Archive for Friday, January 4, 2013

Dean of Education initiated recent email incident over turkey abuse case

January 4, 2013


An embarrassing series of emails between the Kansas University School of Education and an Indiana animal-lover last week actually originated with the dean of the school, and not with the associate dean who apologized last week.

It was Dean of Education Rick Ginsberg who first passed along, on Dec. 26, an email joke about recent animal cruelty allegations involving a rented turkey at a KU fraternity house, according to copies of the correspondence obtained by The Lawrence Journal-World.

Dean of Education Rick Ginsberg

Dean of Education Rick Ginsberg

He kept his joke, which included a slang term for masturbation, within a circle of school administrators. But when Jim Lichtenberg, an associate dean, accidentally included Jennah Dibiase, of Terre Haute, Ind., on the email chain, it became a national news story.

Ginsberg said the fallout, including widespread criticism directed toward Lichtenberg, has been "awful."

"He's gotten death threats," Ginsberg said. "It's been very hard on a number of people."

Police responded Dec. 14 to reports that KU's Beta Theta Pi chapter had rented a turkey for an annual celebration and then abused it, chasing and injuring it before, according to police, someone killed the bird to "end its suffering." That story reached across the country within days, including to Terre Haute, Ind.

Dibiase, of Terre Haute, read those accounts and emailed the education deans in protest, choosing them specifically because their email addresses were some of the first she found on the university's website. She asked that the students involved be held responsible.

"What your students did is deplorable," Dibiase wrote. "They should be expelled from your school."

Ginsberg said he had been traveling abroad, was unfamiliar to the turkey abuse case, and was surprised and confused when he received Dibiase's email. The School of Education, he said in a phone interview Friday, had nothing to do with the fraternity or any disciplinary measures or a criminal investigation that could be directed against them.

The local chapter of the fraternity has been suspended "indefinitely" by its national organization.

"Why something like that came to me, I had no idea," Ginsberg said. "The incident is awful, and I think the university is handling it."

But only two minutes after receiving Dibiase's email, Ginsberg sent a copy of it, along with his joke, to associate dean Lichtenberg. Lichtenberg added his own joke, and accidentally copied Dibiase on the reply.

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Jim Lichtenberg

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Jim Lichtenberg

Lichtenberg tried in vain to recall the email, which the offended Dibiase turned over to The Kansas City Star. Other news media picked up the story.

Lichtenberg apologized to Dibiase and called his joke "stupid, unprofessional and embarrassing."

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

Both Ginsberg and Lichtenberg stressed that they did not intend to make light of the abuse of an animal.

Jill Jess, a university spokeswoman, 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.

Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman, said an investigation of animal cruelty offenses is ongoing.


anticommunist 1 year, 3 months ago

I care not so much about this dude passing along less than PC comments. But I say fire him for not not being a professional. This kind of press stains the reputation of the university. It also seems to indicate this sort of unprofessionalism is widespread among the school of ed leadership. Kick him to the curb. One less dork bringing in 200k, stifling the fowl all day and not thinking about how he represents KU at large.


Gotland 1 year, 3 months ago

THe death treats are the only news worthy incident here. Lets hope the unbalanced people making them are found and punished.


JackMcKee 1 year, 3 months ago

Death threats? Over a turkey joke? Are these people serious?

I've killed hundreds, if not thousands, of deer, bunnies, birds and fish over my hunting career. Come and get me vegans.


riverdrifter 1 year, 3 months ago

My GAS switch is locked into the off position on this one. Next.


KU_cynic 1 year, 3 months ago

This is an embarrassing example of political correctness run amok.

I feel sorry for the poor turkey, but frankly what would impress me would be if Ginsberg et al. would merely respond with, "&%@ 'em if they can't take a joke."


Alceste 1 year, 3 months ago


If these two underpaid and overworked School of Education types do this kind of "stuff", isn't one compelled to ask "Just exactly WHAT is being TAUGHT in the School of Education"????


Alceste 1 year, 3 months ago


Please understand these impoverished civil servants are not subject to the same set of rules and regulations the rest of working people are subject to: They're special because they're part of the "university" "family".

What all that mumbo jumbo means is that these fellows are NOT accountable; are easily "forgiven", irrespective of their actions; and, despite their poverty and pitifully disgusting low wages, are operating under a totally unique set of "rules and regulations".

Alceste wants to stress just how badly these two fellows have it in the "work" environment (does any "work" really go on at "KU" by their "class" of employee???) given their obvious lack of work assignments such that the two can spend a good deal of "work time" sending out and receiving/reading emails in the jocular arena. Poor, poor, poor overworked and underpaid KU administrators.

