Thursday, October 18, 2012

Faux Pas Du Jour

I read a piece by Michael Bérubé who used to hold the Paterno Chair of Literature at Penn State.  The piece talks about his decision to withdraw from that position.  The piece itself is quite thoughtful (I don't entirely agree with it, but he provides his perspective quite well).  I snarked on twitter that I was thought the story was less brave than it appeared to be since he was moving from one endowed chair to another--something one learns when one sees the mini-bio at the end of the piece. 

But the idea that he was being brave at all was my inference more than his implication, so my bad, not his.  He was expressing his experience and the tangled webs of perceptions and complications that surrounded the Penn State case.  I read into it that he was falling on his sword, but that was not his intention.

The discussion on his facebook page about this raises a key reality--those who accept endowed chairs with people's names on them never know what might arise.  Sure, chairs with names of dead people might seem to be advantaged because it is less likely that the name will acquire a taint due to some new behavior, but the dead can have their names sullied if we find out something new about them. 

To be sure, I didn't investigate Norman Paterson when I took up the Paterson Chair.  So, I should not be throwing stones, and for that, I am sorry.

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