Governor's Racist Yearbook Images

Virginia State Governor Ralph Northam is facing calls for his resignation when images from his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced. After Northam was in the news this week for supporting women’s rights to an abortion, a conservative group posted the images on the website Big League Politics.

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Two people appear in one image: one in blackface and the other wearing a KKK outfit. Northam responded to the controversy with this statement:

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now. This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”

For some, the apology isn’t enough. Several democrats who recently entered the 2020 presidential race have weighed in: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), and Julián Castro (former mayor of San Antonio) all called for Northam’s resignation. He has been in office about 13 months.

UPDATE: Governor Northam now says he did not appear in the photo, and he refuses to resign:

Discussion:

  • What do you think Northam thought when he ran for office? Did he not remember the photo, or did he not think it was a big deal, or was he hoping that people wouldn’t find out? You have to wonder.

  • Should Northam have done or said anything in addition to the apology to garner more support? Would it have made a difference in the public response?

  • How do you interpret Northam changing position?

  • Should Northam resign? Why or why not?

Google CEO Faces Congress

Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded to U.S. lawmakers’ concerns about misinformation, bias, and other issues resulting from Google search algorithms.

Pichai answered questions about how Google search works. For example, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California asked why bias exists is search results: when you type in “idiot,” he said, you get images of President Trump. Here is Pichai’s response:

"We provide search today for — anytime you type in a keyword, we as Google, we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of webpages in our index. We take the keyword and match it against webpages and rank them based on over 200 signals, things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it. And based on that, at any given time, we try to rank and find the best results for that query. Then we evaluate them with external raters to make sure, and they evaluate it to objective guidelines, and that's how we make sure the process is working."

Pichai then assured lawmakers, “We don't manually intervene on any particular search result." He also confirmed their attempts to improve information credibility:

"We are constantly undertaking efforts to deal with misinformation. We have clearly stated policies and we have made lots of progress in many of the areas . . . over the past year — so, for example, in areas like terrorism, child safety, and so on.”

As we saw when Mark Zuckerberg testified to lawmakers earlier this year, some representatives had fairly basic questions and misunderstandings about technology. At one point, a representative asked why certain images appeared on his granddaughter’s iPhone, and Pichai had to clarify, “Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company."

Image source.

Discussion:

  • How well did Pichai address the search result question about President Trump?

  • When Pichai said that Apple made the iPhone, laughter erupted. Should he have handled this question differently?

  • Watch excerpts of Pichai’s testimony. Assess his delivery skills, persuasive strategies, and so on.

Deutsche Bank on the Defense

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With stock at an all-time low and a German government raid last week, Deutsche Bank is trying to reassure customers and shareholders. Finance chief James von Moltke said on CNBC, “To date, we’re not aware of any wrongdoing on our part.” The investigation relates to the Panama Papers, which are documents made public in 2016 that revealed tax havens for individuals from more than 200 countries.

Throughout the CNBC interview, von Moltke tries to put the issue into perspective. He says the investigation involves a small, trust services business that the bank sold earlier this year. However, some of the money laundering accusations involve current managers. Still, von Moltke claims that new precautions are in place today.

Deutsche Bank stock fell further on the news, losing 51% of its value this year.

Discussion:

  • Assess the CFO’s video interview with CNBC. What persuasive communication strategies do you observe?

  • Which are his strongest and weakest arguments?

  • Also assess his delivery skills: tone, rapport, volume, pace, and so on.

Dolce and Gabanna Cancels Show and Apologizes

Italian fashion designer Dolce and Gabanna cancelled a major show scheduled in Shanghai and apologized to the Chinese people for an offensive ad and comments on social media. The ad showed Chinese-French model Estelle Chen, in separate videos, eating pizza and pasta with chopsticks. With stereotypical music in the background, the ads seem to mock the woman and a Chinese pronunciation of the company’s name.

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After criticism on Weibo, the company made the situation far worse. Co-founder Stefano Gabbana posted negative comments, at right, about China and its people on Instagram, and then denied the comments, claiming his account had been hacked.

