Amidst the daily revelations surrounding the scandalous behavior of Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, Off the Record thought it might be interesting to explore the teachings of Barry’s extremely liberal husband Bruce, who teaches at Vanderbilt University.
Dr. Bruce is a member of the national board of directors of the ACLU and is past President of the Tennessee ACLU chapter. According to his Vanderbilt bio: “Professor Barry’s current and recent research explores the social context of ethical decision making, the intersection of ethics and emotion, and deception and entitlement in negotiation.” (Emphasis added.)
Vanderbilt also notes that Professor’s Barry’s expertise is in two particular areas: “(1) social issues in management, including ethics, public policy, and workplace rights; and (2) the psychology of interpersonal and group behavior in organizations, including power, influence, negotiation, conflict and justice.”
So, exactly how does Professor Barry impart his expertise and research on these issues into the minds of his students? A review of the course syllabus from one of his classes at Vanderbilt’s Owen School a few years back is instructive. The syllabus details the various class assignments and expectations, grading, etc. for Management 443, Power and Influence in Organizations.
One particular assignment of interest, representing 15% off the course grade, was the Deviant for a Day Paper. “The objective is to violate some basic aspect of your self-image for an entire day, without telling anyone why you are doing this deviant action, and to observe both how others react to you and how you respond to this experience.” Students then wrote a paper of approximately 1250 words detailing their experience.
Deviant for a Day?!?!? Mayor Megan Barry took it to two years. Did she expect extra credit?
The assignment is very consistent with Professor Barry’s research into “deviant behavior” and its effect on bystanders, co-workers, colleagues, etc. In fact, he wrote a scholarly paper about it in which he concluded, among other things, that “deviant behavior” makes others around the deviant actor more susceptible to engage in their own deviant behavior. It is not that deviant behavior itself is “contagious,” just that in an environment where deviant behavior is exhibited by some it becomes more widely practiced by others.
If Professor Barry is right, then the Mayor’s office and the Police Department may have other “deviant behavior” issues that have not yet come to light – but which deserve a thorough and immediate investigation.