Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Report from our digital world

(From New Yorker)

Renacci keynoter : GOP prototype for women

ATTN: LADIES: In Rep. Jim Renacci's effort to extend the Republicans' outreach to women voters, he is sponsoring an event on Oct. 20 at the Strongsville Holiday Inn that will introduce you to a successful woman with a winning  career in the competitive  fast track modern world.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem is coming all the way from South Dakota to be the keynote speaker with lustrous credentials that Renacci believes no ambitious woman can afford to ignore.

I never heard of her, either.  But her bio is quite fetching for the women of northern Ohio.    She's a farm mom who says  one of her joys as a mother is  to help her son engage in rodeos. More exciting is her opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control and other hot  issues as a social conservative.  And, yep, she's a climate-change denier,too. No surprises there.

Indeed, Renacci, of Wadsworth,  tightly belongs to a party that also  is in denial about social change and Kristi Noem will be on hand to prove it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is Scarborough opting for martyrdom?

Does it seem to you that University of Akron President Scott Scarborough is rebranding himself into a martyr?

As he's responded to bad news in the past, he reacted to the campus survey that his approval rating is awful by shrugging that  change is "difficult".   In other words, a guy who is paid upward of $600,000 and royal perks to resolve the school's debt and cast it as  a polytechnic enterprise is faced with a daunting task.

But did the rollout have to be so amateurishly clumsy?  And if there is such a role as "sub-martyr",   we might include the Board of Trustees, a feckless group that offered no sign of being moving parts in the slide.

President Scarborough will learn that martyrdom  doesn't include a fat paycheck and personal prestige, which seems to be what this nightmare is all about.  

P.S.  Scarborough left the University of Toledo with poor grades from the faculty, too.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Survey reveals bad news for Team Scarborough

The latest chapter in what the University of Akron's leadership did last summer (and is still doing)  confirms the fallout from the hasty worst-laid plans that are going awry.     It is contained  in the campus survey of faculty and students by  the Akron- American Association of University Professors (AAUP)  that reveals widespread discontent on the downtown campus for the ongoing efforts by the new UA regime's scheme to rebrand the school into a polytechnic institution.

The survey results were released via email Monday by Sociology  Professor John Zipp,  president of the Akron chapter of AAUP.  Around town, the numbers can't be reassuring since UA President Scott Scarborough and the Board of Trustees have plunging confidence of a majority of those who responded to the survey.

Asked whether Scarborough is leading the school in a "positive direction, 72.2 pct. said no.

To the question of whether the Board of Trustees has been upholding its responsibilities, 78.1 pct responded no.

And 73.1 pct. said  UA is worse off today than a year ago.

The negative effects are already taking hold with various UA financial   support groups.

So much chaos has come out of this...and  one can only wonder when Team Scarborough will face up honestly to the serious damage to the school's internal morale and its wider  reputation.  So far, Scarborough seems hell-bent on plowing forward.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

With Boehner out, the crazies will romp even more

A moment of silence for John Boehner, please.  The dour weepy House speaker, I mean.  Remember?

A square peg in a deep round hole dug by the beastly carnivores in the Republican caucus who , of all things,  considered him too liberal  for their suicidal quest to rule anybody who wasn't as certifiably crazy.  His efforts to please often led him at times to be certifiably crazy , too.  The more than 50 failed attempts to kill Obamacare in the House.    The loopy invitation to Bibi Netanyahu to be his guest to kill the Iran deal.

Folks, don't let them fool you.  With Boehner's opponents, it has nothing to do with ideology.  Instead, it springs from idiot-ology.  They would shut down the government over Planned Parenthood, for God's sake?

We normally would say history won't be kind for such servility by the speaker in the face of his Potomac enemies.  In this instance, Boehner fell  on his sword, saying enough is enough as he made instant history to save future historians the trouble of panning him. .

Among the Ohioan's more toxic Republican tormentors was his fellow Buckeye  from a farm in southwestern Ohio, Rep. Jim Jordan, a possessed  hoofbeater who heads the congressional Freedom Caucus  and is regarded around Capitol Hill as in the arch-conservative crazy class.

Summit County Republicans may know him as a featured guest at one of the local party's
 (i.e., Chairman Alex Arshinkoff's) glistening dinners.  On other festive occasions as the locals moved farther to the right, Alex also enjoyed the camaraderie on the dinner dais  of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum in their Sunday clothes. Nothing reslly worked as the chairman continued to  raise money for local candidates who didn't win, including former Republican mainstay, failed former Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Robart.

I wasn't among Boehner's fans, but when the wild bunch now shaping the party
talked of impeaching the speaker (Jordan thought it might be nice if a strong
Tea Partier challenged the speaker in his own district) I at least had a shiver over how far the GOP has fallen. And will continue to fall.

Am I right, Sen.McConnell?  You could be next.  It would be ironic, I'd think, that as the one who dedicated himself to the instant demise of President Obama, you might be gone before the president.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Good dog

Snoopy:  When the Pope says sit, you must sit:

A surreal UA invasion of the performing arts

Salvador Dali might be hard-pressed to create the surreal scene erupting at the University of Akron as   the handiwork of an overzealous regime  that has set out to fix what in many instances wasn't broken. My talks with knowledgeable campus denizens who were in the UA ranks long before the Scarborough goodwrenches  arrived from Toledo  tell of the day to day horrors of trying to salvage some clarity from the woozy game plan to eliminate the school's debts.

