This is the thirty-fourth 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 and MB
Whoever it was who said irony is dead was wrong. Irony is not only alive and well, it is enjoying robust health.
The Department of Lucrative Athletics
By GILBERT M. GAUL
Published: November 27, 2009
….College presidents contend that their hands are tied by confounding economic forces. To pay for non-revenue sports like volleyball and track, they depend on their football and basketball programs. But this Faustian line of logic obscures some important points.
The rise of College Sports Inc. didn’t happen by accident. Administrators at many universities have allowed athletic departments to operate independently, like stand-alone entertainment divisions. They have separate budgets, negotiate their own TV deals and, in some cases, employ hundreds of coaches and staff. And as long as they continue to collect ever-larger sums from ticket sales, boosters and television, who is going to tell them to spend less?….
….If college presidents really wanted to halt the college sports machine, they could try two options. They could insist that athletic departments operate within their university budgets, like the English or biology departments; or they could ask Congress to rescind the tax breaks on the commercial income earned by athletic programs…. [emphasis added]
Of course, anyone who has followed this series knows what can happen to college presidents who tangle with their schools athletics department, especially if the Board of Governors are good-ole-boy athletics supporters for whom the college exists to support athletics rather than the other way around…you know…the way it’s supposed to be.
A couple of weeks ago, on November 18, some students who value education over athletics organized a campus march in support of President Podolefsky. One of the student organizers, who happens to be an officer in the Student Government Association, utilized the campus e-mail system (groupwise) to inform the campus community about plans for the march as they were made. This apparently annoyed the athletic director, and he fired off a snippy e-mail expressing that displeasure and attempting to put the unctuous student in his place.
The authenticity of the emails that follow was confirmed by a telephone conversation with the student organizer on December 1, 2009:
[….] Nicholas McDaniels 11/18/2009 1:54 PM [….]
We had approximately thirty people out today marching in support of the President and against the board of govenors. Those thirty include two old board members. I appreciate everyone’s help and the event was extremely succesful. I will keep everyone updated with our calls to the governor and suggest that faculty and staff call the governor as well. Also, an important note: The next board of governors meeting we plan to invite everyone to attend so we can show them how we feel. So please plan on attending. It is currently planned for the week of finals. I will email more details as the come available.
Thanks for your time,
[….] Jerry Hughes 11/18/09 4:12 PM [….]
Nick, It’s my understanding that you where given access to the groupwise account to provide information to the campus community about your recycling project. Let’s please keep your comments to information about recycling and not your personal agendas. You should make those comments on social networking web sites as opposed to groupwise.
Director of Athletics
The student was not cowed by Mr. Hughes, and made that clear in his response.
[….] Nicholas McDaniels 11/18/2009 4:36 PM [….]
Jerry, I have been given access for two reasons, first and foremost as a SGA Vice President, who’s duty is to represent the students. As many polls indicate the students feel strongly about our president and want him to stay, therefore I am doing my job and utilizing a resource provided to our SGA for that reason. Second reason is for recycling, not to be confused with my above actions. Recycling has nothing to do with this. If any of my bosses have any problems with me using this tool, which students paid for, they can let me know. I would be interested in how this has to do with athletics, but that is neither here, nor there. I appreciate your sentiments.
Vice President of the House
[….] Jerry Hughes 11/18/09 5:39 PM [….]
Nick, If your objective is to converse with your fellow students in your role as SGA Vice President, then I believe you should do that through the student email system, as opposed to groupwise. You do not represent the faculty, professional staff, support staff or bargaining unit employees in your role as SGA Vice President. You represent the students and your focus should be conversing with the group you represent.
My comments to you have nothing to do with intercollegiate athletics. I made my comments to you as a individual who has committed 38 years to education. I have over 30 years as a Senior Level Administrator at the University of Central Missouri. I am always interested in helping to educate young people and that’s why I sent you the original email. It’s my opinion that you misused your groupwise account privilege.
Director of Athletics
[….]Nicholas McDaniels [11/18/09 6:10 PM] [….]
Jerry, I understand your position, I am using groupwise to send out the student position to all faculty and staff and work with faculty and staff. Unfortunately, we cannot email all students and this is the best means of communication (we are not given access to a mass email to all students). Either way, have a good night and good luck with finding a President that will be friendly to athletics and move us through a 4-7 million dollar budget crisis.
