Liberty & Power: Group Blog
I'm rereading Mill's On Liberty in preparation for teaching it for the first time in a couple of years. Early in the chapter on the liberty of thought and discussion, he argues:
First, the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course, deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion because they are sure that it is false is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.
Are you listening Nancy Hopkins?
More Mill, emphasis mine this time:
For, being cognizant of all that can, at least obviously, be said against him, and having taken up his position against all gainsayers - knowing that he has sought for objections and difficulties instead of avoiding them, and has shut out no light which can be thrown upon the subject from any quarter - he has a right to think his judgement better than that of any other person, or any multitude, who have not gone through a similar process.
UPDATE: Folks should also see Wil Wilkinson's neologism"pulling a Hopkins":
pull a Hopkins intr. v. 1. to become faint or nauseated upon hearing a statement contrary to one's ideology or dogma. 2. to leave the room, usually dramatically, because of such faintness or nausea. 3. to feign such faintness or nausea as part of a ploy to establish or reinforce a social convention about the limits of acceptable discourse.
- Any argument that says all differences are due to biology is silly.
- Any argument that says that the mere existence of any biologically-based differences is grounds for simply accepting such differences as unremediable is silly.
- The evidence on the degree to which biological differences explain different social outcomes is very complex and should be interpreted judiciously.
But the bottom line is that he didn't say either of the silly things in 1 or 2.
Question: is the following argument the intellectual equivalent of creationism or intelligent design?
"There is some scientific evidence that differences in the mathematical and scientific abilities of men and women, specifically the underrepresentation of women in these areas, may be due to differences in the brain biology of men and women. We can't be sure that these differences aren't the result of culture (i.e., culture might actually cause changes in brains), but there is some evidence that these differences appear very early in life. If such differences exist, they do not justify any discrimination against individual women. In fact, such differences should lead us to look for additional ways to encourage those women who do show real potential in math and science to pursue those fields, thus treating them as individuals of ability rather than members of a group who might, on average, not do as well in these areas."
Let me note my own agnosticism on this issue, due to my own lack of reading in these areas. However, the argument I lay out above seems to me to be in the bounds of legitimate discourse.
Over at the new blog The Conservative Philosopher, my fellow Hayek scholar and frequent sparring partner Ed Feser raises some interesting questions about conservatives, libertarians, and the family. Ed's a smart guy and has made some of the best cases I've seen for reading Hayek in a conservative way, although I think those cases ultimately fail. I want to respond to some of Ed's argument here. Ed writes:
Still, since conservatives also tend to hold that there are natural ties between human beings far deeper and more important than the sort of contractual ties definitive of market society, they do not make a fetish of the market. This often distinguishes them from libertarians, who frequently exhibit a tendency to want to reduce all human relations to the contractual or economic sort.
Well, "frequently" and "tendency" fudge things a bit, but I'm not convinced this is as true as Ed thinks.
Chief among these non-contractual ties are those definitive of the family, and the family is that institution that conservatives are most keen to conserve, for they not only regard it as a natural institution, but as the arena within which the fellowship human beings need for their well-being exists, or ought to exist, to the fullest extent. ... The family is the place where we learn, or ought to learn, that we have obligations that we did not choose and needs that cannot be satisfied if we insist on having things our own way. It is where we learn that there are greater things in the world than our own narrow interests and a greater good for us than the mere pursuit of those interests.
One can be a libertarian, including with respect to the family, and believe that people have bonds and obligations "deeper" than the sort that appear on the market. One can, from a libertarian perspective, and specifically a Hayekian perspective, argue that families are, and should be, hotbeds of altruistic commitment in just the way Feser describes. What Feser says here might be true of the sub-species libertarianus Randianus, but need not be of the species more broadly. In fact, in a paper forthcoming in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, I compare Hayek's and Rand's views of the family. An online excerpt can be found here.
I think the problematic place Ed goes with this argument below is the weight he puts on the family being a "natural' institution. For example:
This is why conservatives and libertarians are, I believe, increasingly going to part ways in coming years. If you believe that the family is an institution we did not create (either because it has a divine origin or, a la Hayek, a cultural evolutionary one) and have no right to tinker with; that our deepest obligations are those we do not choose to take on but are given to us by nature; and that a good and happy life requires a humble submitting of oneself to those obligations, then you are going to take a decidedly conservative attitude toward matters of public policy concerning the family.
Note several things here. First, saying that family is an institution we did not create does not mean that it is a static institution. The whole point of the Hayekian argument is that it's about cultural evolution. The family, as we know it today, did not appear from nothing; it evolved over time as well. We would surely never make parallel arguments about other institutions we did not "create," e.g., money, law, the market. Money as we know it today has evolved and changed in a variety of ways (and would have even if government had been absent). The mere fact that we didn't "create" something doesn't mean that it is or should be static. (What about the evolution of language? Don't we expect that language will continue to evolve, just as perhaps the family has and might?) And the use of the word "tinker" is interesting as well: is any change "tinkering"? After all, from a Hayekian perspective, these institutions are the result of human action but not human design. Is Ed arguing that human action is ruled out of court, lest it change the institution? Ed's static perspective here seems to equate even marginal evolutionary changes with social engineering.
Second to note is the invocation of the "natural." Is natural here meaning "part of any human society" or is it more literal, in the sense of our biology implies certain obligation and institutions? Is the "natural" the raising of children inside a family unit (certainly all human societies need an institution to do that), or is it something more? Is it that certain familial arrangements are "natural" because biology "made us that way?"
One way to frame this is that Ed is sliding here between function and form. There is no doubt that the functions families serve need to be tackled by some institution in any human society. In that sense, the family is a "natural" institution. However, the question of whether any particular form of the family is uniquely suited to perform those functions is a very different question. That question is even more interesting when linked to the historical fact that the family has evolved and changed over time. Might those changes (which certainly have been affected by government policy) be changes in form that have resulted from social and economic changes that have affected the functions families can, or have to, perform? That is, perhaps the changes in the form of the family we've seen are responses to changes in other institutions that "we did not create." If so, why is it okay for those other institutions to change and evolve (be tinkered with?) while not the case for the family, especially if such changes are responses driven by the changes elsewhere?
My take on the functions of the family, from a Hayekian perspective, are in a paper forthcoming in the Cambridge Journal of Economics that can be found here.
Ed ends with:
And while it is true that conservatives and libertarians have much in common where the defense of the market and the critique of big government are concerned, it is also true that for conservatives, issues touching on the family and its well-being must necessarily always trump issues of tax policy, government spending, and even war and peace. Tax rates, government programs, wars, and the like come and go, and however long-lasting and significant are their effects, they simply cannot equal in their significance radical changes to the structure of the family. The family is forever, and far more basic to human well-being. For the conservative, if we don’t get that right, nothing else matters.
And here, Ed gets to the heart of the matter by talking of "radical changes to the structure of the family." Two points to make in response. First, at least now we know what we're talking about. It's all about structure. Note that Ed doesn't say that he's concerned about changes in the functions that families perform, or, directly, how well or how poorly they work. Rather he is concerned about "radical" changes to the "structure," which seem to be equivalent in his mind to a loss of functionality. If we radically change the form of families, they will function less well. But why identify form with function? What's missing here is the argument that says that changes in the structure will reduce functionality. To me, that argument is non-obvious. It's a case to be made and Ed doesn't make it, at least not here. The implicit premise that the (current? recent? how recent?) structure of the family is the most/only functional one is unargued for.
Second, what radical change is he talking about here? Again, it's not named, but it seems clear it's same-sex marriage, though perhaps other things as well. The use of "natural," the notion that marriage/family is all about self-interest and contract, and the use of the word "radical" are all evidence of that view, especially given that the stereotype of the selfish, libertine homosexual is as old as the hills. I feel no need to rehash arguments on these questions that have been raised in other places by many others. However, I do find it interesting that, if same-sex marriage is the real driving issue here, Ed has hitched libertarianism to that star. The underlying suggestion is that libertarianism is ultimately a form of libertinism, and because same-sex couples are really only interested in their own pleasure not the obligations of a family, the common cause between libertarianism and the advocacy of same-sex marriage is, shall we say, "natural." In a cynical reading, it's an attempt to smear libertarians in the eyes of conservatives by painting us with the same caricature of self-interested libertines that has been used by conservatives use for gays and lesbians. I don't necessarily think that was Ed's intention, but it is not an implausible reading of the text.
Of course, why we should care about what conservatives think about libertarians in general, and especially if they are accepting of the insulting view of gays and lesbians that this argument rests on, is a whole other question.
