Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sociopaths on campus

There is a great streak of violence in every human being.  If it is not channeled and understood, it will break out in war or in madness. 
 ~Sam Peckinpah
A Sociopath (Psychopath, Antisocial Personality Disorder) is defined as, “A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others and inability or unwillingness to conform to what are considered to be the norms of society.” (Long, 2005)  There are 7 characteristics, only three of which, are needed to be defined as a clinical sociopath.  Those include:
1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.
2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure.
3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead.
4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults.
5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.
6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations.
7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another person.
The list of African American athletes on this campus who appear to meet these characteristics seem to be as lengthy as the school’s roster. However, the fault of this façade lies not within this specific student demographic, but in UConn’s athletic administration, staff, coaches, and the general school community.  These types of behaviors are allowed to be exhibited until the point of embarrassment; when the brunt of the fallout rests solely upon the student athlete.  The sociopath associated behaviors are ignored on a daily basis, and even rewarded when displayed in settings beneficial to the school. Social supports are not set up, school related activities that a normal freshman would attend to gain community adhesion are not attended by said athletes, and normal societal expectations that are placed on every other student are abandoned.  All the while, reckless behaviors are suppressed by continual practices, lengthy workouts, and violent characteristics are rewarded through the guise of sportsman-like competition.  Whether it is known or not, this school is breeding sociopaths. 
A Sociopath, also known as Antisocial Personality Disorder, is a documented personality disorder treatable with individual or group psychotherapy or individual cognitive behavioral therapy.   Antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat. Individuals rarely seek treatment on their own and may only initiate therapy when mandated by a court. The efficacy of treatment for antisocial personality disorder is largely unknown.”  (Ballas, 2006)  Rather than setting up a group of people to fail when exposed to traditional cultural situations, this community should practice preventative techniques in this unaddressed mental health arena.
A qualitative research study was conducted in this exact area.  Examining Productive Conceptions of Masculinities: Lessons Learned from Academically Driven African American Male Student-Athletes, examined high achieving, African American, Division I athletic team members in Caucasian schools.  The study revealed that high achieving African American athletes had masculine definitions that differed from traditional associations of masculinity.   These participants associated masculinity with having strong, upstanding, and moral character. Moreover, they equated masculinity with having integrity and the courage ‘to do what is right.’” (Martin & Harris, 2006) The article identified the administrator’s coaches and faculty as the persons responsible for collaborating with each other, to not only win on the field, but to remember that these young men are students first.  The identity and development of these young men need to be discovered with the help of their faculty.  “This effort will only be successful if institutional leaders are willing to learn more about the student athlete experience and recognize the effects of policies and procedures developed for this group.”  (Martin & Harris, 2006)  Expectations of the students behavior needs to be stated upfront and foremost.  Ways of expressing masculinity beyond the traditional “money and power” mode needs to be explored by the coaches, so they can express these ideas to their athletes.  “Furthermore, coaches could collaborate with university offices that are equipped to address issues of male gender identity such as student affairs and counseling services.” (Martin & Harris, 2006)  The article also proposed that, “Identifying African American male leaders, introducing student athletes to African American faculty members, and encouraging student-athletes to live in African American-centered residence halls are all possible ways to socialize African American male student-athletes to campus.” 
With Virginia Tech fresh on the country’s memory, this community needs to take a stand for what behaviors will and will not be allowed on this campus.  Moreover, the fault of said behaviors need not be placed squarely on the dejected and neglected young men fresh from high school.  The fault of these repugnant behaviors needs to be placed on the school and the community.  New ways of serving and protecting this underserved population need to be explored and implemented.  Standing idly by as another arrest happens on this campus is no longer excused by blaming others.  UConn needs to be responsible, and re-examine its policy in dealing with athletes on this campus.  One or two sociopaths on the team are an anomaly.  Continual sociopath characteristics exhibited by more than one athlete, year after year, unfortunately speaks to the administration and direction of UConn athletics as a whole.
Ballas, Paul (2006, November 15). Antisocial personality disorder. Retrieved April 27, 2007, from Medline Plus Web site:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000921.htm
Long, P.W. (2005). Antisocial personality disorder: American definition. Retrieved April 27, 2007, from Internet Mental Health Web site:http://www.mentalhealth.com/dis1/p21-pe04.html
MartinM.E., & Harris, F. (2006). Examining productive conceptions of masculinities: Lessons learned from academically driven african american male student-athletes. The Journal of Men's StudiesVol. 14, No. 3, 359-378.

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