Get with the program, UselessToRemain.


UselessToRemain 1 year, 3 months ago

Anyone making six figures should know better. At every trivial job I have ever had making $10/hour or less, I have had to read and sign extensive sexual harassment information and sometimes attend classes and take tests on the topic. Sure it was a joke, but it's a major problem that this man likely sends routine emails of a sexual nature to co-workers. Is there not a policy against that? Shouldn't a dean be held as much responsible as the people getting paid the least at the organization?


Liberty275 1 year, 3 months ago

He has publicly stated it was a lapse in judgement. So put a note in his dossier and leave him alone.

His lapse in judgement wasn't the joke. His lapse was telling such a somewhat sophomoric joke on what I assume are government owned computers during a period when he was "on the clock" or however you smart people say it Latin.

Give me a bit of free speech and I'll make you talk about sex and poultry just to try to stop me from offending you. His personal speech is as protected as mine.

As his employer, I would merely ask he not do similar things in the future. Otherwise, keep up the good work.

Now the real questions.

1: Who would rent a turkey, and why would they rent one?
2: Who rents out turkeys?


Alceste 1 year, 3 months ago

Clearly Ginsberg is underpaid in his ever so important slot with the "family" of the "University" of Kansas having only pulled in a paltry $191,684.60 in 2011. He needs to be paid more so he has more to do, eh? Facts obtained from:

And, for that matter, grossly underpaid Jim Lichtenberg simply needs to be better appreciated for what he does, what with being a "family" member and all. The poor Jim Lichtenberg only pulled in $131,265.28 for 2011 per

Alceste simply cannot understand how these fellows survive on such low wages and is convinced these low wages lead to mischief................and misunderstandings........probably more of the latter......misunderstandings. Uh huh........


toe 1 year, 3 months ago

I guess sex jokes help prime the education graduates for their eventual indictments.


blindrabbit 1 year, 3 months ago

Kansas: Land of Speaker of the House Owens racial jokesters! Sea of Galilee swimmers! Dean of Education crude e-mailers! State Representative shooters of aliens from helicopters! Board of Education evolution deniers! Home of supposedly Christian funeral protesters! Koch-a-Kola voter suppressors! No wonder we are the "laughing stock" for the rest of the country


beatrice 1 year, 3 months ago

"Both Ginsberg and Lichtenberg stressed that they did not intend to make light of the abuse of an animal."

Wrong. They absolutely intended to make light of it, hence making a joke. What is a joke if not making light of something? Does this mean they condone such behavior? Of course not, but they fully intended to make light of the situation, they just meant to do so amongst themselves. They didn't mean to offend by making light of the situation is what they meant to say.

Beyond that, just remember to NEVER hit "reply all" unless you mean to. Oh, and say no to Dibiase's invitation for Thanksgiving -- they are likely serving tofurkey.


Patricia Davis 1 year, 3 months ago

Really, are these two the best KU can get for these jobs?


MacHeath 1 year, 3 months ago

If you are upset by all this; have your brain pickled for prosperity.


irtnog2001 1 year, 3 months ago

They could at least be lent to FHSU for a semester or two as punishment.


parco814 1 year, 3 months ago

First, thank you to the LJ World for reporting this story of unprofessional and stupid conduct among the upper echelons at KU. What galls me more than anything is that if the emails had been sent by contingent faculty or GTAs, their positions at KU would be at risk. But these educated and credentialed fools will only suffer embarrassment and death threats from a few cranks. Real role models, they are--and at the top of the heap in the School of Education, no less.


gl0ck0wn3r 1 year, 3 months ago

Am I the only person amused by the fact that the woman simpy went to the KU website, picked two names essentially at random and directed her complaints to them? Lazy activists.


oletimer 1 year, 3 months ago

OMG!! Another day, another wacko animal lover goes nuts! What drugs do these idiots take with their veggies. Animal rights groups are so far out of control and reality it is scary. The last time I saw a group this far gone was the anti-abortion group, right before Tiller was assassinated. Normal people need to wake up and step in before it is too late. I am not sleeping with cows. pigs, and turkeys. They are food and need to be treated as such.


Kontum1972 1 year, 3 months ago

makes one not to eat turkey anymore....


Gary Denning 1 year, 3 months ago

How is this news? These kinds of jokes have been exchanged around water coolers for eons. I guess the sin was putting the joke in writing, and it's pretty stupid to think it wouldn't end up in the wrong hands, but please. . . Could we over-react a little less?

