College leaders need to get it together

By Brianna Wellen

Institutions across the country bring positive attention to their schools by highlighting the work of students. Here at Columbia, we have posters of scholarship recipients and successful alumni adorning our walls, and there are multiple showcases throughout the year for students to present their talents and achievements to the Columbia and South Loop communities.

With some in our generation working so hard in their college years to make a name for themselves and bring honor and prestige to the institution they attend, it’s a shame that administrators, coaches and other higher-ups in academia are bringing dishonor to the schools they work for.

The now infamous incident at Pennsylvania State University, in which Jerry Sandusky, the football team’s former defensive coordinator, was accused of sexually abusing minors in the school’s football complex, is a perfect example of this. Not only did the terrible actions of Sandusky bring a bad name to Penn State, but it was also discovered that others at the university, such as famed Head Coach Joe Paterno, knew about the events, yet didn’t tell authorities and in some cases, lied to a grand jury regarding the incident.

Now, there is speculation that Penn State’s recruiting will be affected by the incidents, and rightfully so, which could in turn hurt enrollment. It’s safe to say that it will take a while for people to not associate the school’s name with Sandusky’s actions and the inevitable repercussions.

In a recent incident closer to home at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the College of Law admissions dean, Paul Pless, admitted high-achieving students to the school in their junior year before they took the law school entrance exam. This deception kept the law school’s ranking higher in national surveys.

When Pless resigned because he was exposed, I’m willing to bet that the rankings and credibility of the school went down substantially.

Now the university will not only be threatened with reduced enrollment and prestige, the students who were accepted during the past six or so years will be under scrutiny as to their own credibility.

While the U of I situation is admittedly less heartbreaking than the Penn State incident, it shows the spectrum of ways schools with great reputations and respectable students can be brought down in an instant because of the poor decisions of the schools’ leaders. Administrators, coaches, etc. need to realize that they are representatives of the institution in public; whether it’s praise or criticism, the spotlight is on them.

They should respect the hard work and dedication of students enough to positively reflect the institution they are part of. It’s not fair to the students who may feel ashamed or disappointed in their higher education decision when the school receives negative attention in the public eye. It seems like a simple enough trade-off to maintain respect and integrity in all higher-education institutions across the country.