Letters to the Editor

    Editor:

    We have a really sad and nasty conclusion to the Quincy Troupe imbroglio. Instead of squarely facing the complexity and universality of lying, the university (and Quincy himself) opt for polite and graceful cliches involving images rather than reality. Almost everyone loves moralizing, nobody praises lying and almost everyone has lied. Lies are seldom simple, ranging from the little “”white”” ones that everybody tells to the lies of Enron and high government officials that do a great harm to a lot of people. Troupe’s lie is maybe a 2 on a scale of 10, comparable to the routine padding of resumes or the routine inflating of deductions on a 1040.

    And all the pious nonsense about the “”role models”” — an idea that should have been stillborn! A role model is an invented image, a public relations ideal which is itself a kind of lie. A genuinely human model has warts, flaws, imperfections — the kind we recognize in ourselves. And all the other nonsense about professors “”living up to a higher standard””! The standards we try to live up to are the standards of logic and evidence and originality and creativity, and we reward and punish each other accordingly. But anyone who knows professors knows that our nonprofessional moralities are human, i.e. full of the usual flaws that make us recognizably human.

    The world is packed tight with tolerated lies. Police lie to suspects, doctors may lie to patients, lawyers are seldom completely candid. A Burundi proverb goes, “”The man who tells no lies cannot feed his children.”” Husbands and wives lie to each other, know that they are being lied to, and so on. Shakespeare puns, “”I lie with her and she with me, and in our faults by lies we flattered be.””

    When a university, presumably dedicated to finding truths (including truths about lying), opts for cliches, piety and PR, we all lose. There should have been a campus-wide movement of confessed human liars (students, staff, faculty) to demand that Troupe’s resignation not be accepted. Instead, the loss and disgrace is ours.

    — Bennet Berger

    professor emeritus of sociology

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