Thursday, June 21, 2007

Unconscionable: University Accused of Lying to Hide Killing


McKenny Union
Originally uploaded by meanmustard1982.
When will leaders realize that transparency is not only required, but is best for orgnizations?

From Kari Lydersen in the Washington Post we hear a tale which ought to disturb anyone remotely interested in organizations, truth, transparency, and leadership:
A janitor found Laura Dickinson dead in her Eastern Michigan University dorm room in December, naked below the waist, a pillow over her face. The door was locked, and her keys were gone.

No foul play was suspected, the university announced. As the campus mourned and Dickinson's family gathered to bury the 22-year-old rower, police opened an investigation. But school authorities stuck to their story for more than two months -- even after they learned that the medical examiner had found semen on her body and even as police questioned other students and faculty and took DNA samples -- until the arrest of a fellow student on rape and homicide charges.

Now, an independent report contends university officials covered up the likelihood that a crime had been committed and the killer was still at large. The 568-page document, commissioned by the university's board of regents, says that school authorities withheld information, deceived the public and potentially violated a federal law designed to warn students of campus safety threats.

"The facts show that the University failed to timely and properly warn the campus community about Ms. Dickinson's death, which was unquestionably a possible homicide," says the report, by the Detroit law firm Butzel Long.

"After they realized they had a murder, not only did they not warn people, they lied about it," said S. Daniel Carter, senior vice president of the national nonprofit organization Security on Campus, founded by the parents of murdered Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery. "Every other residential student on that campus was risking their lives. It's reflective of a culture that would rather keep things secret and deal with them internally."
I know; that's likely too big a quote to claim fair use, but I'm not acting rationally. How can senior leaders not understand that secretive oprganizational cultures will do nothing but kill the organization.

We must embrace transparency, and we must encourage transparency throughout organizations, particularly public institutions, non-profit organizations, and government.

Bad news, as the old adage claims, does not get better with age.

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