Graduates of Schenectady County Community College got one last lesson before marching off the stage with their diplomas Thursday.
They learned how to create a bad situation and then how to make it even worse.
And they also got lesson in how to move forward.
The college's president, Dr. Steady Moono, was arrested early on the morning of May 5 in Duanesburg for driving while intoxicated, weaving across the double-yellow line, then slurring his words to police, failing a field sobriety test and registering 0.08 percent on a blood alcohol test, the minimum threshold for a DWI charge.
On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and will pay a fine, lose his driver’s license for three months, and do community service.
That was the bad situation. All one can imagine is if a car full of kids or a family or a spouse driving home from the late shift at work had been coming in the other direction when the doctor crossed the center of the road into the oncoming lane.
Dr. Moono — as an educator, community leader and a role model for a new generation of SCCC students — should have known better than to get behind the wheel, even if it was only after a "couple of glasses of wine."
He could have killed someone. Maybe someone you know.
It was a stupid, irresponsible and dangerous act. He's lucky the cops got him before he got someone else.
The lesson to be learned from the initial incident is obvious.
But there are also lessons to be learned from how this incident was handled in the aftermath.
Dr. Moono's lawyer says he fessed up to college officials the day after his arrest. But no one at the college — including members of the college Board of Trustees — bothered to inform the public about his arrest or the arrest at the same time on a similar DWI charge of the board's chief of staff, Paula Ohlhous.
It looks like they were protecting Dr. Moono, Ms. Ohlhous and the college itself from the embarrassment of the DWI arrests, at least until after the president's inauguration last week, the $200-a-plate inaugural ball last weekend, and Thursday's graduation ceremony.
Despite Moono being a public figure, state police didn't issue a press release to let the public know that he had been arrested that night. The item was listed on the computerized police blotter, but was only available for viewing for about a week.
Only when news leaked out did police provide information about it, and not much more than the basics.
The quiet handling of the arrests by the college and police raise the specter of whether Dr. Moono got a break because of his position in the community.
Whenever a public figure is involved in an incident like this, it's vital to ensuring the public's trust that the information be released in the same manner as if it involved any other individual.
We're still not sure we're getting the whole story — a legitimate suspicion, given how the incident has been handled so far.
Both police and the college need to admit their shortcomings and announce policy changes to remove the appearance that special people get special treatment at the expense of others.
The final lesson for students happened at graduation on Thursday afternoon.
Dr. Moono had the courage and humility to apologize to graduates for his actions and for the distraction his arrest created on their big day. It's the first step in moving on from it in a positive, constructive manner.
Let's hope he's sincere in his desire to avoid a repeat of his behavior and to serve as a role model for redemption.
More importantly, let's hope similar incidents are handled better in the future.
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