Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Principal-Agent Problem

by Ken Houghton

Our Guys Redux: Your Administrators Blame the Victims

Is It Illiteracy or Nonsense that made Richard Sandomir of The New York Times write bollocks such as this?

They do not know when a student may post embarrassing images that can dramatically undermine their policies against hazing or other prohibited activities.

No, no, no! The images do not undermine the policy--the actions those administrators have sanctioned are what has made the policy a sham.

Sandomir has an AD expand on the view that the images are the problem.
"You're walking on eggshells every hour," said Jim Livengood, the athletic director at the University of Arizona, which is not one of the colleges depicted in the photos. "I can't rationalize the young person's thought process. You can't think those photographs won't be seen...."

"The hard part of it all is you can't control it," he said, adding that the issue would be discussed at Pacific-10 Conference meetings. [emphasis mine]

There are two possibilities for that "it" that you can't control: (1) the behavior or (2) the taking and posting of photographs.

If you can't control the first, you shouldn't be an AD. Allison Clarke summarized what was most damning about the Duke Lacrosse Report (p. 24 of the PDF:
4. The University's ability to deal fully with the problem of alcohol is undermined by its own ambivalence toward drinking and the conduct it spawns.

Alcohol is the single greatest factor involved in the unacceptable behavior of Duke students in general and members of the lacrosse team specifically, both on- and off-campus. Drunkenness is the cause of behaviors that represent a serious nuisance to the community and a source of significant personal danger for the student. The University's alcohol policy is reasonable, but it is inconsistently enforced and only ineffectually disciplined. The University's ambivalence is most obviously manifested in the University's tolerance of egregious violations of its own policies at events such as Tailgate and Last Day of Classes, as outlined in the Report of the Committee to investigate the Judicial Procedure. While the alcohol related misconduct by members of the lacrosse team is deplorable, the University is, by its lack of leadership in this area of deep concern, implicated in the alcohol excesses of lacrosse players and of Duke students more generally.

There are two choices: address the problem or blame the photographs. Credit where due: Duke seems to be at least trying to addressing the problem (h/t Ms. Clarke). But Sandomir and his innocent AD are blaming the photographs. Wonder why they think that will work?

So, is it your assertion that policy will STOP underage drinking, or drinking on campus (really you can have one or both), because the numbers of 5+ (binge) drinking haven't changed regardless of intervention since they first started keeping statistics on this. Trying to prevent it is a money and time black hole. Learning that there is a certian population who wants to drink (for their own fully justified reasons -- read individual rights) is a major step to learning the difference between governing one's self and trying to force others to abide by your world view.
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