The Failure to Establish an Ethical Culture
The culture of an organization sets the tone whether it fosters ethical behavior or something else. In ethics, we say the “tone at the top” establishes the basis for an ethical culture. In the case of former LSU football standout, Derrius Guice, the football program failed miserably to establish an ethical environment. Given the story in USA TODAY on November 16, 2020, the University has now been disgraced and its football program is under a microscope because of information reported in the story.
If you believe in karma, the Guice case is a point in fact. Karma is the Hindu view of causality in which good deeds, words, thoughts, and commands lead to beneficial effects for a person, and bad deeds, words, thoughts, and commands lead to harmful effects. This sums up the Guice case perfectly.
USA TODAY reported on November 16, that LSU ignored allegations that a star running back in its football program, Derrius Guice, allegedly raped a woman after she had passed out drunk at a party. The incident was reported in the spring 2016 semester by a member of the LSU diving team who had told her coach and an athletic department administrator about the alleged rape.
That summer, a female student told two senior athletics administrators that Guice took a partially nude photograph of her without her permission, and then shared it with a team equipment manager and possibly others.
In April 2017, the athletic department received reports of a second rape allegation against Guice by a tennis player.
Title IX requires reporting such matters for investigation, as well as to campus police. Campus administrators must require university officials to take such allegations seriously. However, it appears the complaints were ignored.
According to the USA TODAY story, at each step of the way LSU either doubted the women’s stories, didn’t investigate, or didn’t call the police, allowing Guice to continue his football career. It appears LSU officials failed to get the Title IX office or police involved in these matters even though federal laws and school policies required it.
The Culture at LSU
In another matter, at least seven LSU officials had direct knowledge that wide receiver Drake Davis was physically abusing his girlfriend, a different LSU’s women tennis player, but did act on it for months, while Davis continued to assault and strangle her.
Guice and Davis included, at least nine LSU football players have been reported to police for sexual misconduct and dating violence since coach Ed Orgeron took over the team four years ago, records show. However, the details of these abuses are not well known.
When so many football players are involved in sexual misconduct, you can bet that the University did nothing and sent a signal that these kinds of abuses would be tolerated. These inactions set the tone that LSU does not walk the talk of ethical conduct. So, the following statement released by the University is not worth the paper it is printed on.
In the statement, LSU said it does not tolerate sexual violence of any kind.
“We are unwavering in our commitment to respond promptly to any reports of misconduct, to investigate these reports in a manner that is fair and equitable, to support victims of sexual assault, and to protect the privacy of our students according to the law, the statement said. “putting an end to sexual assault is an institutional priority, and we are constantly working to achieve that goal.”
It is worth noting that after a successful junior season in the LSU football program, Guice entered the 2018 NFL Draft, where he was selected No. 59 by the Washington Football Team (aka, Washington Redskins). His first two season in the NFL were injury plagued as he missed the entire rookie season because of injuries and played in just five games in 2019.
The story doesn’t end there. On August 7, 2020, Guice was arrested on domestic violence charges, including one count of strangulation, which is a felony offense, three counts of assault and battery and one count of destruction of property. Upon notification of his arrest, the football team released Guice.
The NCAA needs to investigate the charges against Guice and LSU’s failure to act on the allegations. The NCAA needs to send a strong message that these kinds of incidents won’t be tolerated. It needs to set an ethical tone at the top that these matters are taken very seriously.
The fact that Guice was arrested for a felony offense on August 7, is a black-eye for the LSU athletic department and the NCAA. If these matters had been taken seriously, perhaps Guice’s recent arrest would not have happened and the victim of his violent behavior would have been saved from the ordeal.
We’ll never know what might have happened if the university acted in an ethical manner rather than swept the sexual assault charges under the rug. In any case, the NCAA must act now and strip LSU from its 2020 football championship, place the University on suspension for at least two years so that it can’t play in any division championship or bowl games, and forfeit a number of scholarships.
I’ll leave you with a quote attributed to Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 17, 2020. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.