*Dying Under Indictment
It isn’t often that a column by Nicolas Kristof gets me thinking; usually his mealy-mouthed half-truths just make me mad. His Thanksgiving column, “Are We Getting Nicer?”, prompted me to return to a question about Call Me Miss that I have been pondering ever since I learned of the death of disgraced ex-college president Karen Pletz.
Devoted readers will recall that Pletz was riding high on the crime wave that swept through higher education last spring, when one embezzlement scheme after another was uncovered on campuses as elite as Vassar and as meat-and-potatoes as Pletz’s Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. Pletz was dismissed when investigators discovered a little matter of $1.4 million she’d apparently diverted for her personal use. In addition to theft on this grand scale, Pletz also stood accused of tax evasion, money laundering, dodgy hiring practices and assorted acts of workplace favoritism. All told, she racked up a 24-count indictment and was to go to trial in March, 2012.
Nevertheless, when news of her death in Fort Lauderdale reached Kansas City, lavish condolences were expressed by those who knew her, including
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, former mayor of Kansas City, [who] said Pletz should be remembered as “first of all, a civic leader.”
I confess that my first reaction when I read Rep. Cleaver’s comment was to reflect on its dispiriting honesty.
But then it also made me think about whether, since the alleged embezzler has now met her maker, I should remove the original post I wrote about her indictment. The abrupt dismissal of a college president generally takes place when there is overwhelming, incontrovertible, compelling and public or soon-to-be-public evidence of wrong-doing on a grand scale. In other words, the smoke generated by a pink slip means there is fire. So, yes, although death cheated Ms. Pletz out of her day in court, in my view there was nothing “alleged” about the crimes for which she was to be tried. But the woman is dead, by her own hand. Should a snide blog post continue to persecute her, even after the feds and the state drop their charges?
To use Nicholas Kristof’s eloquent language, should Miss be “nice”? And if she is “nice,” and deletes the post, does that mean that other posts will go, once the academic miscreant has served his or her community service?
To me, these are real questions for which I honestly do not have answers. Do you?