Thursday, April 8, 2010

Talk to the University of Los Andes - Santiago April 8 2010

Profesores, estudiantes, y otros inviados: Gracias por la invitacion a la Universidad de los Andes.
In the words of Pablo Neruda “desde el sonoro pedernal andino” hasta “el mar: fuego y frio: movimiento:” Chile is a magnificent country. It is almost impossible to imagine a country that has more dramatic vistas than you all enjoy here. I am looking forward to my own sightseeing. Chile has had a wonderful impact on my family. Your medical school and neuroscience scholars sponsored a conference last November in Santiago. My elder son who had just received his doctorate in neuroscience attended with a group of colleagues from the University of California San Francisco. He was so attracted to Chile that he spent three weeks hiking and touring. He hiked in the Torres del Paine which I understand is a challenge. He alerted me to the beauty and sophistication of Santiago and Chile.

I bring the greetings of our new President Morty Shapiro who has taken on the mantle of Northwestern’s leadership in the past 10 months. He is often called a student’s president. His dedication is to the teaching, research and service goals that are relevant to serving the objectives of our students.

With 30,000 students applying for only 2000 freshman places each year we have a saying. The old rule is that the faculty were not smart enough to be admitted to the graduate school. The graduate students were not smart enough to be admitted to the undergraduate school. Logically, the smartest people on campus are the 18 year old new students each year at Northwestern. Is that true here?

I want to summarize and talk about three ideas in the time available and with the important help of my translator.

By the way, my wife is fluent in Spanish but was unable to be here this trip.

1. First, The Wisconsin Idea of institutional and individual progressivism from one hundred years ago has a timely message for universities today.
2. Second, we can discuss the serious threats to all institutions such as government, business, religion, not-for-profits, NGOs and universities.
3. Third, I want to describe a new century post-theoretical role for the academic profession and professional practice of communications.

I am excited to be here to share these ideas with you. I will to ask for your feedback from a modern Chilean and world point of view.

The Wisconsin Idea

I bring the gift of knowledge and tradition from my birth state to this great country and university. I was born, raised and educated in the Great State of Wisconsin. It is just to the west of the largest inland body of water in the U.S. - Lake Michigan and just north of the great city of Chicago. You may never have heard of Wisconsin but it one of the great immigration states. It was mostly settled by the German Catholics, Norwegians, Swedes and others before the great U.S. civil war in 1860. The state was founded in 1848. This is a fact that never escapes me since I gave numerous state history, culture and commerce talks in my role as an assistant speechwriter and media aide to a former governor. Working there was my first job out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I hasten to note that the political leaders that I have worked for to become elected or while they were in office were never, never charged with any crimes. In Chicago I report frequently on ABC television on the corruption of some political leaders in Illinois. I now realize how lucky I was to work in a “good government state”.
The gift from Wisconsin is called the Wisconsin Idea. It could just as easily be called the Chilean Idea. The idea named and described 100 years ago by the author Charles McCarthy who was a professor and legislative administrator. I have a copy of the book which is called in the book collector’s profession a “reading copy”. This means that it will never be in a museum, on the shelves of a book collector or given as a valuable gift. It is a rumpled copy with some pages falling out, the paper a bit dog eared and the cover a very faded red with loose tape. For our consideration, the condition of the book is not important; it is the value, the richness and the application of the ideas within the book.
The book was authored at a remarkable time in the history of the U.S. In the recent U.S. debate on health care you may have heard the name of President Teddy Roosevelt (26th president of the U.S.). Among his progressive ideas at the turn of the last century were national health care and insurance. He was also the author the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Document as a diplomatic program with the other equally important “Americas” including Central and South America.
Another great political leader at the time was Robert M. Lafollette, Sr. Lafollette is best known for giving meaning to the term “Progressive”. The word “progressive” has been recently smartly substituted for the word liberal in American 21st century politics.
I won’t dwell on that point except as a powerful example of the meaning of words as used in politics to define the terms of engagement, the public perception of the points of view and how we now talk about century old political rivals in the U.S.
Linguist scholar George Lakoff did the same with a popular book oddly with the word elephant (Don’t think of an elephant) in the title that taught Democrats how to use words as strategies. Politicians often use terms like “revenue enhancements, public investments, supplemental funds” to disguise the raw term “tax”. My own research with the Langhrers nearly 20 years ago still illustrates how semiotics or signs and symbols of advertising communications has become increasingly important in application.
The progressive movement at the turn of the last century (1900) was a remarkable redefinition of the shared roles and power of many institutions. From that restructuring of institutional power the common man gained more influence, woman gained the political vote and life (relatively) was improved.
(Incidentally, I hear the wines of Chile have amazing restorative powers for a long life and are the true Fountain of Youth that Ponce de Leon tried to find in Florida in the U.S.).
1. Back then business ran rough shod over the nation with monopolies, poor labor treatment and greed.
2. The so-called robber barons woke up to a new era. They learned that government and other institutions were constituted to play a more balancing role in the affairs of the immigrant and natural citizens.
3. Religion and social organizations took on new challenges to meet the burgeoning population of “people, just off the boat “. They were arriving from all over the Western world.
4. Universities – my focus here – mostly the great land grant schools like Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana and others were especially a center of attention. For the gift of land, tax revenue and the support of other institutions they were expected to contribute to the leading industry at the time – agriculture. Scholars did contribute with new ideas for the dairy, beef, grain, corn and other products. They were also expected to bring new social and political knowledge to the citizens. However, that type of knowledge was not always welcomed.

