YOU LEARN a lot if you weigh 130 pounds and play center. You learn that getting out of the way hurts as much as getting in the way. You learn a little bit about locomotion and friction, and a lot about impact. And because you learn all this, you learn to play dirty. Real dirty. Real fast.
Outmatched in size and talent, I developed this skill early on. Holding. Talking on the line of scrimmage. Chop blocking. I thought I was the only one who knew the tricks. But in my eighth-grade year, my coach pulled me aside. Quietly, simply, he said: "Rob, I just want you to remember that our character, what makes us men, is what we do when no one else is looking." I learned that I hadn't learned much.
Character. There are few topics more important than character, especially in light of this past weekend's significant decision by the Board of Visitors to maintain the University's current admissions process, despite pressure from conservative factions.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, "Character is destiny." This simple phrase holds a basic truth - our thoughts and our actions directly affect who we are as people and the courses that our lives will take. To live without character and conviction is to be lost in a moral sandstorm, blinded and helpless.
The Board members, meeting behind closed doors, proved themselves to be people of character in their refusal to give in to the pressure put on them by the Center for Individual Rights and other groups. It would have been easy for them to strike down the admissions policy in the relative anonymity of a closed room. It would have been easy for them to back down, to not put up a fight. But they did not.
Transcending whatever personal objections members may have had to the policy, the Board, in a moment of true altruism, acted unanimously for the good of the University as a whole. They did what was right, and for this they deserve much praise.
This praise is accompanied by increased responsibility. Character is not meant merely for big plays or grand occasions, but must be present at every point in the game. Every down, every play. Without continuous maintenance and upkeep, character quickly becomes hollow, existing in appearance only and resting solely on its past achievements.
The Board has, through its actions, set a very high standard for itself. Any subsequent decisions it makes, especially those pertaining to this ubiquitous issue of race in admissions, will be judged against this past weekend's. It will be a hard act to follow.
The responsibility for continued vigilance of character, for constantly seeking to do what is right, however, does not rest solely with the Board. It falls on us, the University community, students and faculty alike.
In the months prior to the Board's meeting, Student Council, the Faculty Senate and President John T. Casteen III, through his open letter to the University community, all declared that diversity and the maintenance of race as a factor in admissions were of great importance to them. This past weekend, they got what they wanted, and now we must prove our convictions and demonstrate that our beliefs run deeper than fancy words and noble ideas.
Those of us who support diversity have the opportunity now to promote diversity through admissions and on Grounds in general. This past weekend was a relatively easy victory and we cannot let ourselves slip into comfortable silence.
We must constantly question ourselves, asking, are we truly taking advantage of the opportunities that diversity provides? Are we making a legitimate effort to learn from those who are different from us? Are we living up to the standards we have set for ourselves? These are the questions we must be ever mindful of; character requires that of us.
(Rob Walker is a first-year College student.)