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Another Voice: Dennis Black and the lack of integrity

By Wesley Carter

The recent events concerning the activities of UB’s former Vice President, Dennis Black, reminds me of a TV series called “American Greed.” In this series, one learns of the men and woman who devise clever schemes to divest a gullible public of its hard-earned savings. Some depictions are quite tragic in that people were convinced by the most despicable characters to invest in schemes for long-term gain. In many ways, the former vice president (with enough salary to aid a struggling student) fits the profile of these artist of con as depicted in this series.

Much can be said about these uncapped egos and characters of little substance, but I was thinking more about the university’s faculty and the work they perform in preparing their students for the future; and, hopefully, for their unselfish contributions to the greater society: How much damage, I wonder, has been done to their efforts?

However, I still like to think that at some point their lectures will always include the need for having behavioral honesty and integrity. Then, I thought about the parents, the students, and the collective effort to teach the latter to be caring, as well as, cooperative; and while the competitive remains as a bastardized enemy to the soul, never should it be allowed to yield to the vindictive and the uncompromising. I know that parents worry and pray that their sons and daughters will make it in a world much tougher and less forgiving than in years long past. But we survive or not in an economic environment that no longer holds itself responsible for the lives of working people.

In all that has occurred lately, there is one message that does not speak well to the efforts of parents, their children and the sincere members of the university community. That message suggests that if one is guilty of embezzling from one’s employer, all he has do is to admit of his guilt in somber tones, speak about the harm and embarrassment that he has caused his family and friends, agree to pay restitution and to enter that facile rehab called “community service,” cop the plea, then flee.  Justice! How many lives lie languishing in prisons for crimes they did not commit?

Finally, there’s the story of the 5-year-old whose mother taught him never to take items off a table. One day in an experiment in a psychologist’s office, the mother left the room. The psychologist, now alone with the boy, said it was OK for him to take the statue from a table nearby. He refused. Once again, she approved of the removal, and once again, he refused. After a while the mother returned and said it was OK for him to remove the statue. He still refused. Further insistence brought tears to his eyes. Refused: honesty, integrity.

Wesley Carter is a former faculty member of the University at Buffalo.

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