How Not To Apologize

MILE Community Portal
Rutgers University President Robert Barchi managed to make a bad situation infinitely worse yesterday with his tone-deaf and arrogant news conference addressing his men’s basketball team scandal.

To recap the timeline: in November 2012, the team’s director of player development brought Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti dozens of video clips showing Coach Mike Rice engaging in abusive behavior toward his players during team practices: pushing them, kicking them, throwing basketballs at their heads, yelling homophobic slurs at them. After seeing this, Pernetti and other university officials decided not to terminate Rice, but to fine him and put him on probation. President Barchi says he didn’t bother to watch the video at the time because he relied on the judgment of his administrators and trusted their decision.

Fast-forward to this past Tuesday, April 2. ESPN airs the offending video, the public erupts with shock and disgust, President Barchi finally gets around to viewing the video himself, and Coach Rice resigns the following day, April 3. Two days later on April 5, Barchi holds a news conference to address the issues publicly.

Right from his opening statement, I had the sinking feeling that Barchi was taking the wrong approach. He did apologize, but he said the whole debacle was “a failure of process,” not his own failure. When asked if he had considered resigning, he smiled and flippantly said “I consider resigning every day.” What? His whole tone was somehow too casual and haughty at the same time, as if he wasn’t taking this very serious situation seriously because it was somewhat beneath him.

Rule #1 of media training for crisis management: when bad things happen, address them immediately, take full responsibility, and if an apology is called for (as it certainly was in this case), it should be complete, unequivocal and sincere. No qualifications or weak attempts at humor.

As of this writing, President Barchi still has his job. But he didn’t help himself with his pathetic performance in front of the cameras, which you can see at http://collegebasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/04/05/rutgers-president-robert-l-barchi-acknowledges-failure-of-process/
Discussion started by Bill Connor, on 1541 days ago
You need to be a member of this community before you can participate in this discussion
Bill Connor
Thanks Dr. Najib - I think he handled it well by having Jay Carney relay his apology, rather than issuing a statement or addressing it directly in an interview - which is not to say that the question won't be asked in a future interview. The subject matter is a minefield, of course, so he has to appear to be taking it seriously while not making too much of it.
1540 days ago
 
Ali Agha Jafri
Interesting justification of its origin " Apology"
-----
1530s, "defense, justification," from L.L. apologia, from Gk. apologia "a speech in defense," from apologeisthai "to speak in one's defense," from apologos "an account, story," from apo- "from, off" (see apo-) + logos "speech." The original English sense of "self-justification"
yielded a meaning "frank expression of regret for wrong done," first recorded 1590s, but it was not the main sense until 18c. The old sense tends to emerge in Latin form apologia (first attested 1784), especially since J.H. Newman's "Apologia pro Vita Sua" (1864).

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/apologies?s=t
1540 days ago
 
Ali Agha Jafri
I have had always liked the short way of saying, "My Bad" for being wronged...
1540 days ago
 
Faizan Safdar
Is it a statement about society in general that we question the need to apologize even in our closest relationships? If saying sorry exposes us to confrontation or scrutiny, shouldn't we be willing to accept that from our loved ones?
1540 days ago
 
Dr. Najib Azhar
btw- what do you think of President Obama's apology on the Kamala Harris comment?
1540 days ago
 
Dr. Najib Azhar
I remember my German science teacher from high school. Everyone had the greatest respect for him. Whenever he slipped in solving an equation, he would look at the board for a few seconds, turn to the class , take off his spectacles hang his head a little and say " my mistake". On the other hand people who do not own up to their obvious mistakes lose all credibility and respect.
1540 days ago