Center for Ethics and Leadership

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rabble-Rousing and Abortion II

There he goes again. Patrick Reilly's self-proclaimed Catholic university watchdog, the Cardinal Newman Society, having failed in an attempt to embarrass Reilly's alma mater, Fordham University, last October (see my October 27, 2008 post), now moves up to Division 1 with a foray against the University of Notre Dame.

The president of the United States will give the commencement speech to the Fighting Irish class of 2009 in keeping with Notre Dame's tradition of having the president address a graduating class.

Reilly's complaint is his usual one-note tune, abortion. I will leave to others the problems with his moral calculus as applied politically. I would rather turn to his agenda and to the thinly veiled threats of right-wing politico and Catholic George Weigel.

To repeat what I wrote last October (slightly edited): Reilly has made a career of hunting down colleges that are not truly Catholic according to his lights. His litmus test is quick and sure. Unfortunately, it is as narrow as it is incomplete. A look at the Cardinal Newman Society's website does not readily show any concerns other than abortion. Reilly is a Senior Fellow at the Capital Research Center, a conservative think-tank that targets non-profits. A university, including a Catholic university, is not tasked to forward the blatantly political agendas of these groups, whether hounded by self-proclaimed defenders of the faith like Reilly or zealots like David Horowitz pursuing leftists hiding in the ivory tower. Ralph Reed eventually came clean and left the Christian Coalition to become the political operative he always wanted to be. Patrick Reilly is well advised to do the same. The University of Notre Dame is a model of concern for a just society. Reilly and his allies would do better to support, even in disagreement, this great school.

As for Weigel, the Fox News website quoted him as saying that donors have the strongest leverage in these matters and expressed his wish that they will notice. In others words, he called for a boycott.

Those who find this appearance offensive have a right to complain and even not attend. The bishop of Ft. Wayne/South Bend, Bishop John D'Arcy, will not go, and Notre Dame's conservative and well-published philosophy professor, Ralph McInerny, has expressed displeasure. If he walks out in protest, all the better. It will draw the president's attention to this very thorny issue.

But this simplistic crusade? No.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

America's Leadership Religion

I spent a few minutes at an upscale bookstore today. I am not frequently in bookstores, so when I go I notice trends. I looked in the business section and then in the religion section, and I saw the American myth in each.

The business section was filled with books written by America's wealthiest self-made men and women. Some were giving advice; others were telling their story. Every book jacket showed a face beaming with similar self-determination and confidence.

The religion section told the same tale. Here the books were from successful televangelists, but there was the same beaming self-confidence and the same encouragement to the reader that he or she indeed can do it.

A parenthesis here is that the wives of famous men are also getting their own book deals.

And there it is: America's leaders, including its spiritual leaders, triumphantly extolling a narrative of self-satisfaction available to anyone who makes the effort.

That's some spirituality of leadership. This center has a mission dedicated to a very different idea of genuinely spiritual leadership.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


In a recent conversation I remarked how the last two academic meetings I attended, which dealt with administrative and curricular programing and reform, did not excite me as much as simply teaching theology. "So follow your passion!" I was told. That gets it precisely backward. The object is to make management an object of passion, not a goal dispassionately (dare I say rationally?) reached. Only then does it become leadership because only then does it become transformative, charismatic, and the work of a servant. Whatever one's profession, this is the trick.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Winter Reflection

Since the Reading Eagle saw fit to put me on the front page on Sunday, I thought I would reprint via blog a column I wrote for the Alvernian last year on civility in academe. It is an explication of Bob Dylan's song Jokerman.

Standing on the waters casting your bread
While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing.

It has been an eventful two months. I replaced the engine in my car. That’s how I celebrated New Year’s Eve. Christmas was terrific. I hope yours was, too. January was snow-free. Who could ask for more?

The cheating New England Patriots finally lost to a monster defense (offense wins games; defense wins championships), and as of this writing Roger the Rocket may be in some very hot water.

Now we are in a forty-day period of reflection. The last period of winter’s barren death before the new life of spring, and perhaps time for a thought on how we treat each other.

Well, the rifleman's stalking the sick and the lame,
Preacherman seeks the same,
Who'll get there first is uncertain.

With the Center for Ethics and Leadership, my thoughts turn frequently to the corporate world and now and again to a book I read a few years ago that still troubles me. I have known about childhood bullies, schoolyard bullies, "mean girls," you name it. But
workplace bullying, adult to adult, that was something new. There it was, however, an entire book devoted to a phenomenon researchers have dubbed "mobbing." For the citation-minded: Noa Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz, and Gail Pursell Elliott, Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace (Ames, IA: Civil Society Publishing, 1999).

