In the immediately preceding post, I noted that the events at Penn State inspired me to think and write about the Enronification of Universities. I listed 5 characteristics and discussed one -- the struggle against transparency. It occurs to me that this struggle cannot be separated for the culture of "not technically a lie." It's the strategy of misleading people or knowingly not disclosing a straight answer when you know what is being asking. I don't think this needs an explanation beyond three examples.
1. Statement in Email to faculty: "Professor X will be unable to participate in our foreign program in Spain." Actually story, the person writing the memo (Professor Y) did not want to go to the summer program he was scheduled to participate it. It is more desirable that Professor X's assignment. So, Professor Y asked Professor X not to go to his initial assignment but to take his place.
The straight answer: At my request Professor X is now going to take over the summer teaching I had assigned to myself.
2. As I understand it an email exchange with Kyle Cavanaugh who is at Duke now. Here he was generally explaining how the grievance process works to a potential grievence filer. Just to set this up, one of the procedures we have at UF requires you to grieve to the Provost -- not the real provost but Dr. No. That decision can be appealed to the provost and if you do not like it you can pay for an arbitratio, The President can then decide whether to accept the impartial arbitrator's decision or not. I know what you are thinking but it is true -- after arbitration the President can decide. Kyle explains all this the interaction continues:
Q: After the President decides can you then appeal to the courts?
Kyle: At that point the is process over
Q; Yes I see that there is nothing else to do at the university level but can it be appealed to a court.
Kyle: At that point procedure is over.
Now think about this one. Why do this? The answer is yes or no and if Kyle does not know he can say do. It's just being an ass. In this case the questioner found out in about a minute and quickly emailed Kyle back that "yes," one can then appeal to the District Court. This way Kyle could be sure to "help" others who ask.
I concede I may have some of the exact wording wrong and Kyle did not lie just displayed the arrogance and hunker down mentality of a company man when it did not help the company.
The straight answer. "I do not know." or "I will not tell you."
3. Letter to Law School administrator: I noticed that you dropped course X from the spring schedule. Most of the 50 students who would have signed up for that class will now sign up for my course even though they would prefer the one originally schedule and we have someone who wants to teach it.
Finally an answer: Let's make and appointment and talk about it.
Response of questioner: Would it just be possible to explain in an email the rationale for dropping the course?"
The straight answer: "the truth is I . . . .
So, it may be deliberately misleading as in example one, sleazy as in example two, or just the paranoia of people who are afraid to just write it down.
I am willing to bet that all of this happens at Penn State and Enron. It represents the mentality that helps explain why institutions go off the rails.