Decision by Conn a slap in NL's face

And so the school year has commenced at Connecticut College without Doug Henton, the New London kid with the acumen to gain admission but not the financial means to pay tuition.

You may remember Henton's story, chronicled here a few months ago. The two-minute drill version:

Henton, a 2012 graduate of New London High, began his college career at Salve Regina, until financial issues forced him to leave. He went to Three Rivers and maintained grades (a 3.5 grade point average), good enough to gain recent acceptance to Conn in the spring.

Henton, living in New London with his sister, learned that his financial aid package from Conn would cover $39,000, making the remaining $22,000 Henton's responsibility. He has no means of income or support, aside from whatever part-time jobs he can manage. The $22,000 was too steep.

Henton, who would have played on the men's basketball team, met with Conn officials to discuss the situation. He offered to live at home, thus not requiring room, board or the meal plan, drastically reducing the cost to educate him. Later, however, he learned the financial aid package would not change.

Henton's story demanded deeper examination from Conn officials, beyond a cursory meeting or two. And Conn's refusal to accommodate new evidence and changing circumstances suggests the level to which it is truly invested in the city bears more rhetorical usefulness than a hint of substance.

I get this much: Kids, even diligent students from hard-working families, don't always get to attend the college of their choice. I understand why some readers bristle at handouts.

But this is different.

This is a kid from New London. The city to which Connecticut College doesn't pay taxes, instead giving a reported $12,500 per year - a pittance, based on its endowment in excess of $200 million. It's like having a $100 dinner and tipping the waiter a quarter.

Connecticut College owes New London. And it should start with the kids. The Jane Bredeson Scholarship, which covers up to half the cost of tuition for New London residents who are full-time students, isn't enough.

How ironic that some Connecticut College athletes participate in a "Camels 4 Whalers" program, offering academic support to New London students. There's an entire web page devoted to Conn students as "active participants in the community." And yet here is a young man from the community who wanted to become an active participant on campus. And was told he couldn't be accommodated.

I've inquired why. The most impassioned defense came from an official who issued the dreaded slippery slope argument, exerting the fallacy that a dangerous, irreversible course would ensue.

"If we do it for this kid, where does it end?" the official said.

Should it?

I believe that every kid from the city who has the grades to gain admission to Connecticut College should be given every chance to succeed. If that means creative thinking, so be it. Know why? Because Conn's sweetheart deal with the city necessitates a quid pro quo somewhere.

Instead, I see a tweet from Conn Tuesday afternoon reading, "this weekend, our newest Camels attended 'New London 101' to get to know @NLCT, their new home."

More window dressing. Connecticut College's true perch in New London is like one of those balloons you see flying about: big, colorful and full of nothing but hot air.

I don't believe Connecticut College treated Henton unfairly. He was treated like every other prospective student. Except that he's not. He's an African American kid from the city whose transcript says he deserves to be there, but whose circumstances won't allow it.

I asked this before and I ask it again: Is there room for any compassion here? Creativity?

Conn's answer: a resounding no.

And one more thing: You think if more legitimate members of the New England Small College Athletic Conference found a basketball player who could help them - Williams, Amherst for instance - they'd let him slide to another program?

Please.

But then, there's a reason Connecticut College is rarely mentioned among the elite athletic programs in NESCAC.

They can't find room for Doug Henton.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

Twitter: @BCgenius

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