2013-10-15

Your School Owns You

One of the reasons I stopped running in the NCAA was the fact that I was not allowed to get a part-time job without express written consent from the NCAA. 

I didn't go into debt to finance my education - I managed to pay for it through employment income, scholarships, and a (very) modest stipend from my parents. Truth be told, I am fairly proud of this fact. While I didn't go to a big-name school, I walked away at the end of four years with a quality education with which I managed to procure good employment.

I also don't think it's bad if a student finds that he or she must go into debt to get an education. I was very nearly there, myself. A slightly different set of circumstances could have put me in need of an education loan, and that's not at all a bad thing. It certainly would have been worth it.

Having said all that, I found it unreasonable that the NCAA expected me to adhere to guidelines apparently designed to force me into complete indentured servitude to my school and that organization. I should have a right to pursue employment so that I can pay the expenses that I cannot pay through scholarships. But rather than do what most Americans apparently do these days, I didn't sue, I simply made an economic decision: I needed money that the NCAA wasn't giving me, so I dropped the track team and got a job. It was worth it.

What I am attempting to highlight, however, is the presumption of ownership the NCAA wielded over me. It was an affront to my dignity, and I treated it as such. I was a young adult, and it was a difficult decision. Wouldn't it be awful if a child had to make that sort of choice?

An interesting news item came up in my feed today. A high school senior claims that she has been suspended from five games of competition and displaced from her position as captain of the volleyball team because she gave a drunk friend a ride home from a party. STLToday.com reports:
North Andover High School's Erin Cox says she got a call two weeks ago from a friend at a party who said she was too drunk to drive. 
Cox, trying to do the right thing, went to pick up her friend. She got to the party, but so did police. 
Police confirm Cox was not drinking, but school officials punished her for violating a no tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol.
I'm speculating here, but I don't think it too likely that the party was going on during school hours, nor was it happening on school premises. If it turns out that the party was indeed happening during school hours and on school premises, then I may have to re-think the matter, but at this point it seems fairly certain that the school is making an absolutely hideous presumption that it owns its students.

Let's set aside the discussion of whether or not punishing a student for driving her drunk friend home is a good approach with which to address underage use of drugs and alcohol. It's certainly a discussion worth having, but for my purposes today, it is not worth getting into.

Ms. Cox was not acting in her capacity as a school representative when she gave her drunk friend a ride home. She was just, you know, giving her drunk friend a ride home. There is nothing attaching the school to Ms. Cox's (entirely laudable) actions. The only tie that exists is the school's presumption that - because its administration has adopted a no-tolerance policy toward drugs and alcohol - so, too, must Cox adopt such a policy in her personal life.

This is such an egregious encroachment of Ms. Cox's sovereignty as an individual human being that it is difficult for me to think straight. Are we to understand that any policy undertaken by the administration of a public school must be, not merely complied with by its students, but enforced by its students also? The implications are profound and alarming.

The mind reels. This story is very disturbing.