Thursday, February 18, 2021

What’s in a name?, and little things that tell you how much they appreciate you.

Many years ago at a place where I used to work I offered to volunteer to help in organizing a partnership with city and county officials. I called everyone as director of a graduate program and secured acceptances to all the invites I made—including with help from a graduate student in our program who was a county elected official himself.

When we were all done organizing we invited the President of the University and of course the Mayor and County Executive to keynote briefly before we went on into workings session to discuss and negotiate the entirety of our cooperative agreement with faculty and graduate students and city and county elected and appointed officials in charge. 

As the event was reported in the university student newspaper, it turns out that "Dr. Jane Smith, President of the University, took part in the event organized by Adrian Petrescu and also attended by Brian Brown from the university."

I wrote a letter to the newspaper editor, appreciating their work and reporting, and empathizing with the utility of the work to all students learning journalism first hand, including by mentioning that I too had learned journalism—and fighting with risks to life and liberty for free press—as a young writer in my university years in then socialist România. Then I asked that Brian (department chair, holding a Ph.D. and a J.D.) and myself, director, also be granted the courtesy of mentioning of our official positions and respective advanced degrees—that were required for us to be in the official positions that we held with the university—, if the Mayor and President etc were to be granted the deference allotted them. 

I received back a reply letter from the student editor explaining that the student newspaper followed a particular journalistic writing style that did only use Dr. for medical doctors, along with a quoted paragraph from that style manual. 

Suffice it to say that the University President's doctorate was in public relations. Please let me state directly: it was _not_ a Medical Doctor degree. Let me add that student newspapers in the United States are generally run by students under the supervision of a designated faculty sponsor. Also, in universities writing styles and their use and intricacies are obviously a taught and learned required competency. 

First off, I didn't appreciate the publishing of a selection of my letter to the editor, without my consent. Second, once the damage was done, the answer was beyond unacceptable in a university setting. Third, I expected the University President's swift intervention on our behalf, and meant to set the record straight. It did not happen. Fourth, and I know I'm expecting much too much here, but that's the reason I was being paid "the big bucks" after all, the true potential benefit that I realize and feel now that was fully missed back then and that was eluding the editor and the President and everyone altogether was never the issue I raised. It was, of course, as Peter Drucker usually pointed out, as with any communications: the most important thing was not even said. What they (someone, whoever that collective or individual someone should or could have been) could have inferred from my letter to the editor was the opportunity for asking me and listening to the stories that I could have shared about fighting for freedom of the press with serious risks to life and liberty back in my youth. 

Today there is a place (of a few, actually) where these opportunities for learning and passing along new things exist here and now. No, not somewhere where I work. There, nobody asks as much or as often as they could. (I do tell stories as I teach and some learners like them and learn intensely from them but the majority don't seem to benefit too much from them though, too busy to be a version of Herbert Simon's busy Administrative Man. Yet, work doesn't really proactively seek or use help of mine in picking my brain on spreading knowledge I hold and could certainly be useful to everyone particularly these peculiar days and years). It's actually when visiting our butcher. He always asks about how would this or that be done in România or in Belgium. Naturally, but without necessarily ever insisting too much, some stories from back there and then may come out and he may ask for more details... 

Let that sink in. 

Adrian S. Petrescu, Ph.D., J.D.

"I have learned the novice can often see things that the expert overlooks. All that is necessary is to not be afraid of making mistakes or appearing naive." Abraham Maslow (1908-70)
"Cogito, ergo sum" (Rene Descartes, 1596-1650) 
"Who is John Galt?"