Poor word choice = poor relations

As the president of St John’s University spoke out on the sexscandal that faced the school last Thursday, he made manyreferences to the word culture.

Eyewitness News 7, an affiliate of ABC, quoted Father Harringtonas saying: “The problem is within the basketball culture at theschool;” “culture is really what it’s about. For example, we have amen’s soccer team here at St John’s…and I have no doubt, I’mgonna go on a limb here…I don’t think it could happen here.” “Iwant to shape the culture of the basketball program…so there’s nodoubt this is unacceptable.” Dictionary.com defines culture as “thepredominating attitudes and behavior that characterize thefunctioning of a group or organization.”

Why does Father Harrington keep referring to the word culture?What does he mean by “I want to shape the culture of the basketballteam”? By his use of the word culture, he has ignited a flame thatwill not easily be put out. If Father Harrington had used betterdiction maybe the student body would not have been so outraged byhis controversial comments. The word culture has come to besynonymous with race and ethnicity.

Although he claims that he is referring to neither race norethnicity, Father Harrington has failed to convince the public thathis comments were simply misunderstood and not a Freudian slipalluding to his deep-rooted feelings. I realize that bad dictionmust be a presidential thing, because Father Harrington’s verbaldisaster reminded me of the time when president G.W. Bush announcedto the world after the Sept. 11 attacks that we were now about toenter a “holy war.” Talk about bad word usage. Father Harrington’scomparison of the men’s soccer team to the men’s basketball teamwas not taken lightly.

Consider the facts: The majority of the players on the men’sbasketball team are black. The men’s soccer team on the other handis quite the opposite. Their team is made up of mostly Caucasianplayers. Father Harrington infers that this incident was attributedto the black “culture.” It’s as if the soccer team could notpossibly be capable of such an indignity for the simple fact thatthey are not black. Whether or not Father Harrington intended forthat point to be sent to the public, the issue at hand is that hedid not hold his tongue and there is no turning back. The damagehas been done for many.

The “basketball scandal” has unveiled the upper leveladministrations true colors and feelings toward the diverse studentbody. It is very sad that it took a scandal such as this one toreveal the truth behind our upper level administrative staff.Instead of coming together with the student body, controversialcomments are instead being made, thus causing an outrage amongstthe student of St John’s University. Father Harrington needs toprovide not only the students here at St John’s but the generalpublic with a valid explanation.

The student body deserves to know the truth. We need to knowwith whom and what we are dealing with. If these controversialcomments were made unintentionally, the student body needs to beaddressed and an apology is due. An issue with such magnitudecannot go unresolved. This is not something that can be filed atthe bottom of the file cabinet. The offended students need to feelassured that the president of their school accepts and embraces thecultural diversity of St. John’s.

It is imperative that Father Harrington addresses the studentbody. Father Harrington and his staff need to come to terms withtheir personal issues and handle the universities issuesaccordingly and without bias. The question that now floats throughthe heads of the student body is this; Do Father Harrington’sloyalties lie with the students or merely the reputation of St.John’s?