August 12, 2012
Dear Members of the Class of 2016,
The new academic year is almost upon us, and we are looking forward to meeting all of you! We’re excited about your joining us for what I know will be one of the most significant periods of your life, and folks all around campus are in the final stages of planning for your arrival.
Planning does not always guarantee outcomes, however, and I want to share with you an illustration of this. As you know, we selected the book Imagine by acclaimed author Jonah Lehrer to be one of two books that we would ask you to read over the summer. We invited Mr. Lehrer to join us on campus during your first few days here to talk about the book. He is a great speaker, the book is on creativity and promised to be a good read, and we had every reason to think that this would be a great introduction to Earlham for you.
Yesterday we found out – and I imagine that many of you already know this – that Mr. Lehrer engaged in what are clearly some unethical practices in his writing of the book, specifically (at least) making up some quotations that he used in the book. This kind of behavior is absolutely unacceptable in the academic community for someone who is claiming to be doing non-fiction work, and because actions have consequences, we cannot sanction that kind of behavior by having him be a major speaker here. We have cancelled his appearance.
Terms such as “integrity” and “respect” are important here at Earlham, and you will hear much more about our Principles and Practices code after you arrive here and in your Earlham Seminars. As one of our faculty noted to me about Lehrer’s actions, “There are lots of integrity issues here: not just the original dishonesty, but also the ‘coming clean’ about the dishonesty, the integrity of his work, and the integrity of Earlham’s response.”
I am very pleased that we are replacing Mr. Lehrer in our Convocation on August 21 with someone who will help us shape a conversation about creativity with a presentation titled "The Ethics of Creativity, Or: How To Avoid (Greek) Tragedy". David Ebenbach is the author of two books of short stories — Between Camelots, and Into the Wilderness — a non-fiction guide to the creative process called The Artist’s Torah (forthcoming), and Autogeography, a chapbook of poetry. He has been awarded several prizes and fellowships for his work. He has a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A former visiting professor at Earlham College, Ebenbach now teaches at Georgetown University. You can learn more about him at www.davidebenbach.com.
I look forward to meeting you in a few weeks.
Earlham College • 801 National Road West • Richmond, Indiana 47374-4095