Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Copyright of Photographs

During a recent casual conversation with an attorney friend the question of copyright of photographs came up.  If two people take a picture of a building and the photographs are almost identical, how does another person know who owns the copyright?  The short answer is the photographer is considered the artist/creator and owns the copyright to his photographs.  For example the above is my picture of the Shrine of the Book, which is part of the Israel Museum.  Since the person is not recognizable, no model release is required for publication. Even if the person was recognizable, the picture is being used editorially and a model release is not 100% required.  The picture was taken following the guidelines of the Museum. I framed the picture and cropped it.  I own the copyright and the right to publish it here. If someone else, standing next to me took a similar picture, they own their picture.  It would not be plagiarism or even “copycatism.”  If I posed people or otherwise composed the shot, someone may be infringing on my creative rights if they took a picture.  I could ask them to cease and desist.

The question of ownership under law has changed over time.  Photography did not even exist at the time of the first copyright laws. Artwork was not even covered. While the copyright ownership under the law is clear, the rights to use photographs in printed or published works is not 100% clear.

(On June 22, 2012 the Canadian Parliament passed a revised copyright law. [1] One of the stated purposes as stated in the summary was to “give photographers the same rights as other creators” of artistic and literary works.  According to the previous law, photographers who were commissioned or hired were not automatically the first owners of their photographs when shooting commissioned work. The entity that hired them was the copyright holder unless the parties signed an agreement concerning ownership.  Section 13(2) of the Canadian Copyright Act specifically singled out photography as being different than other creative works. I am including information about Canadian law because Canada, the United States and other countries are part of international treaties concerning copyright.  Copyright law in Canada, US, Great Britain and other English speaking countries is very similar.  

According to U.S. Copyright Law [2]  the copyright owner has the following rights: 

  • (1) To reproduce the work in copies;
  • (2) To prepare derivative works;
  • (3) To distribute copies to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • (4) To display the copyrighted work publicly

The photographer is considered an artist whether the pictures were carefully planned or taken in a moment of opportunity.  When the shutter is released, the photographer who pressed the button owns the copyright.  Like literary works, when the artist is working under contract or his usual job, creations are in the “works-for-hire” category.  A work-made-for-hire relationship is created in two situations: (1) the photographer is an employee hired to take photographs as part of his job or (2) a freelancer hired under contract for an event.  The contract must state the rights of the photographer and those who hire them. The free-lance photographer is considered an artist. 

The copyright law in section 120 allows photographers of buildings and other structures to own their works without the need for the building owner to give permission.  Building owners can not prevent photographers from using the likeness of the building in any way.  The owners of the “Hollywood” sign have tried to prevent people using pictures of the sign, by sending cease and desist letters that demand payment.  I saw one web site written by an attorney claiming that law suits filed by the sign owners were not successful, but I have not yet been able to verify this.

Photography of buildings, icons, or artwork is complex because copyright and registered trademarks are evolved.  People may confuse what is protected, how it is protected, and what can be published without permission.  For a tourist or for other personal purposes, there is no limitation as to what you can photograph while standing on public property. Go ahead and photograph the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood sign, or any building that you want.  You can use the photographs in an article you write about your visit to New York or Los Angeles.  However, you may need permission to use the image to associate it with your business or cause.  For example: I saw a TV commercial for Liberty Mutual Insurance.  The spokesperson clearly had the Statue of Liberty in the background.  During the first part of the commercial the name of the company was not used.  The Statue was not initially connected to the narrative.  Had the commercial ended there, I would have considered this fair use.  In the second part of the commercial, the name of the company and their symbol were clearly identified.  Their corporate symbol in the commercial is a rendition of the Statue’s arm. From their web site the symbol is the face and arm of the Stature.  This implies a connection.  This use of the Statue is not allowed without permission because it creates a connection between the Statue and “Liberty” in their name. [3]

For editorial use pictures can be used within fair use provisions of the law.  For example this picture contains the famous Rockefeller Plaza Statue. It is a still from the 1949 musical film On the Town. The three actors are: Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, and Gene Kelly.   The film makers probably needed permission to make the film in Rockefeller Plaza.[4] The actors signed contracts.  If I wanted to take a picture of three sailors in the Plaza, how I use the picture would indicate the permissions needed.  The use of this picture for this article is fair use because it is for editorial illustrative purposes.  I know who the names of the actors because in the next shot their faces are clearly seen and I read the credits. Generally, people have a right to control the use of their likeness[5].  If the people were random passers-by I would need model releases before I could publish the pictures in a commercial way that would associate them with my product or service.  If I would associate a still picture or film with my product or services, I probably need permission. 

