Thursday, April 4, 2013

Give Those Mighty MACs a Hand

Embattled Rutgers Basketball coach Mike Rice is embattled no more. He’s been fired for hitting, shoving and rebuking his players with homosexual slurs. Now certain members of the Rutgers faculty are delivering an ultimatum to university President Robert Barchi, insisting that he resign over his first response to Rice’s behavior.

Barchi leveled a stiff fine ($75,000) on Rice, suspended him, and made him attend anger-management counseling. Losing about 12 percent of his salary and attending behavior-modification classes may seem like a realistic punitive reaction to Rice’s conduct—and it apparently was five months ago when all this took place last fall—but then something was added to the equation.

The media got hold of a video tape showing Rice carrying on at a 2012 practice, and…well, you know what happens next. Call it media overkill, call it airing dirty laundry in public, call it letting the cat out of the bag, call it whistleblowing, call it, “Uh-oh; I thought I took care of all this!”

Whatever tag you put on this issue, one factor becomes increasingly clear: Many, if not most private decisions at this level eventually become public. You would think President Barchi had to realize that, especially since another nearby university president (Penn State’s Graham Spanier) found himself attired in similar dirty laundry just a few short (by news media standards) years ago.

During my last three years as a Philadelphia Police supervisor, one of my prime responsibilities was to train all of our command staff—more than 200 senior officers—in media relations. Every month we would put about a dozen commanders through an intensive two-day course concerning the “Do’s  & Don’t’s”  of dealing with print and electronic media.

And one of the platitudes that I would (try to) hammer home was, “Assume the media is eventually going to find out; so disclose sooner rather than later. Get it out, and get it over-with!” Or, as the IHM nuns taught us back in St. Dominic School, “Whatever you do in private, if you act as though you’re doing it in the presence of Jesus, you can’t go wrong.”

Or something like that.

It’s sort of like ripping a bandage from a wound—Do it quickly and get the discomfort out of the way.

Too many high-powered individuals in high-profile positions never seem to take that dictum seriously. They instead seem to adopt the, “It won’t happen to me” attitude: Richard Nixon…Graham Spanier…Hillary Clinton…Robert Barchi…

Who will be next? And you can be sure; there will be a next time.

Contemporary media is everywhere. With cell phones, iPads, and PCs, every boorish busybody is an instant worldwide reporter. Not as omnipresent as Jesus, of course, but close enough to give us pause when considering how we will be held accountable for our actions.

Those nuns were really ahead of their time, weren’t they!

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