Letter to the Editor: Allow students to learn from mistakes

Dear Editor,

To the Office of Community Standards, I write to you with a heavy heart, as I have just recently learned of a teammate, a friend and a brother of mine that has just had a very positive opportunity taken away from him if the motion for expulsion from the University of Connecticut stands as is.  My name is Kyle Powell, a 5th year senior from Berlin, Connecticut. I am one of the captains for UConn’s men’s rugby program, and this is a title that I’m extremely proud of, because this means that I am responsible for giving the men on our team my best, day in and day out.  As I have watched this situation unfold before me from my teammate’s perspective, I am not proud of the actions of the school that I represent, and I must give my best for one of my teammates off of the playing field.

I would be remiss not to write you on behalf of Student X, a senior in the business school at UConn, who is involved in an on-going process to appeal over a function held at his off-campus residence.  The incident occurred on the night of October 29th 2016, the weekend of Halloween, which is known as a weekend where students like to celebrate the holiday by dressing up and going out with their friends, as is known by students and faculty alike.  Student X was against having people at his house, because he knew of the consequences and did not want the responsibility if something were to go wrong.  The events ended up unfolding regardless, so Student X remained at his home to protect his own belongings, and to ensure that everyone remained safe and his roommates still had the situation under control.  Things did begin to get out of hand, and the police were notified because there were groups of students who had gotten wind of the function (and were not invited, mind you, but decided to venture anyway) and decided to walk to the house in the dark, which did not create a safe environment for drivers or students.  This was very sensible, and the residents of the house apologized because they understood the dangers of the situation, and the Sargent on the UConn police force even destroyed the tickets for the fine for their house.  They apologized to their neighbors, who forgave them, and all parties involved were just happy that absolutely no one was hurt or had an issue that evening.

However, Student X has still been antagonized due to a prior issue with the university, that occurred multiple years ago and had already been resolved at the time that this second completely unrelated incident occurred.  Student X was placed on probation with the university due to an incident that occurred while he was still living within the UConn residence halls in 2015, almost 2 years prior to me writing you this letter.  According to the university’s rules, Student X completed his probation under the supervision of the university, including multiple community service projects, joining the men’s rugby team (where I got the pleasure of meeting him) and completing multiple internships with businesses in Connecticut, sometimes even with overlapping time constraints.  I may have only known this man for about a year and a half, but I can attest to this man’s core values, his kindness, his good-nature, and his incredible selflessness.  This man has put a smile on my face more times than I can count, and I have never seen him let any of his teammates down either on or off the pitch.  He is hard-working, with a great attitude, and has already overcome more in his young life than a lot of his peers.  Even more than he is a student, a teammate and an employee, he is inherently a very good and kindhearted man; a man that deserves to live up to his full potential despite making a mistake along the way, and a man of this caliber is hard to find in the world that we live in today.

 The university notified Student X at the beginning of his probationary period (I’d again like to mention here that the probationary period was one full year) that he would need to file with the school in order to end his probationary term.  Now, I don’t know about every other student at this university, but I certainly cannot remember the details of documents I read a full year prior to today’s date.  I understand the responsibility falls upon the student in probationary scenarios, but I’ve made as many mistakes as the next person. I’ve made as many mistakes as the person sitting down reading my letter right now.  Not reminding a student that he has a responsibility to take himself off of probation when the student had this information disseminated to him over a year earlier does not seem to lend itself to the university’s expressed values.  This man did everything asked of him by the university to a T, but is still being punished as if he had continued the behavior that landed him in hot water in the first place.  Please, take into consideration Student X’s appeal.  Please take into consideration all of the people that he has affected positively, because his positive attitude and undeniably strong character values are far reaching.  Please take into consideration all of the mistakes that you have made as a person: be that as a parent, as an employee, as a student or as an athlete.  I know for a fact this isn’t the first letter you will receive and it won’t be the last.  We are restless because our friend is in trouble, and we will not rest until we’ve done everything we can to protect him.  Take into account the amount of support this man has garnered, and he hasn’t even had to ask for it.  Why would we do this for a bad man?

I can proudly say that I am not the same man that I was 2 years prior to today.  Student X can proudly say that he is not the man he was 2 years prior to today.  If I have learned anything from being the captain of UConn’s rugby team, it is that making mistakes and learning from them is the way that we learn and grow as people.  I have learned that we need to help one another, not by being punitive and attacking when a mistake is made, but by pushing one another to learn from our mistakes in a productive manner, which makes the whole stronger than its parts.  I know that a rugby team is not a university, but we as a UConn community are stronger together, not when we divide ourselves.   Please allow Student X to learn from his mistake. Please do not weaken my favorite community over this issue.  Please do not put a cap onto the potential of a great man.

Most Sincerely,

Kyle Powell, Class of 2017