Friday, May 15, 2015

Former White Hat takes important reins at UA

As if matters weren't edgy enough on the University of Akron campus under a new president on the block, there's even more faculty concerns for a campus in some sort of transition.  It's the appointment of a new vice provost and executive dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology to oversee President Scott Scarborough's. "repositioning'" the school from a traditional academic mission that allows for the humanities  as well as technology. As the question arose on whether  the school would change its name - which Scarborough  finally dismissed as nothing more than rumors - some faculty members figured he would at least see to it that UA would have "Technical Institute" attached to its legal name.

But the new science and technology guy who will doubtless work  in close quarters with the president is  Todd Rickel, who brings a resume that notes he was once the "Chief Learning Officer"  of White Hat Management.

You haven't been around these parts   very long to not recognize White Hat as David Brennan's charter school behemoth.  Which leads us to wonder  how his self-appended expertise as an "education futurist" will play on a  campus where departments are either being eliminated or downsized in what Scarborough refers to as "disinvestment.".

That  futurist stuff  is also how Brennan has seen himself .  Years ago he invited me to a private breakfast to hear a fellow, whose name I've long forgotten, who predicted the imminent demise of universities.

As Steve Dyer of Innovation Ohio, a progressive issues group,  wrote:  "While I'm not opposed to changing things, I deeply question how [Scarborough] could put so much faith in Todd Rickel'' while telling us that Rickel also has served as the Executive  Vice president  of the White Hat's  Distance Education Group - ''overseeing Ohio's worst online school..."

While Rickel was at White Hat,  Dyer wrote, " the company was receiving $110  million a year, on average, from Ohio taxpayers.  Meanwhile the school's performance - for which Rickel was directly resposible - was dreadful."

For those of us who see UA as a significant partner in the city's future,  we can only hope  that things don't turn out the same way on the downtown campus.

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