Posted Mar 27, 2021 at 08:27. Revised May 4, 2021 at 21:37.
The snow has melted, leaving JD with some time to check for any changes in the BOT’s almost complete opacity. Two pictures of Chair Canavan have emerged from the BOT opacity — one from oberlin.edu and one from the internet. They reveal another facet of the Administration and BOT’s 10 thumbs management style.
There is nothing noteworthy about them until they are examined a bit more closely. These undated contrasting pictures superficially appear to have been taken 40 or so years apart, as the first one shows a rakish and daring movie star/lady killer. In contrast, the second picture appears to have been soaked for weeks in skunk-scented lady repellent. These two personas complement each other perfectly, so let’s dig into this odd contrast…
Reconciling PR and opacity
Oberlin College PR requires a movie star/lady killer to advance the College’s image, but the secrecy and opacity of the BOT require a chair who is an inconspicuous generic peasant that no one will notice. As you can see from the two photos they have found a man that fulfills both requirements. Indeed, the two photos are so different that one almost needs facial recognition software to make sure that both are the same person.
There is just one problem because the movie star photo appears to be a college graduation photo while the generic peasant photo appears to have been taken at a time decades removed from the movie star period. So which photo will the overpaid Oberlin College PR freaks choose for display on Oberlin.edu? Obviously, it is the movie star.
This is in keeping with choosing form over substance. This tactic is not original to the Oberlin PR people because it was worked out on Wall Street over a century ago to deal with reporting bad financial results. There is no substitute for glossy paper, vibrant colors, and excellent graphic design to distract attention from horrible results.
The needs of the College’s gregarious PR freaks are at complete odds with the BOT’s obsession with opacity and secrecy. The secrecy quest is right out of The Wizard of Oz — “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
The movie star is the perfect man behind the curtain and smokescreen for some of the biggest screw-ups in the history of the college, while the generic nobody image ensures that no one will notice what the BOT is doing. Nevertheless, the PR lackeys in the administration have missed an opportunity to really shine. They need to replace the movie star photo on oberlin.edu with a baby picture of the Chair because everyone loves a baby and no one can blame a baby when it does something stupid.
BOT Membership Qualifications
The first responsibility for a board or committee is to disperse any blame that comes its way by prioritizing making a safe decision over making the right decision. These two objectives are usually not in conflict except when the right decision is not 100% based on conventional “best practices”. Hearing the phrase “best practices” is usually a rattlesnake’s rattle meaning “look out!” The “best practices” decision is always the safest because it facilitates the blame dispersal that will exonerate the guilty.
There are roughly two categories of people to choose from when configuring a BOT. The first are kind, gentle, caring, and concerned people who will go along to get along and the second are hard-headed thinkers. The more members on a BOT the better. A bigger BOT is more cumbersome, which, counterintuitively, gets things done more easily.
A BOT with hard-headed thinkers in control wants a majority of kind and gentle types that will not be so insensitive as to ask the wrong questions. An additional benefit of such a BOT makeup is most of the blame can be dispersed onto the kind and gentle suckers. The docile majority will keep the game going by being functionally missing and saying nothing that could slow the decision-making processes.
Suppressing peoples’ identity
The presentation on Oberlin.edu of the BOT and the General Counsel’s office is a masterpiece of obscurity. In apparent reaction to the adverse publicity of recent years, much info about the trustees and General Counsel has been minimized or eliminated.
The public presentation of Secretary Varner’s credentials is in stark contrast to the presentation for her subordinates. Varner has a decent write-up of her experience and credentials even though it has more than its share of obfuscation. For whatever reason, she has allowed her staff to be presented as a pack of nobodies having only names and no stated credentials whatsoever.
The censored Oberlin alumni group
Once upon a time, there was an Oberlin College Alumni Facebook discussion group. It was a group that really did believe in freedom of speech and allowed its participants to post anything within the bounds of reason.
This situation simply could not be tolerated by the anointed PR lackeys and the College’s pathetic excuses for lawyers. They saw only bad PR and legal liability (addressed further below) coming out of any statement by an alum that was not of the highest and most myopic Pollyanna grade. These folks had the prescience to realize that freedom of speech does not apply to alumni criticizing the college while it does apply in spades to the College slandering Gibson’s Bakery.
JD has a gifted cousin who is the advertising, marketing, and PR person who envisioned and built several memorable and effective ad campaigns for certain well-known consumer products.
The reason these products are well known is that cousin helped in making them well-known. JD asked his cousin if Oberlin’s overpaid PR lackeys were right in trying to convince the world that the College lives in an idyllic land of perfection where life is a perpetual orgasm.
The answer from our expert was that one must allow reasonable criticism from the customers because efforts to squelch them will only backfire. Oberlin College cockily believes there is nothing it can possibly learn from how Charmin toilet paper sells because they already know how to wipe the college’s butt — despite all evidence to the contrary.
The uncensored alumni group
The Unofficial, Uncensored Oberlin College Facebook Group arose as a counter to the Official “Pollyanna’s Palace” Alumni Facebook Group. Some of its following posts show the breadth of the thinking that the official group can only partially tolerate. These are excerpted social media posts, so the thread does not have perfect continuity. The authors’ names are redacted to protect the guilty.
My comment was deleted as well. I reposted it and snarkily edited each passage that could be interpreted as personally attacking, adding (Content removed to avoid violating inconsistently enforced rule on personal attacks) with each edit to the text. The resulting post certainly has the same content and says the same thing, so the reason for removing it was pointless.