Robert L. Campbell
You would think that with several campus controversies raging simultaneously, and an accreditation consultant who is still unpacking her bags, the University of Southern Mississippi would be getting nearly daily attention from the in-state media.Instead, there is a creepy silence. All of a sudden the only news about USM is appearing on the sports pages.
The last print-media reference to the accreditation crisis was the Hattiesburg American's happy-talk editorial of January 17. The American signaled its change of editorial policy toward the Thames regime on January 9, when it ran an op-ed by Amy Young, the president of USM's chapter of the American Association of University Professors, in its print edition but (in an extraordinary move) kept it out of the online edition. If you want to read Young's hard-hitting op-ed online, you'll have to do it here or on her AAUP chapter's message board.
One reason for the media silence: Kevin Walters, by far the American's best reporter, and the only one with genuine investigative instincts, is no longer on the story. Reporters who stay on any kind of story about a university are rare. Those who are willing to delve into a university's finances (which Walters did on several occasions, with mixed success) are displaying uncommon valor. With other reporters on the story, the American is unlikely to provide quality coverage of events at USM, and the Jackson and Biloxi newspapers, which rely on the American for much of their material on Southern Mississippi, won't be doing so either. And with no reporters on the story...
The other reason, according to sources at or around USM, is that Thames is well- connected politically, and some of his backers in southern Mississippi have been leaning on the American's editorial board. Since everyone in Mississippi politics up to and including Governor Haley Barbour rhetorically endorses"economic development," and USM's notorious graduate progams in Economic Development are scheduled for occupancy in a building called the Trent Lott Center (which, if you reside anywhere in the USA, represents your income taxes at work), there are several heavyweights available to do the leaning.
In any event, nothing negative about Thames' pet program has appeared in print since October. At the present time I very much doubt that a letter to the editor criticizing Thames' performance, or the Mississippi IHL Board's apparent motives for keeping him in office, could be published in any of the three Mississippi newspapers that normally cover happenings at USM.
The only good thing about the wall of silence: it means that Thames and his political backers no longer feel they can rely on his public relations machine. But it is going to take extraordinary effort to crack the wall. Only resolutions of no confidence by the USM faculty, or protest demonstrations on campus, have any chance of getting through to the readers of the Hattiesburg American, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, or the Biloxi Sun-Herald.
Tomorrow the beleaguered Faculty Senate of USM will be holding an emergency meeting (after the regularly scheduled meeting on January 14 ran 4 hours without completing its agenda). It is to be hoped that the Senate will take up a renewed resolution of no confidence in Shelby Thames. And that when the Senators are done with that one, that they vote on resolutions of no confidence in his chief remaining enforcers (Gregg Lassen, the Chief Financial Officer, and Ken Malone, the Chair of Economic Development, Chief Operating Officer-Gulf Coast, and, according to recent reports, Director of Continuing Education). When they are done with those two, maybe the Faculty Senate will deem it timely to vote no confidence in Roy Klumb, Thames' most vocal backer on the state College Board.
Meanwhile, Thames has been forced to delay his plans to create an Executive MBA program (the accreditation consultant deems it"inadvisable" to start any new academic programs while USM is under probation) but he continues to harbor obvious designs on the Gulf Park library building.
While Thames is making a tactical retreat on one front, rumors are flying on campus that he intends to spin the entire College of Business off to Mississippi State University (which has one of its own already...). Such a"news of the weird" item would normally be fodder for guffaws, but under Shelby Thames any cockamamie scheme has a chance of being implemented. What's uncontested by any knowledgeable source is Thames' fury at the College of Business for trying to keep its accreditation with the AACSB and consequently refusing to embrace his Economic Development program. Besides, if Thames could be rid of the present, accredited College of Business, he could replace it with an unaccredited College of Economic Development run by Ken Malone or Gregg Lassen (who, in addition to being the Chief Financial Officer is a graduate student in... International Development). And he would no longer have to pay the going rate for professors of Marketing or Finance. Business professors in AACSB-accredited programs draw salaries that Thames believes must be reserved to administrators--or to Polymer Science researchers.
The IHL Board is due to evaluate Thames' performance at its April meeting. Either we'll be hearing a lot more noise out of the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses over the next couple of months, or we'll be preparing for the end of USM as a national university.
Updates 8:30 PM January 27th and 10:25 AM January 28th: This entry has been revised to remove an incorrect statement about Kevin Walters taking a job elsewhere. I apologize for not verifying this statement with Mr. Walters before posting.
Robert L. Campbell
Among the few things that can break through the media silence that now surrounds the University of Southern Mississippi is a good old-fashioned vote of no confidence.
Yesterday the USM Faculty Senate began considering a motion of no confidence in President Shelby F. Thames. If it passes, it will be the second in less than 12 months.
The meeting ended without a vote on the resolution. So the matter will be taken up again at a further special meeting on Wednesday February 2nd.
According to the story with a welcome byline that appeared in today's Hattiesburg American, Faculty Senator Bill Scarborough has laid out 19 different indicators of Thamesian mismanagement from the last year alone. So debate on the resolution and possible amendments could take a while.
This year's edition of the USM Faculty Senate got off to a horrible start back in June, when it let itself be buffaloed into declaring that Vice President for Research Angie Dvorak had not actually misrepresented herself on her vita. A Faculty Senate committee declared that she had just followed"professional resume" practices instead of"academic resume" practices. (I doubt that most professionals, or most potential employers of professionals, would appreciate the implications.) Fortunately, Angie Dvorak was pushed out of the Vice-Presidential position shortly afterward, finally making her exit from the USM payroll at the end of the year. (In the aforelinked post, I incorrectly concluded that the Faculty Senate leadership had agreed to the compromise in return for an understanding that Angie Dvorak would be leaving USM. Some months later, a knowledgeable source told me that there was no such deal. The best that can be said about the entire mess: the Senate leadership was being incredibly naive about the nature and character of the Thames regime and its top administrators.)
From that point until well into Fall 2004, most of the public challenges to Thames and his immediate underlings came from a few representatives on the President's Council, not from the Faculty Senate. But the Senate redeemed itself with a hard-hitting response to the"Gulf Coast Incident" of October 12, in which Thames' chief enforcer, Ken Malone, invaded a class on the Gulf Park campus to interrogate students about their professor's comments concerning Malone's own plans to convert Gulf Park into a center for online courses. The Faculty Senate has also come up with a coherent policy on post-tenure review, which for several years has been a bone of contention between the state universities in Mississippi and the IHL Board.
Let's hope, then, that the USM Faculty Senate has the fortitude to issue a cogent resolution of no confidence in Shelby Thames. And that the Senate will follow up, in a timely fashion, with resolutions of no confidence in his key remaining underlings, Ken Malone and Gregg Lassen, and his most vocal backer on the IHL Board, Roy Klumb. Whatever the IHL Board's motives for putting Thames in office, flagrant mismanagement does not matter to a majority of the Board members. Even being lied to, on matters related to accreditation, has not motivated 7 or more of the trustees to remove him from office. Only if Thames becomes too hot to handle because of unending adverse publicity will the Board ever drop him.
The Hattiesburg American story gives us another priceless quotation from the man whose verbal productivity never ceases:
Asked what might be at the core of faculty members' criticisms, Thames said he didn't know. Instead he urged faculty members to consider if they are better off now - if they make more money - than before he was named president in April 2002.
"If they would just ask those questions then I think they're going to find out they're better off than they were three years ago," Thames said.
The raises that those professors who remain at USM have received over the last two and a half years are not enough, in most cases, to put them ahead after deducting inflation and the cost of health insurance. And even if the professors were taking home more money--would it compensate for administrative arbitrariness, plummeting academic reputation, threatened loss of accreditation, crumbling infrastructure, departmental supply budgets dwindling to $0, and a library that can no longer afford to buy a single new book?
As it happens, the first op-ed since January 9th on a USM-related subject has appeared in today's Clarion-Ledger. Written by Bill Gunther, a USM Professor of Economics, it reads like a standard pitch for higher education as a bringer of economic benefits to the state of Mississippi, published at a time when the state legislature is about to cut appropriations to state universities another 5 to 10%. As such, it makes predictable arguments, which readers of this blog will not be astonished to learn have a few holes in them.
But Gunther does seem to have a second, covert message, which can be inferred from his title ("Higher education is economic development") and from his central example: students who have graduated with USM degrees in Business. Would the op-ed have been printed if the editorial page editor had detected the implied slam at Shelby Thames and Ken Malone's Economic Development program? In any event, what was lost on the editorial page editor will surely sail past 99.9% of the paper's general readership.
Robert L. Campbell
At the University of Southern Mississippi, the Faculty Senate is considering a second resolution of no confidence in president Shelby F. Thames. The crucial meeting began at 5 PM today on the main campus in Hattiesburg.