Nothing demonstrates UA's  rocky path more than the published report that after many weeks of hazing the programs and staff at E.J.Thomas Hall the university has signed on with Playhouse Square in Cleveland to manage its Broadway road shows at the hall.  This bubbly relationship replaces  the director and staff  whose contracts expire in January.  That includes E.J.'s executive director, Dan Dahl.

The move has puzzled some of the  affected staffers.  And one person quite familiar with the operation asked a reasonable question:  If the series already had a Broadway producer, why did they replace it with another one?

As usual,  reasonable responses to reasonable questions have not been the forte of the Scarborough team. It prefers self-promoting slide shows to community groups.  

The turmoil has damaged the health of one of the area's prized possessions,  Tuesday  Musical's series at the hall.  TM has had a strong national reputation  for showcasing some of the leading classical music artists, a respected organization that apparently didn't impress the new UA regime enough to recognize its value. It messed up the preseason ticket sales, closed EJ's box office and  created a hunt-and-peck  system that discouraged many would-be ticket buyers from renewals, which are said to be down by at least 160 from last year.   

Here's what I encountered Thursday:

A call to Tuesday Musical's office  was unanswered. A call to the Akron Civic Theater box office for direction  was cautiously answered by someone who told me he was prohibited from talking.  I was told to call the Akron Symphony's office, which appeared to surprise the person at the other end of the line who also was on lockdown about the situation.  

 More frustrating calls around town to  folks to find out more about this  absurdity.   It came from the top, one source said:   Scarborough & Company.

I've had years of experience that often led me to the arts community. Even managed a couple of Elderhostels anchored by the Broadway series at  EJ.  But that was long before it was subjected to the current heavy hand that altered the course.

Oh, Thursday also was  the day when several scholarship foundation donor reps  met with  Lawrence Burns UA's import from Toledo  and now titled the vice president of advancement.    One complained to me that Burns, into a selfie, recounted his own career and seemed out of touch with some of the UA's donors, including an important foundation.

And the official reaction to the critics of the new regime's soiling of UA's reputation with its monstrous rebranding scheme?

"They don't give a shit!"  exclaimed one who sat painfully through the Burns meeting. 

Unapologetically graphic in a polite society of classical music lovers?

Perhaps.  But really, I sort of look at it that way myself.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yogi and Scott Walker, a pair of humorists

In a blink, America lost two of its well-known humorists this week. Yogi Berra died at 90.  Scott Walker gave up his presidential bid when his campaign died.

We could all laugh when  Yogi would say profound things like:  "We made too many wrong mistakes."  Or: "Nobody goes there anymore.  It's too crowded."

Or when the sleepy-eyed Walker, the Wisconsin governor, would boast: "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world." That was his response to  a question about ISIS, his confidence swollen by his victory over public employes  unions in his state.


But he upped and quit.  That recalled an old  Yogi-ism by the baseball Hall of Famer that went: "If you don't 't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else."

Walker, a deeply religious man who was called from above to run for president , left the scene by  saying he was "called".  That could only mean...


Yogi once put it this way: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Responding to a question, Walker defended  the idea of a security fence with Canada as a "legitimate"  idea, asking:  "Why are we always talking about the southern border and building a fence there.  We don't talk about the northern border."

Yogi would say, as he once did: "Take it with a grin of salt."

Meantime, we can only wonder about Gov. Kasich's reaction when Walker jumped the ship of fools.   He and Walker, like-minded on most  things,  had coordinated their efforts to kill public employe unions. Walker even was recorded in a telephone call set up by a prankster pretending to be David Koch,  saying that he talked to Kasich "every day", adding :" John's gotta stand firm in Ohio."

Right. Nice try, but  Walker and Buddy Kasich were both scrubbed from the Kochs'   earlier A-list.

And that's not funny. As Yogi would say, and did:  "We were overwhelming underdogs."

Re-posted from Plunderbund

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

UA becoming a company campus

You would think that a new regime that claims strategic academic advances  would have at least considered the adage "Look before you leap".

By now we can conclude that University of Akron President Scott Scarborough and his meek servants on the Board of Trustees didn't.  And so, the school's reputation and credibility  are in free fall.

Scarborough arrived with a spotty resume from the University of Toledo  last year with a merit badge for wanting to get things done quickly.  He had tried to sell his grand plan  to the Toledo faculty and failed.  I remain puzzled  over why the UA Trustees chose to not only hire him but also to grant him an unchallenged and a richly rewarded command post to carry out his scheme to change the university's name (now , he says, abandoned). The price of renovating his home at nearly three times the original estimate was particularly troubling for a school insisting it was flat broke.  And what parent couldn't react sharply to a contractual perk that his daughter could someday attend any school in Ohio at no charge?

There have been other retreats from his initiatives along the way that exposed hasty efforts to "rebrand" UA into a tech center. Today's mail brought to us a flier from the University of Akron,  tagged Ohio's Polytechnic University - not a comforting fit for UA's music school's programs, do you think?

In the past year there have been too many reports of Scarborough's shredding of some of the school's departments  to cut into the school's debt.  Add the odd  administrative mistakes bobbing like apples in the pool of new executives  too highly paid to be making them. There have been too many bulging contracts for questionable  new programs.

