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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

A Spasm of Accountability?



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Over the last week, two prominent academic leaders have been shown the door by their respective institutions.  At Eastern Michigan University, president John Fallon and two other administrators have been fired for their roles in covering up the facts (in clear violation of federal reporting requirements) about a student’s murder-rape even from the girl’s family.  John first linked to this almost surreal scandal in June and the university board had been “unsuccessfully trying to negotiate” the president’s punishment for weeks.   

Meanwhile, at Roger Williams University, a major university benefactor (and chairman) stepped down after using the “N word” during a board meeting.  Lest anyone think this is a free speech issue, use of racial slurs during hiring discussions is not only morally reprehensible, it presents a liability nightmare for the university.  Public officials (obviously) don’t have the constitutional right to slur minorities as part of their official job duties, and Roger Williams’ decision was a vital act of institutional hygiene. 

But of course – this being higher education – there was more than a little dysfunction on display even as both institutions ultimately did the right thing.  At Roger Williams, the university not only got rid of its board chairman, but it also removed the board members who blew the whistle on the chairman.  That’s a nice “thank you” to individuals who did nothing more than hold the chair accountable.  As for Eastern Michigan, it is difficult to believe, but the terminated president and administrators didn’t exactly slink out the back door.  Despite a mind-boggling record of wrong-doing, the president and his vice president of student affairs, James Vick, were still defiant.  President Fallon said he was disappointed by the board’s “hastily called meeting” (were weeks of negotiations not enough?)  As for Vick . . . well, you just have to read his comments to believe them: 

“Vick said Monday that he didn’t regret his actions. 

“He had told the Dickinson family that no foul play was suspected in Laura’s death. He also had directed school staff to shred a police report about the investigation into Dickinson’s death as part of “damage control,” according to a 568-page report for the regents by the Detroit law firm of Butzel Long.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I stand by what I’ve done,” said Vick, 59.

“He said that he had become a scapegoat for the university’s Board of Regents and that he had taken a polygraph test showing that he was innocent of the allegations.

“I’d like to return to E.M.U., but that’s not going to be possible now,” Vick said.  

“Sometimes stuff happens and you have to deal with it, I suppose.”  

Yes, sometimes “stuff” does happen.  I mean you never know when you’ll have to shred documents, lie to the parents of a slain girl, and do “damage control” for your employer.  All in a day’s work, I suppose. 



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