Sunday, May 29, 2005

Marquette Trustees = Politburo

Madison blog Letters in Bottles reacted to a post of ours about the Marquette Trustees, and especially John Stollenwerk, a trustee who sent a friend an e-mail saying that the “Gold” decision should be “rescinded,” but then the following day insisted that he was 100% behind the decision. The day after that the decision was rescinded.
It’s an unfair comparison, but I’m a history major (among other things), so I’ll take the liberty of pointing out that the grand ol’ USSR, after Stalin came to power, created a rule that allowed for internal Party discussion, but provided that the Party must present a unified front once a decision had been made.

I suspect that a similar mentality is present here. The naming committee was obviously facing tremendous criticism at the time this e-mail came out. If the committee showed any fractures, it would have absolutely imploded — even though it essentially did anyway. The real pity here is that Stollenwerk had the opportunity to be something of a (to continue my USSR theme) Gorbachev, and take a position within the committee as the “voice of the people.” If he had been smarter about this politically, he could have pushed for these e-mails to be made public, and thus been seen as a leader who was truly in touch with what the student body wanted. Instead he’s trying to play it both ways, and that never works.
Of course the Trustees aren’t Stalinist functionaries, but they did fall into the trap of trying to present a “united front.” Honest airing of honest differences simply works better.

Consider what would have happened in Washington, DC, where everything leaks like a sieve. In the fall, when it became clear that Fr. Wild was going to let the tribal chiefs veto “Warriors” that would have leaked. Soon thereafter, the fact that a Marquette survey showed “Golden Eagles” to be a real loser would also have leaked.

There would have been intense criticism of the Administration for letting a group of race hustlers veto the nickname everybody wanted, but it would not have been worse than what eventually happened.

There would have been a vigorous discussion of what the new nickname should be, coupled with loud demands to allow a vote on the issue.

The Trustees, at that point, could have easily decided to allow an election. Had they somehow believed they needed to make a decision without an official poll, they would at least have had the benefit of unofficial straw polls and exchanges on discussion boards like those at and

Indeed, had they been smart they would have intentionally leaked the fact that “Gold” was under consideration. This would have provided what amounted to free market research as people jeered at the name.

Instead they showed a bunker mentality, thinking that they would somehow gain some advantage by keeping the heathen in the dark.

They doubtless thought this shrewd, but in fact it was terribly naïve, and it backfired.


Post a Comment

<< Home