On Sunday, a deeply researched report in the Beacon Journal included a startling statement for those of us who have fallen into the trap of linking UA with a $60 million debt.

"UA," reporter Rick Armon wrote, "doesn't have an annual $60 million deficit or shortfall".

That's what UA Chief Financial Officer Nathan Mortimer told him.  The explanation was too complicated for this column.

Still, Scarborough found his  comfort zone in the well-paid executives he brought to the  campus, morphing UA into a company school. That includes a hire who had once functioned in David Brennan's parallel $1 billion  taxpayer funded universe of White Hat Management's  charter schools.

Under Brennan's command,  Todd Rickel, UA's new vice  provost and dean of College of Applied Science and Technology,  made it known that he was an "education futurist" as White Hat's "Chief Learning Officer."  What could go wrong?

 Inasmuch as White Hat's charters are tanking  with  awful grades (as they did under Rickel on Brennan's payroll) you might wonder what he's doing at UA with a  $295,000 salary anyway.

 Brennan has long boastfully considered  himself a "futurist"  and years ago invited me to a private breakfast where the speaker  predicted the total demise of universities.

Folks, this whole rebranding idea is going nowhere as it stumbles over its own flubs.     Right now it's a high-priced game of academic silly putty.  Guess who's picking up the tab.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Big Ben tolls for Trump

One of the neat  things about sitting on a bar stool facing a dozen TV screens and watching your team (the Steelers, not the Browns!) win with ease  is that not once did we see Donald Trump's rubbery face or hear his twisting  words in the noisy madness of the moment.  That's how we escaped the TV pundits' endless speculation about an election that's more than a year away.

Ben Roethlisberger, having one of his best days, just connected with Antonio Brown on a long, long pass.
(You must undertstand that the latest polls in Iowa...) I'm doing this from memory, folks,  after insufferable months of day-to-day polls.
Big Ben does it again...
(You  must know,  according to The Donald, that he is the most qualified person ever to run for president)
Big Ben can't miss today.
(But will Carly overcome her disastrous days at Hewlett-Packard?)
Ben is smiling.
(If the race comes down to Trump and...)
Halftime. Already?  
(What do you make of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady endorsing Trump?) 
In a moment of distraction, I asked the guy next to me about Trump.   He took a quick sip of his beer and retorted: " Hey, fella.  I came here to watch a football game.   I've never even met this Trumpy guy.  Who does he play for?"

Good grief. Game over already?  I haven't even escaped the 5 p.m. cable TV news roundup.  Maybe nobody's ahead in the polls.    Hold it.  Somebody's interviewing Ben on camera.

Signs of the times (from New Yorker)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Yep, LeBron is out of his league

Aside to LeBron James:

The Akron area is grateful for your generosity in  so many important venues around here and respect your iconic involvement in youth programs.  However, upon seeing your presence in front of a blackboard  supporting  the Scarborough regime at the University of Akron, we must respectfully advise you that in this instance, you are out of your league.  The UA defenders say they had no hand in this photo, that it was spontaneous on your part.  Considering the self-inflicted  damage already done to the university's credibility, we will await a second opinion.  I doubt that if the UA Team were on the floor with the Cavs,  you would join it.  Even one of your immense athletic talent can't dribble  a brick.

* * * * *

In the Plain Dealer's long profile of Beth Hansen, Gov. Kasich's presidential campaign manager, backed away from talking about  her husband David's 's scandalous effort to satisfy charter school political donors by hiding the lowest grades. His back-channel behavior led to his resignation from the Ohio Department of Education. According to Henry Gomez, the paper's political reporter,  "there are  subjects  [Beth] Hansen doesn't like to discuss".

She's better work up a stronger reason when the national media come a-calling.   The ugly issue will be around for some time, even though Kasich not unexpectedly is pleading ignorance of the mess. It is, after all,  a presidential campaign season.

* * * * *

I've said many times that I'm hardly a math wizard.  But with all of the excitement over Donald Trump's poll numbers  in the 30s, I have to ask: with , say, 35 pct. approval among Republicans, what about the 65 pt. that don't approve.  Yet, it's also true that two thirds of those supporting Trump believe Obama, who isn't running, is a Muslim.  Go figure.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

GOP debate: Ten guys and Tugboat Annie

Did you happen to get a look at Wednesday Night Live?   The Republican debate, I mean.  Eleven characters in search of love and respect, most of whom were acting like playground bullies  piling on this Donald Trump fellow as if he were the churlish intruder who burst onto their turf.

If you missed it, you may want to know that Gov. Kasich complained that many  viewers would turn off their TVs. (The friendly Plain Dealer noted that he had fulfilled his game plan of rising above the fray. )

The most fashionable line of this dress rehearsal  began "I am the only candidate of this stage who..." without convincingly  suggesting that he was the only candidate on the stage who...

Flamboyant as ever, Trump  insisted on boasting to the millions of the underclass that  he was a rich man  and the only candidate on the stage who could save America.  Others boasted they would return America to greatness once they rid America of birthright babies and ISIS grandmothers.   (Have you ever witnessed so much damning talk of the country that Ronald Reagan is supposed to have built in a mere morning in America?)

The dreadful targets of much of the  bleating were President Obama, Obamacare, illegal immigrants (the issue du jour), Planned Parenthood, taxes   and Obama's lack of leadership in grabbing the globe by the French Alps and demanding total servility to Pax Americana.