During the nonstop crises that have characterized the Shelby Thames regime since the fall of 2003, Roy Klumb, the current President of the Mississippi IHL Board of Trustees, has become his most vocal backer.
So it should come as a shock to no one that Klumb was out front yesterday, in the pages of the Hattiesburg American, telling the USM Faculty Senate not to bother with the no confidence resolution because he's already made up his mind to ignore it.
Shelby Thames['] job as president of the University of Southern Mississippi is safe and any effort by the school's faculty to hold a vote of no confidence would have little impact on the state College Board, the panel's president said Monday.
"I don't see how that it would be prudent to remove the president right now," said Roy Klumb of Gulfport.
But even Klumb's advocacy is wearing thin. He has run out of praise for Thames' sage leadership and exceptional management skills. He is no longer trying to convince anyone of USM's"world class" status. He has given up minimizing the seriousness of USM's accreditation problems.
If Thames were to be removed, the options for the College Board are limited, Klumb said.
"We have no president in waiting," Klumb said."We can't go back to Dr. (Aubrey) Lucas [the long-time president of USM who came out of retirement to serve on an interim basis in 2001-2002]. We have no one in our system that can sit in that chair. We have no one at USM that can sit in that chair. We can't sit here facing a death bill from SACS without a president, without a leader. It doesn't make sense to me."
What doesn't make sense is Klumb's notion that no one can replace Thames.
Shelby Thames is a 68-year-old man with a bad heart. Any Board of Trustees would have to be thinking about possible successors to someone of his age and health status.
In December, the Board asked an experienced university system administrator, Richard Crofts, to monitor the accreditation situation at USM. Crofts is presently the interim IHL Commissioner, but the Board is in the process of hiring a permanent commissioner. If the Board made Crofts an attractive offer, he could be ensconced in the Dome (as USM's central administration building is known) before the spring semester is out.
Klumb did get one thing right. There are no possible successors in USM's upper administration. Thames' major henchpeople (such as"Chief Operating Officer" Ken Malone and Chief Financial Officer Gregg Lassen) were put in place because they share his ruthlessness and his complete disrespect for the university's mission. His minor henchpeople (such as his Special Assistant in charge of accreditation, Joan Exline, and his Dean of Arts and Letters, Elliot Pood) have little credibility now and will have none at all once Thames is gone. And because Thames is strongly opposed to letting academic officials make academic decisions, his Provost, Jay Grimes, sits and waits for orders from the major henchmen.
The USM Faculty Senate needs to throw Klumb's pronouncements back in his face, by voting no confidence in Shelby Thames, asking the Board to appoint Richard Crofts in his place -- then following up with a resolution of no confidence in Roy Klumb.
And if anyone still thinks that Thames and his henchpeople are going to help get USM off probation with its accrediting body--check out the new Web page for USM's department of Economic and Workforce Development. (E and WD now houses the Master's program that was hastily shifted out of the College of Business into the College of Science and Technology.) In 6 months at USM, Judson Edwards has gone from Assistant Professor to Visiting Assistant Professor back to Assistant Professor. As of January 1, Ken Malone has been promoted from Assistant Professor all the way to Full Professor, apparently without being hired to a tenure-track faculty psoition, or applying for a promotion. He has failed to leave any of the paper trail that goes along with such personnel actions. Are faculty titles in the Economic Development program created and altered by presidential fiat? And if they are, does Shelby Thames think he can sneak them past the site visitors who will be arriving soon from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools?
1. I tend to call myself a "radical libertarian" as well. I prefer that to "anarchist" or "market anarchist" or even "anarcho-capitalist" for two reasons. One has to do with the rhetorical problems the anarchist label raises, but the other is that whether or not I'm an anarchist depends upon my mood that day. More seriously, I don't think the case for anarchism is completely convincing. My disposition is to accept it but I'm not completely convinced enough to use that label (rhetorical problems aside). Understand, of course, that I think the set of issues where government might be justified is pretty small, hence my comfort with "radical libertarian." The fact that I see myself as a person of the left who happens to believe that markets and other voluntary institutions are the best means to the left's ends also makes me comfortable with the "radical" label. (Having been called a "PC libertarian" and a "neo-conservative," not to mention a fraud and a liar, in the last 48 hours, labels are kind of fun these days.)
2. In my "Comparative Economic Institutions" course, I spend part of a very early class day explaining why I will NOT use the terms "capitalism" and "socialism" in that class (a promise I keep to a large degree). My reasoning is Hayek's - the terms were both invented by those sympathetic to socialism. Moreover, the very terms bias the debate. To add some more meat to Chris's argument, look at the words themselves. "Capitalism" suggests a "belief in capital" and it puts capital as the central organizing principle around which the system is built, or at least around which "the goods are delivered." By contrast, "socialism" suggest a "belief in society as a whole" and puts society as the central organizing principle or recipient of the benefits in that system. I would suggest that both implications are incorrect (i.e., capitalism [truly free markets] doesn't primarily benefit capitalists, and socialism benefits the few at the expense of the many).
More important, though, is that neither term speaks to the institutional arrangements that each system requires. Thus, I prefer the language of "markets" and "planning" to "capitalism" and "socialism." Although these are not without their problems, they have the advantage of allowing us to talk about how social coordination will take place in each system and what varieties of arrangements those fundamental coordination processes might produce. For example, we can talk about markets in which there is worker ownership or not. And with planning, we can talk about the differences between, and challenges facing, democratic planning institutions versus more centralized, autocratic ones. This dichotomy forces us to ask questions about how social coordination takes place and what sorts of institutions forward it. It should lead us to ask "how do/would markets work?" and "how does/would planning work?"
It also gives us room to talk about real world systems as being neither purely markets nor purely planning, and to explore whether the coordination processes can be combined, or whether one will tend to crowd out the other (or at least cause unintended undesirable consequences) when they are significantly mixed. It provides an institutional analytic framework for doing applied work, including exploring economic history.
In any case, Chris's post is right on, both as a question of how to talk to the Left and as a really serious question of how libertarians understand our own worldview.
As folks may have seen in the news yesterday, a NY state judge has ruled that NY City must give marriage licenses to same-sex couples (barring the inevitable appeal). Jonathan Dresner has a few thoughts nextdoor. You can find a PDF of the full, long decision here.
I took a quick skim through the decision this morning and I think it's a pretty good piece of legal reasoning, although I don't know the NY state constitutional precedents in the way I know the federal ones. I just wanted to highlight two parts of the decision.
The phrase "the traditional institution of marriage," which defendant quotes from Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in Lawrence (539 US at 585), appears to refer not to marriage as a “ traditional institution” (a formulation that would leave the nature of marriage open to new forms thereof), but rather, to the traditional form of the institution of marriage [SH – emphasis mine] - confined to opposite-sex couples. In dictum, Justice O'Connor implied that the preservation of that traditional form could be a rational reason to bar same-sex marriage. Id at 585. The issue of same-sex marriage, however, was not before the Court. Nonetheless, the three justices who dissented in Lawrence, and who were the only justices to address Justice O'Connor's parenthetical remark, pointed out that the phrase "‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State's moral disapproval of same-sex couples." Lawrence, 539 US at 601 (Scalia, J., the Chief Justice, and Thomas J. dissenting) (emphasis in original). It is clear that moral disapproval of same-sex couples or of individual homosexuals is not a legitimate state purpose or a rational reason for depriving plaintiffs of their right to choose their spouse. See Romer v. Evans, 517 US 620 (1996). In weighing the significance of the traditional institution of marriage, one must take into account the Supreme Court’s rejection of the elements of distaste or moral disapproval. See Lawrence, 539 US at 583.
First, note the references to Lawrence, the last sentence in particular. Scalia's dissent remains prophetic about the ways in which the Lawrence decision would be used to bolster the case for same-sex marriage even though Kennedy's opinion explicitly says it shouldn't have any such implications. See my earlier posts on these issues here and here.
Second, I can't help but note the highlighted passage where Judge Ling-Cohan makes the distinction between the functions of marriage as an "institution" and the various forms marriage might take, which is one that I have been harping on in earlier posts (here and here) as well as in my scholarly work and teaching on the family. It will be very interesting to see what happens with this decision.
Finally, Jonathan's post on this topic included a link to an excellent piece
in the Harvard
Magazine that explores these issues of the evolution of the
American family very effectively.
Robert L. Campbell
Shelby Thames, the President of the University of Southern Mississippi, may still believe that he can get away with absolutely anything. In the full article on his reaction to Wednesday's Faculty Senate motion against him, Thames claims to be having fun:
"Why would I retire? I'm having more fun than I've ever had in my life. I feel good. I enjoy coming to work," said Thames, who will turn 69 in August.
