Miss.: First in football, last in free speech?

August 8, 2010

August 8, 2010

Consider the cases of Jeremiah Masoli and Isaac Rosenbloom, two college students in Mississippi.

How do they compare?

Masoli, 21, is the former University of Oregon quarterback who was kicked off the team after being caught with marijuana following his suspension for pleading guilty to second-degree burglary charges.

Rosenbloom is a 29-year-old father of two who was kicked out of a college class and almost lost his financial aid for saying a bad word.

A pretty pass

Masoli will now attend the University of Mississippi, where he may become the Rebels’ starting quarterback and help Ole Miss sell a lot of tickets at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium – if he keeps his nose clean.

Rosenbloom, an emergency medical technician, will, it turns out, be able to keep his financial aid and continue at Hinds Community College, where he may never be heard from again – if he keeps his language clean.

What exactly did our two college students do?

Masoli rushed and passed for 5,277 yards and 51 touchdowns in two seasons with Oregon.

Rosenbloom barely passed with a "74" on a speech he gave in his oral communications class.

Also, Masoli admitted taking part in the theft of laptop computers in March.

His coach suspended him for the 2010 season, but allowed him to remain on the team.

Three months later, he was cited for driving with a suspended license and misdemeanor pot possession.

That’s when the coach kicked him off the Ducks.

Now, within a span of a few months, Masoli has gone from being banned from playing football for a year to not playing it at all to possibly starting for Ole Miss by September.

Beyond the Pell

Rosenbloom, for his part, admitted to saying the F-word about the same time Masoli was involved in the computer caper.

He said it after he discovered the "D" on his report.

"This grade is going to f— up my GPA," he observed.

His instructor overheard him. This led to a disciplinary hearing based on the college’s prohibition against public profanity.

Hinds could have fined him $25 to $50 (or suspended him for a third offense).

The college hit him with 12 demerits (three short of suspension) and forced him to withdraw from the class where he said the bad word.

This put him below the number of hours required for his federal Pell Grant, his main source of tuition.

Late in July, Hinds reversed its decision after Rosenbloom’s case was taken up by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which informed the college that its speech policies are "unconstitutional."

Rosenbloom plans to go to nursing school and eventually earn a doctorate.

Masoli plans to get a graduate degree in Parks and Recreation.

Rosenbloom needed FIRE for protection. Masoli has relied on a public relations firm his family hired.

Before Rosenbloom could stay in the class and keep his grant, pressure had to be put on Hinds to reverse its decision.

As for Masoli, there was nothing to reverse. He graduated from Oregon in three years, and has one year of athletic eligibility left.

And the NCAA was able to waive a one-year residency requirement because of this loophole: At Ole Miss, Masoli enrolled in a graduate program (Parks and Recreation) not offered at Oregon.

Let’s be clear: Rosenbloom’s case does not inspire 100 percent sympathy. While the words I use in traffic would get me banned from your better monasteries, I get tired of hearing profanity spewed about in public places.

Also, students enrolled at Hinds should read the fine print under "Things That Can Get You Kicked Out."

Still, Rosenbloom did not F-bomb his instructor directly. He was merely expressing his dismay to a fellow student as they left the class.

As for Masoli, he’s still young, and may deserve another chance. If you have children of your own, maybe you agree.

The problem is that this third, or fourth, chance came a little too easily, especially compared with Rosenbloom’s struggle.

Also, speaking of profanity on campus, I imagine that whenever Hinds, or any college, has a game, its players aren’t exclaiming, "Ye gods and little fishes!" whenever a linebacker pokes them in the eyeball.

It’s the, priorities, the double standard, in this state that tempts you, every once in a while, to say, "What the H-word?"

Because the only F-word that really resonates here is "football".

Contact staff writer Gary Pettus at (601) 961-7037 or e-mail gpettus@clarionledger.com.

Schools: Hinds Community College Cases: Hinds Community College: Student Barred from Class