The Associate Athletic Director also weighed in with an email that is equal parts chest-thumping indignation, patronizing condescension and plain old run-of-the-mill jackassery:
[….]Shawn Jones 11/18/09 4:45 PM [….]
GroupWise is not the place for personal opinions and personal causes and opinions on campus leadership, i.e. your harsh comments regarding the Board of Governors.
As a student, I assume you have GroupWise access for your recycling project, which is worthwhile. However, in my opinion, you have severely abused that privilege with your e-mails today.
You are welcome to protest the Board’s decision, but I believe you had no right to post your opinions and information via the GroupWise system. That is not the intent of the system. Additionally, as a public relations professional, I have some advice for you…..Check your spelling and usage before you send out mass communication. It is damaging to the credibility of your message when words are not spelled correctly. Take the advice, or don’t take it….your call.
Nick, I am an alum and I have worked or been on this campus for 15 years. That includes three different presidents. You are a young man who clearly has a bright future ahead. Your passion for this cause is clear. However, let me assure you that this university will move
forward for years to come with many different presidents after you and I are long gone. Some will be good, some may not be as good. Those decisions are made by people appointed by the Governor of the State of Missouri and confirmed by the Missouri Senate. You can’t call the Governor and just get board members removed because they voted against a president you like, or if they voted for a president you didn’t like. If board members got removed because they voted against a president, then presidents would have no one to answer to and enjoy dictator-like control of state institutions of higher education. None of us know the whole story because the board by law cannot comment. Every business has leaders, owners or boards and they get to make the personal decisions, whether you care for them or not. That is a reality you will most likely deal with the rest of your working life. The university is bigger than any one person, and will continue on and will continue to be a wonderful place and I hope you keep that in mind.
Associate Athletic Director
I’m sorry – but I have to ask…Does anyone else get the feeling that what he really wanted to say here was “Let’s measure ’em!”?
Fortunately, our student organizer isn’t intimidated by jocks:
[….]Nicholas McDaniels 11/18/2009 5:38 PM [….]
For your information, I am the Student Government Vice President of the House and that is why I have groupwise. I am representing approximately eighty percent of the student body (according to the mule skinner), therefore, I have every right to utilize this tool, provided to me by the administration.
I believe you have severely overstepped your boundaries as assistant athletic director to get involved with an issue that does not regard you.
Your point on my grammar is correct, I should have proof-read the email better. I was naive to think that I would be able to send out a campus-wide email, without receiving such scrutiny. It will not happen in the future.
I do not expect to be able to call the governor and get my way. However, I do believe in standing up for the student voice and working hard to keep students interests first. I apologize that athletics seems to be so against the board, but I feel that it is necessary to stand up for student values. Every major group does have a board, and it should be reactive to the needs of that group. The opposition to the movement (yourself included) seems to have forgotten that three members voted against not rehiring the President. You are also correct on the fact that none of us know everything about the situation, but as students we deserve to know what is happening, and if there is a problem we must act. If there is something truly wrong with our President, I believe that it would have been a unanimous decision. I find it truly upsetting that both you and Jerry Hughes have responded to me. I truly hope that the University will continue to be a great place, but I am concerned that going into a huge budget crisis, it may not be. I will tell you the same thing I told Jerry Hughes. If you have a problem with me using the email system please contact Rich Morrell, the advisor for the Student Government Association.
Nicholas R. McDaniels
Vice President of the House
At this point, the ADs underling goes beyond run-of-the-mill jackassery and sets himself apart as one of the masters of the trade. And please take note that the same person who criticized Nick’s grammar and maturity uses a triple question mark like a 12-year-old girl. All that’s missing is a “ZOMG!!!”
[….]Shawn Jones 11/18/09 6:13 PM [….]
Wow. What I now have is a real problem with your immaturity.
You see, it does involve me because you sent it to me on GroupWise…remember??? If I “overstepped by boundaries” by questioning your misuse of the GroupWise system, then what are your boundaries? I guess you can do whatever you want to whoever you want, but as a PR professional on this campus for a decade I can’t give you any advice on how to properly use a system I have used properly for ten years………You make no sense at all and it now frightens me that you are a leader of students at my alma mater.
