Scandal in perspective

It should not exactly be fresh news that Ernest B. Moore, known on campus and Capitol Hill as Bernard Moore, was not the man he claimed to be. Last Wednesday, revelation of Moore’s extensive web of deception spread across campus like wildfire, and by noontime at least a dozen people had ensured that I was not out of the loop. While the absurdity of the situation certainly lent itself easily to lunch-table gossip, which I admittedly indulged in, it wasn’t until the utter ridiculousness of the fraud sank in that I began to consider the larger significance and nature of the situation.

Perhaps the most immediate and direct consequence of Moore’s deception, aside from his termination as a visiting professor, was the postponement and conceivable cancellation of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) symposium that was scheduled for last Monday night. While President Wagner’s e-mail on the subject held the Congressional Committee on Standards of Official Conduct responsible for the postponement, I can’t help but pessimistically doubt that the College will be able to host an event of such proportion in the “near future.” Firstly, I find it difficult to imagine why prominent Representative Danny Davis (D-Ill.), for whom Moore served as senior policy fellow, would want to further embroil himself in the controversy. Secondly, and more fundamentally, the event’s rescheduling seems implausible because of the absence of Professor Moore himself. Moore made himself seem integral in attracting the Caucus to the College, and if he his connections were anywhere near as extensive as they seemed, rescheduling may prove a difficult task.

Yet this second consideration illustrates an important point: Not everything Moore did was dishonest or harmful. While the sincerity of his actions should rightfully be called into question, no one can deny the fact that the CBC “Race and the New Congress” event that Moore organized last November was an overwhelming success. Listening to the leaders of the Caucus and Governor Deval Patrick discuss the future of race in the United States a mere two weeks after Obama’s monumental election was one of my most memorable first-year experiences. In a similar vein, Moore consistently strove to connect his students with governmental opportunities in Washington and the rest of the country, demonstrating a true consideration for members of the College community. On Capitol Hill, Moore’s somewhat ironic contributions and achievements should likewise be noted: He authored and progressed the “Second Chance Act” legislation that endeavors to aid nonviolent offenders in reabsorbing themselves into society.

Taking into account these noteworthy contributions, I’m not entirely sure how to regard Moore’s still flagrant legal and moral transgressions. It’s clear that Moore was not a self-serving impostor looking to exploit the College for its financial resources; I think (at least I hope) there was more in it for Moore. But if we look beyond the high-profile events that he planned and the opportunities he proffered to certain students, the fact remains that the vast majority of students who enrolled in his class saw it as an utter waste of time. Once word spread of his lacking pedagogic abilities, numerous students proceeded to select his courses in the hope of obtaining political internships, or at the very least receiving the easy “A” that his class apparently de facto guaranteed.

While Moore’s successful swindling certainly does not reflect favorably on the College, it is important that we move on and ameliorate the areas where our system failed us. Firstly, perhaps the College should consider reviewing their procedures when hiring prospective faculty – had Moore been forced to undergo a more extensive background check, it’s possible that the College could have prevented him from deceiving members of the community firsthand. Secondly, the College should instate a method of inspecting potential visiting professors that lack prior teaching records. One idea would be to request that prospective visiting faculty deliver a sample lecture to the community, with department members in attendance, before they obtain their posts. Thirdly, once Moore began teaching, it quickly became clear that he was not a high-caliber professor. I feel like the department should have gotten indications of Moore’s lack of ability earlier – if not when Moore scheduled student oral presentations for the majority of the class time during the semester, then at least when he opted to remain in the classroom while students filled out his professor evaluation surveys. While I realize that Moore’s scenario was certainly an aberration from the norm, perhaps this is an indication that students need to feel more comfortable communicating egregious professor behavior to department chairs and academic deans.

I find myself somewhat conflicted in my considerations. I don’t see any way to excuse Moore’s intentional deceit; however, I also don’t think it’s right to simply ignore the genuine and sincere contributions that Moore strove to make to our community. Perhaps 41 months from now Moore will be on his way back to College to teach a course on criminal psychology. For now though, all that’s left for the College to do is move on and prevent something like this from happening in the future.

Adam Century ’12 is from Montreal, Canada. He lives in Morgan.