My undergraduate alma mater, where I also served on the
Board of Trustees, recently made the news. Well, actually a member of the Board
made the news for comments that were made at an initiation of a secret society
for Wall Street insiders.
While the comments were not made at the University or
in any way representing the University, the negative press taints the
institution. The trustee has been a very
generous benefactor and his name has become prominent on buildings around the
First, there is clearly a valid argument that the freedom of the press
may have exceeded its bounds by secretly recording a private event after
entering under false pretenses. Even our criminal laws have certain
prohibitions against "searching and seizing" without appropriate notice and
Second, the trustee has said that his comments did not represent his
values or beliefs; however, his virtues (behavior), whether or not as a parody,
spoke louder than his words.
Third, despite the generosity of any alumnus, the
University must be responsible, in part, for those with whom they associate…or
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in this drama is that even after
the wound heals the focus will still be on the scar. For those who serve in
visible roles of responsibility, there may be some rules of thumb: don't put
anything in an email that you don't want read, don't say anything that you
don't want heard, and don't express in anyway things that are not consistent
with what you believe.
The real issue is trust…and if you always tell the truth,
you never have to worry about what you said yesterday.