Trump did say he would show Putin who was boss and made so many other boasts that left me on edge to hear about the time he played Mozart at Carnegie Hall in a military uniform. It was during his turns that I missed Rick Perry.

It was Carly Fiorina, assuming the role of a furious Tugboat Annie against a tide of  squid, who engendered the debate with endless statistics about how she saved Hewlett Packard before she was fired for bad judgment.  Whether by mean-spirited design or economic  necessity, HP rained on her parade Wednesday  by announcing 30,000 layoffs.

Oh, Jeb!  seemed to be particularly annoyed by Trump's aspersion of Mexicans.  And Kasich did take credit  for his triumphant historical resume dating back to the landing of the Puritans.

Remember folks:  The election is nearly 14 months away and we're going to have to  put up with this gang running around the country in their King Kong modes with incomplete prescriptions of how to solve every problem that Obama was leaving behind.


Re-posted from Plunderbund

Is Scarborough finally getting the message?

So now Team Scarborough is telling us that there will be no school name change - period!!! The   Deciders  are blaming a rude invasion of the so-called "rebranding" conversation on misinformation, gossip, media error, rumors, and fitful understanding of what  UA is trying to do - period!

"We want to be clear as possible," President Scarborough and Trustees Chairman Jonathan Pavloff said in a collaborative statement that would dilute the scorn on one or the other.  I didn't read much  more because when the leadership tried to promote  clarity over the summer of campus discontent, it didn't.

Item:  In August,  the Plain Dealer's Karen Farkas  reported, "the University of Akron may currently be 'Ohio Polytechnic University'   but the president has not shelved the idea  of changing the name."  Scarborough told the paper that the school simply has to expand its identity to reach more potential students.  Period!

The name thing, as well as a lot of other changes,  has undergone so many variations during Scarborough's first full year at the downtown campus that even statements with Periods should be approached warily.

Could it be that the regime is finally becoming aware of the troubles it has cast upon itself that are beginning to hit it in the most vulnerable  spot - the pocketbook?  The University of Akron Women's Group has responded  sharply to the removal of AKRON from the marching band uniforms, a rebranding idea that was badly timed inasmuch as  the women's group had donated $11,000 for the band's new raincoats and bags.

Louise Harvey, the group's  president, said in an email to me that
  "the Scarborough/Pavlov letter did little to soothe ruffled feathers.  I had a scathing letter from another member of the Women's Committee last night and more today.   When he puts Akron back on the uniforms, basketball court, scoreboards etc. we will (maybe) believe him."
More than a week has passed since the committee first notified Scarborough of its intent.  So far, Harvey said,  she's received no reply.

Meantime, the Association of the University of Akron Retirees (AUAR)  has also expressed its deep concern in a letter to the trustees,  Scarborough, Gov. Kasich and others similarly situated.   It stressed its "extreme dismay and concern about the changes being made at the University, as well as the way in which those changes are being made.  The letter also was critical of the treatment of affected school employes."

It pointed out that the AUAR financially supports scholarships. Period!

When UA music school professor Guy Bordo publicly described the school's leadership as "arrogant" you could understand why. I might add to that, "institutionally inept"  - a malady that has already cost Team Scarborough so much credibility.  PERIOD!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Charters: A White Hat brass ring from Supreme Court

You had to figure that a man of David Brennan's mighty political influence would come out on top  in the latest  Ohio Supreme Court decision that permits him to  keep all of the stuff in closed charter schools.  Yes, the court said in a split decision, even if you and I paid for it.

The Akron businessman, d.b.a. White Hat Management,  runs a charter school empire that has received nearly a billion dollars in Ohio tax dollars for his comfort and safekeeping. With his reputation as the  biggest Ohio Republican political donor - for many years! - it has drained the oxygen from Gov. Kasich, the legislature and now the  GOP-controlled Ohio Supreme Court  to resist his advances.

Did I just mention Kasich, who told us that  charter schools need more transparency  while supporting  more state money for them?  He's been so enamored of these schools  that he once suggested that the charters are so successful(!)  that we ought to convert to charter universities.   On that score, don't get me started.

At the heart of the Supreme Court action is  a suit by 10 disaffected Hope Academies and Life Skills Centers that objected to White Hat's claim on all publicly funded school assets when these schools left White Hat's embrace.

No deal, White Hat said.  Our contract shows we can keep everything even if we didn't pay for  it, which leads me to ask:  Who in hell  kept watch for taxpayers over the contract when it was written?  The court, led by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican fixture to the core from Akron who is among Brennan's recipients, decided  that Brennan can keep everything.

Plunderbund reported that GOP Justices Sharon Kennedy and Judith French,  asserted that "the school boards literally turned all money and responsibilities over to White Hat as an independent contractor with no expectation of transparency in how the business would be conducted."  Not even an inventory that  could have turned up a teacher's  iPhone absently left behind.

Justice William O'Neill, the lone Democrat on the bench,  dissented, saying that we were witnessing a "fraudulent conversion of public funds into personal profit". Right.  But good luck on making that idea stick against the White Hat behemoth.

Another object lesson on how soaring dollar-signed political business is carried out in Ohio these days?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Shouldn't we stop calling Akron names?

