If you have felt some heavy winds in the weather around the University of Akron campus in recent days, they may very well have been produced by the rush of the city's business community to offer its services to the troubled school.
In short order, a full page Beacon Journal ad called for a detente between the opposing forces to allow more time for the UA leadership's poorly executed rebranding and debt reduction plans to work. Under the headline COME TOGETHER, the ad bore the names of seven heavyweight CEOs. That was quickly followed up with a UA annnouncement that another ad hoc group of businessmen had formed a "University of Akron Business Executive Advisory Council" to work - on call - with President Scott Scarborough and the reclusive board of trustees to resolve issues that have swept the campus.
Interesting. As one who has been trying to piece together the palpable fallout in the wake of the new administration that arrived a year and half ago on the downtown campus, I can only conclude that with so many business leaders now on tap, there is real panic motivating the guardians of the school's. reputation. One source mentioned to me that it looked more like a receivership in the works.
For starters, it might be helpful if Scarborough was a little less stuffy about his management skills and widened his vision to include the surrounding off-campus territory. When Team Scarborough settled in with a ringing fanfare, the school was already deeply in debt, an untidy situation left by his predecessor, Luis Proenza and a napping board of trustees who dared not question the red ink that was flowing from a multimillion-dollar building plan that included a a new $60 million football stadium.
Unfortunately, Scarborough, a man with no lack of self-confidence, simply took a bad situation and made it institutionally worse as he surrounded himself with a bunch of highly paid executives for his unchallenged command-and-control changes to the school's name (Ohio's Polytechnic University) and other initiatives to reach out farther for enrollment. Keep in mind that among the target models was Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, which showed a 5.34 pct.decline in enrollment this year.
Among the UA victims was the downsizing of E.J. Thomas Hall, the iconic performing arts fountain that has extended UA's reputation far and wide. Various disciplines were raided. Faculty found other campuses. On the other hand, Scarborough's obsession with personal behavior led to the creation of a student cadet corps with the same mission as the ROTC already active on campus.
But now it is fair to ask: Why does a guy hired by the trustees and paid around a half-million dollars with princely perks in return for his touted management ability now need a squad of businessmen to bail him out? And where have the reclusive trustees been idling for so long as the royal debt piled up?
The business force will find there is much to do, starting at the top. Frankly, I don't have a clue where this will end up. I do know that one of the businessmen mantioned in the ad isn't shy about talking about it. That's Joe Kanfer the CEO of GOJO Industries , who was honored this year as the recipient of the Akron Community Foundation Bert A. Polsky Humanitarian Award. He is a former outspoken UA trustee who isn't cut out to let anything be swept under the textbooks.
Kanfer gave me a brief preview of his mission to return UA to a peaceful and honorable existence. But he doesn't want anybody to think he's just coming along for the ride.
"The university of Akron is an important part of the area.," he says in his usual hurried voice. '"And I want it to come together again."
He also offered a word of caution to everyone involved: "I won't be a rubber stamp."
I've seen Kanfer in action before and can assure you that he's far from being a rubber stamp. I believe you will be hearing more from Joe before this epic tale of woe ends.