Sunday, 20 January 2013

Money Ends The Season

While the title of the article could have been used for a CBA-related article, the sad reality is that one hockey team's season is over due to money. I've been following the Dalhousie women's hockey team's story where the team was suspended due to an alleged hazing incident that happened. At first, I had been against the women because of the stigma that the word "hazing" carries. However, after reading about what the women say happened at the party and working towards a plan for restorative justice, my favor swung towards the women in that the punishment did not fit the crime.

It appears that the threat of legal action by the women's team against the university - a drastic last step in restoring their season - will not happen now because of one thing: money. Taking a case to court costs a bundle of money, and, having been a student myself, students don't have bundles of money to spend on things like court cases when classes and books are a priority.

In an interview with CTV Atlantic, players Isabelle Germain and Laura Brooks stated that they would not be pushing forward with the legal option due to the costs associated with the case. While I totally understand their reasons for not pushing forward, I'm surprised that no one from the legal community has stepped forward to allow these young women to play.

While Miss Germain states in the interview that Dalhousie University has unlimited resources in terms of being a reputable law school, there are probably a pile of lawyers who would do this type of work pro bono. The only problem I see is that a vast number of lawyers in and around the Dalhousie University area, and the rest of Nova Scotia for that matter, are Dalhousie law school graduates. Biting the hand that once fed these graduates probably isn't such a smart thing to do. Especially when the reputation of being a Dalhousie law school graduate is held in high esteem.

Both Miss Germain and Miss Brooks indicated that they would pursue a spot on the team next season, and that neither hold the school in a negative light. I commend both players for finding the silver lining on a dark, ugly cloud passing by this season. This speaks volumes to the character of the players on this team, and while I assume some will hold resentment over the forfeiture of the season, the fact that the players have chosen to take the high road speaks more about how much of a family they are than anything else they have done during this process.

They accepted responsibility, they admitted they partied, they looked for a reasonable agreement with the university and found none, and they still took the high road when all other paths led to dead ends. This type of character speaks volumes in the real world and with me.

So while the buck stopped this court case from proceeding, the women will pursue the university in order to have them clarify policies so that nothing like this can happen again. The women will ensure that parties like theirs that landed them in trouble do not occur again for any of Dalhousie's teams. Again, that's a show of character that you wouldn't expect from a group of disappointed, wronged young adults in a case like this whether they are innocent or guilty regarding the alleged charge of hazing brought against them.

Dalhousie University has every right to uphold their policies, as ambiguous as they appear to be, in any way they see fit. They made the rules, so they can uphold them even if it seems that they are doing so in an unfair fashion.

The women that represented Dalhousie women's hockey team, though, are winners in my book regardless of how this season played out or what their record showed. They have shown incredible patience and stoicism in the face of being accused of something quite serious, and have tried to find reasonable and compassionate solutions to not only erase the stigma attached to their names and team, but to the school and its community as well. When the school decided to not change their stance, the ladies have since pushed on and are now doing the right thing in taking the high road in showing their strong characters.

Hearing the end of this story in terms of how this whole thing played out, the Dalhousie women's hockey team reminds me of Charlie Simms in Scent of a Woman. The women are seemingly doing the right thing, albeit opposite of Charlie in speaking out, and it seems that headmaster Mr. Trask - President Tom Traves of Dalhousie - is trying to identify them as the guilty party.

As Al Pacino, as Lt. Frank Slade, said in his epic monologue at the end of the film,
I don't know if Charlie's silence here today is right or wrong. I'm not a judge or jury, but I can tell you this: He won't sell anybody out to buy his future! And that, my friends, is called integrity. That's called courage. Now that's the stuff leaders should be made of. Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here's Charlie. He's come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It's the right path. It's a path made of principle that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey. You hold this boy's future in your hands, committee. It's a valuable future. Believe me. Don't destroy it. Protect it. Embrace it. It's gonna make you proud one day, I promise you.
I took the liberty of bolding a number of words and phrases: integrity, courage, right path, principle, character, valuable future, gonna make you proud. All of these words and phrases apply to the women on the Dalhousie women's hockey team regardless of what they are alleged in doing because they came to the crossroads, they admitted they may have been wrong at face value, and are asking for transparency at this point.

Until Dalhousie University can produce their evidence that finds the women guilty of hazing outside of what they have admitted to, one must be held innocent until proven guilty in virtually all societies. If this is all the evidence they have, noting that they have maintained there IS additional evidence, innocent until proven guilty. It's quite simple. Being that Dalhousie University is a public institution, those investigations done should be of public domain. After all, as per Wikipedia, "All major Canadian universities are now publicly funded but maintain institutional autonomy, with the ability to decide on admission, tuition and governance."

Meanwhile, all lawyers, and certainly those from Dalhousie's school of law, are taught that "the burden of proof lies with who declares, not who denies" (from the Latin, Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat). In this case, there has been no evidence presented by anyone from Dalhousie University to warrant the forfeiture of a hockey season and the suspension of 19 players in an alleged hazing incident.

Like Pacino said, "I'm not a judge or jury", but I'm siding with the women in the court of public opinion. It's just a shame that these women won't be able to challenge the punitive action taken against them in a court of law because of money and power.

I wish the women of the Dalhousie hockey team all the best in their studies this year, and I hope those players returning next year come back with the passion and drive necessary to do big things on the ice. I'm not comfortable or happy with how the process played out for these women, but Dalhousie University is doing what they deem as being fair and just. I just wasn't aware that a publicly-funded institution in a democratic society was a dictatorship.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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