David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
The Spirit of Giving

December 21, 2014

It's the Christmas/Holiday season and no one really wants to read cynical blogs.  I am not sure anyone even wants a Yuletide blog.  Still, in the spirit of the season, I would like to highlight two wonderful acts of charity.

At the one end of the giving spectrum, a little boy in Ohio donated his $1 allowance to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to save the recently eliminated football program.  He wasn't even a fan of the program (Dublin, Ohio, being a long way, figuratively and literally, from Birmingham, Alabama), but loved the program because of its dragon logo. I remember at 7 loving the Miami Dolphins, simply because of their logo.  Such is the loyalty of the innocent.

(Still, some snark must come out, because, thank goodness, the boy didn't try to donate the dollar directly to a UAB football player.  The NCAA would have sanctioned the program, made the player ineligible, and forbidden the kid from taking a step ever again--even once--on the Birmingham campus.  Moreso, while this is a wonderful lesson for the boy, it's too bad he doesn't donate the dollar to the art program being eliminated somewhere across the country that led to the logo that attracted the boy to the UAB program.  Even though the UAB president has taken heat for cutting the football program, the decision says a lot about the values of the university.  There's a lesson to be learned here about college economics and politics that no five-year old can fathom.)

At the other end of the giving spectrum, the CEO for Plum Creek gave back to his company the $2 million bonus he earned this year because the company didn't receive return on its investments.  Now maybe this is a public relations spin after a heated board meeting where the CEO was highly encouraged to give back the bonus; even still, it is a great message of accountability.  Such is the loyalty of the responsible.

With education having such specious definition of its investments, we probably will never get this kind of gesture.  Could you imagine a university president failing to meet his goals, and offering to give back his bonus?  Even if forced by a Board, it could be all that more meaningful. Heck, it might be most meaningful if forced by the Board.  Accountability starts with someone holding us accountable.

In the end, the CEO's $2 million is probably a similar financial loss as the 5-year old's $1.  Both are hugely symbolic.  Both are, in the words of the famous advertisement, "priceless," during a season when the spirit seems lost to consumerism.