When you visit Wisconsin I implore you to try a scoop of Bascom Dairy ice-cream - perhaps the most researched formulation of that delectable product in the world. I also suggest you look at a plaque commemorating the freedom of thought battled in the progressive era at the UW.
I must abbreviate the outcomes, but this period of time is full of extraordinary examples of institutions and some of their leaders beginning to cooperate,
• To create a new era of great democracy, safety, economic stability (guarantees of savings and life insurance). Lafollette as governor and then a great national Senator was a progressive leader at the time that defined progress in his time.

Institutional Challenges
Today, we face the same challenges in our institutions. I am careful to be reasonably balanced since I appear frequently on a morning news program in Chicago with about 2,000,000 viewers. In my last appearance I received a rather nasty email. I was criticized by a viewer for my applied political theory interpretation of the decision on health care. Frankly, I have framed the email as a point of pride much like a business person frames their first dollar or peso.
I believe that the national institutions in my country have become dated and disconnected to the people and their needs. Every important institution in the U.S. and many globally have failed in significant ways in the past decades.
The empirical evidence derives from a great international communications company and agency – Edelman Communications founded in Chicago but operating all over the world as the third largest PR agency and the largest privately owned firm. The Edelman team which includes many of our graduate students has conducted an annual and more frequent survey of the level of trust that people all over the world give to institutions and individuals. At Northwestern, we have contributed to the study.
I am happy to report to you this evening that professors and other experts are considered the most trustworthy sources of important information.
However, my concern has been for the declining scores all over the world of our traditional organizations including government, business, military, religion, education and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). My concern is that while the people of the U.S. continue to distrust the Congress they now even distrust their own congressman. Business has been on a roller coaster ride of low scores and some recovery. NGOs, to their credit, now have more credibility than our more traditional institutions.
Each of the institutions above, including most recently education has been challenged.
I only need to mention
1. Wall Street and Bernie Madoff
2. The Presidency with the indecision of George W. Bush and the personal behavior of Bill Clinton.
3. The “Bridge to nowhere” and thousands of other irrelevant actions approved by the Congress.
4. The very explicate accusations against the priests of the Catholic Church and ministers of other faiths.
5. Scandals in Not-for-profit groups such as United Way and the National Republican Party as examples of the declining reputations of our greatest institutions.
6. Even universities (though last in this general criticism) have been increasingly under attack for extraordinary increases in the costs of tuition. Northwestern has increased its already very high private university tuition 6% per year for nearly a decade to over 40,000 USD per school year. I expect my grandchildren may have to pay over $200,000 per year for 4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree.

