Where some see strong leader in Silber, he sees hostile workplace

My reaction to Jeff Jacoby’s “Working for BU’s ‘silver unicorn’ ” (Op-ed, Sept. 28) was visceral. Jacoby describes scenario after scenario in which Boston University president John Silber was abusive to him and others. Jacoby indicates that the late Silber’s aggressive style and his intellect served BU well. He describes Silber as “abrasive, blunt, volatile, and aggressive” and “in a temper five days a week.” Jacoby says his colleagues felt “put in [their] place.” These are words victims of abusive relationships use.

Today’s work environments have policies to protect workers from hostile work situations. Psychologists have examined the psychic damage to victims.


As a business owner with responsibility for many colleagues, I work hard to create a supportive and respectful environment. Victims can become dysfunctional, unable to resist attacks on their self-esteem.

In spite of Jacoby’s rationalizations, I believe that all the people who were the targets of Silber’s abusive behavior were affected negatively.

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Jacoby makes it seem as though Silber was unique in his ability to improve BU’s standing. I believe that another leader with more humane leadership skills would have done better without damaging people in the process.

I wouldn’t want my career summed up like Silber’s. I suspect Jacoby wouldn’t want his career characterized that way, either.

David Wizansky


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