Education Monday: An Ex- College President's Cry For Help
William Frawley, the ousted president of the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, is arguing that when he was charged with driving while intoxicated twice in one month, what he needed was not to be fired from his job, but the love and caring help that each human owes another.
In a piece in the Post's Outlook section, Frawley portrays himself as a victim of a blind, unthinking zero tolerance attitude. Like Alexandria schools superintendent Rebecca Perry, Frawley seems to believe that one set of rules should apply to students and a completely different set to administrators, who, after all, are so much more responsible than those kids for whom they are supposed to be role models.
Frawley was indeed, as he portrays himself, an accomplished academic and by all accounts a good president. Friends and colleagues tell me he's brilliant and a nice guy, too. But his Outlook piece reads like the work of a convict who cannot bring himself to concede that maybe, just maybe, the judge, jury and everyone else saw something in him that he cannot see. In this case, it's pretty clear that Frawley had a significant drinking problem, that he knew this and still chose to drive, that he spurned efforts by colleagues who sought to make him face up to his problem, and that even when the outside world learned of his problems, he resisted taking the right lessons from his embarrassing experience.
So instead of conceding that the college was right to remove him from office and that the press coverage of his ordeal was actually rather light and hardly the "brutal display" or "debasing" about which he complains, Frawley writes a sad commentary in which he is the victim of a world intent on delivering a knockout punch of humiliation. "I had become, Harry Potter-style, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," he writes. He wants us to feel sorry for the fact that technology has evolved and so he must now "endure the vicious new cyber-punishment of permanent exposure on the Internet."
My goodness, if you can't count on finding some recognition of the merit of personal responsibility from a college president, where can you hope to see such a basic aspect of good character?
The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, in an editorial that gets a bit peevish over the fact that Frawley wrote his piece for the Post rather than for the hometown paper, nonetheless makes an excellent case for just why the college's trustees were forced to act as they did, recalling that Frawley seemed to go out of his way to avoid taking responsibility for his actions or explaining himself to his bosses.
"Character is destiny," the paper reminds Frawley, and it seems a necessary lesson. The ex-president, the editorial notes, "uses the vocabulary of the health profession--'no apparent consideration for my illness,' 'undiagnosed depression,' '[n]ew heart problems and allergies,' 'stress,' 'my history of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, an electrical problem of the heart,' '[my] still-sedated state,' 'the feeling that I was about to have a breakdown or a heart attack,' etc.--to evade personal responsibility for his reckless actions."
Would you hire a man who writes a piece like this to be president of a college, leader of faculty and students? I hope Frawley finds a way to calm his demons and I wish him all the best in what I'm sure would continue to be a productive and creative academic career. I wouldn't have the slightest hesitation about having him as a professor teaching my child. But someone who so blithely dismisses his public responsibilities as well as the popular reaction to his breach of the public trust ought not be in a position of leadership.
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