The movie’s camera operators are not the artists. For them this film is a work for hire.  If you or I passed by and took a snap shot of the filming, the producer or director may or may not try to assert the rights to the image; however, under current law the photographer owns the copyright as soon as the shutter is opened.  The use of the images may to limited by a contract or trademark law.

History of the Copyright of Photography

Copyright legislation is reserved by the US Constitution to the federal government.  Before the Constitution each state had its own copyright law.  This created a maze of laws that made literary creation and publishing difficult.  The creator’s of the Constitution saw copyright as one area of law that required national legislation. The first United States copyright law was enacted on May 31, 1790.[6]  The law protected literary works, charts, and maps and the creations of inventors.  It was a combination copyright and patent law, but there was no protection of artistic works. Oren Bracha (see note 6) says that while this copyright law was similar to the British Statue of Anne[7], there is no evidence of a direct connection.  The connection may be through the state copyright laws that were based on the Statute of Anne.  A key philosophical difference was the British law protected the bookseller/publisher while the American law protected the author/creator.   The term of copyright was 14 years.  This term was either a vestige of the 1624 Statute of Monopolies, where it functioned as the maximum duration allowed for new inventions or 14 was considered a fair period to recoup the investment.  The protection of intellectual property rights was secondary to the protection of commercial rights.  While some people lived to be in their 80’s the average 18th century adult could expect to live to be about 60. 14 years was connected to the life expectancy for the author.     According to Edward Coke,[8]   a 14 year term was probably chosen because it was twice the standard apprenticeship term.  I disagree because many places in Coke’s book mention seven year periods and none have any connection to the protection of intellectual property.

State laws varied in their protection of creative works.  All the acts protected rights in books or printed works. [9]  New Hampshire[10] had a broader definition of printed works, “all Books, Treatises, and other literary Works.” New Hampshire stated that creators have the right to the “fruits of their study and industry.” This indicates that intellectual property is protected as a common good.  New Hampshire’s protection lasted 25 years.  Only Connecticut,[11] Georgia[12] and North Carolina[13] explicitly extended protection to maps and charts.  That is works based on graphics rather than texts.

 All of these early statues had weak provisions for enforcement.  The penalties were withdrawal of offending copies or restitution of two times the cost of the copies printed.  The first recorded Federal case dealing with copyright was Morse v. Reid was decided on April 4, 1798.  The court ordered the plaintiff to pay the amount of the net profits from the sale of infringing copies and did not follow the statutory remedy.[14]

The revision to the copyright law enacted in 1802[15] added etchings and engravings to the types of work protected.  The law was changed in February 1831 to include musical compositions whether or not printed and published.  The period of protection was increased to 28 years.[16] In August 1856 copyright protection was extended to plays and performances. [17]  Photographs and negatives were not protected until March 3, 1865.[18]

Since 1839 people have been debating whether photography is art or a technical process.   Is a photograph documenting the world or is the camera an artist’s tool.  For the established artists in the early 1800’s photography was a viewed as a threat to their livelihood. In response to the claim that photography was mechanical recording, many artists made paintings that were more works of imagination, than reality.  While snap shots may just be a document of the moment, any time a photographer frames the picture, looks for the best shot, or processes the photo after the shot it is art.  The photographer has used creative energy and skill to create art.

Artist Mark Chamberlain says that the debate as to whether photography is an art or not is over.

“When photography was introduced in 1839, many artists viewed the camera as a soulless, mechanical device, rather than as a legitimate artist's tool. But the camera has always been a very powerful tool in the right hands. In fact, it forced the rest of the art world to move over and move on; to their benefit in the long run … It is the eye, hand, heart, and timing of the artist that give the photographic artwork meaning."[19]

In 1884 photographer Napoleon Sarony filed a copyright infringement suit against the Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company.[20]  The case worked it way to the Supreme Court on the issue: Is the 1865 copyright law extending protection to photographs constitutional?  The suit was file as a writ of error to the circuit court for the southern district of New York. Plaintiff is a lithographer, and defendant a photographer, with large business in those lines in the city of New York. In the suit before the New York circuit court  Sarony was plaintiff and the lithographic company was defendant, the plaintiff charging the defendant with violating his copyright in regard to a photograph, entitled 'Oscar Wilde, No. 18.' The court made a judgment in favor of the plaintiff who was awarded the sum of $600 for the plates and 85,000 copies sold and exposed to sale, and $10 for copies found in his possession.  Sarony did all the correct steps to secure copyright.  The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Circuit Court stating that the nature of authorship and of originality, intellectual creation, and right to protection, are valid copyright protection of photographs.  The Court said that the Constitution is broad enough to authorize “photographs, so far as they are representatives of original intellectual conceptions of the author[21].”  The Court recognized that photographs are intellectual property on the same level as literary creations.

