Casey and fellow co-captain Brandyn Curry are the first names to be made public, a dubious title. But here's why I respect this decision:
1. It's damage-minimizing: Were Casey to stay in school and then be forced to withdraw, he would have lost his final year of eligibility. That scenario may have helped cushion the media-blow for Casey somewhat as his guilt would have been released at the same time as other names. But it would mean that the Harvard basketball program would never have had has talents again. And Casey's NBA dreams would have to be pursued elsewhere. Assuming guilt, this is the only way he can finish his Harvard education and continue to pursue his basketball games. When I say "assuming guilt", this does not mean that I am declaring him guilty, but rather that Casey is probably looking at things from a worst-case scenario perspective which, as a student-athlete, is the vantage point he has to take.
By stepping aside now, Casey has given his teammates a chance to adjust. New players have time to step up in practice now, rather than being thrown into the fire at a moment's notice. While he will certainly represent a big loss for the Crimson, at least now Harvard has a chance to plan, and the team can enjoy his talents next year.
Moreover, by the time the investigation is completed, should Casey be found guilty, he's old news whereas the other athletes (no, I do not think the scandal is only athletes) will have forced their teams to pay much steeper prices because they waited until withdrawal was forced upon them.
Somewhere down the road, Casey will be glad he made this decision at this time.
2. I appreciate someone owning up and taking the consequences rather than anonymously whining to The Crimson and threatening a lawsuit. Casey is voluntarily accepting the consequences of his actions. He messed up (assuming he did, which withdrawal seems to suggest), and he's paying for it. Pretty straightforward. He will be maligned, he will be taunted when he comes back, but eventually it will blow over. Sure, when he's discussed, years down the road, it will taint his legacy (though by what degree I don't know). But it doesn't have to define him. He's still young (or at least, I'd like to think so, since I'm only one year older). When this incident is examined in the future, people will say that Casey may have made a mistake--a bad mistake--but he assumed full responsibility and owned up to it.
3. Please don't make Kyle Casey the face of academic dishonesty. Now, I'm not trying to excuse cheating, and I'm not calling the university punishments unfair. But I would caution against the vilifying of Casey specifically. I know there are going to be people who use this incident to call into question the practice of recruiting athletes, who fault Harvard's basketball program for its academic index issues, and who are going to use this occasion to vilify athletes, particularly those in popular sports such as basketball or football. I urge people not to do that.
If Casey is guilty, he did something up to 124 other students also did. I am almost positive not all of them are athletes, and The Crimson reported that not all of them are basketball or football players. I am almost positive that cheating occurs among nonathletes in other classes, though I don't have the evidence to prove it, just things I've heard offhand. When I explained the cheating scandal to people, they commented that cheating was to be expected given the circumstances. That doesn't make it right, but I don't think this scandal is indicative only of Harvard behavior. Rather, I agree with undergraduate dean Jay Harris's statement that “This is not a unique student problem. It’s certainly not a Harvard problem. It’s a national and international problem.”
I think that's pretty well established, in fact (though I do not have exact statistics). As I recall, cheating was plentiful in the revered Harry Potter books (which I read feverishly back in the day) both in academics and in the "Triwizard Tournament". In my various internet searches I came across "The Harvard Writers" (NOT affiliated with Harvard University), a term paper service. I kept perusing the website, looking for redeeming qualities, wondering if I was mischaracterizing it as a cheating database, but it was as it appeared to be: a place where you can pay people to do your school work for you. (And if you're paying someone to write a dissertation, why are you working on a dissertation in the first place?) If cheating can be condoned in popular culture and essay writers can advertise openly on Google, the problem goes a lot deeper than Kyle Casey. It's fine with me if you want to criticize students for cheating. Just remember that a lot of other people (allegedly) did the same thing as Casey; they just aren't athletic enough to get on Sports Center for it.
Full Disclosure: I graduated from Harvard in May with a degree in Government. I was a student in Government 1310 and a four year rower. Pretty much the definition of conflict of interest.