There will be various ethics matters to consider in coming days regarding the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, but for now I am occupied with a hypothetical ethical dilemma.. Ready to board the Kyle Rittenhouse Ethics Train Wreck?
I heard a member of Rittenhouse’s family speaking about how Kyle could now get on with his life. He’s going to college, or intends to. Hmmmmm….
If you were involved in the admissions process of a relatively competitive college with a national reputation, would you favor admitting Kyle Rittenhouse? Let’s assume that he has good enough grades and test scores to be admitted to your school, but neither such outstanding credentials that he is a lock, nor a dearth of qualifications that would normally justify rejecting him even if he wasn’t a divisive and controversial figure.
Also assume that the school is not Hillsdale or another ostentatiously “conservative” institution, but one that has, like the vast majority of institutions, a left-leaning faculty. Finally, I posit that the young man only wants to attend a school where he can have the same options as any other student. He wants to live on campus, and in a dorm.
I’ll make your test even more specific: It’s come down to a choice among ten young men from the mid-west, all with equivalent demographic characteristics. You have room for three of them.
Do you vote for Kyle to make the cut?
- The reaction of donors and alumni.
- The message, if any, his admission sends.
- Do you rate him as having good character, or questionable character?
- Do you rate him as having good judgment, or otherwise?
- Do you feel any obligation to “give him a break”?
- Are you concerned about the effect of his presence on the educational and social experience of other students?
- Should it matter if his acceptance means that it will be more difficult to recruit prestigious faculty?
- If there is an identical candidate in all other respects except that he did not shoot three people and get branded a white supremacist by the President of the United States, would you choose Kyle, the other lad, or flip a coin?
11 thoughts on “On Fairness To Kyle Rittenhouse”
He can go to a local community college to begin getting his nursing degree. Or he had get certified as an EMT. In schools like that, none of this will matter.
But you didn’t answer the question!
Here’s an answer from the real world!
He’s evidently an online student at Arizona State University, OB Jr. alma mater, right down the road.
This kid’s going to have to change his name and live in Alaska somewhere for awhile. He will be hounded out of any school or job he tries to tackle for a long time.
I would give him a chance. He was acquitted.
If diversity is the goal then accepting Kyle makes sense as he has experiences that few if any of the other candidates have. Isn’t that the goal of inclusion and diversity? He has a lived experience that few others would want.
The jury found he acted acted in self defense. They are the arbiters of the facts, therefore the comments of the President as a candidate and then made later by Biden’s writers after the verdict was decided are what creates the divisiveness not Kyle. Kyle made a bad decision to go into the area but that does not make Kyle a white nationalist, school shooting predator with a ” military grade weapon” he brought across state lines to kill citizen protesters and a divisive person.
With that said, no I would not accept a divisive person like Biden into my freshman class. But, that was not the question.
I’ll state my priors. I watched the George Floyd arrest video with horror, I watched the protests spread that summer through Minnesota and onto other cites including my adopted hometown of Seattle. I consider myself a classic liberal, I distrust state power inherently yet recognize that our countries first foray into statehood failed due to lack of state power. I believe strongly that systemic racism has lasting negative impacts on people of color, specifically Black Americans, and yet I do not have any good answers on how to reduce those harms in a meaningful and serious way. In summary, I believe the justice system in particular treats poor people, and poor Black people specifically, very poorly.
The reaction of donors and alumni. – This is hard, especially for private schools beholden to donors. Tough call. If it were my choice alone I’d admit without hesitation, but then I would not be elected to lead most universities.
The message, if any, his admission sends. – Also hard, for a liberal state schools they would face a student backlash, and administrators have proven to be spineless. It would be easier to admit Kyle if they were accustomed to showing independent thought/leadership, but this as the first example of a spin is a non-starter. It’s a shame.
Do you rate him as having good character, or questionable character? – After watching the 80 seconds from the time of the first shoot to the time of the last shoot, I am impressed with the character of this young man. Every critical decision he made in that time span was correct, he only shot people who posed a serious threat to himself and, critically, did not shoot multiple people who were armed and dangerous but were not an imminent threat. Further, he did not respond incorrectly to the multiple gunshots going off during critical and heightened periods of the night. I am, literally, impressed with his decision making. Honestly, there are people captured in the video that night that Kyle Rittenhouse did not shoot whom I would not fault him had he shoot.
Do you rate him as having good judgment, or otherwise? Yes and no. See above for the yes argument, but as I explained to my teenage son, even when you are right, and have ‘rights’, it’s not always wise to use those rights. He showed poor judgment in being there, but ultimately I would give him a pass on this for admissions purposes given his age and the decision making he did show under pressure. I give young people a break for naivete.
Do you feel any obligation to “give him a break”? See above.
Are you concerned about the effect of his presence on the educational and social experience of other students? No.
Should it matter if his acceptance means that it will be more difficult to recruit prestigious faculty? Faculty have no power in the current market.
If there is an identical candidate in all other respects except that he did not shoot three people and get branded a white supremacist by the President of the United States, would you choose Kyle, the other lad, or flip a coin? I will not hide my bias, I was seriously impressed with Kyle’s decision making during the critical moments of that night. All else being equal, I’ll take him because of this, but I’m not the type of person who would become a university president.
I’ll keep it simple
If Bill Ayers can set off bombs and be embraced as a professor by a Presidential candidate, then Kyle Rittenhouse can go to any University or College he wants to. Second chances, even for the most outrageous actions are ethical responses, even if there are large numbers of people who do not want to grant those second chances. He was found not guilty. In our society that is (or at least should be) all that needs to be said.
” I do not entertain hypotheticals. The world as it is is vexing enough.”
– Col. Stonehill in “True Grit”
Great quote. I wish Strother Martin, as the better Col. Stonehill in the original “True Grit” film had gotten a shot at that line.
See the report above regarding his current enrollment. Thank you, Jim.
If I’m running the college as a business, I wouldn’t touch Rittenhouse with a ten yard pole. He deserves to be treated as any other candidate, he deserves to be treated as any other person, but he won’t be. Any place that accepts him will be hounded until they expel him, or the institution that accepts him stands up long enough that the hounds lose interest.
If I was running the college with other considerations in mind, I might find a way to justify picking Rittenhouse as one of those accepted. Regardless anyone’s feelings of the young man, he was acquitted. Figuring that most universities would throw him out as soon as they see his name, I might be inclined to give him a chance. Throw in a warning to him to not go near any potential unrest, and prepare to face hordes demanding not only his expulsion but my sacking for accepting him.
The bad publicity would probably be terrible for the college, and several wealthy donors might pull out. Accepting Rittenhouse could lose the college more money than they can handle. Potentially, many students would be deprived an education. Rittenhouse deserves the same chance any other American deserves, but at the end of the day, I don’t think I’d admit him if I wasn’t certain the college could handle the financial hit and negative publicity.