On Misquotes, and Other Editorial Fun Times

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NPQ has its share of editorial snafus, and some of them are worth their own write-ups. For instance, this morning, we got a comment from a reader about a newswire I wrote entitled “Dumb CEO Behavior: A Bad Idea, Terrible Imagery, and Summary Firings—But the Board is Happy!” The story is about a college president who cooked up a scheme to make the school’s retentions stats better by administering a survey to freshmen that, although cloaked in self-discovery language, was meant to weed out the underperformers and the unmotivated.

Anyway, the ensuing discussion led to a conversation in which the president said, “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies…put a Glock to their heads.”

But one of our readers, Susan Ruderman, clarifies this morning:

In an earlier piece, when Newman was first scrambling to do damage control, he defended his statement by saying he was misquoted. The quote that he remembered saying was “puppies,” not “bunnies.” So it was “drown the puppies,” not “drown the bunnies.” I’m sure this revised quote brought solace to rabbit lovers everywhere…

At the root of this fiasco is Mount St. Mary’s University’s precarious financial state. If the university wasn’t hemorrhaging money, the board might not have felt compelled to hire someone from the financial world, from outside of academia. And now, despite Newman’s demonstrated lack of fit with the culture, the board feels compelled to stick with him and turn this into a “reconciliation.” Understandable that the university would want to save face, especially in this season of college acceptances and decision making, but I doubt very much that this is last we will hear of Mr. Newman’s clashes with the faculty.

Which gets to my point: It is truly remarkable what people who do silly things will say to explain away what is staring us all in the face.

We love our readers for being able to cut to the quick of things. Thanks, Susan.