Righting a Wrong?

This past week, news came out that a student posted a picture of herself doing something extremely insensitive on a social network.

The president’s office shared the news with a university-wide email condemning the behavior and promising a thorough investigation and appropriate discipline for any and all violations of policy.

Personally, I can’t think of a good excuse for what the student was doing, and I certainly can’t think of a good reason to post a picture of oneself demonstrating such poor and offensive judgement.

But I also can’t help thinking, Where are her parents? I don’t know anything about the student or her family, and I’m not asking. What I am asking is why such bad behavior should be seen and punished as a violation of university policy.

Specifically, what chain of events or ideas led to this behavior, who was harmed, and how likely is it that university discipline will re-establish right relationship between the student and herself, her peers, or society?

I can’t help wondering why we expect universities to act en loco parentis (or police?) in this way, and whether that’s really serving anybody other than the PR people.

Of course it’s wrong and embarrassing. Of course it’s bad press.

Investigations and discipline might get us through this unpleasant moment in the spotlight, but I wonder if they’ll really help us make the most of an especially painful — and hence valuable — teachable moment.