Friday, August 29, 2008

CIS issues: Trouble for Trinity players

This is interesting. Four Trinity Western University soccer players were apparently arrested in Oregon on Saturday and charged with criminal trespass, criminal mischief, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and minor in possession of alcohol, according to a report from the Corvallis Gazette-Times [I couldn't find the original story either using their website's search function or a Google search of their site, but their archives seem to be limited, so it may not be there anymore].

I was pointed to the story by Langley Times colleague Gary Ahuja, who does a great job of covering the Spartans. His story can be found here [The Burnaby NewsLeader, another Black Press paper that picked it up: the original Times version hasn't hit the web yet due to the newspaper's publishing schedule, but I'll add a link when it does].

The players were in Oregon to face Northwest Christian University on Friday morning, on the campus of Oregon State University. They'd originally been scheduled to take on the Oregon State Beavers, but a last-minute NCAA rule change [Scott Stewart,] meant that the match was no longer considered "foreign" for some odd reason, leaving the Beavers with too many scheduled pre-season games and forcing them to cancel the TWU match, substituting a scrimmage game with Northwest Christian for the Spartans (which Trinity won 3-0, according to their site). According to Howard Tsumura's story in the Vancouver Province, the incident that resulted in the charges occurred early Saturday morning, so it sounds like the Spartans were celebrating a little too raucously. The team then continued their tour with a 3-0 loss to Gonzaga, before returning home to beat the University of Calgary Dinos 1-0 on Tuesday and the Concordia University [Oregon] Cavaliers 3-1 on Wednesday [First two links are from Trinity's website, the third is a recap by Concordia Sports Information Director Jason Dormeyer]. None of the involved players appear to have taken part in any of the later games, which suggests that the suspensions were immediate.

This is probably pretty serious. The minor in possession of alcohol charge isn't a big deal in my mind, but criminal trespass, criminal mischief and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in connection with alcohol all sound pretty bad. This may mean that these Spartans are gone for the year, which will make it difficult for TWU to defend its Canada West championship. The Spartans finished fifth in the country at last year's CIS Championships, but they may have a tough time getting out of a strong Canada West conference without these guys, and their departure may also affect the team's chemistry. It will be interesting to follow the team this season.

To make things worse for the involved Spartans, they go to Trinity, which essentially bans all students from drinking alcohol (to my understanding, it doesn't matter if you're of age or not or on campus or not, but if anyone knows otherwise, please correct me). Here's the relevant sections on university policies from the online student handbook:

All students are responsible to...Obey the law and conduct themselves as responsible citizens who contribute to the welfare of the greater community (Rom 13:1-7). Among other things, this precludes the use of marijuana and drugs for non-medical purposes and conduct that disrupts classes or the general operation of the University. It also includes demonstrating respect for the property of others and of the University. ... Refrain from practices that are contrary to biblical teachings. These include, but are not limited to, drunkenness (Eph 5:18), swearing or use of profane language (Eph 4:29, 5:4; Ja 3:1-12), harassment (John 13:34-35, Rom 12:9-21; Eph 4:31), all forms of dishonesty including cheating and stealing (Pro 12:22, Col 3:9, Eph 4:28), abortion (Ex. 20:13, Ps 139:13-16), involvement in the occult (Act 19:19, Gal 5:19), and viewing of pornography (1Co 6:12-20, Eph 4:17-24, 1Th 4:3-8, Rom 2:26-27, 1Ti 1:9-10). ... Utilize careful judgment in the exercise of personal freedom (Gal 5:16-6:10, Rom 12:1-15:13, 1Cor 8:9-13 and 13:1-13, Eph 4:17-6:18, Col 3:1-4:6, 1Thes 4:1-5:24). This entails the responsible use of time and material resources and the honest pursuit of knowledge, including regular attendance at classes, chapel services, and University events. It also requires that members of the community abstain from the use or possession of alcoholic beverages, tobacco in any form, other forms of substance abuse, all forms of gambling, and that members of the community maintain modest, inoffensive behaviour in personal relationships. Co-ed living arrangements are not suitable for unmarried Trinity Western students. Furthermore, because many contemporary forms of amusement are of questionable value or diminish one's moral sensitivities, members of the community are to use discernment in their choice of entertainment including television, movies, live productions, and social dancing. Furthermore, the University does not condone dancing at clubs where alcohol is liberally consumed, discretion in the choice of music is not exercised, and the overall atmosphere is questionable. ... Use of tobacco in any form or the consumption of alcohol can result in conduct accountability and/or probation.Alcohol use/possession on campus, aggressive behaviour towards another student, pranks that cause personal or University property damage, acts of vandalism and/or misrepresentation leading to community distrust can result in a short term suspension.

Yipes. Not the place I'd want to be caught drinking: it looks like if you're caught enjoying a perfectly legal drink off-campus, you get put on probation, but on-campus, you get a suspension. That's one of the reasons I decided not to go to TWU, even if it's in my backyard: I couldn't bear being sober for four years! Trinity's also one of the CIS institutions that really takes the model of student-athletes as campus leaders seriously, as is evident from this 2006-2007 student-athlete manual:

"The underlying concept is that the Spartan athletic program is an integral part
of higher education at Trinity Western University. The program offers participants and supporters a valuable experience that is essential to a liberal arts and science education. Ethical standards, quality, development of leadership and teamwork abilities, service orientation, the development of excellent physical skills, and a positive response to competition and challenges are basic goals of the program. ... Further, it is imperative that we recruit excellent student-athletes with proven athletic, academic and leadership skills who are willing to grow and learn, and are willing to commit to our philosophy.