Later, Dolce and Gabbana leaders tried to recover by posting a statement on the company’s Instagram account: "We are very sorry for any distress caused by these unauthorized posts. We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China." Another post read, "Our dream was to bring to Shanghai a tribute event dedicated to China which tells our history and vision. It was not simply a fashion show, but something that we created especially with love and passion for China and all the people around the world who loves Dolce & Gabbana.”

They also posted an apology video.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of the ad series? Can you see how people would think they are offensive? Why or why not?

  • How well did Dolce and Gabanna eventually recover from the incident? Analyze the apology video.

  • Which leadership character dimensions are illustrated by this situation?

Nissan Chairman Is Arrested

Nissan’s chairman was arrested for financial misconduct, including under-reporting his income in securities fillings. Carlos Ghosn may have been engaging in improprieties for years.

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The news came as a surprise to many. Ghosn is a popular business figure, credited with turning around Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi by forming an alliance and directing cost-cutting and layoffs. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the shock is felt particularly at Renault; a union leader described the reaction as “a feeling of stupefaction and a lot of anger.”

The French government has a 15% state in Renault, so President Emmanuel Macron also weighed in: “As a shareholder, the French state will remain extremely vigilant regarding the stability of the alliance.” At this point, officials are still trying to sort out the news and determine leadership going forward.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa delivered a news statement, translated in English on Bloomberg. The company also issued this matter-of-fact statement.

Nissan image source. Ghosn image source.

Discussion:

  • Why would a successful business executive engage in financial misconduct? What leadership character dimensions are lacking?

  • How does financial impropriety go on for years in a situation like this? Who should be accountable for the misconduct?

  • Assess Saikawa’s news statement. What works well to improve brand image, and what could be improved?

News Conference About Shooting

A former marine shot 12 people in a California bar, and local officials delivered a news conference. Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean spoke first (about 5:00 on the video) to explain officers’ response and what they knew at the time.

We see the sheriff get emotional when answering questions about his deputy, Sergeant Ron Helus, who also died.

The shooting was particularly painful for people at the bar who also survived the Las Vegas shooting about a year ago. One young man, Telemachus Orfanos, survived the earlier incident but not this one.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Assess Sheriff Dean’s statement for content, organization, and delivery. What worked well, and what, if anything, could be improved?

  • Assess how well Sheriff Dean responded to media questions.

Kavanaugh and Ford Demonstrate Vulnerability

During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford both displayed emotions for the media to analyze and compare.

A New York Times article reports, “Kavanaugh's show of both fury and tears was a cry from the flip side of the #MeToo movement.” We saw an angrier Kavanaugh than during his Fox News interview, perhaps a reaction to President Trump’s disappointment in his mild manner.

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A CNN article recalls a 2005 interview when President Trump said, "When I see a man cry I view it as a weakness. I don't like seeing men cry." The article also concludes,

“Judgments on Kavanaugh's emotional performance will likely depend on each viewer's perspective, but he demonstrated the wider latitude that men in politics have today to show their emotions. However, were he a woman, he would likely be dismissed as overwrought, even hysterical, which helps explain why the witness who testified before him, Christine Blasey Ford, was far more composed and restrained.”

The Times article describes Ford’s presentation: “[H]er voice cracking but her composure intact.” In another Times piece, “The ‘Tight Rope’ of Testifying While Female,” the writer confirms, “She teared up in her testimony — her voice cracking — but she did not openly cry or break down.” That article also cites her asking for caffeine and telling a joke: “These are all codes for ‘she is displaying proper expectations of femininity.’”

Gender experts and other reporters also noted the contrast. Referring to Kavanaugh’s tears, Alicia Menendez of PBS said, “If he were a woman, we’d be questioning if she were unhinged.”

Both demonstrated vulnerability and risked emotional exposure. Despite the public backlash, Ford came forward to tell her story. And Kavanaugh responded by displaying emotions often viewed negatively for a man. However, overall, reports of his anger seem to overshadow the tears.

Kavanaugh image. Ford image source.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of the emotional displays during the testimony? How do you think gender differences factored into how each was judged?

  • Have you ever cried at work? Which emotions are seen as appropriate, and which are discouraged? Should we be more open to both anger and sadness in the workplace?

