The Spin Doctor is In

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The Spin Doctor is In
"It's real, you should say something"

Can't remember the movie, but this quote is apropos given the current controversy around tailgate-gate.

Bill Kirk and Cappy Gagnon have been calling alumni who've complained to address their concerns. Key themes we've heard:
  1. This didn't happen (cite some statistic)
  2. These are Internet rumors
  3. Even though we don't really believe this stuff, we've heard your concerns and will do better
  4. You should feel satisfied now
Uh, hum.

First, an observation. These concerns have been voiced for the last two years on NDNation in various forms, but they never reached a tipping point like they did this year. Once some started sharing their stories the others came out of the wood work with such rapidity and passion that it was clear we became an outlet for unexpressed thought and pain. Those that came forward have not been quietly waiting for their moment to strike, they'd been hiding their stories - probably embarrassed - and most likely felt theirs was an isolated incident. The pattern doesn't fit lying, though I'm sure there was some percentage of piling on and exaggeration. There has to be, especially if one is emotionalized. That said, just reading these, it's impossible for a rational person to conclude that these are all made up stories. What's clear is that many are coming forward reluctantly because they feel change is needed. If 50% of them are true, there's a big problem. A guesstimate after doing this for years, is that 50 is more like 90%. But that's debatable. The next point isn't. I find the Spin doctor take, that these are just crazy internet rumors, to be distasteful and ignorant.

Now a fact. While some are anonymous publicly, we've received many emails with real names and real emails that match to real alumni. The Iraq veteran and purple heart recipient who was grabbed and spun around only to throw up in a vertigo episode? True and verified. Indiana Irish has been contacted from high levels within the university and will now make it back to a game. The alum whose wife was punched in the face by a Michigan man who the police let go? Fat lip, black eyes.. true and verified. The alum who had his pants ripped off? True and verified. These are NOT anonymous and the University has reached out to make amends. We have their emails. They're real people. They're not anonymous, but that doesn't mean they want their names broadcast to the entire world. Notre Dame has contacted them personally. They're real. I'm not sure what world the Cappy, Kirk, Poorman trio live in.

Many others that emailed us aren't public yet. In some cases they're from alumni who have emailed us back and forth now many times. Students and alumni are now seeking affidavits from those who want to go public with their information and setting up a website to capture the stories. They're also offering to help those who are fighting a case. If you want to share your story or need help, email us at This has no connection to, btw. We're just connecting people.

Another fact. There is hard evidence of bannings.

So, in sum. This is real. This is bad.

At the heart of the problem is a lack of cohesion and frankly, inconsistency of policy. Big donors can drink their faces off with the University's blessing. Because they rarely cause problems, they're not an issue. Students are an issue and they're tough to deal with. Really tough.

I wouldn't want Bill Kirk's job, that's for sure.

But bannings, undercover cops, usher quotas, false badges, lack of caring about students who are turned over to police, turning them over to police at all, tell a story of leadership gone off the deep end. These are tactics born of insecurity, not strength. Of an adversarial relationship, not a partnership. If that's the case, as one AD wrote us, you need a new job.

In Caddyshack parlance, Kirk is Bill Murray and the kids and alumni are the Gopher.

Again, I wouldn't want Bill Kirk's job. But, if you're going to do this for a living you can't assume an antagonistic stance with students. If you do, you will fail. Perhaps he's just been in the position too long. Perhaps his direct manager has sent the wrong message. As IAND75 wrote, we seemed to have ill-defined or conflicting priorities:
"If the goal is to make sure that everyone is safe and has a good time, and that trouble makers are controlled you don't have to go undercover. Undercover cop and eye in the sky cameras underscore a goal of catching people doing something that is not obvious. But if a persons behavior is not obvious, they can't be causing trouble to the rest of us. So who cares what they are doing.

In fact, the best tactic is the opposite. Show the colors. Put plenty of uniformed police walking around and visible. The nature of the the people that attend ND games is that they are good law abiding folks. Simply having the presence of police will deter most unwanted behavior.

Then have the police be friendly. Have them stop by your tailgate and chat. Offer them a Coke. (No Pepsi products. This is ND.)

I would appreciate having them around if I knew they were there to help control the occasional dust up. I want to like them. Heck, for most of the rest of the year I depend upon them to keep my daughter safe and secure.

Same with the ushers. There is simply no reason for any adversarial relationship with any of the security forces on campus. Treat us with respect and we'll treat you with respect.
As El Kabong points out, the assumption of guilt is an awful place to start:
Cappy assumes there are rule-breakers out there, so he tasks the Usher Captains to find them and chastises them if people are in sections without bad actors. As a result, the atmosphere becomes overbearing in some sections.

The Usher/policeman who grabbed indiana_irish assumed he was drunk and needed rough handling. Because of that rough handling, II got sick and things went down from there.

Kirk assumes everyone in the Stadium who gets pinched is someone they don't want on campus. So they deal out the campus ban slips like breath mints and alums and fans who love the school get a virtual slap in the face.

If the administration approached all this from a position of brotherhood instead of immediately going adversarial, we wouldn't be having these problems. Cappy should be rewarding the people whose sections don't have troublemakers because that means everyone there is enjoying their ND experience. If the cop who grabbed II had approached him with a gentle hand on the back and "are you OK?" instead of what he did, none of what followed would have happened. If Bill Kirk didn't have such a clean-this-place-up fixation, he wouldn't get his ass ridden here so often.

Things would be better if ND stopped assuming everyone was a potential rule-breaker or somehow out to get them.
Having puritanesque leaders in charge of clearly non-puritan students is a problem. The idea, that Mother knows best is only true to a certain extent. Many of the best partiers in college turn into the best business people, because they understand emotional intelligence. They get people. Corporations around the country are actively screening for these emotional intelligence characteristics because they're the biggest determinant of success. I worked with 15 heads of HR on Wednesday, they laughed at all the dysfunctional PHDs they deal with and suggested they needed to drink more beer when they were school. This is no joke, BTW. Social skills are important if not preeminent and the lack of them is the key reason many great students don't make good leaders. And Notre Dame was known for turning out smart kids who understood others and how work with them and influence others. You can't do that if you're not one of them.

But the current myopic, puritanical stance toward students is hurtful to the ultimate mission of a University. The current policies and tactics are counterproductive and only the dolts can't see this. As ndoldtown wrote,
"It is cool how Christ-like ND's administration is know, lots of people nowadays are turned off by organized religion, claiming it tends to be dominated by abunch of pious, bloodless, authoritarian hypocrites who lack mercy, empathy or self-awareness. I wonder why."
Now, let's kick the shit out of Stanford!

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