Aaron Podolefsky, anti-semitism, Benoit Wesly, Greg Hassler, KOKO radio, Maastricht, missouri, Netherlands, Richard Phillips, University of Central Missouri
This is the eleventh post in an ongoing series as we file Missouri Sunshine Law (RSMo 610) requests and investigate the non-renewal of the contract of University of Central Missouri President Aaron Podolefsky. Links to previous coverage are below the fold. BG
A gift from Benoit Wesly and his family from Maastricht, The Netherlands, the 80-foot-tall Maastricht Friendship Tower [on the campus of the University of Central Missouri] has been a campus landmark since 1998. It was erected as a symbol of international understanding. Inscribed on each side of the tower is a quote from the Jewish Mishnah, “Who is wise? He who learns from every man,” in English, Hebrew, Dutch, and Maastricht Dutch.
Given the recent rhetoric on the local radio station we were curious about the continuing silence from the University. We filled a Missouri Sunshine Law request on Sunday, effective Monday morning:
…date: Sun, Oct 25, 2009 at 10:40 AM
Subject:Request for information under RSMo 610
Under RSMo 610 I am requesting the following information:
1. Any communications or documents sent to the President of the Board of Governors, the members of the Board of Governors, or the President of the University concerning statements made on the radio by Greg Hassler.
2. Any communications or documents in reply to those communications or documents (cited above) by the President of the Board of Governors, the members of the Board of Governors, or the President of the University.
We received the following reply today:
date: Thu, Oct 29, 2009 at 3:52 PM
Subject: Re: Request for information under RSMo 610
….Pursuant to your request of October 25, 2009, requesting “1) Any communications or documents sent to the President of the Board of Governors, the members of the Board of Governors, or the President of the University concerning statements made on the radio by Greg Hassler; and 2) Any communications or documents in reply to those communications or documents (cited above) by the President of the Board of Governors, the members of the Board of Governors, or the President of the University,” I am attaching communications and documents that we have identified thus far. We are continuing to search our records; if additional communications or documents are identified concerning statements made on the radio by Greg Hassler, they will be sent to you in a supplemental e-mail…
We were thinking we would receive copies of communications we’d heard about on the Campus Climate Survey from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.
We didn’t. We sure did get something else, though.
We got a copy of a letter sent by Benoit Wesly to the President of the Board of Governors:
…Maastricht, October 22, 2009
…Dear Mr. President,
I take this opportunity to address you from Maastricht, The Netherlands, with the following.
By mail I received several times the text of a radio interview between Mr. Greg Hassler and Mrs. Marion Woods. I read the text carefully and I came to my personal conclusion, that this text has a anti-Semitic undertone. Secondly I received also by e-mail a protest sign on the door of a faculty office at the University of Central Missouri, showing a star of David with the word ‘Jude’, symbolizing the holocaust. This protest came from a Jewish faculty member.
I did understand that the radio station has an intensive business relation with the University of Central Missouri, an institution which had and still has my full support. It was a complete shock and still is, that a radio station makes such a horrible statement. I also found out, that the Christmas tree already disappeared during the time Mr. and Mrs. Patton did stay at Selmo Park.
I have the following questions:
Did you or the President of the university started an investigation to clarify the intentions of Mr. Greg Hassler and did you suspend the relationship with this radio station during the investigation. In case the answer is yes, when do you expect the outcome of this investigation and if no, why you have not started this investigation.
The fine reputation of your university is badly damaged by this radio interview. I am awaiting a positive answer, so I do not need to reconsider my relationship which was established 25 years ago with the University of Central Missouri.
Many thanks for your attention in this matter.
We also received a copy of the communication sent in response to Mr. Wesly by the President of the Board of Governors:
October 23, 2009
Mr. Benoit Wesly…
Dear Mr. Wesly:
Thank you for you letter of October 22, 2009 addressing issues at the University of Central Missouri. You are a trusted and honored friend of the University and I appreciate your interest.
You are several thousand miles away from Warrensburg while I am fifty miles away yet you have information I do not have. I do not have the text of the radio interview you speak of nor do I have official information on a protest sign. The administration of our University has not shared that information with me or any other Board Member that I am aware of. After receiving your message on October 22, I contacted our security staff to see if a complaint had been filed on any activity symbolizing the holocaust. Nothing has been filed.
I have visited with our General Council on contract issues with the local radio station as this person brought to my attention requests for information on the contract between the University and the radio station. Again, the University administration has not sent or communicated to the Board any information on this matter.
I am sharing a copy of a note I sent to our Board regarding a conversation I had with a media person in the Kansas City area last week that is self explanatory. Make no mistake about it, our Board will not nor will our University tolerate any discriminatory act against any group.
I remain curious in trying to understand how and why a person or persons would share this with you when our Board has received nothing from our administration on this matter and why your communication copied the Governor of the State of Missouri when nothing has been sent to our Board.
We have a Board meeting next week on October 29 and I will bring this matter to the attention of our Board and will get back to you on any action taken. Please be assured our University will not tolerate discriminatory acts against any group and I will personally look into this matter.
Thanks again for your interest in our University and for taking the time to share you’re thoughts with me.
cc: Dr. Aaron Podolefsky, President
UCM Board of Governors
Governor State of Missouri, the Honorable Jay Nixon
I attended the Board of Governors meeting. I recorded the Board of Governors meeting. I was there nearly an hour before it started. There was no discussion of the “matter,” the subject was not broached, let alone any action taken. I work for an attorney, so I utilized the resource and asked the obvious question: Is the matter of Hassler’s comments something that they could discuss in closed session? I got a one word response: “No.” Such discussion or action would not fall under the exclusionary provisions of the Missouri
The public silence is deafening.
Our previous coverage:
Three steps behind, and to the right (January 25, 2008)
Three steps behind, and to the right, part 2 – a microcosm of our universe (September 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”? (October 15, 2009) (transcript of a portion of the live radio broadcast)
It wasn’t just about a tree (October 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: I heard it on the radio (October 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: let’s not get cut out of the will (October 22, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: $87.75 will get you one sheet of paper (October 23, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: They’re not playing hardball, they’re playing cat and mouse (October 23, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: a cola and some scoreboards (October 24, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: a few more pieces of the puzzle? (October 28, 2009)
Michael Bersin said:
The President of the University Of Central Missouri Board of Governors wrote:
It’s called the Internets. The also have it in The Netherlands. I do understand that in Europe the various nations have invested heavily in access infrastructure.
You’d think that if the General Counsel was bringing attention to requests for information (perhaps under RSMo 610?) you’d posit the question, “What would prompt someone be asking for this information?”
You think someone would possibly be more curious about what was shared, not how it was shared.
Yes, the continued public silence is deafening.
I am deeply saddened by the anti-Semitic comments that have been directed towards President Podolefsky by a local radio station. I am also saddened that a lack of response from the Board of Governors would come to the attention of such a great friend of the University as Mr. Wesly.