Mirriam-Webster Dictionary lists its first definition of the word noble as “possessing outstanding qualities.”  There are other definitions and subtleties allowed when using the word, but the first definition connects to all of the others in some way.

The West Virginia University (WVU) student body president took a slamming in the comments section of an article Friday for his use of the word “noble.”  The brief story in The Charleston Gazette is titled Two WVU student leaders resign over criminal charges.  Two men associated with a fraternity hazing incident resigned; one of the men also was charged recently with drunken driving.

Rather than involve the Student Government Association (SGA) in due process, and rather than use the time, money, and good name of the University in the investigation and legal issues pending in the case, the two men chose to step down from their posts with the SGA, and to take the organization out of their personal problems.  I imagine it won’t be that simple, but that’s the read I have on the intent.

I don’t think “noble” is the word I would have chosen, but on the spot with a reporter I might have said something similar.  A more accurate description of the decision to resign is that it demonstrates exceptional and surprisingly good judgement.  These men had every right to stay on until charges against them were resolved, but it is refreshing to see them do the math on the potentially very negative consequences of their presence with the SGA, and to make a move to not drag the group down with their ship.

It’s sad that this kind of others above self thinking comes too late for these young men to avoid the destructive incidents with which it appears they were involved; but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone so close to this kind of trouble make a proactive effort to step out of the way and deal with their struggle on their own, rather than screaming about their rights and calling their lawyers, demanding that no one has yet “proven” they did anything.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking is starting to represent the possession of outstanding qualities.  I think the student body president has seen a wide range of human behaviors on campus at this point, and that he is well qualified to categorize this particular action.  I say we let him.

Image credit: Oceans Bridge, Artist: Edmund Blair-Leighton

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