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This is the forty-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

Everybody is getting into the act now that other media are actually covering this story. And by everybody we mean those ubiquitous commenters on-line (with some really interesting repetitious themes) and in letters to the editor. In today’s Warrensburg Daily Star Journal there were two letters to the editor. One, titled “UCM donor will be missed” and another, titled “Donor will not be missed” [with a broken link]. Let’s take a look at the second letter, from the dead trees edition of the paper:

I read the Jan. 28 Muleskinner articles regarding Benoit Wesly being disturbed over the alleged, anti-Semitic comment.

I must say that I feel that this is much ado about nothing….I do not see any reference to anti-Semitism in the comment.

Possibly Mr. Wesly is not privy to the first amendment, contained within the bill of rights, regarding freedom of speech. Or possibly he feels that his donations to UCM give him the authority to usurp this amendment….

….The proper way to withdraw his support would be to do it quietly, not with the fanfare he has generated….

….Our friends at Missouri Valley College need to be watching this closely. Mr. Wesly could decide to try and place pressure on them if they do something which would cause them to fall from his favor….

Uh, Missouri Valley College is a private institution. It is not governed by this article in the Missouri Constitution:

Missouri Constitution

Article IX


Section 8

Prohibition of public aid for religious purposes and institutions.

Section 8. Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other municipal corporation, shall ever make an appropriation or pay from any public fund whatever, anything in aid of any religious creed, church or sectarian purpose, or to help to support or sustain any private or public school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other institution of learning controlled by any religious creed, church or sectarian denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of personal property or real estate ever be made by the state, or any county, city, town, or other municipal corporation, for any religious creed, church, or sectarian purpose whatever.

Greg Hassler, with a continued, and very public, association with the University of Central Missouri, stated on the air:

Greg Hassler: …The University of Central Missouri. End of an era.

Marion Woods: Uh, huh.

Greg Hassler: Aaron Podolefsky. Out. We’ve talked about it for a long time….

….The, the thing that really upset me, that kind of got [garbled] going originally was, for years there was a Christmas tree lit at Selmo Park. Remember that?

Marion Woods: Yep.

Greg Hassler: Drive by. He stopped that. I mean I think every religion should be able to celebrate, uh, in their own way, but, I mean we do live in Warrensburg, Missouri. This is America. You know. Let’s bring that back. How ’bout that?

Marion Woods: Wasn’t that the Christmas tree at the quadrangle?

Greg Hassler: No, there was also one at Selmo Park.

Marion Woods: Oh, okay.

Gregg Hassler: In the, in the yard, area there, so. I mean, I don’t know, it’s jus… It, it was a bad fit from the get go. It’s, it’s over…

[emphasis added]

So, the thing that got Greg Hassler, an individual with a clear association with the University, “started” with his upset was that the president of the University of Central Missouri, who is Jewish, did not decorate a tree on state property for sectarian purposes, which would have violated the establishment clause, and which was actually cut down five years before he got here. Greg Hassler injected religion into this. Those are his words. According to our letter writer, it’s no big deal?

….The proper way to withdraw his support would be to do it quietly, not with the fanfare he has generated….

What, Greg Hassler can say what he did (yes, he can) and how dare Benoit Wesly say anything about it in public? Only Greg Hassler can say what he wants in public? No one else?

If our letter writer had been paying attention he would have known that Benoit Wesly made inquiries about the situation months ago, originally out of the public eye (If it weren’t for that pesky Missouri Sunshine Law we wouldn’t know that part). The Board of Governors didn’t address the situation.

So, the simple question for our letter writer, who appears to be outraged by Benoit Wesly’s reaction, do you think what Greg Hassler said was accurate and appropriate? Just asking.

It’s so inconvenient when anyone shines light on any unpleasantness. Instead, we should all clap louder.

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’s gotta be a contract around here somewhere (November 9, 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)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: Oh, my! (December 3, 2009)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: It’s simple, really… (December 5, 2009)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: I do truly care about the success of our students (December 6, 2009)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: “…a wonderful relationship there we’re really proud of…” (December 7, 2009)

Oh brother, it’s time to convene another panel on blogger ethics… (December 8, 2009)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a lesson on how not to attempt damage control (January 26, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a lesson on how not to attempt damage control, part 2 (January 28, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: welcome to the party… (February 1, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: welcome to the party, four months late, part 2 (February 2, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: those people from Denmark, you know, the Dutch (February 3, 2010)

“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: a conversation with the Muleskinner (February 6, 2010)