Throughout the long, hot summer of a search for a new name of Whatchmacallit U, little or nothing has been heard from the school's Board of Trustees - an abstract group, , really - that follows Justice Clarence Thomas' discreet path that silence is not only golden but also safer than a remote desert isle.

The board's missing public face has had a curious absence while  the - University of Akron...There!  I've dared resurrect the name! - is in the throes of historic woefully managed policy pains.

It's quite clear that the eight political appointees are not even minor risk-takers in their lofty perches  above the academics.   Skilled as they are in collegial meeting and greeting, they then manage to slip back into their real lives once the campus agenda is approved.

As for President Scott Scarborough, do you get the idea that he may have spent too much time studying the Peanuts strips in which Lucy devilishly pulls the football away from Charlie Brown?  I'm referring, of course, to the times that we learned of another fail-safe initiative to advance the school's prospects, only to learn later  that it had been rescinded, only-rumored, misrepresented  in the media or too nasty for words.

So it has been with Polytechnic, Ohio Tech, Institute or other appendages to Akron (or not) , a name now removed from the marching band uniforms.

In this town with compact loyalties, even the Akron Aeros changed its name to Akron Rubber Ducks and it caused  little public alarm because Akron was retained and it didn't change to, say,  something like the Rubber Ducks  Baseball Institute.

So to Team Scarborough and the trustees, I would humbly say:

C'mon, guys and gals,  Polytechnic - or so we have read, - suggests modern cutting edge insight into a Z-shape future.  You've had a year to figure all of this out. Why not have a naming contest and announce the winner at the Whatchamacallit Zips first winning football game?

That's mean.  I'll take it back.  I can rescind, too.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Portman says he would tag along with Trump

Ohio's tag-along Republican Sen. Rob  Portman says he fully intends to support Donald  Trump if the demonizing carnival barker is  the nominee.

If so, I have a vision of him in workaday apparel tagging along at Trump's side across Ohio, just as the senator did in 2012 with Mitt Romney.  Who knows in this crazy crowd whether Portman might be thinking veep, although you have to wonder whether Trump would want anybody so meek and mild sharing the center ring with him.  

But you must also wonder why Portman committed himself so early to any choice.

He's  facing a tough challenge  from ex-Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the 2016 Senate race even though the Koch Brothers have claimed the senator's  obedience to their causes by chipping in $1.4 million for an early media blitz.

It's  Ohio, I know, a swing state,  if not  swinging state, where  GOP candidates take no chances in the Big Picture.

 Remember that Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine jumped ship on Romney in 2012 in mid-campaign and endorsed Rick Santorum.  The AG decided Rick was going to win, a thought that Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff probably shared with him while inviting Santorum to be the star of a big county Republican fundraiser.  The chairman even staged his poll of the feeders at the event and boasted that Santorum had virtually run the table.

P.S. As long as we've mentioned the Republican-style Summit fund-raisers, one even hosted Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Ultra Conservative U.
S. House Freedom Caucus.  Keep in mind that Jordan is now threatening to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Akron U Women's committee strikes back

When the University of Something began its three-month $900,000 TV advertising program with the slow-motion theme asking '"Are you out there?",  the new regime's gurus didn't count on an uprising from  some important folks who are out there and not at all pleased by the game plan.

The latest reaction came from the University of Akron's Women's Committee, a long time support group that informed  UA's rebranding  deep thinkers that it would no longer volunteer financial assistance to the school. The source of the group's anger is team Scarborough's scheme to demote Akron's name from references to the school.

The idea reached an absurd  new  level  when a front-office guy said the marching band uniforms would replace the big "A"  with a "Z" on the hats.   Nowhere does the name Akron appear. To make the transitions look even worse to the Women's Committee, it had recently given the school $11,000  for the marchers' new raincoats and bags.

No one was more aghast than Louise  Harvey, the women's committee president and former development director at E.J. Thomas Hall and arts programs.

She told me  Sunday she hasn't  received a personal response from President Scarborough nor anyone else on his team.  "And I don't think we will," she said, resignedly.

But she did say she's  heard from three "important donors" who were withdrawing their financial support.  "I'm hoping that others will step forward," she said.

 In a letter signed by 80 members  to  Scarborough,   Gov Kasich  and titled state education officials, as well as lawmakers, Harvey said her committee has been "deeply concerned" about the changes under way at the University. She said  the committee is "most distressed by the  proposed rebranding of  the University of Akron to Ohio's Polytechnic University".

"The University of Akron is not an institution that needs to be 'rebranded' or recreated to make it better," the letter said.  It forcefully noted that  "the elimination of The University of Akron name is an egregious affront to the Band and donors."

Responding to the media, but not to the committee,  it was Larry Burns' turn to stifle the dissent.   He's the school's new vice president of advancement,  of all things,  that arrived at UA from Toledo as a comfy entitlement  for Team Scarborough.

Burns was keen on rolling out such board room jargon as "valuable marketing tools"' and "distinctive positioning" of the University as "Ohio's Polytechnic University" as the path to UA's bright future.

But, Sir, it ain't working out that way as you erode the school's public base. As long as we're talking about an academic place, I would turn to  the great Italian poet, Petrarch, who perceptively wrote many years ago:

"The climax of all evils is when a man, rooted in some false opinion, grows fatally persuaded that his course is right."

