If actions reveal values

By: Vince de Paul

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – At a recent basketball game, a Niagara University student was selected at random and given the opportunity to win tuition for a semester if they could sink four consecutive basketball shots.  Through this promotion, the University appears to be signaling:

  • That it places a greater value on athletic prowess than alternatives such as academic merit or community engagement.
  • That random chance is rewarded instead of hard work and a record of effort and accomplishment.

One could argue that this is just good clean fun, and an exciting promotion that draws in the crowd.  It certainly plays to a “Reality TV mindset”—that the angst of a student who recognizes that next semester’s student loans hang in the balance of a shot or four is exciting to watch.

It is worth asking, however, whether some Niagara University students would be offended by this display.  Many probably didn’t see it, and as a result were never eligible to win the tuition waiver, because they were on the night shift of their second job that allows them to pay their tuition, or they were working on their senior thesis that they hope will open a door to a career opportunity, or they were involved in a community service project that they manage to squeeze in between their other commitments.  

Maybe they shouldn’t be asked, because it could lead them to question why they put in the time and effort and energy that they do to the things that the University is supposed to value.

One could argue that that’s not how life works.  It isn’t fair, and deserving people don’t always succeed.  But if that is the response, it is worth considering why a student would choose to attend Niagara University.  Isn’t the purpose of a Vincentian education to promote enlightenment, hard work, service to those in need, and education that creates a more equitable and just future?

Maybe instead we should think of a different promotion:  what if faculty nominated students on the basis of their academics, their perseverance, their demonstration of Vincentian values, and from those nominations five students receive a tuition waiver.  What if the halftime show is bringing those students out to center court to celebrate their accomplishments, to give them a tuition waiver to reward their effort? Wouldn’t this be a wonderful way to acknowledge what Niagara University stands for?

Or, based on the University administration’s endorsement of the Free Tuition Shootout promotion, maybe we already have an answer to that last question.


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