Guidelines for use of Photographs

While the law makes it clear that copyright is owned by the creator of a literary, graphic, electronic, or any other work in a fixed form from the moment of creation, one does not have complete freedom to use the creation in publications. Publications are not limited to print.  A web site, blog, video screen, or broadsides are examples of publications.  Contractual agreements may limit your use.  For example a photographer may be hired for a job.  The contract will state what rights s/he has to the photographs.  In a building the owner or management may limit photography for many reasons such as privacy, secrecy, or contractual agreements that supersede the copyright protections of the law.  In a public area, you may take pictures, but still not have the right to sell or publish them.  How the pictures are used governs what kind of permissions you need. 

If you hire a photographer for an event, sign a contract that explicitly states who owns the copyright, the rights to use the pictures, and the length of the term.  Don’t sign a standard contract without reading it carefully.  If you don’t like the photographer’s terms, negotiate, emend, or get another photographer.

Go ahead and take your family pictures, tourist pictures or document your travels as long as they are taken within the guidelines of the place. For example buying a ticket to a museum may indicate your photography is limited.  Take a picture of a landscape or outside of a building to your heart’s content as long as you are not endangering yourself or others.  Taking a picture of people at a public outdoor event may or may not require a model release depending on the use.  For editorial use, don’t worry.  For commercial uses, get a release.

Even if you are right under the law, sometimes litigation is too expensive and not worth the trouble.  If someone threatens to sue, try to fight back but avoid court.  Figure out if the possible gain is worth the effort.

For historical photographs, the copyright law protects them for the owner’s lifetime plus 70 years.  This is quite unfair.  Imagine you have a baby picture of your grandparent taken 100 years ago.  The photographer is not known.  You want to publish the picture on your web site or in your book.  Who is going to care about the copyright of a 100 year old picture?  If the picture were still protected under copyright, would the owner be able to prove ownership?  What is the worse thing that can happen?  If you get a notice of copyright “violation” and you delete the picture. The claimant has spent time and money to find your picture and now the picture is gone.  There is no claim or possible law suit.

If you are publishing a photograph, not only should you make sure that you have the rights, but also give proper attribution.


Thanks to the web site: Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)  General editors: Lionel Bently of the University of Cambridge and  Martin Kretschmer of the University of Glasgow for having many sources for the study of the history of copyright.  The site has many historical documents and citations for further study.

[1] Bill C-11 amended section 20 of Statues of Canada.  The text can be found here:

[3] The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. owns the rights to Statue’s image. The Foundation makes significant money from the licensing rights for everything from miniature replicas to corporate associations such Liberty Mutual.  They do not approve every licensing request.  They turned down pictures of Statue of Liberty that are not in concert with their mission such as coffins.  See the New York Times July 30, 1984  article, “Statue Of Liberty Is a License Problem”   

[4] In today’s movies some companies may pay for product placement.  For example in the movie ET, The Mars Company refused to allow the use of M&M’s.  The producers used Reese’s Pieces.  There was an immediate increase in sales attributed to the movie. It is not clear if the producers of On the Town would pay Rockefeller Center or the other way around. 

[5] A full discussion of this is beyond the scope of this article because that is not a copyright issue.

[6] Here’s the text of the law:   For commentary on the law see : Bracha, Oren. ‘Commentary on the U.S. Copyright Act 1790', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), editors: L. Bently & M.Kretschmer, Cambridge, UK : Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, 2008.   

[7] The Statute of Anne, (official title: An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies) the first British copyright law was enacted in 1710. Before this statute copyrights were based on local laws and case law.  Some only protected works for five years.

[8] Coke, Edward. Institutes of the Laws of England. London: M. Flesher, 1644.

[9]  Solberg, Thorvald. Copyright Enactments of the United States 1783 -1906. 2nd ed.  Washington : Library of Congress, 1906.  

[10] Ibid. page 18.
[11] Ibid. page 11.
[12] Ibid.  page 27
[13] Ibid.  page 26

[14]  Bracha, Oren. Owning Ideas: A History of Anglo-American Intellectual Property. Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard Law School, 2005.  Doctoral dissertation.
[15] Solberg, Thorvald. Copyright...  page 34
[16] Ibid.  page 37
[17] Ibid.  page 43
[18] Ibid.  page 44

[19] Quote is from : Goldner, Liz.  “Photography as Art: The Debate is Over”  Laguna Beach, California :, 2015. .  Mark Chamberlain is a fine art photographer who owns BC Space Gallery in Laguna Beach, California.  Retrieved on Nov. 10, 2015.

[20] Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53 (1884).  Full text of the decision:

[21]  Find Law for legal professionals.   Legal citation for the New York case: S.Ct. 17 Fed. Rep. 591.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New President Interview -- Part 32 – Diversity


Q:  “Diversity” is often used in both academia and in corporate institutions.  “Diversity” is intended to describe a methodology that creates ways to make the institution more reflective of the community. What is the College diversity policy?

