Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Jack Wilson can take the heat

From a hundred miles away Umass is simply considered part of the town of Amherst, albeit a large busy part. They have their own zip code (01003) but you still write Amherst, Ma on the envelope.

Like most townies, I view UMass as separate from the town. Although many students are registered to vote their involvement in local politics is nil and most don’t even bother to register their cars here, thus denying the town excise tax revenues.

So when something flares up at the University—like the Red Sox riots or graduation protests over Andy Card’s honorary degree--I view it more as a reflection on the University than the town. After all, Amherst has enough PR problems of its own.

Recently students and staff denied President Jack Wilson and Mr. Card their First Amendment right to speech by creating a highly public wall of sound to drown them out at graduating ceremonies (not to mention holding up a banner to intrude on visuals), thus embarrassing the University and spoiling a happy occasion for many who worked hard for their Graduate degrees.

While the honorary degree was probably not Jack Wilson’s idea, the controversial restructuring of the UMass system with him taking a more active role in the management of the Amherst flagship sounds like him.

Since Mr. Wilson has a strong background in entrepreneurship he undoubtedly understands the 80/20 principle: 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your product line. Therefore, try to identify that lucrative niche and invest more of your time and energy there rather than less important things.

UMass is the gem of higher education in Massachusetts. If anyone can identify places to invest more time and money for better returns it’s Jack Wilson. And while Chancellor Lombardi has been good for the University, a more hands on approach from a talent like Jack Wilson will be great for the University and by extension great for the town.

Considering the faculty now voting “no confidence” in Jack Wilson are probably some of very same who denied him the right to speak at last week’s graduation ceremony, I have little confidence in them.


Steven Brewer said...

When Andrew Card came to speak at UMass, he was allowed to say his piece. And when President Wilson came to the microphone, the faculty were silent to let him speak as well. But the conferring of an honorary degree is not the "free speech" of an individual: it is a statement by the University -- and one that the faculty profoundly and almost unanimously opposed. It has been famously said that the faculty ARE the University -- there is no University without them. Many faculty felt a deep obligation to vigorously oppose the honorary degree, through petition, letters, and resolutions by the Massachusetts Society of Professors and the Faculty Senate. To do any less would have been intellectually dishonest.

The organization of the protest at commencement, however, was driven primarily by the students. Most faculty feel that commencement is an event for and about the students and their families. It was the students who did the lion's share of the organizing; who designed the stickers and the flyers, and who strongly expressed to the faculty that we should join them in their actions. The faculty actions at the commencement, therefore, were primarily an expression of solidarity with the students.

I was moved by the students and faculty speaking with one voice. I've never seen anything like it before. It was an unprecedented moment of solidarity. As I've written elsewhere, the only unfortunate fact is that Andrew Card still got his honorary degree.

LarryK4 said...

Splitting semantic hairs are we not? As you even wrote on your blog (as a “lighter note”) wondering if the interpreter for the deaf “could even hear what was being said on the platform”. The conferring of an honorary degree requires speech and anything that requires speech should be protected by the First Amendment.

Since when do Professors cave in to students who “strongly suggest we join them in their actions”? Gee, I’m glad the students didn’t decide to bring back bare ass streaking.

But yeah, in spite of all the nonsense Mr. Card still got his degree. Precisely why I think Jack Wilson’s plan for reorganization will survive all the current nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Andy Card was in the White House Iraq Group that rolled the Iraq war out as if it were a product, say the hula hoop. They didn't care what lies they told the American people in order to gain their support. So they lied and lied. When the lies were reveled, Cheney and Rove tried to tamp it down by outing a covert CIA agent.

I have no trouble with Umass students booing Andy Card and objecting to their and our state university giving him an honorary doctorate.

I do fault the faculty for having the votes to stop it in its tracks and not doing so. The professors are the ones who confer degrees, not he students. The professors lack of leadership was a disappointment.