Oregon sadness and a movement

Posted on 28th Nov 2011 by Deborah Morrison in Blog

I have a story to share. I believe what it tells us about cultural movements is at the heart of what we all feel is remarkable about living in a connected, passionate world.

Our University of Oregon president Richard Lariviere was notified this week that his contract will not be renewed, that he is terminated. Long story goes with this (you can read more and get the skinny by doing a quick Lariviere/Oregon/Phil Knight/the damn governor search) but the story is one of a bright, innovative change agent being told by a politically-appointed Board and egotistical governor that his change is not their way.

And a movement to undo that decision and keep this leader is born. It's grown from passion and belief.

Faculty, staff and students -- outraged at this turn of events -- realize that this president is at the core of growth and innovation for the school. Twitter, Facebook and blogs connect people quickly. Rallies planned, petitions signed, marches coalesce, a signature call-to-action is created (from our own School of Journalism and Communication) and appears on buildings, in posts, in letters. The Board is inundated with calls and messages, their listings suddenly excised from the official website. The Board obviously doesn't understand the mechanics of connection and network; they work in an entitled power-driven bubble. The Governor folds his arms and talks about CEO managerial style

Like #Occupy, we're unsure of the outcome (though we do have a very specific demand) but we know the movement is its own force. The movement demands accountability.

The University of Oregon community is in the midst of this cultural movement that questions misused power, that demands answers, that communicates visually, that uses the harmony of network and belief to make change.

As I watch this unfold, I'm reminded movement dynamics are powerful. They should be used with integrity and transparency. Indeed, we as communication and brand professionals should protect them from shallow misuse.

I'm also reminded that there's strong emotion here. We want this guy as our leader and he's being taken away.

The power of a cultural movement grows from honesty and a sense of mission. It is meaningful because it provides us with proof of our humanity. That's powerful stuff, my friends. Let us use it well.

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