Students Protest Required Presentations

Middle and high school students want to ban in-class presentations because some students experience speech anxiety. These students argue that speeches put undue pressure on teens, particularly those with anxiety disorders. One student said, “Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable.” This is quite a statement.

I agree that students with severe anxiety may be at risk and certainly need additional support. But most people can easily overcome speech anxiety. A couple of years ago, I developed a web-based tool with strategies to use before, during, and after a speech:

URL: speaking.amynewman.com
User: email
Password: Statler65

Employers will not likely tolerate employees who aren’t comfortable presenting in front of others. School is the time to practice and develop these skills.

Discussion:

  • What’s your experience with giving speeches in middle and high school?

  • What have you done in your life to feel more comfortable giving presentations?

  • What’s your view of the students’ position?

Disneyland Employees Speak Out

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Disney employees are on screen in a New York Times op-ed video, "I Work at the Happiest Place on Earth. Why Can’t I Pay My Rent?" A 30-year concierge and a cosmetologist are featured more prominently. One is currently living in her car, and another says, tearfully, that she has spent time in her car. Both say they love their jobs, but along with 75% of Disneyland employees, they can't afford to pay "basic expenses every month." Data comes from a questionnaire and report, "Working for the Mouse."

The argument is for Disney to pay a living wage, and the call is for citizens to vote for an Anaheim proposal that affects Disneyland employees and some local hotel workers. In the video, one claim is that real wages have declined because of inflation—what $15 per hour bought seven years ago isn't the same today.

Business leaders who are fighting the measure say that the increase would hurt jobs. One local Chamber of Commerce member argued, "We estimate 3-4,000 jobs lost over next year or two by companies having to absorb this new increased cost. They're going to reduce hours and reduce jobs."

Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is also featured in the video. He is proposing a bill he calls "Stop BEZOS" to tax Amazon and other large companies for public assistance received by their employees. The idea is for companies with 500 or more employees to pay the government back for support paid to their employees who cannot survive on earned wages.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • How well does the video make the case for higher wages? Which are logical and which are emotional appeals? What evidence is presented?
  • Assess the credibility of the questionnaire and report, "Working for the Mouse." From your assessment, what makes the report both credible and questionable? In what ways does the report reflect business communication standards, and in what ways does it fall short?
  • Research the impact of raising wages on industry, for example, this Cornell report. What's your view of this argument? It's a complicated question because of different industries, locations, labor supply, rates, etc.
  • In what ways do the employees featured in the video demonstrate courage? What risks did they take in appearing on screen?

Twitter Denies Shadow Banning

"Shadow Banning" was a big topic at yesterday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearings with Facebook and Twitter. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey denied the claim that tweets are suppressed based on political ideology. But he did admit that candidates' tweets were affected in search results.

In a blog post, Twitter executives explained the definition of shadow banning and denied the practice. The post also explains how search results are ranked:

  • Tweets from people you’re interested in should be ranked highly
  • Tweets that are popular are likely to be interesting and should be higher ranked
  • Tweets from bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or divide the conversation should be ranked lower

The executives confirm a technical issue that prevented Republican politicians tweets from showing up in searches, but they write, "some Democratic politicians were not properly showing up within search auto-suggestions as result of this issue." Like Dorsey, they don't specify numbers affected on each side.

Cover image source.

Discussion:

  • Assess Dorsey's response to Representative Joe Barton's questions. How well did he respond? How do you assess his delivery skills?
  • How well does Twitter take responsibility in the blog post?
  • How well does the blog post explain the situation and defend the search results?

Louis C.K. and Steve Wynn Are Back

Comedian Louis C.K. showed up unexpectedly at a comedy club in New York and performed his usual act. You may remember that five women accused Louis C.K. of sexual harassment, for which he wrote an apology, admitting to the acts the women described. Since then, he has been out of the spotlight.

Comedy Cellar owner Noam Dworman said the crowd responded positively and gave him a standing ovation as he took the stage. Dworman acknowledged the risk he took in having Louis C.K. perform:

“I understand that some people will be upset with me. I care about my customers very much. Every complaint goes through me like a knife. And I care about doing the right thing. . . .[but] there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong.”

