Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How NOT to manage a reputation

Binghamton University, once the crown jewel of the SUNY (State University of New York) system has been suffering several body blows to its reputation of late. Long-time President Lois DeFleur has doubtless had some sleepless nights over troubles with the school's basketball team and its athletic department.
Since entering Division I play, the team has had a string of incidents with players involving drugs, assault and other transgressions, that have tarnished the university's academic standing and called into question oversight by the coach and athletic department.
This case is a good example of what NOT to do in these situations.
When an adjunct professor who had taught at BU for many years was part of cutbacks to faculty after she charged the athletic department with pressure to allow athletes to skate through her class (and she refused) and when another woman accused the athletic department of telling her to provide sexual favors for donors, the evidence started mounting.
What's surprising is that despite the fact that an external investigation has been started, BU still insists on releasing its own, internal report on the sexual harassment charges.
An organization investigating itself is always suspect, whether its investigation is above-board or not. BU should step back and allow outside investigators free reign to interview, examine documents and electronic correspondence and form unfiltered and independent conclusions.
Unless that happens, there will remain a cloud of suspicion and the school will have trouble convincing alums, donors, prospective students, and its many other key publics that it has academics--strong academics--as its top priority.
This scandal could mean the end of the DeFleur era. With all that BU has accomplished in establishing itself as a premier state university with a very competitive admissions process and top-notch faculty and programs, it's a shame that poor crisis management (and a lack of recognition on the part of DeFleur that she should have called in crisis management experts to help her) could sink the BU ship.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

Yesterday, our mom celebrated her 87th birthday.
We did everything we could to make it a special day for her.
It was her first birthday without dad, who passed away in July.
It was also her first wedding anniversary without him. They would have been married 68 years yesterday.
After a sumptuous brunch at the Brewster Inn in Cazenovia, we returned to her home for a yummy chocolate mousse-filled chocolate cake.
This picture shows Mom with her only surviving sister, Lois.

Happy Birthday, Mom.
We love you bunches!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dear Old Dad

Early the morning of July 14, my father passed away.
We had kept vigil for three days and nights as he slowly slipped away.
My father was 89. He had a stroke and slipped into a coma. He never awoke.
We spoke to him, told him how much we loved him, and hope he heard us.
Two nights before he died, I spent the night in his room, sitting in a chair next to his bed, holding his hand. He seemed to squeeze my hand now and then--at least that is what I want to believe.
His big, strong frame seemed so small that night. His cheeks were sunken.
All that was left was a shell of the tall, strong dad who had helped me through my life.
I told him he was the best dad anyone could ever have and I couldn't have had a better one if I'd had a chance to pick one. I told him what a good job he'd done. How hard he'd worked and how he made sure we never lacked for anything, especially love.
The morning he was gone we stood around his bed and I hugged him tight to say goodbye. I felt as if a part of me is gone forever and my life will never be the same.
By any measure, he was a success, but a success in what counted most: showing love, giving selflessly of his time and treasure, being patient and being my biggest fan.
I miss him terribly. And while I know I had him with me far longer than most people have their dads, it still hurts.
It doesn't matter how old your parent is when he or she passes away. It hurts just as much.
Goodbye, Dear Old Dad. That's what he used to say when he'd call me on the phone or leave a message on the answering machine: "This is Dear Old Dad. No need to call back. I just wanted to tell you something."
The "something" I told him was how much I loved him.
I know he heard me. And that now he's at peace.
So long, Dear Old Dad.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California's About-Face

California has announced its decision. Prop 8 will stand. Those 18,000 couples who married just under the buzzer will be able to keep their marriage licenses. The rest? Too bad. You didn't jump at the chance to get married before they shut the door--again.
Most people who marry have the luxury of time. Time to plan a date, a season they favor, a place, a guest list, flowers, photographer, invitations, cake, reception and all the trappings.
Imagine if you had to madly dash someplace to tie the knot. No time for lots of fanfare or formality. No time to gather family and friends. Just hurry up. And, oh, by the way, even if you do all that, sometimes in California it doesn't "stick".
It's a sad day in America today. Sad, not just for gays and lesbians, but sad for those who love liberty, who believe in equal rights for everyone. Who believe we all deserve the protections afforded by the Constitution in the country we love.
Sitting back just doesn't cut it anymore. It's not enough to complain.
It's time to march. To do something. To speak up. To pressure. And to tell anyone and everyone who will listen to pick up a phone, pick up a pen, and pick up the cause.
When one of us is oppressed, we are all oppressed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The last time

There was something about turning the key in that deadbolt lock that really got to me.
Yesterday, my brother and I finished the last of the cleaning out of our parents' home in a small, rural upstate New York town.
We vacuumed, dusted and emptied the last closet of a World War II Army uniform, some old Girl Scout hats and uniforms, and other odds and ends.
It's been a walk through our childhood and growing up, through high school and leaving for college and coming back to get married and work and grow into our own middle age.
We are both weary. It's been years of begging our parents to consider leaving their home for a safer, more comfortable life in an assisted living community where we'll worry less about them and her frequent falls from Parkinson's Disease can likely be prevented a little more often.
Where he can have his pacemaker, installed last fall, more closely monitored and can be free of some of the day-to-day chores of caring for my mother, who is failing by inches and frequently confused.
As we pored through photographs, aging albums and stacks of saved newspaper clippings, our lives seemed to whiz by.
For 61 years they lived in this tiny little house that we often cursed for being too small, too crowded, too confining.
The day they left, we practically carried her out, sobbing, saying she never thought she'd live to see the day when she walked away from the only real home she'd known for her entire adult life.
We thought we'd be relieved to lock the door, sell it, and move on.
And we are.
But, still...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Historic Day

There's work to be done.
That was the message today delivered so eloquently by our new president.
As a former speechwriter, I listened carefully to see how the president would deliver his key messages.
The speech was well written, and especially well delivered.
At a time when hope and fear come in equal measure, it's heartening to know that our new leader understands both humility and courage.
Inclusion and a call to service were the orders of the day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again!

Monday, January 12, marks the beginning of spring semester here at Syracuse.
Appropriately, we have another storm coming tomorrow and we've had more than five feet of snow since winter began in November. We're on pace to set a record for snow this winter!
Those of us on the faculty and staff have had a well-deserved break, but now it's time to start preparing for the return of students and the comfortable rhythm of a new semester.
I always get excited to begin a new semester. New students. New faces. A chance to try out new ideas in my classes. A chance to learn.
We faculty are the ones who are supposed to do the teaching, but every semester I find I learn a lot from my students. Maybe it's something about technology. Maybe it's a dose of humility.
No matter what the lesson, I'm the richer for it. And that's why teaching is one of the best ways to live your life.
My office assistant, Holly, is pictured here. She's been resting up, too, and is anxious to begin the new semester.
Let's get started!