So far, the edited post has stayed up, though several other, smaller posts have been deleted without any notification whatsoever. In fact, I just received a notice from Facebook (but not from the hijacked “official” group admins) that yet another post from that thread had been removed, and again, no explanation or notice. I don’t even know which post was removed.
I have a feeling that W is using whatever clout he has to try and get any critical comments removed. He certainly does not seem like he’s very good at accepting any criticism or acknowledging any factual inaccuracy in his claims.
From EH to CW
btw there were any number of comments that were no less critical than mine, and they’re still in the thread – inconsistently enforced indeed.
From Admin to CW
I’m actually surprised that the vast majority of my comments [on the official censored website] are still there.
From CW to Admin
I am, as well. I guarantee that thread is causing anxiety/angst to the powers that be over there. Their non-transparency and policies are coming home to roost. Perhaps some good will come of it.
From EH to MM
I don’t know if that’s even possible [replacing the BOT] + I’m not smart enough to understand what college administrations consist of anyway…
From MM to EH
You know what? I don’t know if it is possible either, but dammit it should be. My mom is a private grade school teacher, and their administration is nuts too. There ought to be checks and balances in place…
From CD to MM
You are being logical! Remember, the opaque and secretive Trustees hold the power and the administration is only little girls who dress up in mommy’s clothes so they can act like they run the place.
From EH to CD
that certainly helps – the whole thing is as arcane as either Roman Catholicism or real estate, take your pick.
From CW to CD
And let’s not forget that while the Trustees ultimately hold the power, they deny accountability when approached, and defer to the administration. It’s a brilliant model to dodge any responsibility.
Legally, though, it is the trustees who are holding the bag. If someone were to sue Oberlin for all of the violation of fiduciary responsibility that is continually going on, it is the trustees, *personally* (not in their role as OC trustees) who would be legally liable. Even if they literally had no knowledge. It is because they are seen as fiduciaries of public funds entrusted to them.
The College might have errors and omissions insurance to cover the trustees, but any award in excess of insurance could not legally be paid by the college [on behalf of the trustees]. Most people who are asked to serve on nonprofit boards don’t realize this.
The cult-like things I’ve noticed about the official page are the way that #1 like any cult, if you talk to someone in the cult, they’ll tell you that it’s not a cult. #2 according to them they simply HAVE to act like a cult, though, and suppress dissent and censor their own members, etc. because if they didn’t things would fall apart.
From EH to RH
Thank you. If you type “what Trump has in common with cult leaders medium” into the Google, you can see at least some of the bibliography I’ve put together, “medium” being a reference to this https://medium.com/
Medium – Where good ideas find you.
From CW to RH
Back when they first instituted the hijacking [of control by the college] and censorship, I repeatedly kept asking for the justification of their action.
They replied that it was necessary “to shield the college from liability.” When I explained DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] and how it works, and the safe harbor provided by DMCA if, and only if, there is no moderation/alteration/selection of content posted by the public (or, in this case, by alums), they ignored/tapdanced/dodged.
Eventually, when I kept asking the questions, and tried to find out who, actually made this ruling, my post was not permitted, and I got a rather rude message from one of the ruder moderators that “they were moving on.”
The interesting thing is, before the administration hijacked the page, Oberlin had complete insulation and protection from any liability as a result of DMCA. Once they took it over, they are now liable for anything said there. If Oberlin’s in-house counsel [was their out-house counsel even consulted? ed] made that determination, then it shows the same incompetence as when the in-house counsel posted the lovely defiant statement after the Gibson’s loss.
From RH to CW
Among the many functions of the uncensored page is the ability to state an obvious truth that is unmentionable on the official page: regardless of who was right or who was wrong in the Gibson’s case, losing a case like that for soooo much money is a huge failure of judgement. It doesn’t matter who did what or said what or who is right– when an institution faceplants that hard in public, something went awry. Everything is not OK. Heads should roll.
From EH to CW
have noticed that W’s post was deleted from the “official” page and that an explanation of sorts was provided by the person who runs the alumni association? Bummer in one sense for me in that Norman something or another who actually was banned from this page chimed in, and I never got to see that. He’s the person to whom I explained, contrary to his snarky belief, triggering (and microaggressions) most certainly did exist in the ’70s. If I’d had more presence of mind, I would have included the Washington Post article called “Dear Justice Scalia: Here’s what I learned as a black student struggling at an elite college” which was published in response to his ridiculous assertions about Black students and written by Afi-Odelia Scruggs, who attended the University of Chicago in the early 70s.
From CD to MM
Thanks for this additional link. Based on my own research into the topic this is the most accurate and complete explanation of the Gibson situation I have seen – far better than the NYT, etc. I am flattered that it says the same things I have been saying.
What’s the name of the “official” page? I’ve stayed away but now am a bit curious. Is it the Oberlin Alumni Association?
From EH to JS
here’s the [private] “link” https://www.facebook.com/groups/oberlin.alumni
I had a comment deleted, but probably deserved it.
If I were allowed to threaten this person, which I’m not, you better believe I’d threaten her. I’d threaten her good
From EH to CJ
do you mean the person who deleted my comment? The entire post and subsequent thread have been deleted. The guy who runs the alumni association explained why.
From CW to EH
More precisely, he offered a justification that was not really a reasonable explanation for erasing probably dozens of collective hours of posts and some of the most substantive discussion of issues going on at Oberlin that’s been … See More
From EH to CW
yep, and just to my right I’m seeing the back of the latest alumni mag with its “Everywhere I look on campus, Obies are propelling themselves forward and deriving the benefits of an Oberlin experience,” written by someone who makes roughly t… See More