Will Petrarch still be "out there" in UA's passion for  Ohio's  Polytechnic University.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Another trendy Scarborough drumroll, please

Does it seem to you that Scott Scarborough, UA's  relatively new ringmaster of the board of trustees et al, is marching to a different drummer?  The latest word from the troubled downtown campus is that the school's marching band will be in new uniforms that have eliminated the name Akron and replaced it with a Z.

As one whose name begins with the 26th letter of the alphabet, I should be happy, I guess, that somebody has finally recognized  that Z-people play a decent role in our culture.   But in this instance, Team Scarborough has again affronted the hometown loyalties of the citizens who have contributed so much to the school's existence.  That identity appears in the names of,  say, the Akron Chamber of Commerce, Akron-
Canton Airport, Akron Public Schools and countless business and commercial  enterprises that  are not embarrassed by having their official names in the telephone book.

Larry Burns, the vice president of advancement who joined Scarborough from the University of (can I mention it?) Toledo,  lamely  explained the transition by supposing that Z is "more trendy, more active, more youthful."  Take that, inactive Akron! 

The past months have given us many clues to Scarborough's headstrong and  bizarre attempts to sell his initiatives to eliminate the school's $60 million debt while at the same time piling up  costly projects and six-figure salaries that would impress a blindfolded public that UA isn't really  that bad off financially. (He even added a $1,000 stipend for each of the 250 band members.  Do the math.) As I've written before, he's obsessed with tidiness and has even lectured the faculty that they must pick up trash to be considered an important educator.

About that: Scarborough, having eaten alone,  was seen leaving Panera's restaurant the  past week with an uncleared table even though it's an unwritten courtesy to take your leftovers to a dropoff point. But at his level, that  apparently doesn't apply to qualify him as an important CEO.

How long will the  public ignore  his latest "rebranding" gambit of entirely erasing Akron from the school's band uniforms?  If he's come this far, you can expect there will be other dark moments in UA's workaday world unless offended citizens and alums say "enough is enough" while the trustees  remain comatose.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Other voices, other rooms...

Can't blame them for not tryin' to draw the  kids away from their Iphones...

Is somebody inflating Brady for veep?

Tom Brady, the one on the left, says he keeps Donald Trump's hat in his locker because Trump has done some "amazing things".  Just one more reason for me to deflate my view of the Patriots' quarterback.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kim Davis, a pathetic figure with instant celebrity

 While Kim Davis was gamely  trying to bear up under the current  version of the Hallelujah Chorus from the throngs who greeted her tearful exit from prison, she seemed unaware of the political fire that she had ignited by casting herself solely to the authority of God.  It is a frightful  sign of the times when a far removed  Kentucky county clerk is hailed as a martyred heroine by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners.

History is filled with the exploits of Christian soldiers, kings and Biblical prophets.  Bloody and seemingly endless religious wars have been fought as one side or the other proclaimed  their direction from the Creator for the rightness of their cause.  Henry VIII even dismissed Pope Clement  when the latter refused to accomodate the king's request for an annulment.  Savonarola was  a mad book-burning preacher who was burned at the stake. The crusaders slew infidels and believers alike. And those Salem witch trials...

Today the landscape is quite different.    Kim Davis was a small-town  clerk who decided the law wasn't meant for her.  The word spread so quickly on TV that she was the lightning rod, not only for true believers, but also the political vultures like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, both defying gravity  as presidential candidates.  Others raced to the scene, like Liberty Council, and thousands of supporters, many of them white guys with crosses and bibles.  Huckabee, a former preacher, could not resist blurting that we were witnessing the "criminalization" of religion through "judicial tyranny".

As I viewed the spectacle  I had a twinge of sympathy for this pathetic woman as she struggled to restrain her tears with Huckabee at her side.   She was now being used to advance the political ambitions of grandstanding others.  She had no inkling, I'm sure, of what  sudden celebrity had in store for her in the Huckabee-Cruz protectorate splashed  across the land.

Sadly, she is  no more than an instantly recruited pawn hopelessly unprepared for the whirlwind of controversial celebrity even with the white crosses fanning the crowd.  These are the moments that you recalled Gandhi's vision, who declared:  "I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.".

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Two more columnists check out UA's debacle

News is  breaking out.  About the University of Akron's new regime.  And so, dear reader, I lead you to two sources, the Akron Legal News and the West Side Leader, for further guidance on the messy state of academic affairs.

 In the ALN there's a column by Scott Piepho, a lawyer and former UA teacher, who writes that President Scott Scarborough  is "enamored of faddish, think tanky ideas about reforming higher education along conservative lines".  No  argument from me on that assessment.

And in the WSL, columnist Craig Marks takes up a satirical pen regarding the shutdown of the school's baseball team under  the provocative headline:  "Who needs grand slams if  you have a grand entrance?"   That, of course, refers to Scarborough's grandiose proposal to build an eye-catching entrance arch (with curb appeal!)  on a new path leading to the ringmaster's offices.

Read on!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Slow motion UA TV ads: Love the Roo

Did you happen to see the University of Akron's new 2-minute TV ad Sunday?  It sort of sneaks up on you with feel-good slow-motion scenes and young people in the smiley  face mood you'd expect from somebody at Heaven's Gate.  A narrator tells you that the place is the home of  "dreamers, makers and action takers,"  which doesn't seem to describe  the inactive board of trustees as one or another of Team Scarborough's New Age plans were sent back to the drawing board to be retooled.