He explains that he won't read the Faculty Senate's resolution against him because:
"If I were distracted every time something from the external forces came about, then I would never get anything accomplished," Thames said."We're going to move forward and make Southern Miss that world class university we talked about."
In other words, the faculty at USM is an"external force," just like the accrediting agencies. Just like everyone besides Shelby Freland Thames, from his narcissistic standpoint.
Or maybe, despite his bravado, Thames at last senses that his time in power is about to be over--so before he has to go he wants to take down as much of the university as he can.
One of the foregoing has to be true. Otherwise there is no way to make sense of the move he has just made--while USM has been put under a microscope by its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; while a SACS consultant is on campus every working day advising USM how to get off the probation that SACS recently put it on; while professors are taking on massive committee assignments to help bring their departments and colleges into compliance with SACS; and while the College of Business may already be in danger of losing its accreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, because of the graduate programs in Economic Development run by Thames' chief remaining henchman, Ken Malone.
Yesterday afternoon, faculty members in USM's College of Business were summoned to a college meeting at which their Dean, Harold Doty, read to them portions of a letter he had received from the Provost, Jay Grimes.
Here is an eyewitness account, by"Shaken and Stirred" on the AAUP-USM message board:
Two passages (out of seven) were read to faculty verbatim, according to both the dean and associate dean.
Passage 1 indicated that the COB [College of Business] would offer an executive-type MBA by fall 2005 OR ELSE one would be offered elsewhere on campus. The letter specified that the program would compete for students with [William] Carey [College] and [the University of] Phoenix (both [referred to] by name). Apparently, this is an extension of an earlier discussion between the dean and provost, where the dean told the provost that having an MBA program not under the COB's control would forfeit AACSB [accreditation], and the provost's reply was"I don't care."
Passage 2 stated that COB faculty were spending too much time on"basic research" and that, since the COB does not grant a Ph.D., the faculty should cease"basic research" and focus on"applied research" that would directly benefit local business and industry. Also, no new hires will be allowed unless they have relevant industry experience and can do the type of research the provost previously identified as appropriate.
The eyewitness adds that Dean Doty mentioned"terse" language in the letter that was"not suitable for publication." That would imply a reference to firing the Dean, at the very least. Time for a Mississippi Public Records Act request.
The Executive MBA program that Provost Grimes is insisting on is another gleam in the eye of Thames and Malone. It has already led to trouble over the past six weeks. Malone had a secret plan to take over the third floor of the library on the Gulf Park campus, get rid of the books housed there, and convert it into a conference center for use in an online Executive MBA program. Provost Grimes initially ordered the two faculty members who revealed the plan, Will Watson and James Pat Smith, not to talk about it. Later he backed off and apologized, and Shelby Thames"assured" everyone that the the third floor of the library would not be taken over right away. Oh, and that it would not be reserved exclusively for the use of the Executive MBA program.
Beyond that, it is clearly payback time for Dean Doty and the Business faculty, for insisting that the Economic Development programs either be brought up to AACSB standards or moved out of their college.
At this point, the Business faculty at USM must wish that the recent rumors were true, and they were going to be spun off and merged with the College of Business and Industry at Mississippi State. For surely no one at MSU would order Business professors to open an Executive MBA program staffed with instructors whose qualifications resembled Ken Malone's--or to stop doing basic research.
By issuing these orders to the College of Business, Thames and his crew are kissing AACSB accreditation goodbye. It doesn't look a whole lot better for them under the SACS Principles of Accreditation, specifically
3.4.1 The institution demonstrates that each educational program for which academic credit is awarded (a) is approved by the faculty and the administration, and (b) establishes and evaluates program and learning outcomes.
3.4.12 The institution places primary responsibility for the content, quality, and effectiveness of its curriculum with its faculty.
What's more, USM's SACS consultant, Margaret Sullivan, has been telling administrators that it"would be inadvisable" to start any new academic programs while on probation."It would be inadvisable," in SACS language, translates into"Your funeral!" in the vernacular.
While the Provost, Jay Grimes, will take the fall for issuing this Diktat--and he deserves to--he was following orders. Ken Malone and Shelby Thames told him what to say, as they have done on so many other occasions.
Shelby Thames is now broadcasting his contemptuous disregard for the accrediting agencies. The regional news blackout, which protected his interests for all of 3 weeks, is emphatically over, and the Faculty Senate did not even have to vote 39-2 against him to break it. Black Friday would have ended the blackout all by itself. And unless the Mississippi IHL Board truly wants USM deaccredited, it will have to remove him from office immediately.
Two letters to the editor calling for Thames' immediate removal appeared in today's Hattiesburg American. One openly asks whether Roy Klumb and the rest of the Board have USM's best interests at heart. I am told that the other--which makes a suggestion that might already be familiar to readers of this blog--was accompanied in the print edition by a photo of Richard Crofts, the interim IHL Commissioner. The Board can replace Thames with Crofts in short order, if it wants to.
Robert L. Campbell
Kevin Walters of the Hattiesburg Americanhas done it again. The memo that Provost Jay Grimes of the University of Southern Mississippi sent to College of Business Dean Harold Doty is now available here. Because Doty read portions of it out loud to a College faculty meeting on Friday February 4, it has come to be known as the Black Friday memo.
The memo nets out a meeting that took place on January 21. Among those present was multiple officeholder Ken Malone, the top remaining enforcer for USM President Shelby F. Thames.
Doty read two passages from the memo out loud on Black Friday. One pertained to the MBA program that Thames and Malone are insisting on:
I said we must quickly move forward with a proposal to expand the delivery format of our MBA program, so as to better compete with William Carey [College], University of Phoenix, and others. You responded that your faculty were working on an alternative delivery or hybrid program and hoped for a pilot program in Fall 2005. I informed you that we must have it by then.
Between this"hybrid" (partly in class, partly online program) and the Executive MBA program that has figured in Thames and Malone's secret plans recently, there looks to be a distinction without a difference. The expanded MBA program would be taking over the exact same portion of the library on the Gulf Park campus that the Executive MBA program was slated to, as per the secret plans. The Hattiesburg American article notes that:
Current plans call for the program to be located at Southern Miss' Gulf Park campus in Long Beach where students might use a portion of the library's third floor for classrooms, Grimes said. Plans are being made for that classroom project and classrooms could be disassembled to make room for more books if need be, Grimes said.
The MBA programs at William Carey, a small college with campuses in Hattiesburg and Gulfport, and at the University Phoenix are not accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Although it is not mentioned in the memo, Grimes also wants USM's MBA program to compete with the program offered by Troy State, an Alabama-based university,
The second passage in the Black Friday memo is titled"College of Business Focus":
I reminded you that we are not a PhD granting College of Business and as such should not be concerned with theoretical/basic reasearch; rather, our focus should be on applied research -- research that is of interest to our local and regional customers. I asked you to grow our CoB in this direction and to be absolutely certain that all new hires have relevant private sector experience. I further said that new hires could and would be expected to procure applied research grants and contracts.
This item is more extreme than I initially realized, for it employs the idiosyncratic language of USM's inimitable President. To translate back out of Thames-speak,"applied research" means the same as"economic development"--i.e., contract work for businesses run by backers of Shelby F. Thames;"theoretical/basic research" means anything that the researcher would be so foolish as to try to publish in an academic journal; what the rest of us call"basic research" is so outlandish and nefarious that no one would dare to conduct it anywhere near the campuses of USM.
In any event, the reference to Business programs at USM not granting PhD's is pretextual. The College of Arts and Letters has been repeatedly pounded on precisely the same issue--despite its PhD programs.
Doty might as well have read out the last item,"AACSB Update":
This agenda item was not discussed.
For despite his feeble efforts at bafflegab, it is clearly Grimes' intent to get the College of Business deaccredited by the AACSB. See the Hattiesburg American article:
"He's always thrown up the accreditation roadblock," Grimes said of Doty.
Grimes said he told Doty"What do we need it for?" in discussing the college's accreditation.
"I did that as somewhat of a shock to him," Grimes said."'Harold, what's wrong here?'"
Grimes said he does not want the College of Business to lose its accreditation. Instead, he wants to energize Doty and the college.
Sure. Grimes and his superiors, Thames and Malone, want to"energize" Doty out of his administrative post. They want to"energize" the USM College of Business out of existence. Once it is gone, it can be replaced by an Economic Development College run by Malone and staffed by adjunct faculty without training from AACSB-accredited programs.
Not yet sufficiently emphasized is the impact on USM's overall accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Since the Thames administration views AACSB accreditation as a"roadblock" to its plans, Doty and the Business faculty need to emphasize how starting a new program with a substantial distance learning component, when SACS has taken USM to task for failing to document and assess its distance-learning programs, verges on suicidal. And it remains to be seen how SACS will respond to a Provost ordering the entire Business faculty to do"economic development" and hang up the academic research.
