Archive for Friday, December 28, 2012

KU School of Education dean apologizes for joking about animal cruelty complaint involving fraternity

December 28, 2012


A Kansas University School of Education dean has apologized for joking about a turkey that was abused and killed at a fraternity house party earlier this month.

Jim Lichtenberg, associate dean for graduate programs, emailed the joke to two other deans Wednesday in response to an email from an Indiana woman who contacted the three deans to protest the recent incident in which the rented turkey was chased and choked before a student killed the bird to end its suffering.

Jennah Dibiase, in Terre Haute, Ind., wished to send a message in protest of the turkey's mistreatment and chose the deans from a list of faculty email addresses on a KU website.

The dean's response included a slang term describing masturbation and was meant only for his two colleagues, he said later. But he inadvertently sent it to Dibiase as well.

Kansas University spokeswoman Jill Jess said the university considers the reported treatment of the turkey reprehensible and expects anyone involved to cooperate fully with ongoing investigations.

"The disrespectful levity used in this email does not reflect the opinions or actions of the university on this issue," she wrote in a statement.

While the Lawrence Police Department investigates whether animal cruelty laws were broken, the Kansas University chapter of Beta Theta Pi, where the party took place, has been suspended "indefinitely" by the fraternity's national organization.

Lichtenberg has called his email joke stupid, unprofessional and embarrassing, and said he tried without success to recall the email after he realized he had included Dibiase in the reply. After learning Thursday from The Kansas City Star that Dibiase was displeased at his response, he contacted her to apologize.

In an email to The Star, which Lichtenberg also provided to The Journal-World Friday, he wrote that his joke was not intended as a comment on the actual cruel treatment of a turkey and that he should not have written it.

"That I would craft such an email was most certainly a significant lapse in judgment on my part," he wrote.

Lichtenberg's original email to the two deans and Dibiase was not available to the Journal-World Friday.


Matthew Herbert 4 years ago

the inability for the general public to avoid using "reply all" is hilarious. Even those supposed "educated elites" in academia can't figure out the basics of e-mail.

password 4 years ago

what a jerk for even sending the email in the first place.

fiddleback 4 years ago

So you've never been tempted to mock a totally off-target email or phone call? Sounds like this woman was semi-web-illiterate and haplessly stabbing in the dark to be barking at School of Ed admin.

Plus, you have to admit the Jay Leno-level low-hanging fruit practically writes itself: "I've heard of frat boys choking the chicken, but this is ridiculous."

"So I take it that 'choking the turkey' is not some new self-flattering euphemism..."

pace 4 years ago

So it was the woman's fault, she should have kept her opinions to herself. she was the one stupid in this interaction. Suuuuure. Are you being sarcastic or do you not consider fact and logic in forming your opinions. The dean was stupid, that doesn't mean he is stupid, this act was dumb. But at least he could see that and apologize. One doesn't win argument by babbling spurious and unfounded remarks. The dean apologized, you should at least acknowledge your remarks were baseless and not well thought out.

fiddleback 4 years ago

A fine straw-man reading of my post you've fashioned there, pace. But don't worry; I won't ask you to apologize...

Unfortunately, I never suggested that all fault resides with the woman, nor did I dispute that the dean's act was dumb. I objected to labeling this dean a "jerk," because it's relatively easy to imagine how such things happen and get blown out of proportion. Of course fault lies most with the dean, but the woman did fire her opinion in an utterly wrong direction (nothing "baseless" about that fact), and for her to turn around and act indignant about being mocked is pretty rich. I suggested she had "semi-web illiteracy" as she doesn't seem capable of using search engines to figure out who to contact. There's student affairs or the chancellor, yet somehow she ended up with deans of the School of Education. You may disagree, but there's nothing "not thought out" about my more nuanced position. If you want to pick a silly fight with somebody less charitable towards the woman, check out Kansascityatty's thoughts below. But I suggest reading it carefully lest you create another straw man argument...