The three-month TV enterprise, which cleans out the school's $900,000 advertising budget, is more come-hither recruiter style than substance to smoothe over the bumpy layout of a school that seems to be in much worse shape today  than when Scott Scarborough  arrived with the self-assured authority of the cavalry to at least wound   UA's $60 milion debt.

To justify the turmoil, he  issued a statement  endorsing his idea that UA's heritage  has always reflected a "polytechnic university" to reassure the skeptics  that what was not acceptable to the faculty at the University of Toledo was worth another try in Akron.

Well, at least the new ads toned down the Super Bowl pitch by former President Luis Proenza,who exclaimed   that we should "catch the energy" of the school.  Those ads cost $283,000,  less than a third of the cost of the new campaign that asks '"Are you out there?" It's the same question that star-gazers ask about the existence of humans on distant planets. It also is an admission that with UA's falling enrollment, the
Super Bowl outreach didn't catch much of the untapped energy.

The next ads are said to feature the faculty and alumni.   From reports we've been getting of the campus tension and younger faculty thinking about other places to plant their careers,  Team Scarborough had better hurry.

Game on!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Any madrassas in your neighborhood?

There is so much crap oozing through the bullshit filter these days that it  becomes harder and harder to cast my coveted awards for the worst of it.  But here goes a shaky winner, from presidential candidate Mike Huckabee:
"Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings. You know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas."
Bingo! That earned the Arkansas preacher the Grumpy Abe Linguistic Lunacy (GALL) award, which will make him eligible for the 2015 annual award.

Kasich, son of mailman, addresses charter school questions

Projected Kasich press conference  in New Hampshire: 

Reporter:  Governor, there are growing reports about a serious charter school scandal involving David Hansen, your school choice director and  husband of Beth Hansen, your campaign manager.  What can you tell us about it?

Kasich:  Look, I'm a blue collar guy whose father was a mailman in western Pennsylvania.

Reporter: But with all due respect, governor, a lot of Ohioans back home are concerned about the doctoring of charter school grades  to make a school's performance look better than it was...

Kasich:  Hey, fellow.  I'm running for president and I wouldn't be running if I didn't
love my country. The issue is not on my agenda.  Besides, my father was a mailman..

Reporter:  But, sir, You have long defended charter schools but  insist you want more transparency.    Your opponents---

Kasich:  --- My opponents are idiots like the wackadoodles in California.

Reporter:  Are you saying that you are not concerned  that your campaign manager is the wife of your school choice man who just resigned?

Kasich:  The Lord told me not to worry about it.

Reporter:  The state spends  a billion dollars on charters  and you are telling us there's nothing to be concerned about?

Kasich:  If there are no further dumb questions, I simply want you know that my father was a mailman and when I get to the pearly gates the Lord will know what I did for my poor out-of-work cronies.  Poor cronies are people, too, who are nothing like those idiot school teachers who spend most of their time lounging.

Reporter:  Thank you, governor.

Kasich:  Any time.

Reposted from Plunderbund


Saturday, September 5, 2015

A UA professor takes a stand

Let's have a round of applause for Daniel Coffey, the University of Akron political science  professor who is mad as hell and won't take a pass on the UA leadership's chaotic strategy to reduce a $60 million debt.  That much was clear in his letter to the Beacon Journal that was published Friday.  

He challenged the school's sacred cow, a losing football team in an athletics department in which full-time students are paying $400 in "general fees" a semester  to sustain sports.

 "As a faculty member," he wrote, ''I find this sickening.   Each semester  I meet with single mothers who bring their kids to class, returning vets suffering from post traumatic  stress disorder and first-generation students who work to support their families while they take night classes.'"   

He said it was "wrong" to charge students  for athletics programs, particularly when for many students, $400 is a "rent check, the cost of textbooks or a car repair." 

How well we know of  their gritty struggle.  As Nancy and I audited a number of art history classes, we noticed that some of the students fell asleep in their seats.  The professor was an understanding soul.  She said some of them had worked two or three jobs to pay for their classes and didn't get much sleep.

When Coffey  stepped up to oppose an entrenched front office, it was as though he stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square.  There is no indication as yet that TeamScarborough is prepared to yield its grip on its strategy  that has not only cost the university's " rebranding" effort credibility in far-reaching media coverage, but is driving younger faculty to other universities.  Michigan, for starters.  

Let Coffey finish the thought:
 "It's unrealistic to think that football will ever make money at the University of Akron.  Here is a proposal:  Give students the right to opt-out of athletic fees.  It's their money."

I told him that I admired his courage for rising up from a faculty that, with Larry Snider a notable exception,  has so far been discreetly silent while turning the other cheek.  But he corrected me, saying:  "It shouldn't be courageous to say what is true."

Courage or not, it could be a fresh start.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hey, World! Is this your child?

A lifeless three year old Syrian boy washed ashore,  another victim of the immigrant tragedy as a Turkish police officer reports his discovery 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Shouldn't GOP draft Cheney as its candidate?

For the herd of Republican presidential candidates who are desperately looking for a way to throttle Donald Trump, we have a proposal:  oil up Dick Cheney's mechanical heart and draft him as a candidate. It would instantly draw the national media into a new Twilight Zone because, like Trump, Cheney has never been at a loss for dumb things to say. Besides, unlike Trump, who grabs your attention with  theatrical rants, Cheney is Mr. Cool  in projecting his wildest lies. The Republican herd badly needs coolness these days.

