Drunken Pirates and Margarita Hunters Don’t Make the Right Kind of Personal Impact

Today is Tuesday, so this post is on positive personal impact.

Stacy Snyder was a student at Millersville University who, like so many others in her generation, had a MySpace page where she expressed herself freely. This free expression has come back to bite her.

Ms. Snyder was pursuing a degree in education, had completed most of her degree and was a student teacher at a local high school.  But she was denied her Education certificate because of a photo on her MySpace page that one of her professors says exhibits errors in judgment that conflicted with the Pennsylvania Code of Professional Practice and Conduct for Educators.  She has now filed suit against the University for $75,000.

Here is a story about the incident that appeared on FoxNews.com…

“A woman denied a teaching degree on the eve of graduation because of a MySpace photo has sued the university.

“Millersville University instead granted Stacy Snyder a degree in English last year after learning of the Web-published picture of her, which bore the caption “Drunken Pirate.”

“Snyder received “superior” or “competent” ratings on her final student-teacher evaluation in all areas except “professionalism,” in which she was labeled “unsatisfactory,” according to the suit filed Wednesday.

“”I dreamed about being a teacher for a long time,” said Snyder, 27, of Strasburg, who has two young sons. She now works as a nanny.

“The photo, taken at a 2005 Halloween party, shows Snyder wearing a pirate hat while drinking from a plastic “Mr. Goodbar” cup. It was posted on her own MySpace site.

“”There were errors in judgment that relate to Pennsylvania’s Code of Professional Practice and conduct for Educators” wrote Professor J. Barry Girvin who supervised Snyder’s work, according to the suit.

“Snyder did her student-teaching at Conestoga Valley High School in 2006. Conestoga Valley officials told the college they would stop accepting student-teachers from Millersville if she went unpunished, the lawsuit said.

“Although Snyder apologized, she learned on May 12 — the day before graduation — that she would not be awarded an education degree or teaching certificate.

“Jane S. Bray, dean of the School of Education, in a meeting that day accused Snyder of promoting underage drinking, the suit states.

“The accidentandinjurylawyersatlanta.com — filed against the university, Bray, Girvin and Provost Vilas A. Prabhu — seeks at least $75,000 in damages. Millersville spokeswoman Janet Kacskos referred questions to a state System of Higher Education spokesman, who declined comment.

“”The bottom line is we want the college to bestow the degree and teaching certificate that Stacy earned during four years of hard work and sacrifice,” said Snyder’s lawyer, Mark W. Voigt.”

My first reaction to this whole mess is lighten up Mssrs. Bray, Girvin and Prabhu and members of the Conestoga Valley school system.  It was a MySpace post – and she was not an underage drinker.

Personally, I hope Ms. Snyder wins her law suit.

On the other hand, there is a personal impact lesson to be learned here.  Never do or say anything in public (and MySpace certainly qualifies as a public place) that you wouldn’t be happy to see on the front page of the New York Times. 

I doubt that Ms. Snyder would contaminate the minds of our young people because of her “drunken pirate” photo.  In fact, she might be a fun teacher who connects well with the young people entrusted to her.  But that’s not the point.  She posted the picture, and now she is suffering the consequences.  Even if she wins the suit, she will probably have a difficult time getting a job as a teacher.

The common sense point here – your reputation is important to your career and life success.  In this wired age, every thing you do – or don’t do – contributes to your reputation.  So choose your actions wisely.  Think long term.

Here’s a personal pre MySpace story that illustrates this point.  About 25 years ago, when I was an employee of a company that is now one of my consulting clients, I was visiting their distribution facility in the Dallas Forth Worth area.  One night, a group of us went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the Fort Worth Stockyards area.  I had a couple of beers and a couple of Margaritas at dinner.  Then we went out to visit some of the local bars.

At some point in the evening, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to find “the best damn Margarita in all of Fort Worth”.  So I led an expedition to do that very thing.  Needless to say, you could have called me a “drunken pirate – or cowboy” that night.

We all had fun; and no harm, no foul you might say.  Right?

Wrong.  About five years ago (approximately 20 years after the Margarita search), I was visiting the same company’s distribution center in Memphis when I ran into one of the guys that was with me that night in Fort Worth.  I hadn’t seen him since.  The first thing he said was “did you ever find the best damn Margarita in Fort Worth that night?  I went home early.”

It took me a while to even recall the evening in question.  When I did, I was pretty embarrassed.  I don’t like to present myself as a drunken pirate, or cowboy.  Yet, something that I did 20 years previous rose up to haunt me.  It was no big deal.  We both had a laugh about it and chalked it up to old time’s sake.

But I learned an important lesson about personal impact that day – people remember you for what you do.  You make a personal impact with everything you do, everyday.  Do your best to make all of your personal impacts positive, not negative.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website www.BudBilanich.com for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: www.CommonSenseGuy.com for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to www.FirstGiving.com/TheCommonSenseGuy to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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