On-campus opinion holds that Grimes is about to be relieved of his post and given a one-way ticket back to USM's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, which he used to run. But the force behind the MBA expansion is Ken Malone. Malone is the one who needs to be held accountable for Black Friday. And as an administrator who holds no documented tenured faculty position, Malone will be gone from USM as soon as he is fired.
Robert L. Campbell
It's only been a week since Dean Harold Doty read out portions of a memo from Provost Jay Grimes to a meeting of the College of Business at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The Black Friday memo is having so many repercussions that it's hard to keep up with them all.
On Wednesday, at the monthly meeting of his President's Council, faculty representatives asked USM President Shelby F. Thames about the possible threats that the Black Friday memo posed to the university's accreditation. (The memo ordered the College of Business to implement a partly-online MBA program by next August, without a go-ahead from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools when USM is under probation. And it commanded the Business professors to lay off all"theoretical/basic research" in favor of contract work for businesses connected with the Thames administration.) Thames hypocritically insisted that he is 100% supportive of the College of Business retaining its accreditation with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Yesterday, Dean Doty's vigorous response to Provost Grimes was made available to readers of the Hattiesburg American along with a further article on the Doty-Grimes dispute. And a second memo from Grimes to Doty was publicized, concerning a faculty position in Finance that the College of Business had not been allowed to fill, because allegedly none of the candidates had the required"private-sector experience" (actually, some of them did, but none had the requisite connections to Thames or to his chief enforcer, Ken Malone, who hopes to displace the College of Business in favor of a new operation centered around his Department of Economic Development). The College is now being"reluctantly" allowed to fill the position, but so late in the academic hiring cycle that the desirable candidates are unlikely to be available any longer.
Today, the American reported that the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees will be taking up the mano-a-mano between Doty and Grimes at its monthly meeting next week. The public bluster from Thames' most vocal backer, Board President Roy Klumb, was notably subdued. When last heard from, Klumb was insisting that the Board would not even discuss the USM Faculty Senate's recent resolution asking the Board not to extend Thames' term in office. Now he is admitting that Thames' conduct in office will have to be the Board's chief concern. And the interim IHL Commissioner, Richard Crofts, made clear that the threat to accreditation is being taken very seriously indeed.
Today, Shelby Thames issued a memo to Dean Doty claiming that no improper pressure was being applied to the College of Business over the"hybrid" MBA program, and the College should do nothing that would threaten its accreditation. Informed sources say that Thames went around the College earlier this week, on an unsuccessful search for faculty members he could bribe or bamboozle into dropping their support for Dean Doty's stand. When he could find none, and it became clear that the Board was going to intervene, he issued the memo.
Today, the USM Faculty Senate holds its regular monthly meeting. There is plenty to occupy the Senate, most notably some last-minute administrative tampering with USM's proposed policy on post-tenure review. One can only hope that resolutions condemning Provost Grimes and Multiple Officeholder Malone will be taken up.
Now that he has been left to twist in the wind, Jay Grimes' departure from the Provost's office could be announced any minute now. What will happen to Ken Malone--who was the real force behind the Black Friday memo--and to Shelby Thames remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Thames' press secretary, Lisa Mader, is no longer being quoted in the news stories. Could she be planning to abandon ship?
Robert L. Campbell
As he prepares for his appearance before the Mississippi IHL Board tomorrow (today's meetings are for subcommittee work only), Shelby F. Thames is desperate to extend his reign over the University of Southern Mississippi. Whether he still enjoys the sponsorship of a majority of the Trustees is unclear, but observers are pessimistic. The Board has already stuck by him when he committed screwups that would have ended the career of any other university president, and Board President Roy Klumb is continuing to defend him in front of the media.
On Sunday, the Biloxi Sun-Herald reprinted the devastating story of the intervention by interim IHL Commissioner Richard Crofts, who ordered Thames to retract the Black Friday memo to the College of Business. (The Black Friday memo of February 3 ordered the College of Business to start up an MBA program that Thames wanted, even at the cost of its accreditation, and commanded the Business professors to cease all"basic" research. Under Crofts' orders, Thames retracted the memo on February 11.)
By choosing to run this article, the editors of the the Sun-Herald brought a dramatic end to their total news blackout regarding the accreditation crisis. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, whose editorial page recently called for a search for a new president to replace Thames (albeit when his present term ends in May 2006) picked up the story as well.
And two memos from the USM Academic Council to soon-to-be-ex-Provost Jay Grimes have been released. These reveal that the reorganization in October 2004, which split the Economic Development program in two and shifted it out of the College of Business into two other colleges, was simply ordered from the top and presented to the Board without going through the university's Academic Council and its Graduate Council. The memos provide additional evidence that the Thames administration keeps willfully endangering the university's accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Meanwhile, David Butler, who runs one of the halves of Economic Development on behalf of Thames lieutenant Ken Malone, put a brochure for a study-abroad course in Belize on the USM website. He had to withdraw it after three paragraphs were found to have been plagiarized nearly word-for-word from a travel website. Oh, and is it news to anyone that the course was a little short on substance?
As Thames tries to avoid being fired, or put under such close supervision that he will be a president in name only, his notorious press secretary, Lisa Mader, has suddenly resurfaced. After being very quiet since the accreditation crisis hit in early December, and completely absent during the entire Black Friday episode and its aftermath, Mader is belatedly trying to make Dean Harold Doty the scapegoat for revealing the Black Friday memo to the press.
Southern Miss President Shelby Thames and interim provost Jay Grimes said disagreements about a program and research raised between officials should not have been made public, said university spokeswoman Lisa Mader.
"They believe that we need to move forward and not dwell on one issue that has been played out, unfortunately, in the media where an internal issue should not have been discussed or placed," Mader said Monday."And thus they are moving forward with other issues and events and programs and academic affairs of the institution."
Mader forfeited her credibility a long time ago, but even by her standards this is an unusally weak performance. For if the Black Friday memo had not been publicized, everyone knows that it would still be in force, and Admiral Thames would still have USM squarely on course for the nearest iceberg.
Board president Roy Klumb said the dispute at Southern Miss would be addressed [at the upcoming meeting]...
The Faculty Senate voted earlier this month to send a resolution to the board asking for a search to find a new president.
"This is what you get into when you have opposing forces that seem hell-bent on destructing one another," Klumb said.
Klumb said the College Board wants to wait on starting new programs at Southern Miss until the current SACS probation period is completed.
With his usual knack for the unintentional admission, Klumb is proclaiming what has been obvious to everyone else, that Shelby Thames fully intends to"destruct" the USM faculty.
The Board could, of course, do what Thames is hoping it will do, and blame Doty for spilling the beans while letting Thames out of jail free again. But there are two drawbacks to that course of action.
One is that Doty is keeping high-powered lawyers on retainer, and has absolutely no intention of going quietly if Thames decides to get rid of him.
The other is that if the Board punishes Doty to save Thames, it will also have to punish Crofts, who intervened on Doty's behalf. (As interim commissioner, Crofts is the Board's employee, so it can fire him whenver it wants to.) But the Board can't punish Crofts without implying its approval for Thamesian conduct that, as even Roy Klumb admits, is going to cost USM its accreditation. (If the Board openly announced its desire to end USM's accreditation, then at least those faculty members who are putting in long hours on assessment and report writing could all resign from their committees and reinvest their effort in job hunting.)
There is trepidation in Hattiesburg and Long Beach now. The Board has performed so badly, so often, that it may let Thames off the hook once again. Is the Board ready to bear the cost of summoning a university president to an executive session at every monthly meeting, while his institution collapses around him?
Update: 11:50 AM: The editorial page of today's Hattiesburg American carries a stern rebuke of Shelby Thames and Lisa Mader, for claiming that issues that affect USM's prospects for accreditation should not be publicized. It is the first editorial to mention the economic impact on Hattiesburg if the ongoing collapse of USM is not halted; it is written in terms that the average person who doesn't care about university governance can understand; and, overall, it is the hardest-hitting critique of the Thames administration to appear on the editorial page of a daily newspaper in Mississippi. Let's hope it makes a difference.
Robert L. Campbell
A week ago it looked as though the Mississippi IHL Board, which controls the University of Southern Mississippi along with 7 other four-year institutions in the state, was going keep one of the worst university presidents in the history of American higher education around, as long as he was"having fun."
