University should think commitments through

Stepping back to evaluate a situation is usually a good approach to solving a problem. Too bad the university does this after – not before – signing on the dotted line.

Chancellor Victor Boschini said in a statement Monday that the university will not launch the Living Learning Communities scheduled to start next fall. A committee will review whether the themed residential communities are compatible with the university mission, and the committee’s recommendations will be forwarded to the board of trustees, Boschini said in the statement.

Although Boschini denied that the university’s decision was influenced by public criticism from media coverage about the LLC for gay students and their supporters, the university’s timing suggests otherwise. LLCs have been in place for a year now, and even further back in concept, but the university raised no qualms about whether these groups conflicted with the university’s academic mission then.

It wouldn’t be the first time the university backs down from a commitment following media-fueled backlash. A year ago, the board of trustees voted to move an event honoring President Barack Obama’s former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright off campus after the media circus surrounding the pastor’s provocative remarks about racism. Brite Divinity School’s decision to award Wright had been made months before the pastor’s comments hit the airwaves, and the university did not publicly raise a finger in protest. It wasn’t until the university received angry calls and e-mails that the board of trustees decided to step in and move the event off campus citing security concerns officials remained mum about.

The university needs to put more thought into its decisions before dipping its pen into the ink bottle. Students who petitioned for their LLCs went through the proper channels to get approval, and all they have to show for their work now is shattered expectations. Even if the university is sincere about its reservations with the LLC program, its timing to express them reflects poorly on its officials. Critics who think LLCs oppose the university’s mission statement should consider what message the university sends its students about ethics and responsibility when it breaks its promises.

Web editor Julieta Chiquillo for the editorial board.