Something other than Amorphophallus titanium is causing a big stink at Fairchild Gardens lately.
More than 80 teachers, students and volunteers — including one dressed as an ape and one as an alien — lined the street in front of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on Saturday morning to support Caroline Lewis, the garden’s longtime director of education, who said she was abruptly fired last month.
Lewis had been with the garden for eight years. She said she was forced out by garden management over an offhand comment she made during a November staff meeting about ethnic diversity.
“They were just looking for a reason to get me out,” she said. – Miami Hurled
You can find the story here including what appears to be an entirely innocuous comment (favoring diversity) that supposedly upset some people, but not the REAL story, which I imagine will leak out over the next few weeks. But let’s take a peek and speculate anyway. Isn’t that what snarky blogs are for?
Thanks to the armies of politically correct sphincter police that patrol every facet of our speech and action these days, it’s a snap to find something that offends you, no matter who you are. This makes it remarkably easy for your supervisor/boss/commanding officer to toss your sorry ass under the bus for any reason at all, including the possibility that you’re doing your job so well it’s making him or her look lame, lazy, or incompetent.
That may be what’s at play here: look at this letter in Sunday’s Hurled from a concerned Fairchild member.
All I know is what I read in the papers – all of which is linked here. But as a non-profit executive, I’ve seen my share of organizations travel down this path, hijacked by egomaniacal executives with their own agendas, blandly contemptuous of the agency’s objectives. Insiders bewail their beloved institution’s “mission drift,” and protest the loss of focus, misplaced priorities, and sandbagged commitment. The powers that be remind the rank and file that bills must be paid, payrolls met, investors (donors and sponsors) satisfied. This sounds all too much like what I’m reading in the paper this weekend.
In any non-profit, there’s always tension at this fork in the road. There are better and worse ways to handle it. In the “worse” category is airing out the dispute where the neighborhood can comment, and attracting sufficient attention to warrant newspaper coverage counts as that – in spades.
Fairchild Gardens is a gem, an underrated exhibition of environmental beauty and scholarship of which south Florida should be proud. It’s not like that decrepit Vizcaya abomination, or the mildewed Coconut Grove Playhouse. There was more clamor over the Orange Bowl, ferchrissakes, a pathetic testament to South Florida’s sophistication index.
This dispute opens a window on something sinister and ugly. Fix it. Now.