Reaction To Bernie Fine From Inside SyracusePosted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2011
Danny Connors is an RTC correspondent and current Syracuse student. He can be found on Twitter @drexel42.
“You hear the Bernie Fine news? [various expletives]”
That’s how I first learned about the Fine scandal – through a text I received while on my bus ride home for Thanksgiving break. Over the course of the ride, other passengers on the bus (predominantly full of Syracuse students) were made aware of the accusations, but no one thought much of it. It was too fishy. Right after the Penn State fiasco, it had to be a money grab. I had just met Fine that week and my father knew him from the coaching business. The allegations had to be false. I couldn’t imagine another university-related sex scandal being broken just days after the Penn State saga. It was probably just a fluke and would blow over within a couple days.
Little did I know. . .
Since that long bus ride, much more has unfolded. First, there was the aggressive support that Jim Boeheim gave Fine, his longtime friend and assistant. About a week later, there was an audiotape of a phone call between Laurie Fine and Bobby Davis (the first victim) with a third victim, Zach Tomaselli, coming out soon after that. By that evening, Syracuse had fired Bernie Fine. With the new information coming out in the case, the media called for Boeheim’s head not necessarily for a lack of supervision, but more for how he had criticized the alleged victims at the time the news first broke. The most recent significant event in this case was Boeheim’s “emotional” apology (the national press deemed it that, but I was in the room and don’t think it was necessarily so) that seemed to swing public opinion back in his favor. In between that two to three week period, the student body received many e-mails from Chancellor Nancy Cantor ensuring us that Syracuse would still be a safe community. It has been utter chaos.
Once we returned to campus after break, we were welcomed by a media blitz. There were television trucks on Marshall Street and reporters roaming University Avenue looking for interviews, but there was oddly no buzz on campus. If you didn’t know there was an ongoing investigation, you would have no idea if you only saw the fortitude exhibited on campus. “I don’t think the reaction to the scandal has been what the national media was looking for,” Ben Glidden, a sophomore from Maine, said. “There weren’t any riots. There were no students crying in the streets. There were just students who understood the magnitude of the situation and were happy with how the university handled it.”
After the Penn State debacle, no students wanted to make this issue bigger than it already was. The overall reaction has been, well, no reaction at all. Raja Ram, a sophomore from New York, said, “people aren’t even riled up or worried about it. It’s the last thing on people’s minds.” This brings up an interesting point. The timing was fortuitous for the university. The news of the scandal was released while we were home on break, and now that we’re back on campus, students are more preoccupied with finals, partying, and the end of the semester, although not necessarily in that order.
Although there were no riots or spectacles on campus, there are still some students who have been frustrated by the investigation and its impact on them personally. Belen Crisp, a freshman from California, is one of them. “The whole scandal has brought a lot of embarrassment to our campus,” she said. Crisp added that when she went home for break, she was pestered about the news. In one word, she said the scandal is simply “disappointing.” The 24-hour news cycle and its focus on the case has taken its toll on other students as well. “I just hate to see the negatives over and over again in the news,” Chris Wilner, a sophomore from Indiana, said.
It is easy to get discouraged by the seemingly never-ending media circus, but the university and the students have handled it well. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why so few students have been rattled by the investigation. It seems to be a mix of some not being too invested in the case, (not many students knew who Fine was before the news broke, while everybody in State College, Pennsylvania, knew Joe Paterno), and others not wanting to come off the negative way that the Penn State students did. As an aside, Syracuse has a particularly strong social media presence. Once the investigation hit the newsstands, students could be found discussing and debating on Twitter, but not rioting or flipping cars.
As a matter of fact, the investigation has actually brought the campus together, according to Wilner, who said, “it’s helped us grow even closer as a university community.” Through the taped phone calls, media blitz, and released statements, it is of utmost importance to realize that this scandal doesn’t reflect on our student body or campus. “You can’t let one man define a university,” Glidden said.