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Sign your own expulsion papers: U. of South Carolina is developing an enforceable ‘social contract’

Students at Christian colleges may be familiar with “lifestyle expectations” that they must assent to in writing in order to enroll.

The University of South Carolina appears to be working on a nonreligious version of that idea with a “social contract” that would govern the behavior of Gamecocks.

The Daily Gamecock reports the document, under development this summer, will “reinforce the expectations” of students in the wake of some high-profile incidents this spring:

In March, the untimely death of USC student Charlie Terreni reminded campus of the dangers that come with drinking irresponsibly.

Shortly thereafter, a screenshot of a Snapchat depicting a USC student next to a racial slur went viral, igniting a debate on campus over how students’ actions can affect other Gamecocks.

In April, a video file surfaced of a USC student’s food being defiled by her disgruntled roommate, which also ignited the question of character found at USC.

The contract will mirror the school’s Carolinian Creed, a complement to the student conduct code that “explains why we regulate and restrict what we do,” except that it will “serve to signify an agreement” between student and institution, according to the paper. Says Dean of Students Dennis Pruitt:

“So what we hope to be able to do is remind people that there are laws related to drinking alcohol and drug use, hazing and harassment and to try to put those into a teachable moment for new students so they can realize that it’s a privilege to attend a University and they have rights and responsibilities; the responsibilities include being both responsible for themselves but also for others.”

The Daily Gamecock editors are extremely wary of the idea:

Behaviors against disciplinary codes can and have been punished in the past without a contract. But violations of the Creed’s “respect the dignity of all persons” clause are more difficult to address. A contract establishing the Creed as binding would change this. When a picture of a student next to a racist slur went viral on social media the school had few direct options for punishing her. If she had signed a hypothetical contract to the effect of the Creed, she might have been expelled very quickly.

Whether that is a bad thing is controversial. Incidents can reflect badly upon the entire school and can bring deep offense to some people. But punishing offense can get tricky. Protesters at a pride march, for instance, might be simultaneously deeply offensive and offended. Where the boundary is drawn on what is viewed as an unacceptable act, statement or viewpoint is critically important.

Read the news story and editorial.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.