Last month Syracuse University decided to pull its “kiss cam” after fan Steve Port wrote to complain that the common staple at sports venues “sends the wrong message at a time when colleges are fighting against sexual assault.” He claims he was just “out to raise an important issue.” That’s all it took, one fan with one agenda item that led to the university banning a fixture at sporting events that no one, including Port, claims ever led to bad manners, much less criminal activity.
Decision makers at Syracuse sparked outrage that we can only partially blame on Port. When they decided to remove the kiss cam, they echoed the song we have heard too many times, “Let’s limit everyone’s enjoyment or comfort because maybe, possibly, someday, someone may get hurt or have hurt feelings.”
We see it in the safety measures at the airport, desperately and continuously attempting to assure people that somehow taking off shoes will stop someone bent on terrorism. We see it in the schools where zero tolerance of sexual assault means zero judgment when decision makers expel a kindergartner for kissing a girl. We saw it this month at the University of Missouri when decision makers decided all freshmen must take diversity training after a few reprobates shouted racial slurs from a moving truck. The university sees this as a costly but sure-fire approach for ending, once and for all, racism and hatred at the university. And we see it in business with more regulations and stupid rules—policies applied to the many but designed to change the behavior of the few, polices that have no relation to or hope of eradicating the bad behavior.
When one person cheats on an expense account, abuses sick days or generally skirts responsibilities, a new policy appears. We willingly punish 100 innocents to neutralize one troublemaker—never considering the loss of freedom to the innocents.
Only when we stop majoring in the minors and responding to every malcontent with an agenda can we hope to improve our culture and our companies. Good people want freedom and will seek situations that allow them to enjoy them. We don’t need to outlaw mistletoe to ensure we won’t have sexual assaults any more than we need to enact endless protocols and rules to keep these good people in line. Hire ethical people and then treat them like adults. Show good judgment and demand it in return. If you do that, you won’t need a three-ring binder for your employee handbook. Just write the two words my mother said every day of my life: “Behave yourself.”