Yesterday, in his regular email communication to the diocese, the Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase speculated on the role social media has played in the on-going events at General Theological Seminary.
After recalling the sexual assault accusations lodged against the Duke lacrosse team, which were later dismissed, Bishop Benhase condemned the role social media had played in this affair–saying social media led to “quick condemnations of the Board of Trustees and prejudgments about the Dean.”
While decrying not having contact with the Board, 8 faculty members had their demands posted on social media and on their own website accusingly named “safe seminary.” The Board’s lack of official public communication was proof in some people’s minds of their unwarranted behavior. Many accepted the Dean’s guilt without waiting for an investigation. But those weighing in on social media didn’t have all the information, nor did they have the perspectives of all sides in the conflict. Some offered prayers for everyone involved, but many leapt to conclusions calling for the dean to resign and the Board of Trustees to repent.
I don’t know the whole story and very few of us do. I’m waiting, listening, and learning before reaching any measured judgment. Some of my colleagues in the House of Bishops have rightly requested all involved to seek repentance and reconciliation. Amen. I have no doubt there’s enough sin to go around on all sides. The bloggers, and the blog sites that were their enablers, weren’t included in that request. Those blog sites were just giving people a wide forum to express themselves. And those bloggers were just stating their opinions. \
Bp. Benhase’s reaction stands in stark contrast to that of Dr. Elizabeth Drescher, who earlier theorized that it was this very reaction by social media that prompted the truce between faculty and the Board of Trustees. She argues:
Silence and secrecy have long been weapons wielded wantonly by those in power against those with little access to the means of broad-based communication and collaboration. As the saying goes, history is the story of those who win, but that adage seems to need reworking in the digitally-integrated world: Those whose stories speak most clearly, most truly, and most widely increasingly win … at least eventually.
So then, what do you think? Social media: hero or villan in this instance?