The University prides itself on projecting an image of integrity. An important component of this image is the example provided by the University’s leaders. But the recent behavior of University Athletic Director Bill Martin compromised this image. On two separate occasions, the athletic director shoved students working for the Department of Public Safety as part of the Michigan Stadium safety staff during football games. Though Martin has since apologized for the incident, his rash behavior reflects poorly on the University and its administration. This incident should serve as a reminder that University leaders are role models for the University community and must be held to the highest standards of behavior.
This week, Martin apologized for shoving students working for DPS at Michigan Stadium on two separate occasions. At the games against Notre Dame and Delaware State, DPS student staffers denied Martin entrance to the Regents Guest Area, requesting he present identification. On both occasions, Martin responded that he was the athletic director and after a stand-still, pushed the students aside. He released a written statement on Monday in which he apologized for the incidents, noting protocols caused his frustration.
Martin’s claim that his actions were the result of confusion over new safety protocols is a dubious defense. As athletic director, Martin should have been aware of the rules. His lack of knowledge exposes a breakdown of communication that reflects poorly on the University — especially since it happened twice. He should have made the effort after the first incident to understand why he had been denied immediate entrance.
But no amount of confusion would excuse Martin’s actions in these cases. He shouldn’t have responded to the safety staffers — who were simply doing their jobs — in the way he did, and it was wholly inappropriate to use physical contact to force them out of his way. Martin’s position as athletic director doesn’t exempt him from interacting with those around him in a respectful manner. Using physical force in such a situation isn’t acceptable for anyone — and Martin, especially.
That’s because the public faces of the University should be held to the highest standard. Martin, President Mary Sue Coleman, coaches and administrators represents the University and must be cognizant of the fact that other people will make judgments about the University based on their actions. Martin’s actions reflected poorly on not just himself, but also on the institution as a whole. And those who speak for and lead the University must never be derelict in their responsibility to live by and demonstrate the positive qualities they want others to emulate.
While it seems as though Martin understands the severity of his offense and has apologized to the workers he pushed, officials should remember never to forget their responsibilities. Shoving students is not acceptable behavior for any member of the University community, let alone a high level official who represents the institution.