I expect the 4-5 students whose behavior was over the line will be kicked out of the frat house, and all will be well in a few weeks.


Kat Christian 1 year, 3 months ago

Seems to me LIchtenburg is the culprit in the email abuse to me and should be reprimanded if not fired. Wonder how many he's fired for doing the same thing or the like? As for the turkey (poor thing) who in the heck approved to allow these student to get a live turkey in the first place. What do they think they would have done with it anyway? If the students wanted a turkey they should have bought one at the grocery store. Idiots!! And they call this a higher institution of learning. Nuff said.


rockchalker52 1 year, 3 months ago

No harm, no foul...unless you were the bird. Then it's plenty of harm to the fowl. Don't lose sight of what makes this disgusting. It isn't the email.


lunatic 1 year, 3 months ago

Get over it people. Everyone makes fun of things from time to time. And really, sending it to the news because she was "offended"! Geeze! This is insane!


flyin_squirrel 1 year, 3 months ago

IT WAS A JOKE! It was not meant to be sent to her and he made a mistake. I cannot believe this is even newsworthy or that I am commenting on someone making a joke that offended someone.


PhilChiles 1 year, 3 months ago

Here's a good idea. People should only be allowed to be offended a certain number of times per month, say 4 or 5. After you reach that point, you have to leave people alone for the rest of the month.


Taxpayer 1 year, 3 months ago

Not the best and brightest leading our School of Education. Even elementary school kids know not to send e-mails that can be forwarded...


Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 3 months ago

It's two co-workers telling jokes to one another, lighten up. What a moronic knee jerk reaction it is to attack these men. If this blown out of proportion story had any national coverage, Jay Leno would be telling these jokes to the entire country who would be laughing. The turkey story is a giant softball waiting to be hit out of the park by referencing choking the turkey and chicken similarities. If you are offended by this then you are the thinnest skinned person alive.


50YearResident 1 year, 3 months ago

Ban all Jokes.....Jokes have killed more careers than Guns. And as a reminder, "Choking the Chicken" does not kill a bird, nor is it animal abuse.


Jackie Jackasserson 1 year, 3 months ago

KU email is set up so that when hitting reply to one person an entire group originally sent an email can be included if someone has created a group address and individual email addresses are not always obviously displayed. I know several people intending to respond to the sender only who have replied to an entire group on KU email.

The majority of students attending KU are adults.


Lawrence Morgan 1 year, 3 months ago

The Dean of Education should be FIRED!

This is not the kind of person I, and many others want, to take care of the future education of our children!

And to think students and we are paying tax dollars for this kind of person.

It is time for the Chancellor of the University to let the public know her opinions on this.

There are lots of people out there who would find a job like Dean Rick Ginsberg has to be exciting and challenging. Fire him and choose a decent person to run the Department of Education.

Over and over again we see top people in Kansas University's top rank make serious mistakes and there is nothing done about this. This HAS to change!


Keith Richards 1 year, 3 months ago

"Lichtenberg tried in vain to recall the email" Good luck moron. You pushed send. As soon as it arrived a second later in her email inbox, it would be virtually impossible to recall without hacking her email account.


toe 1 year, 3 months ago

Very dishonorable Dean..


NotReallyChuck 1 year, 3 months ago

In August, a Terre Haute woman was charged with animal cruelty on what prosecutors called the worse case of animal abuse they had ever seen. Perhaps one of these hard hitting reporters from the Star or LJW could ask Ms. Diabase why she's not making news complaining about what went on in her own hometown.


seagull 1 year, 3 months ago

Isn't there any real news? It must be a slow day in the news business if this is the best the LJWorld can do. You've put a new spin on the meaning of "local" news.


Haiku_Cuckoo 1 year, 3 months ago

Does KU have any sort of policy that prohibits its employees from sending sexually themed emails to coworkers? It seems highly inappropriate for any employee, particularly a Dean, to send a masturbation email to a female coworker.


MacHeath 1 year, 3 months ago

Whomever did not think of a slang term for masturbation when they first heard this story, throw the first stone.

I mean, "turkey pull"...really?

Whomever is making death threats over a silly issue such as this, are the ones I am wondering about.

Per, per Jenna. I am sure the shock of seeing such a tasteless attempt of humor put her off her stroke for days.


costello 1 year, 3 months ago

"He's gotten death threats," Ginsberg said. "It's been very hard on a number of people."

Death threats. Good God.

"Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman, said an investigation of animal cruelty offenses is ongoing."

Is anyone investigating the death threats against the human beings?


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