The phenomenon was first named about 25 years ago by a European industrial psychologist, Heinz Leymann, who defined it as "psychological terror" that used "hostile and unethical communication directed in a systematic way by one or a few individuals mainly towards one individual." It starts with a conflict and escalates. The mobber gathers allies; sometimes management is complicit, sometimes actively mobbing also. The victim, like many abuse victims, gradually diminishes until he or she leaves the corporation or worse, suffers severe physical problems. By this point it is the victim who is labeled as unprofessional, difficult, or if actually impaired, unable to continue in the job.

False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin,
Only a matter of time 'til night comes steppin' in.

Mobbing suggests remedies for workplace bullying and holds out Levi Strauss and Co. as a model proactive approach. The clothing manufacturer stresses teamwork and trust, diversity, recognition, ethical management practices, communication, and empowerment as the foundation of its workplace culture, and the interview with its personnel policy planner published in the book shows that they have been successful.

It was with some disappointment that I read that mobbing is more prevalent in small non-profits, education, and healthcare than in larger corporations, perhaps because of poorer management training. Yet, today, as if to tell me that I ought to believe what I read, I received an e-mail from Jossey–Bass publishers announcing a new book on mobbing in academe: Faculty Incivility: The Rise of the Academic Bully Culture and What to Do About It by Darla J. Twale and Barbara M. De Luca. The new book leans heavily on Mobbing for its theory; I have read only the promotional material and the first chapter, which was made available as a PDF. The book will be as hard on administration as it will be on faculty, and as critical of faculty as of administration.

It's a shadowy world, skies are slippery gray,

Ethically, workplace bullying usurps genuine leadership. Human beings are both creative and industrious. Not only do they take pride in their work, they achieve a sense of dignity in doing a job well. To tear at this sense of dignity for power’s sake is wrong. Academically, both books say that not much research has been done; there is room for a good deal more. Faculty and students in appropriate disciplines, take note.

Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Another Newspaper in Trouble

It may be old news by now, but a once great newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, faced bankruptcy last week. Philadelphia Media Holdings, LLC, parent company to the Inquirer and the Daily News, filed for restructuring under Chapter 11. Many say that print is dead and newsprint even deader than dead. I hope that is not true. Like many of my generation, I still like to sit with a newspaper, even if it is the morning paper and I have not had a chance to look it over until evening. A sour note in the filing was that major investor Brain Tierney of Philadelphia Media Holdings increased his salary from $600,000 to $850,000 last year. Management gave a reason, but it did not sit well with employees.

Alvernia Theater Stretches Again

The weekends of March 12 and 19 mark the Alvernia Theater troupe's spring play. It is another benchmark in this program's continuing development and ranks with the group's successful staging of Romeo and Juliet last year. This year's play is called Tales of Shoogilly. Written by David Blakely, it has won acclaim in reader's theater.

It has never before been staged.

Nathan Thomas and his merry band of Alvernia student actors are to be congratulated, as is set designer Melissa Guyer.

But enough about them -- the play. It covers three periods in the lives of several characters who grow up in Shoogilly, Texas. We go through their teen years, their lives after World War II, and their later years in 1967. The courses their lives take are intriguing enough, but Blakely uses their experiences to ask many questions about belief both religious and secular. A separate issue is religious practice. Characters develop and change; some hold on to the same ideas their entire lives.

As a writer, Blakely moves the plot along quickly and constructs good dialogue. More interesting is his shuffling of the actors. Thus actors in a role in the first act may play another character in either act two or three, or might even play one character in her youth and but not as an adult. The rotation of roles is Blakely's further observation on how we grow and change along with our beliefs.

Nathan Thomas has been very direct about aligning Alvernia theater with the school's mission. Last year he produced The Last Days of Judas Iscariot; the year before a play by an Iraqi woman entitled Nine Parts of Desire. His purpose was to get us to think about the Middle East and our role there.

I hope all Alvernians make it a point to see Tales of Shoogilly. Mr. Blakely will be at the March 12 world premiere of his play.

The Market Falls Through Another Floor

There are several other matters I want to blog about today, but I just checked the Dow. It has fallen below 7,000. I did not think it would penetrate that floor. Does anyone have any insight?