FrankTheFarmer 4 years ago

The story should read "ex-Dean"....sounds like a low-class buffoon.

fiddleback 4 years ago

Low-class lapse? Sure. Demotion-worthy? I don't think so. This story making it all the way to the KC Star is punishment enough.

jesse499 4 years ago

I take it you've never made a mistake or done something stupid before hmmmm never met anyone like that before.

Currahee 4 years ago

It's only a joke until the beans get spilled.

joes_donuts 4 years ago

Lighten up people, soon we will have a society devoid of laughter. Whatever it said, it was a joke.

Patricia Davis 4 years ago

Slavery was thought a joke, too. So was women's right to vote.

rtwngr 4 years ago

Well, half of your user name describes you perfectly.

parrothead8 4 years ago

Something isn't a joke just because someone thinks it is.

KU_cynic 4 years ago

Okay, a quick search does not seem to reveal the contents of the email, but the "slang term for describing masturbation" was no doubt "chokin' the chicken."

I can see how that might be funny, and I cannot see any reason why a newspaper can publish the words "slang term for masturbation" yet not publish the words "chokin' the chicken." Somewhere George Carlin is smirking.

I also await being censured for violation of some stupid "use policy" of the chicken-chokin' LJW.

mrjcg2 4 years ago

And this from someone who should be a role model. Probably a very well paid role model. Looks like his true attitude was displayed.

Matthew Herbert 4 years ago

I think you might be over playing the role of the dean. Having acquired 3 degrees from the collegiate level, I couldn't tell you a single dean's name in my time there. Professors, yes.

fiddleback 4 years ago

Sounds like a witch hunt proposal. If any newspaper sites had the temerity to actually print the joke, it would help spare us this hyperventilating. Again, it's hard to imagine that this was any bawdier than some off-the-cuff quip like, "I've heard of frat boys choking the chicken, but this is ridiculous..."

And yes, hitting "reply all" and taking the joke in a remotely sexual direction are both blunders, but humor is also a natural reaction to some distant loon ranting at you simply because you're the first name he/she found in a directory...

PhilChiles 4 years ago

OH WHO CARES. Hey that's a first, I've never used all caps on the Internet before! Seriously though, clearly they need to throw this guy in a volcano. Any other punishment will only be a slap on the wrist.

kernal 4 years ago

Okay, y'all are gonna tell me you've never said anything stupid in an email, twitter, fb or another social media setting? Yeah, right.

hedshrinker 4 years ago

What I find offensive is people who trash other people...or animals..,and then in a totally passive-aggressive way, say, oh what's your problem; it was only a joke; lighten up...and as for the Dean's behavior, I'm sure in his sections on professional comportment he lectures prospective teachers about not leaving a paper trail if you're going to act like a jerk. I tell my clients and students that acting professionally means you behave like that your boss, or students or patients or wife or parent was listening /standing beside you...then you don't have to worry about somebody finding out about the stupid thing you just said or did. Being a mature grownup usually means there is a high degree of congruency between your public self and your private self;;; it's concerning when professional, supposedly mature people behave in public (intentionally or not) like sophomoric,drunken and perhaps cruel frat boys. One of the worst things about not just the Greek system, but many groups in general is that they can promote a level of anonymity and herd behavior that individuals would never feel so emboldened to pursue. Applies to the internet as well, come to think of it.

fiddleback 4 years ago

Your definition of maturity and universal propriety around all parties seems rather puritanical not to mention totally unrealistic. Levity and humor amongst colleagues is part of what makes for positive and durable working relationships. They function as a means of stress relief; such group coping mechanisms are as old as the species. And I'd wager that none of the faculty involved find what these young men did to the turkey anything but reprehensible. But they also have absolutely no role or influence in the matter, so when some half-cocked person 3 states away decides to harangue them, I'm hardly surprised that they felt inclined to mock that person. An aside joke between coworkers hardly compares to the sort of calloused hive mind that led to the animal abuse at Beta. If you really believe that colleagues shouldn't send joking emails, then you, like the commenters arguing for vegetarianism, just sound like another person wanting to go beyond justice to a re-design of the human species. It ultimately distracts from the focus of holding the guilty parties and complicit bystanders at the frat house accountable.

rtwngr 4 years ago

Ok, I'll say it! They were making turkey jerkey.

