By: Bill Bosher
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 campus.
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 cause.
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 name buildings.
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.