By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – The email came in like a missile.
It said that the Franklin College board of trustees had fired the school’s president. The president had been arrested on charges that he had a committed a sex crime with a presumed 15-year-old.
This missile did what missiles always do when they explode. It blasted the landscape and left everyone still standing feeling dazed, wounded and unsure of their footing.
I know, because I’m one of them.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
Franklin College is part of me. I teach at the college now, but I’m also a proud alumnus. I was a townie who went to the hometown school.
Even before that, it often seemed like I lived on the campus. When I was in junior high, my buddies and I played pickup football on the FC practice field all the time.
The father of my best friend when I was a kid worked at the college. Sometimes, on special occasions or when the college was on break, my friend’s father would let us into the gym to play basketball.
In those days when teenagers didn’t have electronic diversions and entertainments, there was no bigger treat for a group of young guys than to be able to play full court ball on an actual college floor for five, six or seven hours straight.
When the news hit, I walked past that old gym on the way to my office and thought of those long-ago days.
I stood there for a long moment, a mix of grief, anger and resentment. I seethed at the thought of what had happened to this dear place.
This college – my college – has seen a lot of history in its 186-year existence. So many good people have sat in this school’s classrooms, walked this campus and loved this school.
When I got to my office, I began to hear from many of them.
My cell phone erupted with texts from former students. They all expressed shock, then moved fast to what they most wanted to say.
“We’re here for whatever the college needs,” one said.
“How can I help?” another said.
“What do you need me to do?” still another asked.
The answer was easy:
Just continue to be yourselves. You’re the best ambassadors or advertisements this college or any college could ask for.
The next day, I talked with some FC journalism students. They’d had to report on the former president’s arrest and dismissal. They’d done their work like seasoned pros, which meant they hadn’t had much time to think about what it might mean for them and the college they love.
They asked, what was this going to do to the college’s reputation?
I told them the truth.
A story like this is never good news, I said, and we will take a hit in the short term.
But the reputation of a college that has been around for almost two centuries isn’t and won’t be defined by any one incident.
The reputation of the college, I told them, rested on the quality of the work our students do, both while they’re in school and after they graduate. If they continued to do their jobs and lead good lives both they and Franklin College would do just fine.
The students listened, thought about it for a moment and then did what good people always do.
They went back to work.
A missile landed a few days ago on a college so many people love. It stunned and hurt everyone connected with the place.
But it didn’t stop them.
Right away, they began cleaning up the debris, comforting the wounded and finding ways to move forward.
For almost 190 years, that caring but determined spirit has defined Franklin College.
God willing, it always will.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.