NDSU Football Players Might Get Suspensions Over Petition Fraud After All?

dean bresciani

Fargo Forum reporter Ryan Johnson covers some mixed signals coming from university President Dean Bresciani about the fate of 10 NDSU football players caught fraudulently submitting tens of thousands of petition signatures on two measures.

In the statement, his second in two days, Bresciani said all students charged with crimes are subject to the university’s internal disciplinary review process. As student athletes, they also face possible review by their team or the athletics department.

“I apologize for any confusion caused by our athletics department comments about the student disciplinary process,” he said in the statement. “Contrary to what has been suggested or implied, no decisions have been made.”

Head coach Craig Bohl said Monday the players could face discipline but won’t be suspended, echoing Athletic Director Gene Taylor’s statement after the team’s win over Colorado State that the accused players won’t be suspended.

It wasn’t clear if Bresciani’s Wednesday statement referenced possible athletic discipline or the disciplinary review that applies to all students.

The lack of transparency in the university system never ceases to amaze me.

Regardless, this certainly sounds as though suspensions are very much still on the table for the players involved in the crime, which is a move in the right direction though I’m not sure I consider a mere suspension to be enough for this level of dishonesty and fraud.

But it’s intriguing to watch Bresciani tried to hide behind the process. From the beginning of this scandal university officials have insisted that the players should get their “day in court.” Forget that, just days after making this claim, some of these same officials said they had already concluded that suspensions were in order. Forget, also, that other players in similar situations – some accused of less serious crimes – were removed from the team before their day in court.

According to Johnson’s article, “The university has a lower burden of proof than the courts, only needing to find a student “more likely than not” broke a law or the code of conduct to decide they should be punished.”

The football players have admitted to their guilt. What else does the university need to act?

The problem with this whole fiasco isn’t so much what the punishment should or shouldn’t be for these players. The problem is that NDSU clearly isn’t applying a consistent standard for all students. Some students – notably those who are very good football players – get more patience and leniency. That’s indefensible.

Meanwhile, there finally seems to be some movement on this issue from leaders beyond NDSU:

Chancellor Hamid Shrivani said Wednesday that in the wake of this petition fraud case, the North Dakota University System will look at current student disciplinary processes to ensure consistency across all 11 public colleges and universities.

That might just be a throw-away line, but let’s hope somebody starts demanding some accountability

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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