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To Fight for the Truth

By Bob Bruner-

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,”

~Rudyard Kipling, If

Truth has been one of the casualties of this awful mess at the University of Virginia. If there is any hope for repair and healing in our community it must begin with finding and telling the truth. The sheer absence of information from the Board of Visitors about their motivations and processes has unleashed a torrent of speculation. In the absence of the facts, people will create their own realities. Since June 10th, my experience as a leader here has been that Kipling got it about right: the only way to advance Truth is to keep one’s head, not lose trust, allow for doubt, hang on, and resist lies and hatred. This is the responsibility not only of leaders, but also of followers and even outside observers such as the media.

Some of the most egregious damage to the Truth could have been avoided by simple fact-checking. The latest outrage appears on today’s editorial page of the Wall Street Journal wherein it is asserted that, “The deans of 10 of the university’s 11 schools have signed a letter for Ms. Sullivan’s reinstatement. Tellingly, the one dean who didn’t sign the letter runs Virginia’s graduate business school.” That’s dead wrong. I’m the Dean of that school and I did sign the letter. In fact, I helped to prepare it—my previous blog posting says so to the world. I agree with the Deans: President Teresa Sullivan should be reinstated. I stand together with the UVA community in protest of the deeply flawed process surrounding her dismissal. This is not what we teach at Darden. We have called continually for open dialogue among parties and transparency about decisions–and will continue to press for them. The University community deserves nothing less.

As the Deans’ statement says, we did not ask the Dean of UVA’s undergraduate business school, Carl Zeithaml, to sign because at the time he was the designated Interim President and “we felt it would put him in an extraordinarily difficult position even to be asked.” The Journal’s editorial implies that a business Dean disagreed with the letter for reinstatement—but as his words and actions clearly show, Zeithaml supports reinstatement.

Following are my responses to some other inaccuracies floating around in recent days:

· Darden—the institution—was a party to the ouster of President Sullivan. That’s dead wrong. I had no foreknowledge or involvement with Terry Sullivan’s ouster. And based on numerous conversations with my colleagues, I can say with high confidence that no one at the Darden School or Darden School Foundation was involved with this—with the exception of Peter Kiernan, the former Chairman of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees who said that he was acting in a private capacity. Mr. Kiernan has resigned from the Board. This whole mess is not about Darden; it is about the University’s Board of Visitors.

· It’s MBAs versus Ph.D.’s. That’s dead wrong. It’s MBA’s and Ph.D.’s. Virtually all of the communications I have received from Darden’s alums have been strongly supportive of Terry Sullivan’s reinstatement—the same for Darden’s faculty and staff. Darden’s Foundation Trustees have issued a letter in support of reinstatement. Even predating this mess, Darden has been an active and positive contributor to the welfare of the University’s programs. Our Partnership for Leaders in Education with the Curry School of Education has been cited by Presidents Casteen and Sullivan as an example of how two “silos” of a big university can work together for social good. We are the allies, not adversaries, of our peer schools at UVA.

· They privatized Darden and now it’s a for-profit operation. That’s dead wrong. Darden is merely a financially self-sufficient unit of the University and continues to be governed by the Board of Visitors. The School takes no support from the University or the Commonwealth and pays a tax to support the University that amounts to about $4 million per year. Darden’s self-sufficiency is a good thing: it increases the resources available to the rest of the University. There is nothing in Darden’s mission, vision, strategy, or culture that orients the School to maximize its profits. As a not-for-profit entity, we are mission-driven. We aim to be servant leaders who deliver outstanding learning experiences. The notion that we are generating anything like a profit is laughable—this year we are intentionally running a deficit to advance our educational impact. Such advancement includes scholarships for women and minorities and investments to improve the quality of our programs and to deepen our talented faculty and staff.

· Paul Tudor Jones is a Darden alumnus and calls the shots. That’s dead wrong. Jones graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences, but not Darden. In my seven years as Dean, I can recall talking with him only once, when I disagreed with him and lived to tell the tale. Darden’s alums are generous and loyal supporters of our academic mission. They have helped to advance the Darden School and UVA. I listen carefully to them because they are an invaluable part of the extended Darden community. But an understanding that I negotiated with the Darden School Foundation Board in 2007 strictly limits the intervention of alums in the academic policies and decisions of the School. I listen to the alums, but formally take orders only from the Provost and President.

These and other canards harm the standing of the entire University. I appeal to decent people everywhere to fight for the Truth. This will require great effort in the current miasma of rumor, conspiracy theories, and slander. In this, everyone must be a leader: you must lead from wherever you are. As Kipling would say, you must keep your head, not lose trust, allow for doubt, hang on, and resist lies and hatred.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

~Rudyard Kipling