As usual, I did not contribute during the past two days' discussion regarding the Michael Dixon affair, though I did follow all the thoughts put forth on Rock M and, as always, was impressed by the civility displayed by this group when disagreements arise – as well as the diversity and depth of thought put into most arguments.
If you will allow me, I would like to go back a few years in time – 44 to be exact – and relate an incident from my university days to share my feelings regarding the matter.
I came on campus at the ripe age of 17 on an academic scholarship. It was the first time I had been away from home for more than three weeks, and I was totally on my own with a credit limit at the bookstore, a campus job (in the lounge snack bar below the Hatch-Schurz dining hall), and a desire to experience everything I could as soon as possible.
The second Friday of classes a rumor spread around the campus that the greatest panty raid ever was going to occur at 10 p.m. beginning in the field in front of Hatch Hall (where I lived), sweeping across campus and ending at the columns. It was all quite exciting, and I scored two bras and a pretty sad pair of pantyhose and was able to avoid all the liquid offerings dumped from various windows.
Some upperclass leaders of the 100 or so participants tried to get us to follow them off campus to Stephens College, but when we started uptown and saw the city police waiting for us we turned back. On the way back to Hatch two new friends and myself decided to take a shortcut behind Wolpers Hall (there used to be faculty or staff houses directly behind Wolpers and there was a grassway about 20 feet wide between the girl's dorm and a large chainlink fence around the private homes). The area was off limits to male students, but we were feeling our oats at the time.
It seems a couple of savvy campus police saw us go in behind the dorm on the west end and met us as we came out on the east end. We were taken to the campus police station and my two friends were sent home after producing their student ids. I had to call my roommate to bring mine to the office and, while waiting for him to arrive, I got mouthy with the two guys that nabbed us, defending our "right to gather peaceably" and challenging them as to my having done anything wrong.
A few days later I had the honor of meeting with "Black Jack" Matthews, the MU Dean of Students at the time, and carried my case of innocence to him as well. He let the other two guys off with a warning, and put me on disciplinary probation for the rest of that semester and all of the second semester. In essence, what the dean said to me was that my two friends had been given a second chance because they admitted they had broken campus rules; I would not get that second chance, however, because I was justifying my wrongdoing. "Strike one," the dean said, "was breaking the rules. Strike two was trying to justify the breaking of the rules. Your next trip to this office will be strike three and you will be headed home and we will have a scholarship available for someone else."
That was my first and last panty raid and I avoided most other risky endeavors from then on as well – instead, I volunteered to park cars at the stadium and Brewer Field House and earned free tickets to all the Tiger games during my days at Mizzou, putting all my excess energy into cheering for the Tigers and jeering the Jaybirds.
When I first heard of the most recent accusation against Mike Dixon, I believed the seriousness of the accusation was enough to keep the kid from playing ball this year; and wondered if the university would give him a second chance. When I saw his Twitter defense of not having done anything wrong, I muttered under my breath, "strike two." When the second shoe dropped, it made sense to me that it was strike three even if he had not voluntarily left the school.
I have no problem with the way the university handled my situation in 1968, nor do I have any problem with the way they have handled Mike Dixon's situation this year. The first incident should have been enough for Mike to realize the cost of continuing the same behavior. He got a second chance; but by refusing to accept his behavior as "wrong" he set himself up for a strikeout with his most recent misstep.
I am saddened that I cannot cheer Mike's final "score" as a Tiger; I hope this strikeout helps him learn to look past risky immediate pleasures to the world of possibilities that lie beyond . . . and to keep track of his strike count in this game called life.