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I was listening to Morning Joe on Friday as I was at the airport traveling to the Alpha convention to speak where I heard this fascinating conversation with Michael Lewis, based on his podcast called “Against the Rules.” As I listened some of the key points he made resonated as I see the same in a range of industries, including higher education.

One of the big questions in this time is who are the neutral authorities that come in to maximize fairness in a system? This stood out as I have been discussing why the death of experts is a reason that hazing does not end because even the newest member thinks they know what is best for the fraternity, although they have no expertise.

Lewis then argues that for news, the culture refs, like the ombuds, have been wiped out by the internet, so we now have ref by mob. Stories can now be sold to an audience that wants to hear that story without a legitimate authority coming in to say it isn’t true.

Facebook has become the platform for news distribution, and Lewis says it is built as an unrefereed space where anybody can say anything, and if you want to believe it you can!

The first podcast episode specifically used NBA refs as an example. He argues they are better trained than ever, and there is a multimillion dollar facility in New Jersey where other refs can review all kinds of plays. He said everyone loves to hate the ref but we need the ref. He used his son as an example, who is about the same age as my son, who also complains about the refs in his little league games (they just lost the national Biddy basketball championship game and of course, it is the refs fault!)

But this comment rang truest for me. Lewis said we are all getting better in spotting the mistake of the person who is in the role of referee, and when you find the mistake, you can organize the outrage around the mistake. Anyone leading in the social media age has experienced this (especially folks running for public office).

Check it out. I am looking forward to future episodes.

The Prez

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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