Kerry Putthoff 4 years ago

Humor is one way that some deal with a reprehensible action. It is how some move forward. However someone in this instance at that level of responsibility should use more judgment when commenting on issues such as this. Do as I say, not as I do? I have to say, REALLY! What is missing here is the fact that these MORONS think it's cool to do this sort of thing in the first place. I used to be a hunter for many years. One of my biggest fears was that I would wound an animal and not be able to find it, and it would suffer and die. Farmers treat livestock much better than this, yes they end up on the butcher block, but it is as humane as can possibly be. No I am not a vegetarian, what I am is someone that shows respect for other living things. Random cruelty such as this is where people like Jeffery Dahmer, BTK and others got their start. What is to keep this group of idiots from deciding that one of their rival frats or someone off of the street is their next play project when they go on the next drinking binge!? Boys, and I do mean BOYS! You need a good old fashioned trip to the wood shed!

Charles L Bloss Jr 4 years ago

An investigation into whether animal cruelty laws were broken should take less than an hour. Of course animal cruelty laws were broken !!

Ian_Cummings 4 years ago

If laws were broken, the police will want to identify all of the parties involved. With many of those students out of town on winter break, the investigation has been slowed down significantly.

Kansascityatty 4 years ago

I don't feel sorry for this woman at all. What in the world did she think the dean of the school of education could do about an off-campus school organization? Even if the fraternity was on campus what would the dean of education have to do with them? This is like having your flight delayed then sending an email complaining about it to the manager of the Burger King at the airport. He has nothing to do with them and if she is too stupid to realize that she got what she deserved in his sarcastic reply. When you act stupidly you should expect people to reply in a similar manner.

patkindle 4 years ago

very well put kcatty, i agree 100%, you just cant fix stupid

weeslicket 4 years ago

you can't fix stupid. but, it does get shared over and over again.

weeslicket 4 years ago

i am sending an email to the dean of the business school protesting this response to the protest as a response to the original protest. i think i'll cc the merc also.

bookwise 4 years ago

He should be fired! Seriously! I assume he thought his colleagues would think his comments funny.As a proud graduate of the School of Education with a yearly financial award always given to an outstanding instructor I am appalled at this attitude and lack of judgment. If there are no repercussions from this behavior I am much ashamed.

fiddleback 4 years ago

So I take it you wouldn't you be interested in knowing the specifics of the joke or care to have any sense of the man's scholarly achievements before condemning him? Doesn't exactly sound measured or "bookwise"...

Kansascityatty 4 years ago

She's lucky his email reply wasn't something along the lines of "who the F are you? Why the F do you think I have anything to do with this? Why the F did you email me? What the F do you think I have to do with a fraternity off the campus of the University for which I work? What the F are you protesting that necessitates contacting me?" I ran into a similar problem a few years back when a woman from New York wrote me a letter complaining about the kids three blocks over being too loud outside while they were playing basketball. Oh wait that didn't happen.

George Lippencott 4 years ago

Well there is a bigger picture. Our dean represents the university – he is in a leadership role. In dealing with the public people in such positions are supposed to recognize that not everyone is adept addressing large institutions and respond accordingly. Making fun of her concerns sends a signal that for most people does not offer a positive view of our university. The mistake is not in internet 101 but in public relations 101.

hbjayhawk 4 years ago

You are correct, however, he apologized. What more do you want? He accepted responsibility....didnt make excuses or claim "brain tumor" defense??