Some business leaders accused during the #MeToo movement are also trying to make a comeback. Steve Wynn, for example, has started an online art gallery featuring paintings by Picasso, Warhol, and others. When asked whether Wynn's history would have a negative effect on his venture as an art dealer, his lawyer, Michael Kosnitzky, said he, "didn’t believe so." Kosnitzky also said that Wynn still denies the charges and believes “people should look at the totality of the man.”

Image source.

Discussion:

  • What do you think factored into Dworman's decision to allow Louis C.K. to perform? Did he do the right thing?
  • Louis C.K. didn't include any material about sexual harassment or his apology. This would have demonstrated his vulnerability. What would have been the benefits and drawbacks?
  • What's your view of Steve Wynn's attempt to reinvest himself as an art dealer?
  • Wynn's name doesn't appear on the website. Do you think that's the right decision? Why or why not?

Ohio Football Coach: Another Case of Deleted Messages

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer will forgo pay and the ability to coach three games because of his failure to appropriately handle a staff member's misconduct. A New York Times article chronicles issues with Zach Smith's behavior, including paying $600 at a strip club during a recruiting event, a domestic violence charge, and an affair with a staff member.

During a press conference, Meyer apologized, saying, "I should have done more, and I am sorry for that," and "I followed my heart and not my head."

The Times article also describes a conversation between Meyer and Smith about deleting text messages. I should count the number of stories on this blog since 2010 illustrating that deleting texts and emails fail to get the desired result. These messages are almost always recoverable, and the act of deletion makes the accused look even more guilty. 

In addition, in this situation, Ohio State officials at first failed to produce messages requested by the school newspaper. Worse, several staff knew about the request, but no one even approached Coach Meyer to retrieve them.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Once again, where are the many places deleted messages may be stored? How else can they be retrieved?
  • What's your view of the strip club visits? Could Meyer reasonably argue that this is just part of the recruiting process? After all, no students were invited—only university and high school coaches. 
  • Assess the press conference. How well did university officials, including Meyer, respond to reporters' questions? Did the team appropriately take accountability?

Maryland Apologizes for Football Player's Death

University of Maryland at College Park has taken responsibility for mistakes during training that caused a football player's death. During a news conference, President Wallace D. Loh said he met with the student's parents to apologize. After the investigation, Loh concluded:

"The University accepts legal and moral responsibility for the mistakes that our training-staff made on that fateful workout day." And to the parents, "You entrusted Jordan to our care, and he is never returning home again."

Such an admission is unusual and welcome in light of cover-ups and shifting blame.

As a result of this incident, the head coach was placed on leave and another coach, Rick Court, has left the university. Court had been accused of "name calling and other intimidation," according to a Chronicle report.

Some are calling for Loh's resignation as well. Trouble started with the athletics director around the same time. Loh has publicly expressed concerns about how these situations might affect his presidency:

“That’s the sad part,” he said. “I think most presidents have to hold on for dear life. Many, many presidents have not been able to bounce back.”

Discussion:

  • In what ways does Loh make himself and the University vulnerable, and how might this work in their favor?
  • Did Loh do the right thing? Should he resign?
  • Assess Loh's news conference. What does he do well, and what could he improve?
  • How well does Loh express compassion during the news conference?

Alaska Airlines Responds to Rogue Employee Takeoff

Without authorization, an employee manned an Alaska Airlines plane, operated by Horizon Air in Seattle, and took off. In audio files from the plane, the employee mentions his experience playing video games and wonders whether the airline will employ him if he lands well. Sadly, he didn't: the plane crashed.

On its website, Alaska Air posted a statement, "Information on Horizon Air Aircraft." Included is a quotation from Alaska Air CEO Brad Tilden including this paragraph:

“We are still gathering facts, but at this point we understand there was only one person aboard, an employee of Horizon Air, who was operating the aircraft. I want to share how incredibly sad all of us at Alaska are about this incident. Our heart is heavy for the family and friends of the person involved."

The Horizon Air CEO also included a statement, and COO Constance von Muehlen created a video.

Alaska Air image source.

Discussion:

  • Why does Alaska Air title the web page, "Information on the Horizon Air Aircraft"?
  • Review the message sequence on Alaska Air's site. How well is the company communicating information about the incident?
  • How well do the three executives communicate the news? What, if anything, should they change? What is the value of von Muehlen's video compared to the written statements?

