Sunday, August 16, 2015

At UA, the week that was - and will be

The past week has been the week that was - and will continue to get worse  as the  University of Akron leaders, past and present, grope for damage control.

Former President Luis Proenza returned to the front page of the Beacon Journal  like Jacob Marley's ghost with his  version of why it was so utterly important to make the campus more suitable for students, regardless of the debt.  He defended a $650 million makeover of the school  on his watch for his inviting new "Landscape for Learning".  Will  those who come later be tempted to affix his name to one of the buildings?

Next up was a rope-a-dope statement in Sunday's  Beacon Journal from the collegial  Board of Trustees, with apologies for its ineptitude in rolling out its debt strategy from the assembly line.  It said it must find better ways to communicate  its effort to meet the challenge  for more efficiency and economy on the campus.

And, of course, there  was the forever upbeat President Scott Scarborough, for whom the trustees chipped in nearly a milion dollars for a This-Old-House update  that included an expensive olive jar and the addition of a neat suite for his relatives. He, too, agreed that mistakes were made and promised that Team Scarborough would do better.

Folks, when you're paying a chief executive $450,000 plus endless  princely perks, he'd damn well try to do better. On the job training couldn't have been in his contract.

OK,  we can all agree that indebtedness is a big problem, even if doesn't impact on a new palace for the CEO.

Still, with a school with little walking-around money,  a published report the past week told of the trustees hiring a retired colonel at $100,000  (cheap by UA standards for its executive corps) to direct a newly-created Corps of Cadets.  From the Plain Dealer we learned that the new commandant, Bradley Harvey, will preside over a mission "designed  to instill discipline, honor and respect and to teach life skills, including personal decorum and time management."

The part of about "personal decorum" is a perfect though worrisome fit for   Scarborough's apparent obsession with fashionable dress codes and behavior.   You'll recall he had earlier warned the faculty kiddies that those who don't pick up trash don't deserve respect as educators.  It's scary stuff from a schoolmaster.

What's going on here?  Add the Corps of Cadets to another newly posted entity,  Trust Navigator, an outfit inexperienced in its new jackpot role, that will be paid $843,000   for coaching students that were already being coached..

At week's end, staffs at the UA Press and EJ. Thomas Hall were still poking around in uncertainties about their own future despite word from the top that the administration working on it.

At the athletics  department, now managed by the vice president of finance, three potential candidates for athletics director backed away from the job  because of  the chaos.  For now, the eight trustees  who seemingly dozed  through the debt flood and  the subsequent cascading mistakes ought to be shamed for nonfeasance and incompetence.

Guy Bordo, the widely respected conductor of the UA symphony  orchestra,   called for the resignations of all of the trustees and the guy they hired, Scott Scarborough.    But at their clubby level, unfortunately, it's not likely to happen.  Loss of credibility is not part of the equation.

1 comment:

ron said...

The institution formerly known as the University of Akron has had a busy summer — rebranding itself as a state technical community college, rebuilding the president’s mansion for Scott Scarborough’s in-laws and reneging on promises not to harm important community assets. But mostly the new prez and his compliant board have been busy dismantling the university to fund the football team and something called the Corps of Cadets, which seems to appeal to military wanna-bees who don’t actually want to commit to serving in the real Army.

Now Luis Proenza, former president, serial big spender and golden parachute recipient, has popped up from his lucrative research sabbatical to justify his actions, which left Akron Poly at least $60 million in debt. He should have kept quiet.

Proenza Excuse #1: The state changed the funding formula for universities. True. And apparently Proenza was the only public university president that the state failed to inform of the new rules — the other universities adjusted and most are thriving. Hey, not his fault.

Excuse #2: Enrollment dropped. Yes, when you cut student services and academic programs, students go elsewhere. And when you are shedding enrollment, you can’t continue to budget and spend like you are increasing enrollment each year. Geez, who knew?

Meanwhile, Proenza’s unindicted co-conspiritors — the Board of Trustees — remain in place at Akron State Tech, continuing to make things worse by hiring (and continuing to endorse) Scarborough and the Toledo Trinity he brought with him. The idea seems to be, enrollment will increase once the football team starts winning — even though no one goes to the games. What Akron needs is a university that responds to community needs — not another football team in a football-rich state.

But the Board has decided that the community doesn’t matter — see the Board’s letter to the editor in Sunday’s Beacon Journal. They’re moving on at Akron A&M. Nothing to see here. We’ll tell you what you need to know.