Editorial: The Tribune missed the point on “Doing Hard Lines”

The Tampa Tribune picked up The Minaret‘s story last week about resident assistants who made 80 honors floor students write 30 lines about vandalism, and received a number of comments on their website. They also wrote an editorial and printed an editorial cartoon about the subject.

In their Feb. 27 editorial “Write 30X: I Will Not Upbraid Poor RAs,” they wrote, “Has it really come to this? Can no one in education impose discipline or raise their voice without getting slapped down? The resident assistants were making a justifiable point. If students are going to act like children, they should be treated like children.”

This editorial completely missed the point. The RAs didn’t punish 80 vandals. They didn’t punish 80 people who were hiding vandals. They punished an entire floor of largely innocent students.

While the Tribune focused on the backlash over the subject, including the university’s decision to place the offending RAs’ status on review, their vision was horribly nearsighted. In their support of group punishment for individual wrongdoing, the Tribune seems to be supporting a “shoot first, ask questions later” style of justice.

Their editorial cartoon in the Saturday, March 1 issue showed a baby student running away from an RA to cry to someone in charge. The Minaret sees this as a distinctively different issue. Those who were upset for being hanged for the crimes committed by another were right to complain.

Many opponents of capital punishment live by the motto, “It is better to let a thousand guilty men free than to convict a single innocent man.” While the punishment of having to write “I will not vandalize the floor” 30 times is nowhere near the level of capital punishment, it is itself a manifestation of the terrifying prospect of punishing all in the hopes of catching the one truly guilty party.

We cannot support this. It is never proper, right, or just to make an innocent person pay for the crimes that another is responsible for committing.

As an institution of higher learning, the University of Tampa should set forth to prepare its students for the “real world” of business and life. If this is how the outside world functions, an argument many made on the comments for both The Minaret‘s and the Tribune‘s online stories, then we can only hope that UT is a pioneer for establishing a precedent of punishing only the guilty parties.

At The Minaret we strongly disapprove of those who punish the masses for the stupid actions of the single person. It is the wrong action to take. It is unjust and belittling to all students.

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