Women Run "As Themselves"

After years of female politicians running for office in the pantsuit uniform, we're seeing newcomers present themselves more authentically. Women on the campaign trail are wearing skinny jeans and sweaters and talk openly about their children, mental illness, and credit card debt. A New York Times article describes their approach as "vulnerability that campaign consultants have long told women to avoid."

A 29-year-old Democratic candidate for Congress says the race is "so dang personal to me," and "It's personal" is a tagline for her commercials. Other examples are showing tattoos, wearing natural hair styles, and discussing a divorce.

A 2017 study, "Modern Family: How Women Candidates Can Talk About Politics, Parenting, and Their Personal Lives," confirms the approach. Comparing tested images, the study authors conclude, "Images [should] work strike the right balance of authenticity, formality, and the interaction between the candidate and the child." According to the findings, the image on the left side "works" but the image on the right doesn't: "Images that don’t work fail because they look too staged, are too casual, and either center the child too much, or seem like the candidate is ignoring the child."

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Cover image source.

Discussion:

  • How might this approach relate to our current political environment and the MeToo Movement?
  • What are the potential downsides for women using this approach on the campaign trail?
  • How does this story related to women leaders in business?
  • Which business writing principles of report writing does the report follow? Analyze the report organization, content, and writing style.

Communicating Strategy at HBO

A New York Times article gives us a window into how leaders are telling employees about the future of HBO. The article describes a town hall meeting John Stankey, an AT&T executive, held for about 150 employees. When AT&T acquired Time Warner in 2016, HBO was part of the deal, so employees are likely anxious to know the company's plans. The Times article describes the meeting as "a straight-shooting, hourlong talk."

Stankey communicated a clear theme throughout his talk: increasing viewer engagement: 

We need hours a day. It’s not hours a week, and it’s not hours a month. We need hours a day. You are competing with devices that sit in people’s hands that capture their attention every 15 minutes.

Perhaps understandably, the talk may have included some contradictions. Here are two subsequent paragraphs in the Times article:

They pledged to take a hands-off approach to the company’s crown jewel, HBO, which has won endless Emmys while generating billions in profits.

But the town hall meeting suggested that AT&T would not be a passive corporate parent.

Attempting to quell employees' fears about layoffs, Stankey noted the lack of duplication between HBO and AT&T.

Discussion:

  • How do you explain the two statements above? How might HBO employees perceive the talk?
  • Read more in the article. What else strikes you as important from an employee perspective?
  • Overall, how transparent would you describe the executive's approach?
  • What are the advantages and drawbacks of a town hall meeting? What other communication channels would be helpful during an acquisition?

Fewer Meetings at GE and the CEO's Reaction to the Dow

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A Wall Street Journal article describes an interview with GE CEO John Flannery. GE was recently dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average (also called the "DJIA" or "the Dow"), an index of 30 companies on the New York Stock Exchange that, taken together, serve as a indication of the U.S. economy. Asked about the move, Flannery downplayed the impact on GE:

WSJ: How about the more recent news of being removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average? Does it mean GE has changed or is it the Dow that has changed?

Mr. Flannery: Yeah, there’s a lot of debate about that. Listen, you know being a member of the Dow is a big part of the company’s history, and I sent a note out to our teams just as that came out.

It is part of our history. It’s not going to be what defines us today or in the future. We’re going to define ourselves in the future. The teams and how we perform and how we deal with customers, how we invest in the things we do right now. That’s what writes the story for GE. The people inside the company are the people who define GE, not the people outside the company. So I’d say if anything, I certainly took it as a motivation.

During another part of the interview, Flannery discussed the company's goal of reducing meetings: "Little or no meetings wherever possible." The goal is part of a broader strategy for decentralization, moving the "center of gravity" to diverse business units.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • How do you assess Flannery's response to the question about the Dow? It's a delicate situation.
  • What, if any, leadership character dimensions did he demonstrate in responding to the question? 
  • What is the value of decentralization? What is the value of having fewer meetings? Also consider the downsides: what could be lost when fewer meetings are held?

Tonys Recap: Speeches and Politics

As usual, the annual Tony awards was a star-studded night with fancy clothes and big celebrities. But this year, the show got political.