A: Briefly we believe that having a diverse student body, faculty, and staff is essential for helping student face the world.  The College actively promotes diversity. The richness of the educational experience is enhanced by diversity and leads to understanding, tolerance, and an appreciation of the differences embodied in each of us.

Q:  That sounds very lofty.  Most of the time people think that having students of many races is diversity.  Having a 37% black, 35% Hispanic, and 18% white student population is someone’s idea of a diverse population. I know that is not your opinion. What is diversity?

A: Diversity means that one recognizes that no one person has a monopoly on the truth or a particular way of thinking.  People should be judged on the power of their intellect, the kindness of their heart, and the generosity of their spirit.  The forms that ask about racial diversity are silly.  Diversity has many layers because we belong to different communities simultaneously.   Examples of the basis or commonality for communities include: geographical proximity or groups based on religious, ethnic, physical, gender, intellectual, professional, or recreational interests.  Creating a diverse organization is difficult because it takes people out of their comfort zone. People tend to like those whom they share some sort of common interest or other commonality.  People can respect a person who is different as long as they conform.

Teams need several kinds of people.  Leaders don’t need people who always agree with them.  They need many points of view to create solutions that work. Diversity brings new information to the organization.  In a 2014 article Katherine W. Phillips says, “Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.” [1]

One of reasons we teach the humanities is to demonstrate both the similarities and differences of the human spirit.  The human spirit is both the same and different in each one of us.  If one person has strict religious based dietary rules, you can’t say to them, “Don’t worry God with forgive you this one time if you eat x-food with me.” God may forgive, but perhaps the person will never forgive you or themselves for a weak moment?

There is an unresolved question, “Does diversity cause better results and innovation or is the correlation just a statistical anomaly?”  It is difficult to devise an experiment that would be conclusive.  I diverge a bit to a sport analogy about cause and effect.  Baseball keeps all kinds of statistics.   For example how do pitchers fair against right-handed or left-handed batters based on a pitcher’s dominate throwing arm?  Does a left-handed pitcher do better against left-handed batters?  Are there scientific proofs involving measurements and the physics of a thrown ball? Or is the correlation only an interesting data set?  The skeptic may ask, “Who cares?  The data are just counts of the results.”

In the 1950 book, Social pressures in informal groups: a study of human factors in housing [2] Leon Festinger, et al discuss the functioning of groups.  Small groups influence the behavior of their members.  People in close proximity form groups that support each other.  This is the basis of the science of social psychology.  Proximity may start friendships and they may continue after the geographic proximity ends.  Group behavior is influenced by the institutional culture, relevant laws, as well as interpersonal connections.  In the 1950’s they didn’t talk much about diversity and were concerned about what kept groups together.  This group cohesiveness leads us to understand how diversity enables groups to be smarter than the sum of the individuals.

Festinger describes a situation in the book (starting at page 8) about a 1946 housing project named Westgate.  They studied how residents made friendships.  These observations were so important in the field of social psychology, more than 25 years later they were still studied in undergraduate psychology courses.  The fact that these were new housing projects, the residents had no prior connections, and they were all MIT married engineering students, gave the researchers an opportunity to study friendship with many methodological controls.  One of their results was that proximity was important for the formation of personal friendships. Electronic communications breaks down the barriers of time and place and allow new kinds of friendships and continuation of proximity initiated relationships. Festinger did not predict the extent of the influence of increased electronic communications.  Friendships were not connected to diversity or the need to have diverse relationships.  While people who liked each other became friends, proximity was the best predictor of friendship.

For diversity to be a factor in the increasing of corporate well being and intelligence, people have to be willing to step away from a comfort zone.  On Face the Nation on August 30, 2015 Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal talked about assimilation of immigrants into American society.  His often repeated line, “Immigration without assimilation is an invasion” sounds like the cadence of a politician.  It is meaningless and is disconnected from learning through diversity.  In the College, we have written rules and policies that people are supposed to conform to.  We have a corporate culture that has the expression or interpretation of the rules.  However, diversity is a concept that can not be legislated.

Q: Getting to some cases—what is the interpretation of respect for those are different? What are some accommodations to allow for diversity?

A: Some aspects are controlled by state and federal laws. The  Illinois Human Rights Act   (775 ILCS 5/) states that all individuals within Illinois the have the right to freedom from discrimination based on his or her race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, order of protection status, marital status.  The law then elaborates on what this means.  Compliance is sometimes a delicate balance between the needs of the College and the individual.  For example no teacher may schedule a major exam on a religious holiday without making a reasonable accommodation to members of that religious group.   In my college years some professors were more accommodating than others.  One scheduled a final on a Saturday.  The class never even met on Saturdays.  He refused to reschedule a test on another day for the Sabbath observers in the class.  The class had many Sabbath observers. The professor said, “God will forgive you.” After complaining to the dean, the accommodation was to take the test on Saturday night after the Sabbath ended.   While technically that was an accommodation, even the non-Sabbath observers thought that was unjust.