Now, I've heard from a friend who played for the Trinity soccer team for years that these rules weren't often taken too seriously on road trips (at least by the athletes), which only makes sense: after all, it would be pretty hard for Trinity to entice quality athletes if they were restricted to those puritanical enough to give up alcohol, drugs and fun for five years. That might be even a bigger recruiting handicap than Queen's restrictions on entrance average! TWU consistently punches above its weight, though, so they're certainly getting the good athletes in. Unfortunately, with a high-profile incident like this that's a clear violation of their stated policies, it looks like the guys involved are in some deep trouble.

I'm guessing these guys will probably not suit up for the Spartans again this year, which to my mind is stupid based on the information I have so far. Yes, they screwed up, and maybe criminally so. However, that's pretty minor compared to what some U.S. college athletes have done (see for example this , this or this).

I'd urge Trinity to keep things in perspective. Yes, student-athletes as leaders is a great idea, and I have no problem with using athletes as role models. Not all athletes are qualified though, and not all of them deserve that pressure. Trying to ban university students from alcohol accomplishes little, and only means that they're more likely to binge and cause problems when they get a chance to drink. The Spartans are right to suspend these guys while they complete their own investigation and see how serious the charges are: however, once that's done, if the athletes haven't done anything too serious, they should be allowed to return to the field and again wear the Spartan colours. Trinity, I'd suggest that you refrain from throwing away four young men's careers and your own soccer season in the name of some silly code of ethics. There's plenty of biblical literature on second chances as well: this humble correspondent would suggest reading that instead of the fire-and-brimstone tripe.

[Cross-posted to The CIS Blog].

Update,12:20 P.M. ET: Greg Layson of Big Man On Campus managed to find some more information on this, which alleges that the four players were streaking inside the Oregon State football stadium and then went for a ride in a dump truck. Streaking isn't such a big deal, but stealing construction equipment is a bit more serious, especially when alcohol is involved. Here's the AP story Greg referenced.


  1. CISfan10:31 AM

    "to those puritanical enough to give up alcohol, drugs and fun for five years."

    Trinity Western University students aren't Quakers. The school has become much more progressive in recent years, realizing the no-dancing policy was outdated and is even having discussions on allowing drinking in some form, whether it be off-campus or not.

    Even still, your claim that the TWU code does not allow "fun" is a bit over the top if you really want to be taken seriously.

    This also has nothing to do with the code the students sign in order to attend TWU - what these young men did was illegal, resulting in criminal charges, which would also be taken seriously at any other university.

  2. CISfan10:32 AM

    Allegedly did, 'scuse me.

  3. Fair comment. Perhaps things have changed since I looked into going to Trinity, as that was almost six years ago now while I was still in high school. Still, that Code of Conduct is incredibly restrictive by the standards of most Canadian universities: I have no gripe against those who choose to go to Trinity, but those restrictions are not something I'd choose to subject myself to. You certainly can have fun in university without alcohol, but you can't have as much, in my mind, as most of the best university social events are held at bars or clubs or otherwise involve drinking to some extent.

    You're also quite right that every university would take criminal charges seriously, and I didn't intend to suggest that Trinity is doing the wrong thing by investigating this and suspending the athletes involved during the process. Certainly, that's probably what most schools would do. My point in bringing the Code of Conduct into it is that it seems to me that Trinity athletes would be far more likely to receive a more severe punishment than those at schools with looser regulations around alcohol and lower expectations for their student-athletes on the leadership front. I think Canadian schools as a whole take the idea of athletes as leaders too far, and Trinity does so more than others. Not all athletes are role models, and they shouldn't be pressured to be.

    The other point I brought in the Code of Conduct for is that a restrictive atmosphere tends (in my experience) to lead to people going wilder when they're outside of it. If these athletes didn't have to be surreptitious about their drinking and only indulge occasionally on road trips, my feeling is that they'd be less likely to go on binges and make poor decisions while under the influence of alcohol. That may not have made a difference in this case, though.

    Moreover, as the final decision on what will happen to these athletes hasn't been made yet to my knowledge, my comments were just an educated guess. Perhaps Trinity will be no harder on these athletes than another school would be. Perhaps other schools would prevent them from playing again as well: a lot depends on the severity of the charges and what arises from them. Still, it seems to me that Trinity is more likely to come down hard on these guys than other schools would, due to the code and due to their desire to keep their reputation clean. From here, it looks like these athletes are unlikely to play for Trinity this year.

  4. "the silly code of ethics" you refer to is a defining characteristic of Trinity. The majority of students who attend Trinity do so because of its unique code of ethics.

    When our varsity soccer team drags Trinity reputation through the mud year after year (ie. trashing their hotel room and trophy after an early exit from nationals) it makes me wish that I had never made the decision to attend TWU.

  5. Fair comment, Caleb, as long as everyone knows what they're getting into. I have no problem with people choosing to abstain. My point was more that some people may choose to attend Trinity because of its deservedly strong reputation in athletics, and may go there in spite of the code of conduct rather than because of it.In my mind, those people are more likely to break Trinity's code when they're off campus on a road trip, and they're more likely to go too far and break the law than if they were perhaps allowed to blow off a little steam within the realms of the law. You're right that their actions gave the university a black eye, and they do deserve punishment for that. Road trip hijinx are by no means unique to Trinity, either. My argument's just that this situation may not have happened or may not have gotten as out of hand if the code wasn't so rigid. If these players were allowed to party at home, they might not have taken things to excess on the road.