I write this letter in regards to social media comments about the loss of the CU Marching Band and President Spiro’s remarks. First off, let me say that my son is a student at the Berklee College of Music. My son, my husband, and I have all been long time Marching Band members. I was even the lead Drum Major back in the day, and my husband reminds me (every year) that he marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so I have nothing but respect for the Marching Band and its devoted musicians. If you’ve ever worn a scratchy wool uniform in a Fourth of July parade with rain from a torrential downpour gushing from the bell of your trombone, you too would respect the mighty marching band.
With that bit of background aside, I also know President Spiro well enough to know that he has nothing but respect for that program and its students. In addition to being the Interim President, and our former Dean, he is a liberal arts professor who loves and supports the liberal arts.
I’d like to clear up some significant misinformation in the social media dust up over President Spiro’s comments. President Spiro did not issue a statement or letter to students and parents as some of the FB commenters implied. His comments were released in an informal weekly emailed newsletter to faculty and staff. I teach public relations courses, among other media studies courses, and a cardinal rule of mass communication is “know your audience.” Jonathan was addressing his peers, not students and parents. He was using humor to soften the blow of announcing yet another painful loss.
Universities across New England are facing especially challenging times, and Castleton University is no exception. Every day President Spiro has to make tough decisions that many will neither like nor agree with. And every week, Jonathan has to share that information with his faculty and staff. He often uses irreverent or “gallows humor” to break the news. My husband teaches here too, and we both appreciate Jonathan’s approach. He pokes fun at himself much more than he does at anyone or anything else, and honestly, I look forward to these weekly messages. It makes me feel connected to leadership and the rest of the staff.
I will stay out of the social media commentary, because I only use social media for professional reasons and don’t engage with it in my personal life. But the people who commented about President Spiro don’t even know him. Their comments were rash, judgmental, and often vile. They proceeded as though he made disrespectful comments to students and parents. His words were meant for his colleagues with the understanding that they would be interpreted with humor and to send a message that we’re in this together; the good times and bad. And if I may throw in another media maxim, “The medium is the message.” By sending a message to colleagues in an informal missive, he trusted that he was communicating with people who know him and know his heart.
President Spiro ends each weekly email with song lyrics because he loves music and uses it to define his state of mind, as so many of us do.
Before social media ever darkened our door, Don Henley sang,
Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little
In everybody’s pie
We love to cut you down to
We love dirty laundry
– Stephanie Bird Wilson
part-time faculty, Media