AU's Bad Example

Monday, October 31, 2005

American University's board of trustees is learning the painful lessons that trial in the court of public opinion is often far harsher and more unforgiving than proceedings held in a court of law and that legal and ethical are not synonymous ["AU Records Are Sought by Senate Committee; Finance Panel Wants Data on Ladner, Board," Metro, Oct. 28].

Having worked as a consultant in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years, I've often heard the mantra "we need people of affluence and influence to serve on our board." I contend, however, that if the portfolios of prospective board members do not include wisdom and integrity, all that affluence and influence -- not to mention those big egos -- can eventually come back to bite an organization in the butt.

As an AU alumnus, I commend Sen. Charles E. Grassley for investigating the actions and decisions of AU's board. It appears long overdue. In light of the numerous examples of the havoc poor board leadership can inflict on an organization, I hope board members -- in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors alike -- learn a lesson from AU's missteps.

LARRY CHECCO

Silver Spring


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