Now you should realize that I am not promoting cockeyed optimism. This is the same Board that made Shelby Thames President of USM despite a disastrous record that had kept him out of administration for 16 years, and has maintained him in place despite an unending series of embarrassing and destructive acts. Most recently, the Board took no action even though Richard Crofts, the interim IHL Commissioner, had had to intervene to prevent Thames from sending USM's College of Business to its doom and eradicating any chance that USM would keep its accreditation. There can be little doubt that some Board members would much rather get rid of Crofts than face the implications of their continued support for Thames.
Still, in light of the last few days' events, it looks as though the Board may be deadlocked over extending Thames' contract. Or at least as though the anti-Thames forces can no longer be bulldozed by Board President Roy Klumb and the Thames supporters for whom he has been acting as public spokesman.
For one thing, the Roy Klumb who made a few rather cagey public comments on WDAM TV last Thursday evening was distinctly short on bluster and swagger. He looked tired and beaten down and reluctant to face the camera. (I'd have had no notion of this without seeing video clips that I was fortunate to obtain from a participant on the AAUP-USM message board.)
Klumb, if he got his way, would fire Richard Crofts or order him to shut up, squelch public discussion of USM's problems with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and keep giving Shelby Thames and his henchcrew the green light. Obviously he isn't getting his way.
Klumb would like to have the Board evaluate Thames in April, while he will still be Board President, and he thinks he can rig the outcome. Instead he had to say that it hadn't been decided when Thames would be evaluated. At the May meeting, Virginia Shanteau Newton, the only Board member to vote on the record against hiring Thames, will take over as President.
Klumb hates the adverse publicity that the Board has gotten because USM was put on probation by SACS, and would like to make it go away. But he has not been successful. Instead he has made a profession of ignorance about accreditation that, most other places, would bring a quick end to the career of a Board president:
Klumb said it was not clear to him if [Provost] Grimes' instructions [in the Black Friday memo] would have affected Southern Miss' accreditation. He called SACS regulations about the matter"very technical stuff."
"We don't feel like that it's really something that ought to be played out even as a lay board member, we feel like that those issues ought to be left to the professionals and that rests down on the campus or in the staff to handle those matters," Klumb said.
Meanwhile, Richard Crofts, whose knowledge of that"very technical stuff" gets so little respect from Roy Klumb, has been quiet since the Board meeting. And Thames and his chief enforcer Ken Malone are patently furious at Harold Doty, the Dean of the College of Business, for publicly exposing the Black Friday memo, which demanded a halt to all"theoretical/basic research" in the College, and ordered the immediate creation of a"hybrid" MBA program to Malone's specifications while the SACS consultant was advising against starting new programs. But they have not been able to take action against him so far.
At 2 pm today, Thames and a bunch of his political buddies accompanied a Senator who once expressed too much admiration for Strom Thurmond's run for President at the ground-breaking for the Trent Lott Center. When completed in 2007, this monument to Congressional"earmarking"--which taxpayers across the United States are going to be paying for for a little while--will be surrounded by a campus full of deteriorating buildings. One of the most dilapidated now houses the College of Business.
Thames should enjoy it while he can. Tomorrow he meets with SACS officials, who will be less inclined to believe his press releases.
Triumphal notes were sounded yesterday by none other than Ken Malone, whose Department of Economic Development (Or is that Economic and Workforce Development? It keeps changing) is slated to be the TLC's sole occupant.
Malone said Tuesday he expects 15 full-time faculty members, 40 students attending classes in Hattiesburg and"several hundred" students getting degrees through hybrid delivery by 2015. The goals could be achieved earlier.
Does Malone really imagine that he will still be at USM in 2015? Would any president besides Shelby Thames want Malone in an upper administrative post? Would any dean who had a say in the matter want him as a faculty member?
"I'm not that patient," Malone said.
We know that already, from his incursion into a Gulf Park classroom in October--and from the Black Friday memo.
By the way, the article lists one degree that USM was not previously known to offer, an executive Master of Science in Economic Development. Perhaps it was introduced just in time for the interview.
And, using language that rings in the ears of anyone who has read the Black Friday memo, Malone presented his indictment of the College of Business:
"Their business model is to run their operation off tuition dollars," Malone said."They don't do grants, they don't do a significant number of contracts, they pretty much teach and publish basic research but very seldom does anybody pay (the college) to do the research."
Now you would think that the Faculty Senate at USM would be extremely concerned about Malone, who is supposed to be a Department Chair but is actually more powerful than the Provost.
What's more, Malone may or may not actually be a faculty member (no one seems to know), and may or may not have been promoted from Assistant to Full Professor during his 2 and 1/2 years at Southern Miss (if he has, no one can provide the documentation, and his department's website has given him the Professor title, taken it away, and given it back, all within the last six weeks).
Malone was waved through by the Graduate Council as a graduate faculty member in 2003, on the basis of statements that the council members trusted, because they had not yet learned what the Thames administration was capable of. It is to be hoped that the Graduate Council will review and reverse its previous decision; the Graduate Council's decision not to approve former VP Angie Dvorak's application for graduate faculty status sped her departure from USM.
Yet it gives the observer pause to note that the current Faculty Senate President, David Beckett, is a friend of Malone's. Beckett and the Faculty Senate have distinguished themselves since the mid-fall of 2004, and are uncompromsing in their opposition to the Thames administration. But observers say that Faculty Senate action against Malone specifically is unlikely to happen. If Thames' contract is not renewed this May, or Crofts is sent in to replace him then, Malone's days will be numbered and it won't matter what position the Senate has taken in his regard. If the struggle is drawn out further, however, it could matter a lot.
On Monday, the IHL Board, which has been too preoccupied with USM to get around to hiring a permanent commissioner, held a one-day retreat to get back on track. The Board heard from Thomas Meredith, the chancellor of the Georgia state university system. The Clarion-Ledger reporter included a quotation from Meredith of more than passing relevance:
In Georgia, presidents report to the chancellor, the same as a commissioner. The chancellor evaluates presidents, who have one-year contracts, Meredith said.
"If they're not any good, part of my job is to get rid of the president," he said.
The Board could be interested in replacing Crofts soon, so they can get rid of him, or in replacing Crofts soon, so they can remove Thames and put Crofts in his place. Which view is going to prevail?
It turns out that back in January, Crofts requested the authority to require regular reports about the accreditation status of every university in the Mississippi state system. The item was yanked from the agenda at the last minute (see pp. 4-5). Obviously some Board members want the Commissioner to have that authority, and others just as emphatically do not.
On Sunday, a second regular columnist for the Clarion-Ledger joined the editorialists calling on Thames to resign. Pretty clear message there. The Thames regime has now been repeatedly condemned on the editorial pages of both the Hattiesburg newspaper and the Jackson paper.
What has been unrolling for the past week is reminiscent of the uneasy stalemate that I wrote about in May of last year. Back then, the Board had also kept Thames in power after a disaster, but he had sustained more damage than was immediately apparent. And it took several weeks for the damage to become fully visible. Thames had been ordered to get rid of two of his top enforcers, but the dismissal of one of them could not be confirmed in mid-May, and no one suspected that the other would be getting eased out.
In particular, the stalemate of May 2004 led to massive outbreaks of trolling, along with more sophisticated disinformation campaigns on the AAUP-USM message board. And for the past week, the trolls have returned to the board in force. Some of Thames' allies are afraid their guy is in trouble. If only we knew what the extent of the trouble was... and could be sure that Klumb and the other anti-USM trustees will not be able to regroup, give Thames four more years, and complete the destruction of the university.
Robert L. Campbell
One year ago, on March 5, 2004, Shelby Thames, the president of the University of Southern Mississippi, called Frank Glamser, a tenured professor of Sociology, and Gary Stringer, a tenured professor of English, into his office and told them that they were fired. While Thames was berating them, locksmiths, under escort from the campus police, came and changed the locks on their office doors.
Because March 5 is on a weekend this year, the sad event won't be commemorated on campus until Monday.
USM is still reeling from the loss of two major contributors on the faculty. But Thames wanted much more than that. He imagined that the firings would terrify every potential critic into silence and guarantee him control over USM so long as he was still"having fun." Instead, Thames brought the scope and intensity of media attention to USM that is the worst enemy of bullying, incompetent micomanagers. And his subsequent acts of viciousness and recklessness have insured that though the media attention might waver, it would keep returning, in more and more concentrated forms.
Frank Glamser is now teaching at Tulane's satellite campus on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and enjoying his return to the classroom. Gary Stringer and his Donne Variorum Project were welcomed by Texas A&M; the annual John Donne conference, which he had hosted at USM for 19 years, was recently held at LSU in Baton Rouge. Under the terms of the settlement that the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board imposed last April 28, Glamser and Stringer will continue to draw their USM salaries as" consultants" for another year. Meanwhile, the administrator whose honor Thames claimed to be defending against two professors who dared to point out a misrepresentation on her vita is no longer at USM; once widely viewed as Thames' heir apparent, Angie Dvorak departed from the university payroll on January 1.