Here at the College, we try to treat students, faculty, and staff with respect concerning their religious holidays while keeping in mind that we have to watch out for those taking advantage of an observance that is not theirs.  In high school a few non-Jewish students missed class on the Jewish holidays because they knew the teachers would not cover much material in class on those days. Here we require verification that a person is a legitimate observer.  The verification process is left to the discretion of the teacher or supervisor.

Q:  How do you deal with meetings that may happen on holidays or the Sabbath?

A:  With every group there are those who have time conflicts.  If no one objects, Saturday and Sunday meetings are allowed.  If a committee meeting has a regular time to meet each week and a member can’t attend because of a conflict, the members must decide how to deal with the situation.  For example for a routine meeting, a substitute may be sent.  Other times, the meeting is rescheduled.  I have heard of colleges scheduling graduations on Saturday.  Those Sabbath observers who wanted to participate in the ceremonies had to have an accommodation.  At the May 16, 2015 commencement at Binghamton University, State University of New York, Don Greenberg, of Teaneck, New Jersey, was selected by his classmates to deliver one of the student commencement addresses.  As an observant Jew, he could not use electricity on the Sabbath and so couldn’t use the microphone.  Speaking without a microphone was impractical.  Rescheduling the commencement would have caused too many hardships for everyone involved. [3]  Greenberg pre-recorded his speech three days earlier and stood at the podium while it played on the big screen to the audience. The speech included the reason for the recording.  He challenged graduates to pursue greatness as opposed to a pre-determined path.  His family stayed within walking distance because they do not ride or use a car on the Sabbath. [4]  This was an accommodation that was a proud moment for all involved.  The University’s office for diversity and inclusion let people know that this happened and showed how without compromising the Sabbath or the University’s needs, diverse needs can be met.

Here at the College we do not have a tradition of weekend commencement exercises.  Commencement is usually scheduled for the first Tuesday after the end of the spring semester classes.

Q:  What meetings would cause difficulty with religious accommodations? 

A: A major decision making meeting should take into account religious observances.  We do not schedule major meetings from Friday afternoon through Sunday. 

A while ago a major state university in another state was searching for a president.  The search committee was charged by the chancellor of the system to find someone who would lead the university on a new course.  The board of trustees had some major policy changes that would need to be implemented by the new president.  Programs were going to be changed, moved or consolidated.  New buildings were proposed or scheduled to be built and old ones re-purposed.  All of these activities would be under the supervision of the new president.  The university needed a president who had experience in the academic and community arenas.  The new president would need to build bridges and gain support from the faculty, staff, community and students so that the changes would help them all.  A president's responsibility includes providing leadership and vision for planning, operations, and compliance with local, state, federal, and accrediting body laws, rules, regulations, and legal interpretations.  The provost provides similar leadership for the academic programs and student services of the College. The provost works to create a climate which enhances student learning, stimulates creative approaches to teaching and learning, and motivates both staff and students to optimum levels of student success and community achievement.

The process of choosing a president requires a balance between information to be made public and information that is kept private.  A person who applies for such a job has to be careful with his current job because the current employer may view him/her as disloyal.  If not appointed to the new job, the candidate can lose respect and power and become ineffective in the current position.

To choose a new president, that state university appointed a “diverse” committee of faculty, alumni, staff, administrators, and a student representative.  The committee tried to include constituents and diverse types of personality styles to see if they could form a committee that represented the campus.  The president of the faculty senate, who is supposed to represent the faculty voice, was not invited to be a member of the committee.  The committee’s job was to discover and codify the campus thought as what qualities should be in a new president and then find candidates.  After a self-study to determine the needs and want of the campus, the committee advertised the position and received applications.  This campus interview was a time to get to know the candidate and listen to them as they explain their thought process and vision as to how they would be able to lead the university.  The on campus interviews included meetings with special groups and open sessions for the students and faculty. 

The committee met for several summer months and identified three candidates they wanted to interview. They vetted the candidates and choose three finalists to be invited for on campus interviews.  After one declined the interview, a fourth candidate was identified and invited.  The three candidates were scheduled from September through the second week in October.  Getting acceptable dates for the candidates took a lot of negotiations and planning.

The first candidate was scheduled for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  The president of the faculty senate objected and was supported by a resolution of the senate executive. The person making the arrangements and scheduling said that was the only day the candidate was available.   This was a power play.  What is more important following the university guidelines for respectful and diverse campus and following the law for non-discrimination or the interviewing of a candidate?  Arguments about time and money are really about power.  People like to have power over their situation and over others.  A healthy relationship is where the parties are more interested in win-win situations than “I’m right, you’re wrong” dramas.

