VAN SCOY: Bad judgment from Geoffroy

When President Geoffroy approved the “volunteer life skills assistant” position for the ISU football team, a general attitude of skepticism was in the air. Following the controversy over the suggestion that the football team hire a chaplain, this new suggestion was supposed to relieve contesters of their fear that religion was creeping into the logistics of the college.

Previously, I praised the efforts of the president and the athletics council to compromise and find a set of values and restrictions that would put peoples’ minds at ease about allowing the students access to this counsel through the university. That people were consistently aggravated about the issue struck me as a biased stubbornness.

Last week, President Geoffroy made a decision that gives those who were suspicious a good reason to remain concerned. Kevin Lykins, a pastor from Texas, was originally intended to be appointed to the chaplain position before they scrapped that idea. Now, Geoffroy has approved him to serve in the volunteer life skills assistant position.

Not only does that arouse curiosity about the intentions of the athletics council, but it shows a real lack of rational discrimination on the part of Geoffroy. When the new position was approved, the guidelines implied a certain amount of concern regarding the appointment of someone who may promote a religious viewpoint and encouraged the idea that whoever was chosen would be able to help students from a variety of religious backgrounds.

By allowing the man who was supposed to be a chaplain, and has been a pastor, into this position, the carefully discussed regulations for the position seem moot.

We might have skipped this controversy and compromise altogether by voicing a very firm “no” to the entire idea. After all, according to the Ames Tribune, Geoffroy claims appointing Kevin Lykins was the department’s intention from the start.

Wouldn’t this have been nice to know when petitions were signed and opinions were raised about the integrity of the athletics program at a public university?

Although Geoffroy maintains that we should judge the assistant by what he does, and not who the person is, maybe he should consider his own advice. Instead of assuming the man has good judgment because he’s the president of the university, we should consider his actions and decisions as his message to the public.

This is just, frankly, unacceptable. There are plenty of qualified people who are informed and experienced in social work and religious studies that could help to counsel student-athletes and be aware of other resources available in the community. How putting the man primed for being the chaplain immediately into the position without seriously considering other candidates strikes anyone as a good idea is beyond me. It would be impossible not to see the criticism and problems coming a mile away.

Not only that, but there isn’t even a difference in ability inherent between a chaplain and this “assistant.” The man has spent his life serving God for a particular denomination. When it comes to helping students from a different religion, they may just be referred to the local religious leader of their choice. This brings up the argument for the chaplain and the life skills assistant in the first place.

In summary, a chaplain is proposed, then denied, and in response, a new position is made. The originally intended chaplain takes the position, even though the university agreed upon new standards. A Christian pastor and funding from the Fellowship for Christian Athletes, whose Web site states its dedication to help student-athletes receive Jesus Christ into their lives, doesn’t equal the kind of secularly diverse and safe environment many were expecting when Geoffroy set the guidelines.

What seemed like an attempt to satisfy legal precedent and the concern in the community by being strict with the rules is now a completely irrelevant point. Maybe those who continued to push the idea that this was the same position and goal with a different name were right.

If the important decisions about this issue keep heading in this direction – which look like either a lack of effort or lack of commitment – the president and the athletics department are going to have a lot of problems.

Luci Van Scoy is a junior in anthropology from Newton.