When was studying in Ateneo, I was told that if i got caught plagarizing someone else’s work, I could be expelled. I took that to heart.
When Manny Pangilinan got caught plagarizing Obama, Oprah, and O’Brien, at the Ateneo college graduation, he did the honorable thing–he resigned from the university’s Board of Trustees. In doing so, he took responsibility for an act of intellectual dishonesty, even if in all likelihood that speech was written for him by some staffer. He has not leaked the speechwriters name, has not publicly blamed him, and has taken it all on himself. That’s not just honorable, that’s leadership.
Unfortunately for the Ateneo community, university president Bienvenido Nebres and the Board of Trustees has unintentionally undermined MVP’s attempt to hold himself accountable by rejecting his resignation. He has even taken pains to praise Pangilinan for owning up to the deed. Since when does someone deserve utmost praise for getting caught and owning up to wrongdoing?
When I was studying in Ateneo, I was taught that punishing someone when they do wrong not only serves as a disincentive for bad behavior, but it also reflects the broader values that a society believes in. When you let someone off the hook after they have admitted wrongdoing, you trivialize the wrongdoing and send a message to your community that there are no negative consequences for bad behavior.
In the case of Manny Pangilinan, he is a big supporter of the school, sharing his time, effort, and, yes, resources. Does that give him a pass? For some in the Ateneo community, yes. But is that right? When the president of the university publicly advocates not punishing someone who was perfectly willing to be punished for doing something wrong, it sends the wrong signal to the students–that you can get away with it.