After a solid year of viciousness and recklessness, which has been thoroughly documented here at Liberty and Power, the Thames regime finally looks to be on the ropes.
On Wednesday of this week, a USM staff meeting was held to rally support for Thames and find ways to improve his irreversibly tarnished public image. Of course Thames' press secretary, Lisa Mader, was in the room. (Though persistent but still unconfirmed rumors have her about to leave USM for a new job in Jackson.) What will stick in the mind of everyone who attended was a statement by Thames' chief enforcer and man of many administrative titles, Ken Malone:
Before this is all over I want to see Kevin Walters in a public lynching.
More than one person who attended the meeting has reported the above quotation, but Malone has apparently not yet been confronted by a reporter from the print media and asked to verify it. It is to be hoped that journalists from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and the Hattiesburg American will not leave him in peace until he owns up to his remark or issues a convincing denial. For it may be the single event that draws concentrated attention to the events at USM from newspapers all across the United States.
What has Kevin Walters of the Hattiesburg American done, to elicit such venom? Walters has merely done what reporters are supposed to do--he has kept asking questions and stayed on the story. His coverage of events at USM has at no point been slanted against the administration. In fact, the American has a policy of never using anonymous sources (how far would Woodward and Bernstein have gotten, if that had been the house rule at the Washington Post?). Consequently, the average Walters article about USM quotes more proponents than detractors of the Thames administration. (It's because Thames and his supporters keep indicting themselves with their own words that most of Walters' articles have hurt the administration.)
What's more, Thames and crew are up to far more mischief than a lone reporter could ever expose. For instance, American has yet to cover the decline and fall of USM's Nursing program. Under Thames, a program that long trained a substantial share of the nurses in Mississippi has lost most of its senior professors, and the percentage of its recent graduates who passed the national board exam has dipped below 75%; another year of that, and the program will have to be stripped of its accreditation by, of all agencies, the Mississippi IHL Board. In this particular case, it appears that no story has run because the remaining nursing professors are too fearful of Thamesian reprisals to allow themselves to be quoted. But then again, the story could have been held off because so many other things are collapsing at USM, and there are only so many column inches to put the stories in.
Malone allegedly called for Walters' lynching at a moment when his own power still seemed to be expanding. At the end of last week, after being handed control of USM's Continuing Education office, he made a surprise announcement that he was closing it, and reassigning the staff people who had worked there. It could be that other institutional arrangements would serve online courses and independent studies as well as the central CE office did, even better. But it is a major stretch to assume that Ken Malone is interested in seeing that these institutional needs are efficently served. And any reorganization should have been carried out over the summer. Instead, the ever"impatient" Malone has thrown every academic department that relies on the CE office into turmoil and chaos.
But Malone is being thwarted in his efforts to demolish the entire USM College of Business and replace it with an entity centered on his Department of Economic Development. Dean Harold Doty, the recipient of the Black Friday memo, has made clear that he is just beginning to fight him. The College of Business just received a $1 million pledge from Mississippi businessman Max Draughn to support a pharmaceutical marketing program. It is too bad that Malone's comments about that event were not made in front of a public meeting. And how about Shelby Thames, who cannot fire Doty after interim IHL Commissioner Richard Crofts intervened on Doty's side and ordered Thames to retract the Black Friday memo? Thames did not attend the ceremony announcing the gift; neither did anyone else from his upper administration. On-campus sources say that Thames wants to reassign the college's chief fundraiser, in the hope of preventing future donations. Previously, on Wednesday, Doty publicly announced a Center for Economic Education in his college; Malone could not have been pleased with that move either, as he had been claiming economic education as his own turf.
If Malone really said what he is reported to have said, he is not merely a bad administrator, an unqualified professor, and a sycophant of one of the worst university presidents in American history. He is a thug without portfolio. And national media attention to a Mississippi university administrator who calls for lynching a reporter will set the state's image back at least half a century.
Under President Dave Beckett the USM Faculty Senate has consistently refused to take any action against Malone. But at yesterday's monthly meeting (it's hard to keep track, after all the emergency get-togethers), the Senate ordered an evaluation by the faculty of Malone performance as Chief Operating Officer at USM's Gulf Park satellite campus. Though very mild under the circumstances, this is a welcome step. (In fact, Malone was scheduled to appear before the Senate to address questions about his decision to close the Continuing Education office--and ducked out. Could this have been because Kevin Walters attends every Senate meeting?)
USM's Graduate Council, which reviews the credentials of graduate faculty members, has also announced a new policy of rechecking the credentials of faculty members who move to new programs or to different colleges. Since Malone has steered his Economic Development program out of the College of Business into the Colleges of Science and Technology and Arts and Letters, he will be due for review right away. And this time the Graduate Council will not believe false statements from deans or from the Provost about Malone's faculty status or his qualifications to teach Finance courses.
A further mark of desperation on the Thamesian side is a convocation that his supporters in the Hattiesburg business community have called for Thursday March 10, at the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. According to Hattiesburg's scrappy weekly, the Independent, which broke the story, the hosts will be
- Brad Brian (Hattiesburg Coca-Cola)
- Bobby Dews (Dews Foundry)
- Bonnie Drews (Republican party activist)
- Richard Drews (Dentist)
- Gwen James (Coldwell Banker Don Nace Realty)
- Richard Jones (Hattiesburg Area Development Partnership)
- Jan Lacy (Copy Cats Printing)
- Bob Mixon (Courtesy Ford)
- Carl Nicholson (Nicholson & Company, Accountants; former member of the IHL Board)
- Doug Rouse (Southern Bone & Joint Clinic Specialists)
- Lawrence Warren (Warren Paving)
The Independent (unfortunately not available online) noted that"The invitation to Drews to host the meeting was extended by Lisa Mader ..." which means that it was orchestrated from within the USM administration. The"... true purpose of the meeting is to support extension of Dr. Thames' contract when it comes up for renewal in 2006."
And here is the new rallying point for those who move and shake, wheel and deal, and want to keep Thames in power."The issue, she [Bonnie Drews] continued, is whether USM will continue as a primarily liberal arts university or whether it will focus on technology."
Since the Mississippi state university system is utterly incapable of making another MIT or Caltech, even it threw its entire annual state appropriation behind a single institution, the only university in the system with a substantial Engineering presence is called Mississippi State, and the IHL Board is about to shut down USM's small Masters program in physics, despite the grants that the department pulls in, what this call really amounts to is dropping USM down to a big trade school, or even a pumped-up community college.
It is not clear how many of Thames' backers in the Hattiesburg-area establishment understand what the press to"focus on technology" truly means. One who probably does is Carl Nicholson, a graduate of Mississippi State who was instrumental in putting Thames on the throne when he served on the IHL Board. Those affiliated with the Area Development Partnership (whose current President happens to be named Angie Dvorak) might at least have a vague idea.
The convocation of local Thames supporters, now expected to draw at least 250 people, was a major topic of discussion at yesterday's monthly meeting of the USM Faculty Senate. Kevin Walters' article is worth reading just for the heated dialogue that it captures, about the Thames administration's role in organizing the convocation. Despite denials that Thames plans to attend the meeting, his fingerprints are all over it.
Because of that body's near-absolute power over USM, the question, as always, is: what is the IHL Board going to do? Probably everyone on the list of organizers has exerted influence with the Board on Thames' behalf, if only to secure his coronation in 2002. But in the past the wires were pulled quietly, without eliciting attention from the media. This time around, the convocation itself will be closed to reporters, but the newspapers will be monitoring events closely. Not only are members of the Hattiesburg establishment openly seeking to manipulate the Board, under circumstances that will lead to media inquiries into their financial dealings with USM under the Thames administration. But one of the most rabid members of the Board's pro-Thames faction, Scott Ross, was directly implicated in the convocation plans by the Independent. Such overt political involvement, in an effort to keep Thames in power, can only wreak further damage on the Board's reputation. And the Board has already been badly hurt by the repeated failures of the Thames regime and the foot-in-mouth proclivities of its current president (and Thames cheerleader) Roy Klumb.
Now, the Board could end up spliting the difference, in a way that would leave Thames devastated, but would satisfy the true agenda of more than one of his supporters. It could give Thames his walking papers, and thank him for being a useful idiot, while ratifying the dirty work that he has done, by announcing that USM will no longer be permitted to be a reasearch-oriented university. Citing Thames' depredations as a fait accompli that cannot be repaired under present state budget constraints, the Board could officially define USM as a trade school or a pumped-up community college. But the infighting has grown so fierce that the Board seems unlikely to reach such a nastily judicious outcome.
