Why DeTellis’ China Incident Matters

lani_prunesSeveral weeks ago, Michael DeTellis was sent home from his China cross cultural for violating a contract he signed before departing. His contract stated that because of previous misuse of alcohol on campus, any use in China would lead to his dismissal at his own expense.

That is exactly what happened. I reported on it, with a large percentage of my information coming from DeTellis as he was the only involved party who was fully allowed to answer questions on the subject. Some of the students in China have e-mailed in, labeling my article “bad journalism” on account of my lack of sources. As they have yet to actually respond, I will save that part of my response until then.

Many on this campus have found fault with the Community Lifestyle Commitment, a document we all sign before beginning our time here. This document clarifies what students and faculty can and cannot do and, specifically to my point, this includes the use of alcohol. Many find fault with the document, saying it tries too hard to be a parent figure rather than letting young adults decide for themselves what is moral and responsible. Some say it is not taking into account those students over 21 that may legally drink.

I am here to tell you, those are ignorant positions to argue. You cannot use the responsibility argument when here we have a case where a student was given the chance to be responsible and did not take it. DeTellis has stated his apology, and like any of us do, he made a mistake. However, what he did was not just a mistake; what he did was wrong. He took the forgiveness EMU wrote out to him and threw it to the wind the moment he stepped off that plane. We all know what can happen when slack rules are given to immature people; it is why we cannot have nice things. To save students from those who need rules for a more structured existence, the CLC is there, a commitment to be better than the easy path towards immaturity.

While I agree that the CLC can overstep itself on the quest to keep its students safe, it also ensures us an environment that anyone who has ever gone to a more uninhibited university is thankful for. No offense to JMU, but that place is a mess. There are many reasons why we might have chosen EMU, but one was the fact that we can live in a community that knows us and keeps us both safe and accountable.

“I signed the damn thing,” DeTellis said of his contract. Likewise, we signed those CLC’s and if we do not like the rules, that is fine; it means dialogue, or those not mature enough to respect it will leave. But it also means we are so much safer for that accountability everyone is umbrellaed under.

DeTellis’ case is an example of EMU using the CLC as a way of trying to both keep its students accountable while extending grace, the definition of which is forgiveness, even when it really is not deserved.

I fully expect DeTellis to be allowed to return in the Fall. Not really because he has shown he was terribly repentant or responsible, but because that is what grace is, and that what the CLC is supposed to provide: accountability coupled with responsible forgiveness on the university’s part. Sure, that last part does not always happen, but grace is a deep and heavenly concept, and EMU is run by humans. Go figure.

-Lani Prunés, Managing Editor


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