George Lippencott 4 years ago

Good. Note was to KC attorney Never put anything in an e-mail you do not want read on FOX News.

hbjayhawk 4 years ago

Your comment is so right on! There is no doubt in my mind that if this was a matter that concerned the Assoc Dean, he would have acted appropriately. His lapse of judgement should be met with a very light slap on the wrist by Dean Ginsburg at best. Knowing the SOE, I'm sure there are chickens and decorations in his office waiting for him when he returns for Spring. Since he has a stellar record, this transgression from a PETA nut job shouldn't be newsworthy. Shame on LJW for making this front page news. Jim. If your reading this, I feel for you...but laugh it off...its really funny!!

Ian_Cummings 4 years ago

I'll find out about that if I can. Maybe a police investigation of the alleged abuse will shine some light on that.

fiddleback 4 years ago

I don't know if they've always bothered with a live bird, though supposedly there have been past shenanigans chasing it through the neighboring sorority. In any case, the live birds are rented ones not scheduled for slaughter, at least not by their hands. And release in the drunken party environment is certainly no tradition.

Overview of the actual story:

The hired band members who have played this gig for years without incident attest to seeing drunken house members destroying the cage and deliberately releasing the bird onto the dance floor, where the bird was tossed around until it was screaming in pain from multiple broken limbs. At that point members attempted to strangle it to death.

Do you see any "legitimate point" to any of that?

Cynthia Schott 4 years ago

Since the focus of this article seems to be the humor behind the professor's levity as opposed to the abuse of the turkey, I am perplexed.

Ian_Cummings 4 years ago

We've reported on the abuse allegations previously. If you want to know more, you might read this earlier story:

Gregory Newman 4 years ago

Yes it was stupid and shouldn't have been said or done. But most of these animals lovers don't have qualms or convictions about aborting babies and a whole bunch of folks know plenty of them but its never an issue or becomes a story. Its time to check both sides.

hedshrinker 4 years ago

in logic, that's an ad hominem attack, theebest; in other words, disregarding the (possible) validity of the statement while engaging in character assasination of the message deliverer. you may not like the messenger or their larger belief system/character, etc, but it doesn't negate that they may have something of value to say. On a larger scale this error in logic mars much of what passes for public discourse these days...just listen to politicians and commentators.

hbjayhawk 4 years ago

Ian, see from.the comments,.it is just a poor article. No offense, your other work is just better.

JackMcKee 4 years ago

I am offended that Jennah Dibiase sent the email whine to someone with absolutely no responsibility for the fowl behavior. I think she owes everyone an apology for acting like a Chicken Little. This whole event is like letting a fox loose in the hen house. I hope she gets her pay docked down to the level of chicken feed.

patkindle 4 years ago

Jennah Dibiase, has skillfully shifted the blame of killing a defenselss animal to the dean. she is beyond the real world

kuguardgrl13 4 years ago

I think I can figure out how this arose. If you do a basic search for "dean" on the KU website and scroll through the results, the SOE deans are one of the results. This lady was probably looking to email the head of KU and didn't realize that Gray-Little is the Chancellor. Some schools use president or provost, other small schools might use dean. Terre-Haute is a pretty small border town.

But in all reality, the dean made an honest mistake and has apologized. The SOE faculty will laugh about it in a few weeks and go on about their business. What else can they do when this lady emailed some random faculty members about something that happened off-campus? She would have had more success with the Vice Provost for Student Success or the president of the Interfraternity Council.

oldexbeat 4 years ago

There is no private on the web. None. Asst deans that don't know that aren't ready for their positions.

Brian Laird 4 years ago

What exactly is a "government dean"?

Mark Pickerel 4 years ago

This is certainly front-page upper-fold news, no question. I smell a Pulitzer for this gutsy expose'.....

whats_going_on 4 years ago

This whole thing needs to just die. How embarrassing, on all accounts.

ResQd 4 years ago

If it had been a janitor writing that email, I'll bet you he would have been fired!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.