Blogging @ CNM

Central New Mexico Community College

A President’s Leadership Lesson

14 Comments

Paul Wellman, who was a journalist, popular author and screenwriter, once said, “If a teacher does not involve himself, his values, his commitments in the course of discussion, why should the students?” The essence of this quote resonates with me as the president of a college where we want full, fair and civil discussions to remain one of our fundamental core values. Full, fair and civil discussions should also not be the casualty of anyone’s decisions or of our disagreements with one another. That is why I want this to be the discussion of today’s blog.

When teaching or making presentations about leadership, I often talk about how important it is to be very comfortable with what you personally value. It is also important for leaders to know that values often conflict with each other.

So which values am I talking about and how did they conflict?

In this venue, I believe the best way to discuss this topic is to address the two opposite opinions concerning my decisions regarding the CNM Chronicle. To those who believe I should have shut down the paper, I want to say that college is an extraordinary place that provides an opportunity to learn, grow, explore and test boundaries. College is also a magical time in your life whether you’re 16 or 96, when you can explore and carry out unfettered discussions of ideas. Although there are limitations and consequences, colleges should provide boundaries that are as deep and wide as we can possibly make them. I value that college is an environment where students become smarter, better and more courageous through discussion, discord and debate.

To those who believe I should not challenge student employees’ judgment and decisions, I want them to know I have some competing values that are related to my obligations as president, among other concerns. That is why I stated that I believe the college can do a better job of helping the student employees who serve as editors and reporters by providing the resources, education and training that is warranted by the existence of a student newspaper at a college without a journalism program, including education about the legal and ethical risks associated with journalism.

The current student employees at the CNM Chronicle are passionate about putting out a great weekly student newspaper and they have done some good work. They should be able to write about whatever they want. But, I believe first and foremost, CNM should provide them with the best student work experience possible, which is what we strive to do for all our student employees.

I know this will not be my last lesson in leadership or my last tough decision, but I am proud and thankful to work at a college where I am able to change my decision, experience yet another “learning” moment, and move on, hopefully a little wiser.

I want people to know that we can have civil discussions about hot-button topics at CNM. I want to let everybody across the college know that we all need to feel free to discuss our viewpoints and know that we are in a safe environment to do so. Of course, there always needs to be a respectful level of civility when two people have opposing viewpoints. And sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree. But we work at a college, where a vibrant and open marketplace of ideas is at the heart of our educational mission.

Thank you for reading. And please post your thoughts on this blog. I’d love to see us have a discussion on the topic.

14 thoughts on “A President’s Leadership Lesson

  1. Bravo for pointing out the CNM Chronicle has legal and ethical issues. I might also wish to add, that
    a classy school paper would attempt to print up building and informative articles, rather than dredging up things better left to cheap tabloids. I guess it depends upon which direction they would like to take
    their journalism.

  2. Thanks for responding. I do want to point out what I actually said so you do not misinterpret. The statement is “I believe the college can do a better job of helping the student employees who serve as editors and reporters by providing the resources, education and training that is warranted by the existence of a student newspaper at a college without a journalism program, including education about the legal and ethical risks associated with journalism.”

    • Pardon, I phrased that poorly. What I should have written was that I agree, legal and ethical training should be part of journalism.
      Thank you for the clarification as well President Winograd.

  3. I think it is a great step forward to teach journalism as it should be taught at a 2 year institution. The purpose of a newspaper or magazine is to inform. We have a 24 hour news cycle and sensationalism sells. I think too often the younger generation feeds off of sensationalism and the 15 minutes of fame reality stars of today. That is not journalism. Learn the basics and become a good reporter first. The staff and content of the Chronicle will benefit.

  4. No, we don’t currently have a journalism program, but as an institution of higher learner, we do need student publications. The CNM Chronicle serves the CNM community well. However, I do believe that some of the articles in the Chronicle’s “Sex” issue were just in poor taste. I think that the information was valuable in most cases, but it could have been delivered in a more professional manner. I cannot think of a better place to learn this lesson than at college. It was a valuable learning experience for all of us.

  5. Unfortunately, being permitted to have civil discussion about hot topic issues does not necessarily coincide with knowing how to actually participate in a discussion in a civil manner. Given the controversy surrounding this issue, perhaps a better course of action might have been a denouncement (not censorship) of the issue by the administration (to stay true to those values) and a public forum to discuss the different viewpoints in our community. Lost in this discussion of freedom v. administrative discretion are other perspectives like the effect that some of the images in the paper might have on survivors of sexual assault and abuse, the unwanted association of the honor society with the topics (they were literally “in bed” with the major topics on the cover page), the potential harm to the LGBT community which is trying to distance itself from stereotypes related to sexual deviance, the potential for sexual harassment when an issue like this with images on the front and back page is brought into the classroom and discussed by students before or after class who may not have the maturity to engage in a civil discussion about a controversial topic, etc. A forum would have created the space we so desperately need to model civil discussion by allowing the paper and admin to state their views in a public and (presumably) controlled environment as well as those many other views that have been silenced in the melee. It is unproductive to only have these discussions in an electronic format; we miss the opportunities for developing empathy, tolerance and other necessary skills for engaging in civil discussion. Thanks for this blog post, President Winograd and for allowing us to chime in.

  6. What a thoughtful response, thank you. And hind sight is always clearer, I agree that there were a number of options that would have offered better conversations and certainly better results. During much of the past few weeks I have thought about a quote I once heard (I do not remember the quote exactly) about the first thing that goes when there is conflict is common sense and the next thing is the ability to have a full and open conversation. My decisions (both of them) were really not about the students having a sex issue, that is done in higher education institutions throughout the country. But I did react to some of the students decisions and the judgements they displayed.

    Some of the emails I received over the past couple of weeks included very thoughtful ideas on how to create some really positive and powerful discussions and experiences for all of our students around topics related to sexual topics, conversations that deal directly with things like the supreme courts current conversations, the tragedy of sexual violence and prejudice, and the significant increases this country is seeing in the number of individuals suffering from sexually transmitted diseases. Your thoughtful addition to this conversation is important.

    Please know that I do not want the only conversation about any topic at CNM to be done electronically, and that I am committed to using my leadership lesson to provide better opportunities for our students. That includes providing a productive conversation around hot-button topics like “sex.”

  7. I think the real issue here is communication. All employees, whether student or not, have to do a better job giving our leadership a heads up on decesions that could be potentially sensitive. I’m willing to bet, if the Chronicle had simply informed President Winograd of their plans, prior to the issue coming out, the outcome would have been fine.

    We have to create a culture that allows people on the ground floor to talk to the folks on the top, without being made to feel like we are being pushy or overstepping our role. I hope we can also focus on providing better opportunities for productive conversation around hot-button topics not only for our students but also employees.

    I so apprecitate this blog and President Winograd taking the time to do this!

  8. This perhaps could be a great moment for us to consider perhaps creating a journalism program. Why not?

  9. I think we should consider.

  10. I agree, you should consider it.

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