“cthulhu” (hopefully not the Cthulhu!) doesn’t fully agree with my assertion that whether or not a university is involved in gambling-related sponsorship deals is unlikely to have much impact on its students’ rates of harmful gambling behavior:

I’m a drug dependence researcher and treatment specialist. I would agree that the initiation of gambling dependence has nothing to do with the University’s indirect associations with gambling behavior; it is very much individual constitutional and behavioral history factors that predict future dependence. However, the issue of the “moral status” of those providing “treatment” tends to become a big issue to those already addicted. People in an addiction cycle very commonly grasp onto the behavior of others, especially those in paternalistic roles, as a way to excuse their continuing dependence or to justifying their inability to maintain abstinence. Yes, it is a lame method of treatment resistance but one which experienced clinicians are very much aware. In fact, an authority institution that admits to its own poor choices may very well play better with the recovery crowd than one that refuses to acknowledge any hypocrisy however minor.

While there are some clients that thrive under the pressure of an apparently “perfect” moral agent, the vast majority prefer the opening of “You’ve made mistakes. So have I. It is different, sure, but to be able to correct things requires acknowledging things that seemed fine really weren’t fine. I had to do this – how about you?”

So I would say that the University should divest itself of gambling promotion while, at the the same time, openly cop to the Institution’s own past complicity when intervening with students. Modeling emotional and intellectual growth is a powerful teaching aid.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.