“I’ve got a chair like that in my closet,” said George. “You should use it.” “Oh, I don’t need one,” scoffed George. “I just need a stool,” said Bob. Bob was a very tall thin man with tiny hands and a barrel chest, who looked more like a football player than a tailor. He used to come and sit in George’s chair all the time and laugh at his jokes-not at the joke, but at the fact that he was in such bad shape.
“You could use a cheap plastic stool, a plastic bench, or even a stack of chairs,” suggested Bob. “What do you want me to do?” “Only work with what you have,” said George. “Just make sure it is the right height for me,” said Bob. “Let’s go over it again.”
“It isn’t a chair,” blurted out George. “It’s the wrong chair.” “How do you know?” “Because it moved,” said Bob. “So it isn’t a chair, it’s the wrong chair.”
“It is a chair,” said the preserver. “I’m the Presiding Officer,” said George. “Then it is a chair,” said Bob. “It is a chairperson!”
“It is a chair,” said George. “And now let us see what else it is.” They looked at each other and saw that there was only one other person in the room-the chairman. “It is a top rail,” said the Presiding Officer.
“It is a top rail,” said the chairman. “That settles it all, doesn’t it,” said the Presiding Officer. With that, they left, but not before giving each other a little kiss on the cheek and saying thanks for reading the Style Guide.
If you read the Style Guide, you will notice that there are specific things that the chairperson and the chairman should not do. One of those is to “make an attempt to conceal the identity of the chairperson or sponsor.” The purpose of that is to prevent bias from creeping into the story.
In fact, in all likelihood, the Presiding Officer and the chairperson will be the same individual. If so, and if the story involves a sensitive issue, then the chairperson ought to have some knowledge about it and not withhold that knowledge from the presiding officer. After all, he has been elected because he is the best person for the job. He should not be required to take a position favoring one member of the university or the other.
Some universities have administrative offices whose job it is to administer the disciplinary procedures. If that office does not have sufficient staff or money to carry out its duties, then the chairperson may have to hire a professional firm to conduct the investigation and the discipline hearings. In addition, the chairperson may need to hire an outside agency to protect the confidentiality of the deliberations. It is always preferable to have an impartial person presiding over the proceedings, particularly when there are sensitive issues at stake. The decision as to who will preside over a disciplinary hearing should not be based on any basis that will favor one person over another.
When a story is written to report on an issue such as sexual harassment or discrimination of any kind, there is no doubt that some members of the board will not like what they see. Even if the majority of the board members like the story, a significant minority will not. The chairperson needs to approach the situation with the cool head that he must have if he is to make the right decisions. He should not allow his emotions to get the better of him or jeopardize the reputation of the institution in which he works.