Scheduling another day proved impossible.  What possible accommodations could be made was a heated discussion.  One suggestion was to stream the interview and allow those who couldn’t be there to chime in with questions.  That did not work because if the faculty senate president couldn’t be there in person, he could not be there via teleconference either.   Since body language and other non-verbal communications convey messages beyond the words,   for someone is to be taken seriously, they have to look and feel the part.  Listening is an art and one needs to observe both how the candidate moves and looks as well as the words in his answers.  Does the candidate treat the faculty and other with the respect they deserve?  One does not need a candidate who agrees with everyone and every idea, but getting to acceptable answers is part of the job of a president.

The next offer was to allow the faculty senate president to submit written questions. This means the questions will definitely be asked, but the body language would not be viewed and there would be no follow-up questions.   In the end the compromise was -- written questions would be allowed; the faculty senate was allowed to teleconference additional questions on a future date; and the university administration agreed never to schedule an important university meeting on a day that limited participation because of a religious holiday.

In the end the first candidate was totally unacceptable. He had a great resume with all the appropriate education and experience.  The president of the faculty senate read between the lines.  The written questions made the candidate uneasy.  He was not a good listener and the committee could tell from his body language that he was not a good fit.  They had a hard time believing anything he said.  He did not get the job.  Another candidate not only had the right words, but was an active listener and before the end of his two days of interviews already was able to build relationships.  People believed him.  He was offered the job and now many years later the university is a better place because of him.

Q:  Thank you very much.


Part thirty-two of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After more than 30 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. Everything is true, but some details have not yet happened. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.

[1] Phillips, Katherine W. "How Diversity Works." Scientific American 311.4 (2014): pages 43-47. Retrieved from Ebsco Academic Search Complete.   27 Aug. 2015. The Ebsco citation for this article has the wrong author attribution.  Ebsco’s citation has “Paul Caleb” as the author. I verified authorship with the real author.  She gave me another source, the Scientific American web site:  The title there is:  "How Diversity Makes Us Smarter."  The author has no idea of a reason to change the title.  All of this causes problems for those of you who want to read the whole article that I used.

On Sept 20, 2015 Ebsco sent me a message saying that the indexing and citation for this article was corrected.

[2] Festinger, Leon; Stanley Schachter; Kurt W Back; Social pressures in informal groups: a study of human factors in housing.  Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1963, 1950.

[3] Don Greenberg was not the only Sabbath observant Jew to deliver a commencement speech.  Jacob Dorfman, was the School of Management’s selected student speaker.  His speech was not scheduled on the Sabbath.

[4] For more information see:  Religious News Service:  While the open microphone was the visible problem, his rabbi determined the actual problem was the sound board.  Every moment someone speaks lights go on or off on the sound board.   While the university was willing to find a solution to the lights, they were unable.  The story made the national news in the Washington Post and New York Times.  The commencement speech can be viewed on YouTube .   This was a proud moment for the student and the university. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New President Interview -- Part 31 – Effective Communications

  Effective Communications

Q:  In interview 12, “Executive Communications”[1] you talked about the lines of communications in an organization help to keep customers, staff, and students more connected.  In a 2010 booklet from Towers Watson & Co., “Capitalizing on Effective Communication” [2] They report that effective communications with employees is a key indicator of employee satisfaction and institutional performance.  I have heard that “no answer” is worse than answering, “No.”  How does the College seek to improve office communications?[3]

A:  A good observation. In the College curriculum many courses teach students analysis and writing
skills.  In English and speech classes writing, grammar, and use of language are emphasized.  Rarely does one find an executive or professional in-service training to enhance professional communications.  Partly because we assume that faculty and staff already learned how to write.  The challenge is that they may have learned how to craft a sentence, but never learned why one needs to communicate. Towers Watson found that companies that invest in helping leaders, managers, and staff communicate better are more likely to deal with change.  Dealing with change is how an organization becomes nimble and able to adapt to new situations.   Communications is not just writing a good sentence, but also knowing when to write and what media should be used to spread the message.

In every organization there are managers and followers.  Places such as colleges may have the lines blurred between managers and followers.  A person may be a manager one moment and follower in another.  For example a professor is the manager and leader in the classroom.  In the college hierarchy s/he answers to a department chair and dean.  The professor may also be in charge or just a member of a committee, event or process.  Communications is about giving the right message to the right people.  A dean needs department reports so that s/he can keep the departments working, on track and have information for other reports.  The dean needs to co-ordinate efforts to prevent wasted effort and resources.  The deans need to create reports for the provost, vice-president, or other managers and administrators who supervise other College entities.  Sometimes the messages require courage to create and circulate.  Urgent messages require systems that save time, frustration or even limbs and lives.  It is better to tell people the sad or happy news than have them wondering what is going on or to hear a distorted report on the 10 PM news.

