Tuesday, November 3, 2015

UA's speechless merry-go-round

I have once again found that there are precincts  of the University of Akron that are on lockdown.  As in the case of the Multicultural Center, once believed to have been a victim of  the Scarborough administration's summer housecleaning. Sort of.

My curiosity was aroused by a private  top-level meeting the past Friday at City Hall between Mayor Jeff Fusco and UA President  Scott Scarborough, each flanked by his  own confederates.

Fusco had arranged the session in what at first  seemed to me to be a way of leveling the playing field on Scarborough's strictly controlled game plan for the  downtown campus.  The mayor was joined by City Planning Director  Marco Sommerville and two black ministers; in Scarborough's corner were Board of Trustees chairman and the CEO's first responder, Jonathan Pavloff,  as well as African-American trustees Olivia Demas  and Warren Woolford.

Something else apparently on the table:  the topsy-turvy  reports from last July that the Multicultural Center, which is serving minorities  and international students, was headed in a different direction that has yet to be defined by the front office.  From all that we could determine, the minority ministers had wanted a clearer focus on where that was ending up. Alas, in the end, Sommerville  told  me,  the session  didn't accomplish very much.

In July, word that the Center would be closed (its three staff members were dispatched)   was officially denied by the leadership. Or as spokesman Wayne Hill put it at the time,  "the programming and services will be supported in different ways."

The situation remains fluid in November to the concern of the students.

I tried to shake out an update on Tuesday on whether the Center was still functioning.   John Alvarez Turner, an associate director, said he wasn't authorized to talk to me.  He said that only the  Center's director, Lee Gill,was authorized to talk to a reporter. And Gill is now a cabinet member  on the Scarborough team.

I innocently asked Turner whether his office had been moved to new quarters but he responded by telling me to call Gill. I did , left a message, and didn't get a reply.

The situation, a disgraceful lockdown directed by Scarborough's desk, leaves many of us  to fill in the blanks.   And  in the face of so much criticism, the new UA Polytechnic fantasy is trying to play by its own fail-safe rules.  That's  false royalty for you.

Oh, I did hear from Wayne Hill, who e-mailed  an authorized response by late afternoon, which is as far I've gotten so far:
"Yes, the Multicultural Center is still functioning.  We are finalizing comprehensive plans to increase the impact of UA's inclusive excellence commitment and better coordinate the provision of services in a more convenient manner.  As previously reported, The Office of Inclusion &  Equity/Chief Diversity office, headed by Lee Gill, now reports directly to the President of the University.  The more comprehensive  plans will be communicated in in the days and weeks ahead."

Or not. Sounds more like a statement put together by a committee.


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