Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Any politico will admit that there's nothing like a sex scandal to roil the ranks of government, and the sexual misconduct allegations levied against Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Cade Bernsen have proven no different.
Even so, this is a time for process-driven diligence, not speculative hysteria. Despite the depravity of the alleged incidents, it is important to defer to a fundamental liberty extended to all defendants: that Bernsen is innocent until proven otherwise.
There are procedures in place to address situations of this nature, and they must be allowed to run their course before anyone rushes to condemn, sermonize or prematurely paint Bernsen with the wide brush of guilt.
To be sure, the incidents of harassment for which Bernsen stands accused are enormously troubling. Given his advanced age and his role as a public official, Bernsen should have known to avoid even the appearance of unseemliness.
Sexual harassment is a grave offense, especially when it comes by way of an official who is charged with representing the entire student body. For even if the allegations are proven false, serious damage will have been done to the institution of student government; Bernsen - and the ASUA presidency - will long be tarnished by the heavy mark of impropriety.
Given the prospect of such dire consequences, it is especially important that those who are involved in the investigation proceedings do not allow themselves to be distracted by the emotional furor. Bernsen deserves a thorough and impartial examination of the facts; anything less would do nothing but add a further taint to this already regrettable affair.
Of course, none of this is to discount the alleged victims and the pain that must inevitably be associated with this episode. It is a tribute both to their courage and to our institutions that they felt they could come forward with these accusations. But Bernsen must be allowed to present his defense, just as the accusers were given full latitude to seek redress.
It is a sad state of affairs when the student government is fractured by an episode like this, but nothing is to be gained by forsaking prudence and rushing to premature judgments.
Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Damion LeeNatali, Mike Morefield, Katie Paulson and Tim Runestad.