Showing Moral Cowardice: Brown Univ. Dean

By | September 4, 2018

[September 4, 2018]  If you are a leader, then you are an ambassador to all organizations to which you belong.  If you are dishonorable in your behavior, it reflects negatively on all those who are there.  Senior academics in the last few days have pointed to the moral cowardice of Bess Marcus, Ph.D., Dean at Brown University School of Public Health.

Ultimately, academicians are hesitant to call someone a coward for what they do.  Yet recently, a scandal has been brewing at Brown University; one that leaders might want to monitor.  Here’s the short story (go here for a more detailed explanation).  Another academic, Lisa Littman, M.D., MPH, at Brown Univ. published a peer-reviewed, professional article addressing gender dysphoria.  Dr. Marcus removed the article from news distribution and failed to defend Littman’s research topic.

You may be surprised to discover that scientists are sometimes influenced by politics.  That is clearly the case when Dr. Marcus chose to act based on social media concerns and rejected the freedom of academics to chose and study issues of their choice.  The scientific method appears to not matter to Dr. Marcus.

“… conclusions of the study could be used to discredit the efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate perspectives of members of the transgender community” – Dr. Marcus in her letter explaining the removal of Littman’s’ article

Don’t be fooled by what the “blogosphere” is reporting about Dr. Marcus; that she is somehow just another academic snowflake, loose cannon, or that she is the finest, most honest person on the planet.  Yes, she is smart, articulate, experienced, and holds a prominent position at Brown.  Her actions were planned and thoughtful.

The question we must ask is why the concerns of unidentified persons should be accorded any weight in the evaluation of Littman’s academic work.  Dr. Marcus leaves this crucial question unanswered and unexplained.  That is unfortunate because it leaves her open to charges of dishonesty and spinelessness.

However, contrary to everything scientists have sworn to defend, Dr. Marcus appears to have rejected the universally accepted scientific method.  Also, where is the university’s support for Dr. Littman?  This is why Marcus is being accused of moral cowardice.

This scandal goes to the point that I’ve made before; being smart doesn’t make you immune to cowardice, stupidity, or being disloyal.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

36 thoughts on “Showing Moral Cowardice: Brown Univ. Dean

  1. Nick Lighthouse

    In my mind, the biggest problem with this is that Dr. Marcus has become an example to many who will now see her actions of duplicity and disloyalty as the “right” thing to do as a leader.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      Lynn, maybe. Let’s wait and see but I think it will be other professors too.

  2. Andrew Dooley

    Gen. Satterfield and readers of this blog, please keep us informed about how this develops. I think it will be a tremendous lesson for us all.

  3. Max Foster

    This is a more-than-sad situation. Brown U is a great university and has some good leadership. Why they are not out front of this growing problem is beyond my thinking. When a big problem like this becomes public, it is incumbent upon the university’s leadership to act. So far, I’ve seen nothing to indicate they have “clarified” or supported their decision. Leadership failure? The final judgment on that is still out but time is ticking.

  4. Jerome Smith

    Thanks to General Satterfield for highlighting this. Too many had chosen to ignore it and much is said about their lack of character for doing so.

  5. Drew Dill

    Gen. Satterfield, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I normally pay little attention to what happens in our “higher” circles of academia because of all the craziness. Usually, we see stupid stuff from the students. No so in this case. Leadership failure manifests itself in many unpredictable ways. Brown University will begin to see this soon.

    1. Jerry C. Jones

      Unpredictable is right. I’ll be sitting back and watching he self-imposed crash.

  6. Mr. T.J. Asper

    This incident became public over a week ago. Where is Brown Univ’s president in all this? Probably hoping everything will blow over and the world will stop looking at their leadership failures. Flash! This will not happen. I plan to read all I can about it and use it for the next few years on how to fail as a leader. Classic.

    1. Billy Kenningston

      Yes, life lesson that should not be ignored but displayed for everyone to see.

  7. Kenny Foster

    I see that the media is choosing to pretty much ignore this academic scandal. It’s hard to find much on it in the past 24 hours. I would think it should be covered so that we all get a lesson in how NOT to be a leader.

  8. Yusaf from Texas

    What’s up with professors these days? Is the no longer any integrity?
    I would hope that someone is having an honest discussion with her. A great leader at Brown University should be getting out ahead of this problem and doing it right now. Waiting only goes to demonstrate what Gen. Satterfield has written that so many of them are deceitful and dishonest.

  9. Anita

    Another successful woman embarrasses herself. No surprise to me that so many think so little of successful women. The stereotrype that women sleep with someone to get where they are is common. Dr. Marcus has just amplified that stereotype.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Stereotypes are easily reinforced. All the more reason their senior leadership should take a stand.

  10. Albert Ayer

    Advice for Dean Marcus… don’t let your emotions get ahead of your brain. 🙂
    Note for her. I’m being serious.

  11. Darryl Sitterly

    How sad that a Univ. Professor with such intelligence and successful career could not recognize something so simple that even the dumbest among us can see. You don’t sacrifice your honor for a bunch of mama’s basement knuckle draggers.

    1. Tony B. Custer

      Now, everyone at Brown U. is starting to clam up. Surprised? They got caught in the light of common sense and are now scrambling for the dark corners of academia.

  12. Wilson Cox

    Amazing level of dishonesty and cowardice by Dr. Marcus. Stupid is a stupid does. Oh, someone else already said that. Ha ha.

  13. Mark Evans

    Lee Jussim – Chair Psychology Department, Rutgers University “If it’s wrong, let someone produce evidence that it is wrong. Until that time, if the research pisses some people off, who cares? Galileo and Darwin pissed people off too. Brown U should be ashamed of itself for caving to sociopolitical pressure. Science denial, anyone?”
    Well said!

  14. Ronny Fisher

    Wow, tell me what you think. I too believe this ‘smart’ woman has made a terrible mistake and should be publically humiliated for it. That is happening but only on a small scale. She thinks she’s ‘safe’ by siding with social media perverts.

  15. Greg Heyman

    I heard about this yesterday and read up on it. How sad. I think the worse part is that Dr. Marcus has shown disloyalty to her peers. That makes her untrustworthy and will mean her eventual downfall.

  16. Janna Faulkner

    Normally you write about moral courage. I see today it is about moral cowardice and rightly so. Thanks for giving us both the good and the bad. Dean Marcus has disgraced her institution. And you are correct to point out that even smart people can deliberately act stupidly.

    1. Watson Bell

      Yes, how unfortunate for Dean Marcus. But it is never too late to right a wrong. She can still fix her failures but time is ticking. Trying to ignore it will not bode well for her already tarnished reputation.

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