It probably wouldn't be a hard sell to recruit Cheney.  He and his daughter Liz have just written a book  titled "Exceptional"  that he could autograph like baseballs along the circuit.   (You'll be hearing more about it on the more exciting TV news talk shows, I'm sure.)

I've only read the excerpts and there's apparently nothing new in it that would cause me to spoil the ending.  For a man who enjoyed five draft deferments because he said he had "other priorities,"  Cheney remains on the top tier of hawks who drove us into the bloody failed invasion of Iraq.  At the time, he insisted that the enemy was in "the last throes" of the insurgency; that the conflict would go "relatively quickly, weeks rather than months";  and  in the end we will be "greeted as liberators". Don't know whether any of that is in the book.

Speaking of liberators, he writes about  the brave Americans who fought in our military battles,  and defends our use of atomic bombs as an example of this country's "fundamental decency."

But he saved his biggest fantasies  for his assaults on President Obama, literally accusing him for ushering in ISIS and everything else  that has gone wrong in the Middle East for centuries.  He frets that in books, tests and classroom instruction   "our children are too often being told that the legacy they have inherited is shameful".

That is partly true, if you consider that the shameful legacy of Iraq only refers to a draft dodger and worse, Dick Cheney.

Yep,  with Trump on the loose the  Republican also-runners could satisfy their own core values with a  freshly laundered   fantasy from Cheney, who is not a fundamentally decent man.

(Reposted from Plunderbund)

Life with a tree spirit

Should you be wondering, we have a tree spirit living in the big oak in our yard.  Tree spirits are not to be angered nor ridiculed.  So we live in peace.  But we do hope that  it rids itself of the unbecoming beard someday.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Scarborough not ready to name names

What's in a name?  At the University of Akron (I hope I got that right!)  a new  name has become a sometime-thing as President Scott Scarborough  keeps shuffling his deck to find an ace in the hole.

He first said months ago that he wanted to end all  rumors that there would be a change, thereby retaining University of Akron.  That, of  course , would solidify UA's grip on its heritage as an urban university in a city named Akron.

We then  saw frequent references to UA as "Ohio's Polytechnic University" and then Ohio Polytechnic Institute as Team Scarborough mobilized to keep the school current.

But the Plain Dealer led off an update a few days ago that began, "The University of Akron may currently be 'Ohio's Polytechnic University' but its president hasn't shelved the idea of changing its name."

The paper reported that the school's reach had exceeded the grasp of many prospective students.

"While the University of Akron means something to those in Summit and the five contiguous counties, that brand falls off really dramatically outside the area,'' Scarborough told the paper.

How did it  he know that? The school paid a Virginia consultant around $900,000 for a recruiting study that the add-on "polytechnic"  may not be enough as a  fetching brand for new students.

Ever since he arrived at the downtown  campus, Scarborough has run the school as the Indy 500 on an unpaved back-country road.   The name-change thing is only one of his initiatives that has misfired.

Yes, it may seem mean-spirited to denounce his mistake-prone  leadership so far.  But for a CEO who is paid more  than   $600,000 in base pay, perks and bonuses shouldn't  we expect more from his leadership with a five year contract that provides comfortable  quarters in the president's home for his relatives as well as a guarantee that his six year old daughter will be able to attend any university in Ohio some day with UA paying the tuition?  Bizarre.

Yes, we should expect more.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Cantonese chorus responds to Mt. Denali

Did you see that President Obama's renaming of Mt. McKinley up in Alaska was called  a "political stunt" ?  You could find "stunt" in big letters on the Beacon Journal's front page, courtesy of an "irritated" former Rep. Ralph Regula, 90,  a Republican from Navarre who has fought the name-change idea well before Obama  entered office.

It figured.  Obama's opponents have found him to be a convenient lightning rod for anything that goes wrong in our daily lives, from rain delays in baseball games to pie crust that sticks to the pan.  In this instance, however, the president's co-conspirator is Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a  Republican who introduced legislation  in January to change the name to Mt. Denali.  (Her name never appeared in either BJ  story this morning.) She had this to say about Obama's "stunt":
"For generations Alaskans have known this majestic mountain  as 'the great one'.   I'd like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show  honor, respect and gratitude  to the Athabascan people of Alaska."
 In the two long BJ articles, however, I did read of how other Buckeye Republicans wailed at Obama's action to placate those constituents who might want to pile on. .  Rep.  Bob Gibbs, of Lakeville, called it an "insult to all Ohioans" .  Rep. Jim Renacci, of Wadsworth, said Obama was guilty of diminishing the nation's "values"  - as if the GOP controlled Congress hadn't already done so.  Sen.Rob Portman a Cincinnatian who tagged along for the ride, wasn't very happy either.  Nor was Gov. John Kasich.

Unsurprisingly, some of the strongest complaints came from McKinley's adopted hometown of Canton, a name which has Chinese roots thanks to a surveyor named Bezaleel Wells in the early 1800s.  Canton is the traditional name of Guangzhou,  China. But we can't  imagine any Ohio city named  Guangzhou. The mountain was later tagged  for McKinley.

I have a solution to mollify the outraged  governor.  Why not name one of those  Indian mounds in Ohio after the governor.  Mound Kasich?  

That's not a typo.