For example when severe weather is a problem, we communicate immediately via e-mail, phone, and text messages.  Examples of poor communications are:  the administrative office sends one message to the students and forgets to tell the departments involved to be prepared.  The students are then met with conflicting messages.  A friend in another city told me about the mayor of their city making an announcement about a city college that the faculty and students heard about from news reports, not official college messages. This behavior creates an atmosphere of mistrust. How do you think a professor feels when asked about a college event and needs to answer, “That’s the first I heard of it.”

Q: How does the College innovate? How do people learn about the best practices?

A: The best organizations are innovating and encourage entrepreneurial behaviors.  At the College we listen to the students and the community. We adapt our course offerings to change with the needs of the community.  Companies listen to customers and give that feedback to the employees.  In large organizations there are internal and external customers.  For example the information technology (IT) staff is in charge of keeping the computers and all technology up and running.  The rest of the College are their customers.  They need to listen to customer needs and not just supply the “latest” gadgets.  They need to give the College the tools to do their task.

The College is in the business of educating students and the employees need to understand everything they do could affect student learning.  If the rooms aren’t clean or the equipment does not perform, the prestige and trust of the College is lowered in the student or faculty eyes.  

Reaching out with social media, giant screens, signs, etc. are venues to present the message.  For example at the College we have outside message screens for the general public, inside screens for promoting events, and a presence on Facebook and Twitter.  These are ways to publish short messages.  We also have general websites and departmental websites for more information and documents.

For best practices faculty are encouraged to communicate with each other and with colleagues in other colleges with similar interests. Membership in professional organizations is encouraged and supported.

Q: In the Towers Watson booklet they talk about three aspects of communications — courage, innovation, and discipline.  This is not their original idea.  They were just making astute observations based on their organizational research.  This past weekend we celebrated Independence Day.  Is there a connection between the actions of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and excellence in communications?

A: Good observation.  Last week’s Torah portion, Balak, (Numbers 22:2- 25:9) also has a good example of powerful communications.  The story has Balak, King of Moab, hiring the prophet Bilaam to curse the Children of Israel.  Bilaam refused and gave a blessing that is linguistically and politically powerful, “How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places O Israel.”[4]  In the Hebrew it is powerful Biblical poetry.  Bilaam spoke with courage and innovation.  He had the courage to go against his employer and say what was right.  He opened up his eyes to the situation and followed the word of God after his donkey spoke to him.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence also recognized the power of God in the creation of the world and granting certain unalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Governments are instituted to guarantee these rights.  Governments make laws based on the just powers derived from the Creator and govern with the consent of the governed.   The signers were communicating with courage, innovation, and discipline — courage to break with King of England, innovation to write a type of document that had never been created, and discipline to believe in God and recognize a power beyond that of mortal of man. The message of the document is that the signers made sure the readers understand the effect of their words and thoughts. Their powerful words that included using the authority of the Creator gave a strong clear message to the people of colonies and England.  The colonists would no longer submit to the tyranny of the King.

While corporate communications don’t start a revolution, the communications do affect the employees and customers.  Communicators (really everyone in the organization) need to understand the organizational values and culture.  But that assumes those values are well articulated and appropriate to corporate mission.  The acculturation process is the material for a whole book. 

Q: Corporate communications is not a new field.   Arthur E. Phillips published the first public speaking textbook[5] specifically designed for business people.  His work was based on library research.  He examined the works of Aristotle, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Homer, Victor Hugo and Dante.  He didn’t do any research in contemporary businesses.  What is your take on early publication communications publications?

A: In 1936 Dale Carnegie published a book, How to win friends and influence People.  He offered courses and his company still exists today.  He also did not do any behavioral research.  Even without research, people claimed Carnegie books and courses changed and improved their lives for the better.  Today we are a bit more careful to do research on how people behave. However, we still depend on library research and personal experience.

In the late 1920’s, studies conducted by Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger in the Cicero, Illinois Western Electric Company Hawthorne Works plant, investigated the socio-psychological aspects of human behavior in organizations.  They wanted to discover how to improve production with physical changes to the plant environment. What they discovered has come to be called “The Hawthorne Effect.”  That is that whatever the experimenters changed helped production.  What the workers really wanted was to feel that they were important and that management cared. 

What Philips, Carnegie and Mayo/ Roethlisberger discovered was that communication is complex.  It is not just the words, but also caring about the people receiving the message.  People need to be empowered in the workplace and feel their efforts are accomplishing the corporate goals.