By the way I don’t have any grandchildren yet since my three children are not yet married. The thought of being a professor whose children (one now a professor) not being able to afford to go to college is frightening to me and my colleagues.
There are protests growing among students at the public universities in the U.S. Unlike the protests of my collegiate days these are not about politics or war. Our new protests are about a new war of economics, jobs and tuition costs. Recently the tuition in California was increased 30% over a two year period. The University of Utah where I have lectured for over 15 years during ski season raised rates over 25%.
Please invite me back to Chile next summer for some spectacular skiing.
More and more the so-called public universities in the U.S. are not supported in this century by public state tax dollars. Most of the public state schools receive less than 20% of their funding from state taxes. I call them “pubvates” (or a combination of public and private schools = pub vate). The public schools like the University of California Los Angeles where my younger son graduated with his first degree are competing with the private schools like Northwestern, and Harvard where my daughter and older son received their first degrees. Despite a need for new faculty, hirings all over the nation have been frozen or stopped. At many public schools including the University of Illinois employees and faculty have been forced to take one day a week off (furlough) to save money. They may not use the university email on those days since that would mean they were working.
Some legislators and professors are still wondering how they will really tell if a professor or a lawyer or legislator is working. It is a researchable question.
And, many schools who lost as much as 30 percent of their endowment in the market crash last year have not fully recovered.
I predict more troubles for universities.
1. A conflict over enrollment of recently targeted undergraduate international students in lieu of American students
2. rising costs
3. retiring faculty not being replaced
4. Increase in practice experienced but non-doctoral, non-research based faculty.

