October 24, 2012

ANOTHER VIEW: Discussion about Colby board chairman different from what was reported

Richard Y. Uchida

Last Saturday morning, in a break between sessions of the Colby College Board of Trustees, I met with two students who have been circulating a petition requesting the resignation of Robert E. Diamond, board chairman.

The decision to meet with the students was motivated by an important tenet of the board and the Colby community -- the value of listening to diverse views within our community.

Our conversation was cordial and civil, so I found it most unfortunate that one of those students apparently misrepresented the nature of our conversation when he spoke later to a Morning Sentinel reporter.

Much of what we discussed had to do with the complex role of private philanthropy in institutions such as colleges, hospitals, charities and the like. We agreed, as I think most of us do, that the have made -- and will continue to make -- invaluable contributions to our society.

I think it's also reasonable to recognize that some may feel conflicted about these relationships. Clearly, that is the case with the two students with whom I met and the small group of like-minded students who have signed the petition.

Issues such as this can surely benefit from further analysis, especially if that analysis happens in the appropriate context.

As we spoke, we discussed how such analysis might quite logically happen in our classrooms, in conversations with professors, or perhaps in a panel discussion organized by our own Goldfarb Center for Civic Affairs and Public Engagement.

The student's claim, however, that I encouraged them to "host a school-wide forum to discuss Diamond's role" at the college is simply not true.

In fact, in opening our conversation, the students specifically pointed out that not a single regulatory body has suggested that Diamond encouraged the manipulation of Libor or that he did anything wrong -- a point unfortunately lost in much of the press coverage last summer.

I also noted that since our review of the matter and our announcement in August, the board has not wavered from support of Diamond as our chairman.

On a more personal note, I join others on the board in considering it a great privilege to serve the college alongside Diamond.

While some may measure his loyalty to Colby merely by the record of his giving, those of us who know him understand that he is now, and always has been, among Colby's most loyal and dedicated alumni -- a man who is as generous with his time and his talent as he has been with his resources.

I do not doubt the earnestness and sincerity of the students' feelings about this issue, and I acknowledge their viewpoints. Nor do I doubt their desire to prolong this discussion.

I would urge these students and those who support them, however, to be mindful that for any meaningful exchange to take place, on this or any other issue, that exchange must be predicated on mutual respect, fairness, trustworthiness and an accurate accounting of discussions and material pertinent to such issues.

Richard Y. Uchida, Class of 1979, is vice chairman of the Colby College Board of Trustees.

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