Why Must Other People Apologize?
I just checked my e-mail and there’s a notice from the university president about bad behavior at a recent basketball game. Apparently, some fans made derogatory remarks about the opposing team, specifically one player. I don’t follow sports, so I have absolutely no idea about the particulars, but what struck me was that it was the university president who made the apology to the other university president.
I find this resolution of events to be unfair, unjust, and unsatisfying.
Sure, the university president represents the whole of the university community and when something goes wrong–even if the wrong is perpetrated by someone else–he takes the blame. I can sort of understand this reasoning if, say, the university president spearheaded some initiative that ended up failing miserably. But some other individuals? No–the individuals who made the derogatory remarks should be the ones disciplined and made to apologize to the player. If the university president is doing all the groveling instead, the individuals who actually did the wrong wouldn’t feel that they have any deterrent from behaving badly again.
Aside: There are the practical matters to consider, of course. It’s quite possible that among all the shouting in the heat of the game, no one except those who said the derogatory remarks knew who said what. Or that if people do know, they are quite reluctant to name names. After all, whistle blowers get unjustly stigmatized even though they are doing the ethically correct thing.