So you have every right to use this tool provided to you in any way you see fit, but I have severely overstepped my boundaries as an assistant athletic director by questioning your proper use of it? I guess as a measly “Associate Athletic Director” I have no right to question a powerful man like yourself. You mentioned that Jerry Hughes also responded to you. He’s been working on this campus longer than you have been alive. Can he question your use of GroupWise incorrectly?
Additionally, athletics is not against the board as you stated. I am not choosing sides and my e-mail to you did not choose sides. I tried to be friendly and respectful and you respond by acting as if I have no right to feel you misused a university communications tool….I mean what do I know about public relations, marketing, media relations right??????? You put words in my mouth and it would appear you believe everything you read from those who write blogs who have an anti-intercollegiate athletics agenda. Leadership 101 is listening to all sides and forming your own opinions. You have never met me, we have never had any conversation on the university, yet you made wild allegations on what I think. How do you know how I feel? All you know is that I think you misused the GroupWise system and that I tried to help you understand why you may not know everything you desire to know on the president’s contract renewal. Because I sent that, according to you, I am against your “movement”. Again, wow.
You have proven my point that everyone is not prepared for the power that comes with being able to reach everyone on campus via GroupWise. Clearly, life has not yet provided you with thick skin or the ability to deal with things that don’t go exactly the way you had planned out in your mind.
Associate Athletic Director [….]
An over-the-top screed like that pretty much clears up how you feel. And to turn around your concerns…that a PR professional lacks any judgment or common sense and puts a hyperbolic tirade like that out there in an email that is bound to become public frightens me.
[….]Nicholas McDaniels [11/18/09 6:25 PM] [….]
Ok, I am sorry if you think I am immature. I felt it was wrong that a associate athletic director felt it was necessary to tell me that I was abusing my right to inform the citizens of this community about the way the students seem to feel. I am not saying that I can do whatever I want. I did not feel like your message was advice. I felt it was an attack (one of the problems with email, as I am sure you are aware, you can not see emotion).
I never implied nor stated that I thought I was a powerful man. I do think it is a duty of mine to try and keep the student voice known and to alert the campus of what is happening. Jerry also questioned my use of GroupWise, but why? Did both of you question every single faculty member who has used GroupWise, or just myself? I would be very surprised if you questioned every single person.
I hope you saw my email that clarified I meant the president and not the board. I did not feel like you were being respectful (once again, a problem with email, I can see none of your emotion and had received several hateful emails). I have read from several sources and always draw my own conclusions. I think you are against the movement, not mine, because you sent an emai
l correcting my grammar (rightfully so), telling me information on the issue, and trying to get me to stop emailing. If this is solely because I am emailing, I would hope you also emailed every single other person who have typed on this email system about the issue.
You know nothing about my life or how thick my skin is. I hope you realize that I responded the way I did because of your email and the way I interpreted it. I still do not agree with you. I believe email is a pertinent system of communication and I could (with some difficulty) prepare the same list as gwusers. I think you have drawn conclusions about me as I did with you. My life has been filled with work, never given anything, and I never take things for what they seem. I am not asking for anything from you other than to let me, like everyone else, email about this issue. I hope you and Jerry understand why I am emailing and I hope that this is the end of this conversation.
We hope so too, Nick.
Our previous coverage of the issue:
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)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: your silence means consent (October 29, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: let’s not get cut out of the will, part 2 (October 30, 2009)
Old media irony impairment (October 30, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: I heard it on the radio, part 2 (October 31, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: where everybody knows your name (October 31, 2009)
Methinks that someone is paying attention! (November 2, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: Bond, Stadium Bond (November 4, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: where everybody knows your name, part 2 (November 4, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: I heard it on the radio, part 3 (November 5, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: nothing succeeds like success (November 6, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: your Friday news dump (November 6, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: nothing exceeds like excess (November 7, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a grade for Accounting 101 (November 7, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: there ought to be a law (November 8, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: there ought to be a law, part 2 (November 10, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: Garbo speaks! (November 12, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle (November 13, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”? Follow the money and it reveals the timeline (November 14, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: the new president search consulting contract (November 18, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a march on a cold and rainy day (November 18, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: raise their voices (November 19, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: great moments in radio reporting (November 21, 2009)