With nearly 100 faculty in the School of Journalism program at Northwestern less than 5 have doctorates (my department has 15 doctoral junior and senior faculty). To save money the modern American university is hiring non-tenurable non-permanent colleagues. My research in Wisconsin showed that where tenure or it’s equivalency in government of civil service exists the employee is more likely to take risks. They are likely to be more innovative and develop new ideas without fear of being fired with each change in administration. In my 22 years at NU, I have had 7 deans including interim deans of a year or more. Such instability is not positive, but what can a practice revolution in communication research and practice bring?
Communications Revolution
My third point is the future role of communications scholarship and practice. Recently, this week in fact, I submitted with colleagues a proposal for a national federal grant to examine the issues of highway technology safety and reliability. While the engineers and optimization expects are an important link, the difference in our proposal reflects the new role of communications. It is my belief that for universities to be important in the new century; we must not only conduct research, but we must activate research on the research to search for communication opportunities. In a recent study we found that hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants required only the very minimum of communications about the results of the funded research.
Practitioners and scholars of communication would hardly consider the publication of a scholarly paper and the use of the knowledge in classes as a powerful use of one of civilized man’s and woman’s most important gifts – communications. I propose for you and for my school that a great school of communications can lead a city, region, nation and even the world with its redefinition for its students, patrons and stakeholders of the importance of
• telling stories
• to many, many targeted stakeholders and,
• measuring the value of communication success
What I believe is needed is to
1. give or take public permission to lead to the schools of communications and
2. give permission to lead to those who use communications as a strategic advantage in the institutions that we hope give us the strength and the promise of a future.
3. We need a revolution of communication progressivism.
We need the spirit of modern communications represented by the hard earned public success of
1. President Obama
2. President Sebastian Pinera and his predecessor Michelle Bachelet
3. The CEO of Aidmatrix
Also, the well earned communication failures of
1. The Chairman of Toyota AkioToyoda
2. The CEO, Ben Hatfield of the West Virginia Sego coal mine
3. The CEO, Bob Eckert Mattel Toys using lead paint in product for children
My challenge to all of us is to revolutionize with progressive thought the practice and application of communications.
1. We need to demonstrate to an entire generation of management educated MBAs and EMBAs that communication is a key element in corporate and organizational success. We need to operationalize the common comment from executives who say to me. “I had no idea my job would involve so much communications”. Or, the CEO who said “I need someone to tell me how to communicate with all the stakeholders out there.”
2. we need to establish communications across disciplines from biotech to transportation to journalism to poetry as centers of communications excellence in universities. Can you imagine being able to promise to the parents and students that our university will “guarantee” that the student will have excellent knowledge of when, how and what to communicate? And, that they will have the skills to thrive as a communicator in this century!
3. We need to show the world how communications can make a real difference in saving the reputation and importance of institutions and the people who struggle to build them. The faculty at NU are judged for their impact to earn tenure. We need to show how communications is an invaluable primary human and institutional form of impact on society and each other.
What progressive actions and research plans can we make under the threats of current social, political and economic trends?
Are universities too big to fail? Are they too big to fail like Wall Street, like Chase Bank, like the General Motors, California or Illinois? Even in this chaos, there is extraordinary growth of communications potential.
1. I want you to grab for your work, research and students the modern tools of business and organizational communications with dozens of social media tactics like Facebook, twitter, linked-in, BlogSpot, crowd sourcing, second life, unity, and more.
2. I want us to measure at a micro level the readability, targeted logic and precise writing of our students and ourselves. By the way this talk was written at the Flesch-Kincaid 11th grade level not as an insult to your intelligence but because the setting is more informal. President Obama’s address to the nation on health care was written at the 6th grade level.
3. We need to grab the advanced data tools of metrics that rely on systems that track millions of word and concept data points accumulated in mere seconds. Within seconds of your organization being mentioned on television, radio, and blogs or in print in popular, trade, specialized press you can have charts and graphs of your share of voice from experts, columnists and reporters. You can measure with another 50 items along with whether the comments were favorable or not. When Harley Davidson, the illustrious motor cycle company, celebrated its 100th anniversary they had over 1 billion media “hits:” The system gave them the insights they needed. Hundreds of high visibility, high risk companies in pharmacy, food, transportation, energy use the systems. I am using one system called VMSinfo as a donation of $120,000 to my class studying the role of institutions to communicate about the rage of childhood obesity.
4. I can safely say that we are now ensconced in a significant future for the role of communications in our crucial institutions.
I think you all know the important role that communications (at the personal and institutional) level played in the recent 8.8 earthquake and after-shocks in Chile. You all have personal stories that would illustrate the importance or in some cases the failures of our institutions. My experience with your crisis and the terrible one in Haiti is through the extraordinary organization This organization uses the most powerful modern business software that communicates between institutions and individuals – supply chain.
1. Aidmatrix communicates directly to donor companies and individuals what the victims of natural disasters need. No wasted generous donations are sent to a site using limited resources of transport and storage.
2. Likewise thousands of recipient organizations all over the world tell the Aidmatrix people and system what they need for their stakeholders, members. For example, over 2 billion dollars in food is shipped each year.
3. The right aid to the right place at the right time.

The leader of that organization is the former governor of Wisconsin and a close personal friend for over 40 years – Scott McCallum. Scott knows the value of institutional and personal communications. I commend the spirit of Aidmatrix, the value of effective political leaders to you.

I have asked you to consider
1. the richness of the Wisconsin Idea,
2. to recognize the chaos of our institutions including potentially universities and finally
3. To consider a Progressive agenda for communications.
Communications is much more than a field of study; it is our way of life, it is the meaning that builds and rebuilds institutions that matter to all of us. Since it is always presumptuous of a recent visitor to Chile to stand in front of an audience and tell them what to do, I will ask Pablo Neruda to speak to you and challenge you to use your knowledge, energy and skills of communications to solve our progressive challenges. From Oneness:
“un extreme imperio de confusas unidades, se reune rodeandome”.
An extreme empire of confused unities converges, encircling me.
Thank you for inviting me. Clarke Caywood, Ph.D.

1 comment:

Nico Ibieta said...

Nice word professor.
Hope to be part of the revolution too.