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Willful negligence at NC A&T

by Brian Clarey

editorial

Gerald Witt broke the story in the Greensboro News & Record last week: Jospin “Andre” Milandu, the NC A&T University student who dropped dead during track tryouts, was apparently a victim of willful negligence on the part of trainer Roland Lovelace and the university itself.

The NCAA requires that all student athletes must be tested for a sickle-cell trait before trying out or participating in Division I sports or have a signed waiver. Milandu had neither before he died on Aug. 19 of complications from the very sickle-cell trait he had not been tested for.

Particularly damning is an e-mail from Lovelace to coaches explicitly stating that the sickle-cell test only be administered to students who successfully make the teams after tryouts in an effort to save money.

It’s a terrible, unfortunate and completely avoidable tragedy, but in many ways it is a great story, with facets that include race, government, big-time college sports and the cost of healthcare.

The racial angle is the most obvious and least important.

Particularly damning is an e-mail from Lovelace to coaches explicitly stating that the sickle-cell test only be administered to students who successfully make the teams after tryouts in an effort to save money.

Sickle cell anemia, of course, is a blood disorder affecting African-Americans exclusively, and A&T is a black college. But A&T is not alone in the UNC System, which has seen systemwide budget cuts approximating $620 million over the last four years and more on the horizon as the state grapples with a budget shortfall. Every one of the 17 schools in the system is cutting corners wherever possible.

But restricting a mandatory health test was clearly a choice made by A&T, with disastrous consequences.

The bottom line is that students have a right to a reasonable expectation of safety on campus and while engaged in universitysanctioned events. It is the responsibility of the school to provide this, no matter what the cost. It is the price of doing business, and not paying it can be very bad for business indeed. By saving a few dollars in the short term — a source cited in the N&R piece put the cost of the first round of sickle-cell tests at between $3 and $23 — A&T has exposed itself to a lawsuit that should command a huge settlement, not to mention the damage it has done to its own reputation and that of the UNC System and the NCAA.

More importantly, under the university’s watch, a student died; his death could have — and should have — been prevented. The A&T athletic department now has a life on its hands, something that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

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