Thursday, August 13, 2015

Latest from the Front: Team Scarborough to the parapets! .

There was good news and bad news from President Scott Scarborough  surrounding  Wednesday's closely monitored meeting of the University of Akron's Board of Trustees.   Yes, he said, to his many detractors who already knew it, mistakes were made during the turbulent rollout of the new regime's ill-conceived plan to erase the school's debt.

But as he told Akron Roundtable a year ago, he wanted his audience to know there was good news in the Bible.  Quoting Psalm 30:5,  he had said:

"Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning."

He said he was confident "the sun will rise on our great university" - a reprise of Reagan's Morning in America, right?  Well, so far, it hasn't.

Biblical or not, that won't be of much consolation to all of the folks who were cut from  the ledgers and are now out of work.  But a lot of people at Scarborough's pampered level don't seem to connect to those who are left behind when  the Top Loaders come calling with big ideas.

When, as in Scarborough's case, you are being paid a half-million dollars with princely perks in the noble cause of debt reduction,  you reduce humanity to winners and losers.  I mean, when he spoke to the Akron Roundtable shortly after his arrival from Toledo  last year, he smoothly rose to the podium with the sternest of advice to his newly acquired faculty with a demand that if they wanted to  earn respect as serious-minded educators  they must pick up trash.

Although not quite ready for Bartlett's,  he explained his odd trash pickup philosophy:

"A person who is too important to pick up trash is probably too important to help a student who is struggling to understand an important concept or practice."

That struck me at  the time as the broadest  consideration  of what higher education is all about with all of those messy career professors on the loose.

In this dark moment of UA history,  however, he can rest assured that he has all eight trustees who hired him on his side.  From Board Chairman Jonathan Pavloff came a salute that the Board remains solidly behind its hire, and despite those embarrassing mistakes,  "We'll do a better job in the future."  (Remember, this in the context of higher education, not reform school.)

Still,  the focus  remains on  the board's disengagement during the entire process.  Where were  these bright lights of the community - six Republicans and two Democrats -political appointees supposedly chosen for their ability to serve as thoughtful gatekeepers rather than ego-serving lines in their resumes.  Where have they been for so long during the systemic free-spending spree that embraced the Proenza years, too?  And did any of them wonder about the public relations breakdown of half-prepared initiatives that were reversed in a publicity rout?  Ask them.

How much confidence should any of us have in their ability to be accountable jurors since they silently ratified the notion that university presidents are also gods, even those with questionable track records? (You won't find that in Psalms.)

The wounds to the school's reputation are deep from this clumsy bush league  performance and neither Psalms nor triage will  help.

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