Thursday, December 12, 2002

'Tis the season for more reason

Dear Professor Tripp, President Saigo, Chancellor McCormick, and all those interested in the future of St. Cloud State University:

I write as an individual member of the faculty who supports fully Professor Tripp�s stated goal of making �our campus a more coherent community and less of a racial battlefield.� In fact, you may be surprised to read that I concur with more than a few of the recommendations advanced in his posting of December 11.

However, the authors of that document also claim that �the fact that some wish to publicly discredit a bona fide research and consulting firm (Nichols & Associates) comprised of associates of color is itself indicative of prevalent local attitudes which have given this campus �bad press� at a national level.� With that statement I must beg to differ.

Through the six months leading up to the release of the findings of the Nichols study I had been an outspoken critic of the authors� survey design, question-framing, grammar, sample-selection, and administrative failings. But throughout those six months I had absolutely no idea that the research and consulting firm was �comprised of associates of color.� Had I been so aware, it would not in any way have changed my professional assessment. Scholarly researchers should be color-blind.

Such a dreadfully designed and administered survey piqued my curiosity. I raised a number of questions that to this date remain unanswered:

1) Why can I find no web site for Nichols and Associates of Washington, D.C.?
2) Why can I find no journal articles published by Edwin J. Nichols?
3) Has anyone on this campus seen a copy of his academic transcript to verify the degrees apparently touted on his curriculum vitae?
4) Has anyone on this campus reviewed copies of any works published by Edwin J. Nichols?
5) Who specifically authorized and signed off on SCSU�s spending more than $80,000 for this study?

Having served as a �once-fooled� member of the Search Committee for the FIRE Department of the Herberger College of Business, I believe I have a responsibility now to stand up and ask the same kinds of questions that we are today asking in our department of all job applicants. Each of us wants our students to be able to savor a widely diverse array thoughts and perspectives that we faculty members offer them in their quest for acquiring knowledge, developing skills, and gaining wisdom. At the same time, I hope that they are sent the message that our �university,� the apparent antonym of �diversity,� is actually a complementary concept. For what value do we stand united, as a university, if not academic integrity?

If you, Professor Tripp, and others on campus can answer answer each of these five questions specifically in an open forum, presenting photo-copied evidence as to the academic degrees earned by Edwin J. Nichols and copies of his peer-reviewed published work, I�ll be the first one to join you in calling for his return to this campus to fulfill his firm�s contractual obligation.

Even if Nichols does not revisit this campus, Professor Tripp, I agree with you that - though the survey has absolutely no statistical validity - there seem to be several numbers that are disturbing. Besides the ones that you mentioned, let me offer three others that were gleaned from a non-scientifically drawn sample of 237 faculty, administrators and staff:

1) �Over one-half (57%) of respondents agreed that the negative media image of SCSU compromises relationships between faculty, staff and students; 20% was uncertain and 23% disagreed.� (Good grief . . . and these results were BEFORE the latest settlement! It is now a full week since the Star Tribune�s hatchet job on all of us at SCSU, and we�re still waiting for President Saigo�s written response. Term papers were due this week, and a grade of Incomplete cannot be granted at this point. At some point an �I� turns into an �F.�)

2) �Thirty-five percent (35%) agreed that there is good flow of communication and information from the President's Office to administrators, faculty and staff; 27% was uncertain and 38% disagreed.� (Might that 38% figure represent those of us who do not work in the AS building? When last did you see anyone from the Administration visiting your college? I seem to remember Sean Teal�s visiting our college a couple of years ago.)

3) �Thirty-seven percent of respondents agreed that faculty, staff and students should be required to take cultural competence/awareness training; 15% was uncertain and the majority (48%) [sic] disagreed.� (Who, specifically, demanded that new mandatory diversity training should be implemented as part of the latest settlement? Will anyone step forward and take the credit [or blame] for this idea?)

Finally, I would ask President Saigo and Chancellor McCormick to stand up and tell us precisely, and with one voice, whose idea it was to settle this past year�s lawsuits? Can you explain the rationale publicly? Do you understand how unsettling such settlements are to innocent victims? Do you truly grasp how much our students have been hurt by your not holding either specific parties accountable for their discriminatory actions or plaintiffs responsible for proving their allegations? What kind of a lesson are we teaching them?

How should they and we answer the following final examination question: What do those who interned Japanese-Americans during WWII, those who practice racial profiling, those who blame a class of "privileged-class white males" for every wrong, and those who write a scathing blanket editorial indicting all of us at SCSU have in common?

I submit that the correct answer is that they all embrace the concept of "assumed collective guilt," which is an insidiously divisive, intellectually bankrupt, and totally evil assumption.

Thank you, Professor Tripp, for the zeal with which you speak out about issues of obviously deep importance to you. I may not agree with most of your conclusions, or even how you state them, but I admire the fact that you�re a fearless leader, not afraid to exercise our freedom of speech. We must cherish that right for all, whether they want to display an Israeli flag in Atwood Center or even decorate a Christmas tree. Leaders do not bend over all the time; that is symptomatic of a lack of backbone. Silence is deadly. We need more leaders - not �plant managers,� and certainly not �potted plants.�

Please be advised that I am herewith, hereby, and hereunder taking "celebratory note" of the impending Christmas season as I head for bed. But first, I think I�ll read about Condoleezza Rice�s years at Stanford in the December 16th edition of Newsweek. It should be inspired and required reading for all.

Good night to all,

David L. Christopherson, PhD
G.R. Herberger Distinguished Professor of Business - 2002
President�s Club Colleague
CEO of the David L. Christopherson Faculty Caucus of One