For those of you who don’t know, my mother is a super-hero: she is an incredibly good researcher and advocate who can clearly and concisely get her point across on paper and in a meeting. Since I was a child, she has used her gift to right wrongs and keep people (like me) safe from corporate sloppiness, university bureaucracies, and plain old meanies.
I have been her apprentice all these years and – like a good grasshopper – have gone out in search of additional training. There was the summer I worked at McGill in the Donor Research programme, basically receiving training in sniffing out info on alumni. Then there was my work as a facilitator at the Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth at the University of British Columbia that taught me how to move difficult discussions along, listen to people without rolling my eyes, and ask probing questions to get at the root of the matter. (the second skill is probably the most useful one, btw!)
Well, the Metcalfe genes and training kicked into overdrive yesterday! Someone wrote a vicious (and hugely overblown) email about the Rock Springs Humane Society and had been circulating it for over a week before a caring supporter sent it to the director to give her a head’s up. Basically this alarmist email was trying to raise a mob to descend on our board meeting yesterday. We found out about the email the day before and by yesterday morning the director (my good friend) forwarded it to me. It was on.
Within a few minutes, I had compiled a table of all the people who had forwarded and received the email (at least in the ’email tree’ that had ended up with us). You see, the people had not thought to use the useful BCC function on their email accounts, and so all their names were in plain sight. Soon I had added their addresses and phone numbers, some of their ages, and some additional details – like place of work – to my table. It’s amazing what you can find out on the internet if you know where to look…
Then I set about responding to the email piece by piece. It turned into a three-page rebuttal. If all else fails, kill ’em with a logical, reasoned response. It’s a good thing I did, too, since the Rock Springs mayor, Tim Kaumo, had gotten wind of these accusations and came to the meeting yesterday. It was with more than a modicum of satisfaction that I gathered my document up and handed it to him.
I then briefly summarized the contents of my rebuttal to the board members and the dozen or so concerned citizens who had been roused by this email (or who had written it in the first place – that is still unclear!). While they did not show up bearing pitch forks, if we had been blindsided by this whole affair, things could have gotten very ugly.
In the end, though, while there were some heated discussions, I think we managed to squelch what could have been a huge blow-up. I, for one, walked away from the meeting feeling like some valid concerns had been raised, people were willing to be part of the solution (we even had a few people sign up to be volunteers!), and that most people present had conducted themselves in a reasonable manner. In addition, the mayor seems like a very approachable and animal-friendly sort of man, and is willing to work with us in the future for possible funding, etc.
It’s amazing what having a super-hero mom can teach you!