Friday, December 24, 2010

Surprise, not really: Smithsonian Did It Again!

by Gary Snyder

The Smithsonian Institution is, once again, in the forefront of indecision and inadequate leadership. For years the Smithsonian was run by, arguably, one of the charitable sector’s poorest functioning boards. In its recent history the board was a serial nonprofit governance offender and ignored many “red flags”. During the previous administration of Secretary Lawrence Small the board governed an institution that disregarded the inspector general’s report that stated that there was massive malfeasance, an agency that was devoid of implemented policies and procedures, an institution that was overtly secretly and lacked transparency, an organization that was rampant with conflicts of interest, an agency that destroyed documents to cover up its weaknesses and failed any positive standard in its management and governance.

It is now faced with another outcry by the museum world over the censoring one of its own exhibitions - removing a video that appeared in the National Portrait Gallery's groundbreaking exhibition of gay portraiture, "Hide/Seek". Much like his predecessor, the current Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough has gone missing after making the controversial decision, over the objections of his curators. By his withdrawing from the public debate, it has become a disaster for the institution.

Such concealment is precisely the same tact the Smithsonian took under the Small r├ęgime until the Congress intervened and forced his resignation. Most would have believed that the adverse publicity would have changed the way the Smithsonian operated. No one should have expected anything different because this is the same leadership that got itself in a similar mess just a few years ago. They just re-anointed themselves!
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