My View from South Hill
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Naval captains have the authority to marry people. Governors can commute the sentences of prisoners. I recently learned that college presidents may, on occasion, issue a pardon.
In the fall of 1983, Blair Woods was an "unofficial sophomore" on the Ithaca College campus. He was not what one would call a model student. Blair had not wanted to go to college at all, and came to IC the previous year as a freshman only because his mother told him that if he did not attend he would have to pay her back the $150 deposit she had put down. After that first year, Blair decided his original instincts were correct and did not plan to return.
Next fall, though, as his friends went back to college, Blair began to waver. He decided to drive up to Ithaca with his girlfriend from his home in Arkansas, even though the semester had already started and he could not register for classes. Though Blair was no longer a student, his RA from the previous year landed him access to a storage closet in which he set up what can only be called highly unofficial sleeping arrangements.
Blair and his girlfriend had driven to Ithaca in her father's car, and used it to get around town. Nothing wrong with that, except that her father was unaware of the fact. When the pair got into a minor accident in Ithaca, the police investigation turned up the fact that the car had been reported stolen. Later that day, Blair and his girlfriend received a visit from campus public safety and the Ithaca police. They were taken off campus and incarcerated while the young woman's father decided whether or not to press charges against his daughter and her boyfriend. After what seemed like a long delay, he decided not to press charges. At that point, Blair was taken back to campus and told to sign a letter acknowledging that he was no longer welcome on the IC campus.
A quarter century later, Blair is an independent tour manager of pop and rock bands. I met him last weekend at the State Theater in downtown Ithaca, in his function as road manager for Joan Baez, who was in town for a concert. Blair told me his story with a mischievous gleam in his eye that could not have been very different from when he was last on the Ithaca College campus.
Blair asked that his prohibition from campus be lifted. "Mr. Woods," I asked solemnly, "have you learned anything from your banishment?" He replied that he is a rehabilitated man, one who recently helped start an inner-city garden cooperative in his adopted home town of Buffalo (http://www.urbanroots.org). And although he earned a college degree some years later from another university, he would like to think of himself as an Ithaca College alumnus.
And so it was that I discovered -- or maybe invented -- my presidential power to issue a pardon.
Blair, welcome back to the Ithaca College campus! Since access to residence halls is much more controlled today than it was in 1983, I know you will sleep only in approved quarters. And please drive your own car.
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