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UW-Madison, Quintez Cephus, And Matter Of Character

August 18, 2019


Nearly everyone has weighed into the controversy regarding the future of  Quintez Cephus.  Or more to the point what the decision UW-Madison should make concerning the matter of readmitting the former football player to the campus.   I heard three separate conversations on this matter as James and I ambled about the Dane County Farmers’ Market Saturday morning.  No consensus could be gleaned from those passing viewpoints, but make no mistake about it.  People have this story on their radar.

For those not aware of the story–and I dare say those remain near the single digits–the former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver was expelled from the university last semester after being accused by two women of sexual assault but was acquitted of those charges by a Dane County jury.  He had been charged with second and third degree sexual assault. Cephus now wishes to rejoin the academic world.

The forces are arrayed on each side of the divide concerning this issue.  Women, and advocates who fight sexual crimes, view the decision by UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank as one about safety and making sure the Me Too movement is not silenced.  At the same time the desire to foster better relations with the African-American community on campus, and perhaps head off a legal fight, wish for the football player to be welcomed back into the fold.

I certainly am not a lawyer.  But along with everyone else, I am watching with interest how the university and the lawyers involved make their moves on a very public chess board.  I believe that one additional issue should be considered, even if it does not fit into any legal strategy.  After the lawyers offer the pros and cons of whether this young man should again be a part of this well-respected research university it might be worthy to consider another criteria.

It deals with character. There is no way to temper this point or blunt it when putting it into consideration.

Did Cephus honor the sports program, or the school which he was a student, when he went to a bedroom with two women, asked another man to join the trio, and where a photo was taken and then deleted from a phone?  Do these actions from a football player, and UW-student, rise to the level of accepted behavior when needing to be played out publicly in court proceedings?

We all recall the tight restrictions and demands a high school coach would place on players in how they were to handle themselves when off the field.  It mattered in small towns and communities when a player, who made the local paper for a play in a Friday night game, was able to walk with dignity and self-respect down Main Street Wednesday evening.  Values mattered.  And they still must.

Let us pretend that all other aspects in the Cephus controversy were equal.  If that only then left character as the determining factor any common-sense outcome to the question of his being readmitted to the university would need to come back as negative.

I do not wish to be harsh to anyone wishing to gain higher education.  But there must be standards of behavior employed when one takes on the name of being a UW-Student.  Even more so when wearing a red jersey for the Badger Football team.  Given the out-sized role college football has in our culture the very least we should expect is for the players to exhibit a level of deportment that can be known about in the light of day.

That did not happen with Quintez Cephus.

Character matters.

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