Most significantly—or most viral—was Robert De Niro's "F-bomb" preceding President Trump's name. He received a highly positive reaction from the Hollywood audience, with people cheering and standing. The comment, which De Niro repeated, was censored in the United States, but an Australian feed let it roll, so it's available in full on YouTube.

A highlight of the night was hearing graduating students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, where a shooter recently killed 17 people and left more injured. Students sang "Seasons of Love" from "Rent" and encouraged us to "measure your life in love." A Washington Post article referred to this segment as "the most moving moment" of the night.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • What's your view of De Niro's outburst: inappropriate, inspiring, or something else?
  • How would you respond to the same question about the high school students?
  • One could argue that De Niro is "just being his authentic self." How would you respond to this perspective?

Valedictorian's Speech About Sexual Assault Is Cut Short

Just as a high school valedictorian started talking about sexual assault at the school, her mic was cut off. Lulabel Seitz, in Petaluma, CA, had planned to discuss issues of students, including herself, being silenced after reporting incidents of sexual misconduct. The school administration warned her to avoid the topic in her speech: “For weeks, they have threatened me against ‘speaking against them’ in my speech. Sometimes we know what’s right and have to do it despite the threats.”

When the time came for her speech, Seitz said, “Because the class of 2018 has demonstrated time and time again that we may be a new generation, but we are not too young to speak up, to dream and to create change, which is why even when some people on this campus, those some people..." And then there was silence from the podium as her classmates cheered her on: "Let her speak."

She did continue, on YouTube, where she uploaded her complete speech and the ending to her sentence: “And even learning on a campus in which some people defend perpetrators of sexual assault, and silence their victims, we didn’t let that drag us down.”

This story exemplifies the Streisand Effect, which The Economist describes as demonstrating "how efforts to suppress a juicy piece of online information can backfire and end up making things worse for the would-be censor." The Effect was named when performer Barbra Streisand sued the California Coastal Records Project for including pictures of her Malibu house. The suit was considered frivolous, and photos of the home went viral, giving Streisand far more attention than she would have otherwise received from the Coastal Project. 

In the case of the high school student, the administration silenced her during the ceremony, but her YouTube video, as of this writing, received almost 230,000 views, far more than the number of people who attended graduation. Also, now the school's handling of sexual misconduct situations is on full display.

The school responded with a short statement:

"Administrators and staff in Petaluma City Schools care deeply about the safety and well being of our students. Due to student privacy issues, we cannot and should not respond with specific information. We can say that when issues of sexual assault come to our attention, local law enforcement has initial jurisdiction and determines the course of action."

Discussion:

  • What, if anything, should the school administrators have done differently before Seitz's speech?
  • What is Seitz's responsibility? Should she have avoided discussion of sexual assault, as she was instructed by school officials?
  • What else should school officials say now? How can they repair the district's image and address issues raised?
  • How is this an issue of integrity for the school and for Seitz?

Cornell Student Presents Thesis in Underwear

Upset about a professor's advice to wear professional clothing, a student at Cornell University delivered her practice senior thesis in her underwear. The news is making international headlines, and some of the facts presented aren't quite what transpired.

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In this theater class, "Acting in Public," the faculty member encourages students to consider everything about their presentation, including dress. When a student wore cut-off shorts, she was asked to consider the impression she wanted to make.

Most students in the class did not agree with how the situation was portrayed, and 11 of the 13 other students in the class wrote a long description from their perspective. They write that, although they support the student's fight for equality, "All of us feel that our professor’s words and actions were unfairly represented in the post, with certain quotes taken out of context, and we wish to clarify any misunderstandings that may have occurred." They also explain that the professor "apologized for her choice of words, acknowledging that the notion of 'short shorts' on women carries a lot of cultural and political baggage." But the student wasn't in the classroom to hear this comment.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Read the Cornell Daily Sun article and the other students' perspective. Whose side do you favor and why?
  • How do you view the student's actions: courageous, distasteful, disrespectful, or something else?
  • What's your opinion on "professional attire"? In what situations should people adjust what they wear?
  • Compare this situation to an employment interview. What is similar, and what is different?