Quite a few bones to chew on today. Try these:
:: It continues to mystify me why people and institutions are so reluctant to admit wrongdoing when caught lying or cheating at the expense of their personal credibility or that of the organizations they represent.
We’ve got two such cases going on now, one local and one national.
The local case, of course, is UMKC and the scandal surrounding the Bloch business school’s falsification of data to get inflated academic rankings for the business school.
UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton’s first response was to take responsibility for problems in three very narrow areas but not for the whole megillah: Oh, no, we didn’t do all that!
As a result, Morton looked foolish in the face of The Kansas City Star’s expose, which first broke seven months ago and was recently confirmed by an accounting firm’s investigation.
Inevitably, though, Morton had to give more ground, and he chose to do it yesterday on KCUR’s “Up to Date” program, with Steve Kraske, who now teaches at UMKC.
“This is very serious to me because this is not what we are about, and I want everyone to know that we are addressing it in a very serious way,” he said.
…Well, I’m glad Morton is finally getting serious about this serious situation, but I think his institution has lost an awful lot of credibility, not only by cheating but also failing to accept full responsibility until well past the point that all the cards were face up on the table.
By extension, the fiasco hurts Kansas City, too. It’s our university, our state-supported, higher-learning institution. As a proud Kansas Citian, I don’t like it when cheaters get one of our institutions unwelcome headlines. And it bothers me even more when the people in charge refuse to stand up and take full responsibility for wrongdoing.
:: The second case, of course, is NBC’s Brian Williams, who today was suspended without pay for six months for creating and perpetuating a false story about being on a helicopter in Iraq that was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.
His first explanation was just as lame as Morton’s. He said he “conflated” the helicopter he was on with one that was really hit. That one was traveling an hour ahead of the helicopter Williams was in.
Before he was outed by troops who were on the helicopter that came under fire, Williams ranked as the 23rd most-trusted person in the country, according to Marketing Arm, a research firm that tracks celebrity perception through online polls of consumers.
On Monday, however, Williams plummeted to No. 835, which puts him on the same level as the main duck on “Duck Dynasty.”
…I’m glad to see that NBC executives acted relatively swiftly and brought the hammer down hard. I’m also not sure that Williams will be back in the anchor chair after his suspension. That’s a long time to be out of the public view. It’s also a long time for Lester Holt, acting anchor — or someone else — to make people forget Williams. That might be what NBC executives had in mind with this long-term suspension — marginalize Williams and see how things unfold, keeping their options open.
:: While I’m in a complaining mood, I want to drop this discussion down a few notches and tell you one of my personal peeves.
In obituaries, mostly, you’ll see this once in a while: “He (she) was a devout Catholic.”
That goofy term was in an obituary today for Michele Theresa Gould, a 54-year-old Leawood woman who died Sunday. Here’s the term in the context of a full sentence of the obit:
“Michele was a was a devout Catholic and was an active parishioner at Nativity Parish School and Church.”
Now, I’m not taking anything at all away from Mrs. Gould or the family member or members who wrote the obituary.
But just what the hell does it mean being a devout Catholic?
Is a devout Catholic a couple of tiers above someone who is just “a Catholic”?
Does being a devout Catholic mean you get a press pass to heaven without a stop in purgatory?
And where does that leave lowly Protestants?
Or somebody like me, who was a Catholic but flew the coop after becoming disillusioned with the “we-are-the-chosen, we’ve-got-all-the-answers” attitude that permeates some of the rank and file and much of the church hierarchy.
So, here’s how I want that part of my obituary to read. (Patty, are you paying attention? Patty? Patty?)
“…Jim was a member of Saint Andrew Christian Church, Olathe, and a devout member of the Disciples of Christ denomination. He didn’t rank up there with devout Catholics but, by God, he gave them a run for their money.”