Social Networking and Leadership Accountability in (Quasi) Secret Organizations
2 WAKE FOREST L. REV. COMMON LAW 39
6 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2017
Date Written: 2012
Almost a century ago, United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandies articulated an insightful analysis in a Harper’s Weekly article titled What Publicity Can Do.1 He noted that “[p]ublicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” Justice Brandeis’s idea vis-à-vis the virtues of publicity had germinated more than two decades prior when he expressed an interest in writing a companion piece to his article The Right to Privacy. This time, however, he would focus on the duty of publicity. He noted that he had been thinking “about the wickedness of people shielding wrongdoers & passing them off (or at least allowing them to pass themselves off) as honest men.” His proposed remedy was that, “[i]f the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.”
Fortunately, we live in an era in which organizations have difficulty keeping their conduct in the dark. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and whistleblower protection laws amplify the sunlight cast upon organizations. But there are, for a range of reasons, organizations that operate in the shadows — possibly due to the law but certainly due to internal dynamics. A classic example is black Greek-letter organizations (“BGLOs”). These organizations, with their secret rituals and yet public operations, are now more than one century old and have a membership that is a veritable who’s who in black American achievement. In the past few years, several of these organizations have been rocked by scandals about their national presidents engaging in financial malfeasance with organization funds. What is more interesting is that members have had tremendous difficulty addressing these issues. There are, after all, a number of organizational dynamics that might constrain BGLO members from being able to hold their leadership accountable for financial malfeasance. This Article contends that where organizational mechanisms militate against leadership accountability, (quasi) secure social networking sites may be the best hope for (quasi) secret organization members to hold their leaders accountable.
Keywords: BGLO, black Greek-letter organizations
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