A much-needed cultural shift: Zamora’s sentence inadequate

The Bears’ season rocketed into victory with their win against Northwestern on Friday. Excitement sparked among fans at the staggering 55–7 blowout. Yet the excitement was tainted for some with frustration over Ishmael Zamora’s three-game suspension. When the athletic department announced Zamora’s punishment in response to an animal abuse charge, students, alumni and others across the nation criticized the punishment as being too lenient.

We agree that Zamora’s suspension was too lenient, yet this stance is not based on the severity of the punishment in relation to what Zamora did. Zamora was convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, and is required to relinquish rights to the dog, attend intensive therapy, and complete 40 hours of community service per court mandate. We believe that legally is punishment was exacted properly, and that once again it was the athletic department that fell short.

Considering the mess of a summer the university just stumbled through, which ended with dozens of faculty members fired, including Former President and Chancellor Ken Starr and Head Football Coach Art Briles, one would imagine a more severe response to violence would be in order. That’s what makes Zamora’s three-game suspension difficult to comprehend — especially when considering the games he is suspended for are not even part of the main season’s conference, and he is still practicing with the team in the meantime.

Baylor was thrown under national scrutiny for their inaction against sexual violence, particularly regarding those cases involving their athletes. It is currently being sued by several survivors of those assaults, and it just underwent an 8-month-long investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, LLP, which concluded that Baylor did, indeed, fail to handle sexual assault cases properly. Vigils have been held, letters have been written and students’ frustration lingers. Why, then, do those in authority still seem to not understand that their students don’t want more band-aid-type-fixes? What Baylor needs is a cultural shift – a shift that would address violence and close the gap that allows for certain exceptions for athletes to slip through.

This type of shift would mean the creation of unilaterally applied zero-tolerance policy towards violence. The university is in no place to be making exceptions in regards to violence, and that also goes for the athletic department. Every case of blatant violence that is overlooked plays into the idea that physical injury or abuse to another being is tolerable when compared to other grievances. This is precisely the ideology that Baylor needs to help stifle, especially since they have failed in the past. Before students are subject to review and possible expulsion for underage drinking or having premarital sex, they should be subject to the same punishment for violence.

The implementation of such policy should not pick favorites, either. Just as a faculty member or undergraduate student would face adequate punishment for extreme violence, so should athletes. For example, Baylor rescinded Bill Cosby’s honorary degree awarded to him by the university in 2003 after allegations of multiple sexual assaults arose. This is how it should be for all students. Whether or not they bring more money into the university than others, anyone involved in a case of extreme violence should be dealt with equally. Not to mention they certainly shouldn’t continue practicing for the next big game.