

"Mississippi has revoked the scholarships of five members (not identified) of its pep band who took part in the heckling of a Kansas State basketball player at last Thursday's NCAA  men's basketball tournament game.

"The school announced Tuesday that the five students also were removed from the band and will be required to complete a two-hour cultural sensitivity training course this week

"Southern Miss issued an apology last week to Kansas State point guard Angel Rodriguez after he was the target of chants of "Where's your green card?" during the Wildcats' 70-64 second-round victory in the NCAA tournament. Rodriguez had 13 points and four assists in the game that was played in Pittsburgh....

"Rodriguez said last week that he accepted the apology because 'there's ignorant people and I know that's not how they want to represent their university.'

"Rodriguez said he doesn't pay attention to that  'nonsense, especially because Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, so we don't need any type of papers.'" ("5 Southern Miss Pep Band Members Disciplined For 'Green Card' Chant," Fox News,, March 20 2012)

Of course, I find a very real similarity between this Southern Miss/Kansas State game and the Ohio High School Tournament game that pitted PHS against Valley. I needn't review the claims of derogatory chanting and latent racist overtones during that high school contest. My prior entries are posted in the blog for all to review. If you need to get some background, just go back a few days.

The "touch," the synchronicity of these two highly competitive events warrants attention. Why? As I stated before, I think many people lose sensitivity as they allow emotion to come to the fore. And, rather remarkably, even after the fervor of a contest cools and some attendees report inappropriate behaviors had occurred, many people allow school "pride" to take precedence over defending human dignity. These folks want to deny or soften any charges by basically saying "it was no big deal."

What do I think the importance of the synchronicity of these events two displays? Well, several things that were the subject of hot debate last week.

1. Mixed connotation is really no excuse for actual abusive language during a school event. The utterances:

                 Valley/PHS                                                              Southern Miss/Kansas State

"Ribs and chicken!" "STD!" "You can't read!"                     "Where's your green card!"
"You suck!" "OGT!"

2. The public nor the players should be subjected to, or the target of, derisive actions that may interfere with their rights as they relate to discrimination or peaceful assembly.

                Valley/PHS                                                              Southern Miss/Kansas State

Utterances viewed as racist, sexually derogatory,                Utterences viewed as racist.
and acadacemically and socially degrading.

3. A very tiny, aggressive contingent in a heated crowd can cause major disturbances and jeopardize the safety of everyone.

                Valley/PHS                                                              Southern Miss/Kansas State

Not specified other than "a few students"                        Five members of the                 
and reports of a few adults.                                                Southern Miss pep band.

4. Those who insist in jeering, chanting insults, or engaging in any other inappropriate behaviors at a school event should be punished.

                Valley/PHS                                                          Southern Miss/Kansas State

Valley Superintendent vowed "to administer          Southern Miss took scholarshios
 appropriate disciplinary actions." PHS                  of the five pep band members. USM's
did not report their disciplinary response.              athletic director and school personnel
                                                                                     came to Kansas State's team hotel to

I believe synchronicity has made the connection of these two events, one secondary school and one college, a very appropriate learning moment for local high schools, their fans, and their teams.

One of my major duties as a high school teacher was to prepare students for college -- not only to groom them for the rigors of subject matter they would face but also to provide them with workable keys to surviving and thriving in the vastly different college experience. In short, I needed to ready my classes for a very big transition, one I had experienced and lived through for over seven years.

The reality is that high schools must realize that most colleges will not tolerate aggressive, harmful behaviors or racism of any kind. If college students believe excuses and thoughtless, stonewalling explanations will pardon them from wrongdoings, they are simply wrong. Unfortunately, five Southern Mississippi pep band members found this out the hard way. Scholarship gone = no refund.

These pep band members couldn't explain away the offense with a connotation that "Where's your green card?" was a reference to a warning in hockey or to a card that permits access to a library. These students thought they knew the background of Angel Rodriguez (They obviously didn't.), and they, in some way believed that racist chants would help their basketball team, so they spewed their false hatred against Angel and against aliens onto the floor. Period.

Did you ever try arguing with a professor or with a dean or with any college official? Don't waste your time with excuses and emotional displays. Colleges and universities demand personal responsibility from their students.

This is a powerful but much-needed lesson for college preparation. The lesson is that the intent and actual utterance or display of bigotry, prejudice, animosity, or rude partiality will be considered facts for judging those who cannot control their emotional behavior. And, all members of a school, no matter what age, are personally responsible for any regrettable actions they commit while a member of the institution.

Spelling it out rudely -- in a family crowd, you don't have to shout "Nigger!" or "White Trash!" or "Queer!" or "Mother fucker!" or "I want to kill you!" or "You're an ignorant sped!" or "You are a ho bitch!" to get into trouble... trouble that could cost you money, precious time, imprisonment, or future embarrassment. All you have to do is intentionally insult just one other individual to be deemed wrong and guilty. Why? Because you, at minimum, are responsible for your own actions, and, in certain circumstances, are responsible for the ugly actions of others. You can't plead, "The crowd make me do it."

I hope this little case of synchronicity may save someone from losing something of value in the future.

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