What do the following words have in common:
Duke Catholicism Georgetown
Ivy League Lacrosse Gay-Bashing
Strippers High Price Lawyers
Besides being case elements in Collin Finnerty’s trial, (the accused Duke lacrosse player), all of these elements are frighteningly “white,” “fraternity-oriented” and “right-wing.” It should come as no surprise that as shocking as the allegations are, this case is quickly turning in to a study on race and culture. The current allegations surrounding Mr. Finnerty are horrendous and abysmal. What I find so hypnotic about the story is the fact that his world, and the circumstances surrounding it, are terribly familiar at Ivy-League campuses across the country. It begs the question: is this case an anomaly or did one of the “boys” commit a crime that no amount of hush-money could morally and ethically cover up?
Having spent every year of my educational experience in private institutions, all of the words above have distinct symbolism for me. Although not Catholic, I am Caucasian and attend a Methodist church. I was enrolled in private non-secular schools for seventeen years of my life and one of the few sports I ever played was lacrosse. In fact, my high school didn’t even have a football team, but we had award winning boys and girls lacrosse teams. Similar to my own upbringing, Collin Finnerty was raised in privileged surroundings, attending an all-boys Catholic prep school in Long Island, New York, and was an A-student on the boys high school lacrosse team. It should come as no great surprise that when it came time for Mr. Finnerty to go to college that he would choose a program on par with his background.
I never attended Duke or Georgetown, but they were on my “list” before I was accepted to Northwestern University. You could easily compare all three schools, but the kids that went to Northwestern were the exact same kids that went to both Duke and Georgetown. The environments of the schools are nearly exact replicas of each other. All three schools maintain standards of academic excellence, athletic pride (well, basketball pride for two of the schools), religious traditions, and seek “diversity” among its community. What also characterizes these schools are their overabundance of privileged white students. It may not specifically list this demographic in the student-brochure, but it is abundantly clear when you walk on campus. It’s nearly impossible to overlook the cracker-white glow emitting from the quad. If you fail to recognize the Burberry plaid draped on every girl, then the obvious sign of men wearing Polo shirts tucked in designer jeans should give it away. Mr. Finnerty was one of these students. He was apart of a larger conglomerate who were raised in middle to upper class homes, drove around in sport-utility vehicles, and pledged eternal allegiance to either a sports team or Greek organization. I know these boys because they were the ones I grew up with: the dashing class presidents, consummate golfers, and jugglers of blonde girlfriends. On campus they were the ones that filled the Economics department and sponsored tailgates before football games. On Saturday night you could spot them rolling beer kegs in to cars for fraternity parties and by Sunday morning making the “walk of shame” home from the sorority quad. Post graduation they took jobs at equally ambitious and competitive firms like Lehman Brothers and McKinsey or worked in Washington before attending law school. These boys were your “Zack Morris” types who could charm the pants of girls, argue their way to an “A” and still make their mothers proud with a hangover.
With class comes privilege, but with any position comes responsibility and duty. I could count on two hands the number of times I witnessed that “fall from grace” over the course of prep-school and college. I recall students being expelled for drug use and trafficking, only to watch the parents transfer their kids to the private school down the street. How about the cases of “don’t ask, don’t tell” that follow many college frat boys? I could list numerous male friends who would insinuate that certain fraternity rituals were far from the community service standards their houses advocated. Often times, the crimes of those committed could easily be rectified by mom or dad and a friendly call to the dean of students. Should the crime be so offensive that reinstatement to the school was impossible, then parents simply put in calls to other institutions who would be willing to turn a blind eye to a tarnished student record in exchange for the affiliation of funds and a family name.
It should come as no big surprise that rumors have arisen of the expelled Duke lacrosse players seeking transfers to Georgetown. Ironically, Mr. Finnerty’s name has resurfaced in the news in connection to Georgetown, but not because of his academic record. Before he was arrested in the Duke-Rape case, he was accused of assault in the Georgetown area, (and arrested with a Georgetown lacrosse player), for an alleged gay-bashing incident. He had agreed to enter a diversion program as his sentence, but that was contingent upon him keeping a clean criminal record, one that was tarnished upon his arrest last week.
Students at Georgetown want nothing to do with Duke lacrosse players. In an article published by The Hoya, Georgetown’s student newspaper, an editorial from April 25, 2006 shed light on the rumor that Georgetown’s men’s lacrosse coach was recruiting three of the fallen Duke players. The students have no desire to be associated with the scandal or individuals involved in the Duke case, and no PR department would want the uphill battle. What’s hard to ignore is the fact that many of these players posses talent, skill, the intellectual standards of a Georgetown student, and family lineage. I would hate to imagine the potential “monetary pledges” some families might be willing to donate to a school’s annual fund to secure their blue-blooded son a place at an alternate institution.
When faced with adversity, it is easy to turn on one of your own, it happens in Washington all the time. It is obvious that these players would fit in well at Georgetown, but no one wants to be associated with a person or program that comes with such a bitter aftertaste. More so, what’s to say the same thing couldn’t happen at Georgetown? Already one player is directly associated (and arrested) with Mr. Finnerty. The point is these boys are just like the boys at any other blue-blood, Ivy-League schools. The difference is, these boys got caught. No one knows how many times crimes of this nature have been committed and how many times the accused got away thanks to the right connections. Of course it is a disgrace to the school, to the family, and to the student, but it is about time that someone is made an example of. Am I proud of the fact that I went to Northwestern? Of course. Am I proud of the fact that I associate myself with this particular social class? Not always. I’ve seen too many guilty faces run free thanks to privilege and lessons are never learned when a consequence goes unpaid. This may look like a problem among young adults, but the corrupt nature spreads to government and corporate America, Enron is a perfect example. When looking at photographs of Mr. Finnerty, it’s hard to picture a 19-year old committing such egregious crimes, but don’t let the blue blazer fool you, a hate crime or a sex crime is still a crime and deserves a punishment.