by Max Brantley
From a student newspaper article to a Tweet to a blog item here to the world via news service ran the story about Harding University's decision to allow students to purchase lottery tickets, despite a student handbook rule against gambling on or off campus. The university is affiliated with the Church of Christ.
Today, the school reversed course. The school will enforce the gambling ban after all. I haven't gotten a callback, but I do have on the jump a copy of the statement that college president Dr. David Burks read in chapel today. He says he made a mistake and one that made the college look hypocritical.
As a practical matter, as he acknowledges, it won't be an easy rule to enforce, beyond not selling scratch-offs at the campus bookstore. You can't smell lottery tickets on a student's breath, after all.
I'd guess the college caught some flak.
I'd further guess that the university still will accept tuition payments made possible by lottery-funded scholarships.
Burks' statement is strong.
STATEMENT FROM HARDING PRESIDENT
Statement on the Lottery
President David B. Burks
Presented in Chapel Services Oct. 16, 2009
The newly implemented Arkansas State Lottery has been in the news in recent weeks, and Harding’s position on the Lottery has been the subject of several media reports. The way this issue has unfolded recently is why I am making this statement today.
I want to begin by saying, “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry.” As I know my own heart, I know it was not a mistake of intention, but it was a mistake of judgment. My intention was to express in our policy the reality that it will be very difficult to enforce any prohibition against the lottery. In an attempt to avoid one appearance of hypocrisy, I made a decision that has itself come to be viewed as hypocritical.
Much to my regret, the announcement that we were “not seeking to discipline students” for participation in the lottery was perceived in two ways that I did not intend. Some saw this as an indication that we did not view the lottery to be gambling. Everyone, including every proponent of the lottery, knows that playing the lottery is a form of gambling. Another misconception—and this one has been especially painful for me—is that Harding has “sold out” in exchange for scholarship money. Some have thought that we were actually endorsing the lottery, because Arkansas college students stand to receive scholarship money from the State of Arkansas, which has been generated by the lottery.
So today I need to make things clear about this issue. First, I have always believed that gambling is wrong; it is wrong to try to get something for nothing. I have taught this many times and in many ways through the years. The Bible is clear that every Christian should work for his or her living. Work, not luck, is the appropriate basis for one’s wealth. The stewardship of the blessings God provides us ought to be a core value for each Christian. I believe that honest, hard work fits into what the Book of Proverbs calls “the way of wisdom” and that gambling fits into what Proverbs regards as the way of “folly.” I also believe that gambling promotes social injustice because the negative consequences of gambling fall disproportionately on the poor and the desperate—the people who can least afford to lose their money.
So you can see that my decision with respect to the enforcement protocol relative to the lottery has sent the wrong message. Therefore, after a lot of prayer and discussion with key leaders on campus, I am today announcing that we are returning to the simple, straightforward policy on gambling that is stated on page 10 of the Student Handbook: “Gambling or wagering on or off campus” is “prohibited.” This includes playing the lottery.
The university’s response to students found to be participating in the lottery is the same as it has been in the past: that is, a sequential progression of sanctions beginning with a written and/or verbal reprimand.
It is important to me that all people, both here and away from campus, know that Harding University stands firmly against gambling. Our goal is to graduate students of deep faith who have the skills and values to work hard, to make a good living, to be solid citizens, to strengthen their communities, and to be very generous with the blessings that God places in their hands.
I know that some people will not agree with this decision. However, I feel this is the right decision based on what Harding stands for.