Q: Returning to the need to communicate correctly what are some of philosophical pressures to the process.  In other words how to people learn the “why” of communications?

A:  There is little doubt that the pace of data production is accelerating.  Back in the 1990’s a small company of 500 could produce more words in documents in one month than the sum total of all the words produced before the start of printing.  In the study of ancient texts scholars could dwell on the significance of every letter.  Today the amount of data could double in less than a year.  I use the word “data” when others may use “information” because the term “information” implies there is some order or context.  Data are pieces of that need organization and context and may become information.  Once in a useful format, one person’s information could become another’s data.  The data and information may include non-print items such as pictures and videos.  The ability for anyone to become an instant publisher using social media, blogs, and other electronic venues means that we are bombarded with too much data. We probably have a harder time making sense and creating knowledge than the scholars studying ancient texts.

In the organizational/business world managers are dealing with information streams that did not exist when they first entered the work force.   Managers need to create streams of information that help workers do their jobs.  This requires a corporate mission that is translated to everyday activities.  There are companies that send all the new employees to “boot camp” for 1 or more weeks where they learn the corporate culture, how the company is organized, and how they fit into corporate excellence.
I heard a story from faculty member in another university who was hired two weeks before the semester started based on her resume and a short phone interview.  She never even visited the campus before being hired.  She learned some of the procedures from the departmental secretary.  She was invited to a pre-semester meeting, but most of her colleagues didn’t bother to attend.  About April of the spring semester she got an urgent e-mail asking why she never filled out a form for graduating seniors.  She never had a request for the form, never knew which students in her classes were graduating seniors, and in her previous experience never heard of this type of form.  No one from the department or university indicated such a form was required.   

This is a case of poor communications in contrast to the business “boot camp.”  This professor was denied the information tools to do her job and then was reprimanded for not knowing the procedures existed.

In short we need to communicate so that the organization stays on course and follows the mission.  That also assumes the mission is carefully worded with the wisdom of experience.  Grandiose mission messages that include unreachable goals are not helpful to the creation of a clear message. The upper management must set the example and everyone needs to feel they are part of the success.  Nothing demoralizes staff like conflicting or confusing messages.  A chancellor or president who says one thing to the faculty and another to the press quickly loses credibility. 

On one hand we must keep in mind those ancient texts and how important every word is to the understanding of the message and balance that with the ability to create messages quickly and easily.  Tell the reader what they need to know and don’t give unrelated ideas.
Four communication types include business and professional communication, managerial communication, organizational communication, and business/corporate communication.  Professional communications include how we connect to others in our profession or business roles.  Methods of communication include list servs, professional publications, and professional meetings.  Managerial communications include telling workers what they need to know about the organization and keeping people on the track to complete the goals.  These methods include policy documents, e-mail communications, and face-to-face meetings.  Business communications include the process oriented messages that we send to get the jobs done.  These are the e-mails, personal contacts, and phone calls used to keep each other informed.

Q: Any final words?

A:  In 1953 B.F. Skinner published Science and human behavior [6] where introduces the idea of operate conditioning.  We can shape behavior by giving praise and reward for desired behaviors and punishing undesired ones.  I take this idea further.  We must use behaviors to set good examples.  Communications are not just the words.  Context, action, body language, and delivery give strong clues to believability and credibility. Context includes correct grammar, spelling and other language features.  A high concept movie may be great entertainment, but it will not be confused with business communication.

Q:  Thank you very much.

Part thirty-one of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After more than 30 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. Everything is true, but some events have not yet happened. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.

[1] Stuhlman, Daniel  D.  “Executive Communications.”  Kol Safran, October 25, 2012. Retrieved on July 3, 2015 from: .

[2]  Capitalizing on Effective Communication: How Courage, Innovation and Discipline Drive Business Results in Challenging Times  (2009/2010 Communication ROI Study Report).  [Arlington, VA] :Towers Watson & Co.,   c2010.  Retrieved  from:{70A3EAFB-0BDE-4359-B8FF-38FEC2E43853}

[3] This article is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to organizational communications issues.  To learn more read the book, Workplace Communication for the 21st Century  edited by  Jason S. Wrench.  v. 1. Internal workplace communication — v. 2. External workplace communication.   Santa Barbara, California : Praeger, 2013.

If you are looking for a how-to article a good one, “10 Essential[s] of Effective Communications.”  may be found at this link:
[4] Numbers 24:5.  Original: מה טובו אהליך יעקב משכנתיך ישראל.

[5] Phillips, Arthur Edward.  Effective Speaking : an exposition of the laws of effectiveness in the choice of material in speech …   Chicago: The Newton Company, 1908.

[6] Full citation for the edition that I used:  Skinner, Burrhas Frederic. Science and human behavior.  New York : Free Press,  [1965, 1953].