Earlier today, there was a report about some interesting comments made by Ohio State University President Gordon Gee that took aim at Notre Dame, Catholics, and the SEC. In a meeting back in December, Gee remarked those “damn Catholics” can’t be trusted in reference to Notre Dame. Gee also stated in that same meeting about the SEC that ”you tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing,” in regards to conference expansion.
When Twitter got word of this earlier today, many people ranging from national media to college football fans took offense to President Gee’s remarks. That being said, I was not outraged at his comments and I’ll explain why.
First off, as a disclaimer, I am a practicing Catholic living in Columbus as a student here at Ohio State. I understand fully that it was President Gee’s attempt to make a joke (and a bad one at that). I was not offended by those particular comments about Notre Dame and how Catholics can’t be trusted. Were they inappropriate? Yes. But I’m pretty sure all of us have heard or made far worse jokes than the one Gee made. That’s not to excuse him, but just to acknowledge that all of us are human and we all say dumb things from time to time.
I’m also aware that this is not the first time that President Gee has made an inappropriate off-the-cuff remark. Case in point: The “I Hope Jim Tressel Doesn’t Fire Me” episode from “Tattoogate” two years ago. Remember that one? What about the “Polish Army” comments? Yes, he messed up there too. The point I’m trying to make here is that President Gee has had a few inappropriate slip-ups but he’s apologized and acknowledged such. I’ll give him this: he knows what to say to draw attention.
For the record, I’ve also interacted with President Gee multiple times on campus. I feel that he’s a very sincere, genuine person who is very welcoming to students and is a good face for the university, both in terms of fundraising and improving Ohio State’s academic standing. Also, this is who he is. He’s made other comments (although much more appropriate) about a wide range of topics that at least I have found funny.
While his comments were mildly offensive, let’s put things back into perspective here. They were made five months ago according to the AP report and he’s already been reprimanded and gone through that stage of the process. He’s moved on, the people at the meeting have moved on, and I think we should all move on as well.