Babson’s Blitz on Free Speech

Now that the dust has settled regarding the firing of former Sustainability Director Asheen Phansey here at Babson, I thought it might be a worthy opportunity of evaluating what this entire debacle conveys about Babson’s conviction as an institution. During my current stint in Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship, I (like virtually every freshman to set foot on campus) had the privilege of learning the distinction between a company's espoused values, and their enacted ones. To clarify, their espoused values are a matter of what a company claims to stand for, whereas their enacted ones are a legitimate (if not always compelling) portrayal of how the company integrates those values into its day to day operations. Any good company knows that the key to having your values be recognized in a positive light is to aim for some degree of parody between the two sets- unless you have a great marketing team that is

Courtesy of the Entrepreneurship Babson website

It brings me no pleasure to suggest this, but I am of the belief Babson has gone against its own teachings and betrayed the values it chooses to espouse. With Phansey’s firing came a stringent condemnation from Babson, less than 48 hours after the post had gone viral. They suggest that Phansey does not ‘represent the values and culture of the college’ and went further in stating ‘Babson College condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate’ when regarding his post. I suppose these condemnations are a great example of espoused views because unfortunately, they fall short of any true enactments by the college.

The irony must have been lost on the administration, as this folly has undermined their own words. Phansey’s comments were in no way a call to violence, but a critique of one. In approaching Trump’s actual condonement of violence in suggesting the ‘bombing’ of Iranian cultural centers (whilst reigning over a position that could make this horrid suggestion a reality), Phansey clearly sought to mock and condemn this violence; by no means championing it. If the circumstances weren’t so egregious, I would argue Babson’s shoddy espousal would be comical in nature. They quite literally disbarred an employee who had the nerve to actually take a stab at enacting what the school appears to have espoused.

The immediacy of the firing, as well as the PR blunder that was the handling of the aftermath, make this situation not only unfortunate, but downright deplorable. This administration had the nerve to suggest that the investigation conducted was ‘thorough’ in nature, but clearly not thorough enough to evaluate their flawed logic. It’s not often you see Sustainability Directors (of all people) being held in contempt for their actions and beliefs. It was ridiculous enough to witness all the vacuous insults, and belligerent bigotry, that Phansey faced following his post. Behaviors that were only likely emboldened by the College’s personal condemnation of it. It's no surprise one faculty member referred to this as a 'back stabbing' of Phansey. Perhaps it's a lack of foresight, or maybe Babson simply doesn’t care about the ramifications of their behavior when they (prematurely) believe their image is on the line, but one thing is certain: this case demonstrates a far cry from their condemnation of violence and hate.

The lack of clarity surrounding the protocol for these matters raises yet another number of issues. In a senate meeting discussing this incident, various faculty rightly raised concerns about defining what is actually their protected speech online within Babson’s faculty guidelines. While President Spinelli was more than happy to respond with a critique of the practical nature of having something resembling ‘unity’ in these decisions, this rhetoric lacked actionable, well-defined means of preventing mishaps like this in the future. To Babson's credit, they certainly displayed conviction in handling this matter. They clearly demonstrated that poor publicity is a threat that must be combated, by any means necessary. This set of priorities, wherein the administration is willing to discard an upstanding member for his political speech, that was aimed at challenging violence, does little in terms of actually resonating with the 'campus culture' Phansey was said to be incompatible with.

I just hope going forward that Babson can live up to the values it espouses like it teaches its many students to do. Here's to hoping that Asheen Phansey's firing is viewed through a lens of regret, and great disbelief about its handling, from the eyes of Babson's future progeny

Article by Aaron Murray

The views expressed herein are attributed to their authors and not to this publication nor Babson College. The materials appearing in this publication are for information purposes only.