The likely alternatives boil down to two.
The Board may expand the authority of the IHL Commissioner, who would demand regular reports on accreditation, would review university presidents annually, and would get the power to fire them. (At a recent retreat, the Board heard from Richard Crofts' counterpart in the Georgia state system, who has such powers and was recommending that the Board emulate the Georgia model.) The faction that wants a stronger commissioner is inclined to be anti-Thames, if only because of the extra burdens that his misrule has piled on the Board. So a strengthening of the Commissioner's position would almost certainly be accompanied by Thames' immediate removal, or the nonrenewal of his contract past May 2006.
Not terribly coincidentally, the most recent subject of the Clarion- Ledger's regular Sunday interview series was Richard Crofts.
Crofts speaks in the usual carefully measured words of an executive, which means that much of his interview is made up out of customary platitudes. Nonetheless, several passages stand out amongst the low-bandwidth communication.
First, he refers to his background as a professor--something that Thames, who encourages his followers to run down professors as a class, rarely does.
I am especially grateful for the 11 years I spent as a faculty member before I went into administration. That experience has ensured that as an administrator I will never forget what the life of a professor was like. I hope that has kept me honest and true to the needs of higher education.
Second, he has not let up on his public criticism of Thames:
The difficulties between faculty and administration at the University of Southern Mississippi are unfortunate. I believe that the university is on track to deal with the serious accreditation issues it has faced. Everyone knows that you achieve more working together than in opposition, but sometimes it seems hard to act on that knowledge.
Indeed, USM may escape loss of accreditation because of Crofts' prompt intervention, ordering Thames to disavow the Black Friday memo. The outcome would have been very different had Thames and Malone continued unimpeded with their scheme to establish an Executive MBA while the university was under probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.Even Board President Roy Klumb, who has insisted that Thames' schemes posed no obstacle to USM's accreditation, is now deferring to Crofts in public, and at least pretending to get with the program.
"We have told Dr. Thames that we don't want any new programs started or changed until this probation is over," Klumb said.
There is no reason to believe that Klumb is sincere--and plenty of reason to believe that a majority of the Board no longer supports him on this issue.
The Mississippi university system is a growing and flourishing enterprise, but it flourishes despite the declining state resources that are invested in it. We take an annual investment from the Legislature of about $560 million and turn it into an enterprise whose annual expenditures exceed $2 billion. Enrollment continues to grow, including large numbers of students who come into Mississippi for higher education and bring their dollars with them. The extra dollars from student tuition, research grants, and private donations make the difference in quality for the moment, but we are not sure that reliance on those sources of funding can continue to make up for the limited economic resources in Mississippi made available for public higher education. The board of trustees tries to manage so that competition among the universities does not become a part of the problem, and the board is currently considering important changes that will lead it to speak more for the needs of the entire state.
This last passage could portend an official demotion of USM in the state system, but it more likely is a discreet plug for giving the commissioner more authority to run the day-to-day affairs of the state system, including the authority over accreditation matters that Crofts previously asked the Board for in January.
The Board's other likely course of action? It can rally behind Thames, refuse to expand the commissioner's authority, and get rid of Crofts because he dared to rein Thames in. But the cost of propping up the Thames regime gets heavier every day.
It's far from certain that the chain of events that Thames set in motion, when he tried to fire Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer, will lead to his downfall. But the probability is growing by the day. The probability that USM will emerge with its functionality intact is, unfortunately, smaller. But anything that might speed Thames' exit will give the university a fighting chance of recovering from what he has done to it.
Robert L. Campbell
This evening, as many as 300 members of the Hattiesburg area business community will be trying to save the beleaguered presidency of Shelby Thames, and trying to promote their vision of the University of Southern Mississippi as a trade school.
When The Independent, a Hattiesburg weekly, broke the story one week ago, the spokeswoman for the meeting's organizers was Bonnie Drews, a local Republican party activist, and the location was to be the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. The agenda explicitly included getting rid of the liberal arts at USM.
To quote at somewhat greater length from the article than I was able to do in my last post,
Focus of the meeting, said Drews,"will be the direction in which the university is moving."
She added,"the issue is whether the faculty or the President is going to determine the direction in which the university needs to move."
And the issue, she continued,"is whether USM will continue as a primarily liberal arts university or it will focus on technology."
Dr. Thames, Drews said,"is giving the University outstanding and courageous leadership and he knows we need to change direction to refocus."
Liberal arts and the liberal arts faculty"has set the direction of USM for the past 25 years," she continued."Now we have to change direction and Dr. Thames is attempting to do so despite opposition from the liberal arts faculty."
Bonnie Drews hasn't accurately described the pattern of destruction that Thames has wrought. True, he has pounded the stuffing out of the liberal arts and driven out many professors in those fields. But he has also torn the School of Nursing to shreds (supposedly no article about the abrupt decline of the nursing program has yet appeared in the Hattiesburg American because the Thames administration has ordered Nursing faculty and students not to talk to the press). Only the intervention of the interim IHL commissioner has prevented him from destroying the College of Business, which will remain on his hit list so long as he retains the power to do it harm. In fact, only a few pet programs (Polymer Science, Economic Development, a couple of other applied science programs that pull in grants, and certain crony-infested Education programs controlled by Thames' daughter, Dana) have escaped the wrecking ball.
What's more, faculty opposition to Thames comes from everywhere on campus except the favored few programs (and even in those precincts, Thames is not very popular). The Faculty Senate votes against Thames have gone 40-0 and 39-2; the general faculty vote of no confidence, just under a year ago, was 430-32.
Nonetheless, Drews' hatred of the liberal arts is shared by other Thames supporters, including at least two members of the Institutions of Higher Learning Board, Roy Klumb and Scott Ross.
Ross was quoted in the Independent, to the effect that state universities must become entrepreneurial, and that Thames was leading the way. (Of course, the kinds of"entrepreneurial" activities that Thames, as the president of a state university, likes to engage in are rather like the kinds of"entrepreneurial" activities that trial lawyers engage in, when after more deep pockets to plunder.)
Meanwile, in a story that ran Tuesday in the Hattiesburg American, Klumb, who claimed he had nothing to do with the Coca-Cola convocation, took his own shots at the liberal arts:
Yet it and the state's other public universities could lose more state funding if Gov. Haley Barbour and lawmakers pare appropriations. So the mindset of how Southern Miss and other state public universities are run must change, Klumb said.
"The notion that we're going to run in that 1950s style liberal arts school, that just can't happen," he said.
Klumb doesn't know his history--in the 1950s, USM was a mildly pumped-up teachers' college under the iron rule of General William D. McCain. Bonnie Drews knows hers a little better. She complained about"the past 25 years" because Aubrey Lucas, who replaced McCain as President in the late 1970s, made USM into a national university. It is the Lucas legacy that Thames has been destroying.
In the high-tension atmosphere of the last few weeks, the announcement of the pro-Thames posse at the Coca-Cola bottler has brought an avalanche of letters to the editor. Both the Hattiesburg American and the Biloxi Sun Herald have been publishing them, and they are all strongly anti-Thames. The Sun Herald, which maintained a protective news blackout for several months, has yet to weigh in editorially against the Thames regime, but it is now offering respectable news coverage of the crisis at USM.
In USM's College of Arts and Letters, Dean Elliott Pood, who was hired by Thames and up to now has shown no resistance to the Thames administration on anything, convened a faculty meeting yesterday, with the express purpose of countering the Coca-Cola cabal. Pood read a statement to the meeting, defending the educational value of the liberal arts; it is slated to appear on the American's op-ed page soon.
And, lo and behold, those who put the meeting together are back-pedaling furiously. Bonnie Drews is no longer talking to the press. The meeting site has been moved, from the bottler to the Warren Paving Company. There are cover stories galore:
More than 300 business leaders in Hattiesburg are meeting tonight to discuss the University of Southern Mississippi's accomplishments, not its mission or the future of President Shelby Thames, organizers said.
They also said the idea for the meeting came from a group of people who attended a Southern Miss function; no one from the university asked them to hold it.
This runs counter to the Independent's story. The fact that several of the meeting's 10 sponsors were involved in getting Thames made President of USM in 2002 lends credence to the Independent.
But the meeting is open only to business leaders; no one from the university, the College Board or the media were invited.
In fact, Myron Henry, a Professor of Mathematics who is a former Provost and a former Faculty Senate president, was initially invited, then his invitation was rescinded.
The meeting was changed from the Coca-Cola plant to Warren Paving to accommodate the number of people expected to attend.
The Coca-Cola plant has a big auditorium. Local sources suggest that the Warren Paving Company location is harder to picket.
Jan Lacy owns Copy Cat Printing in Hattiesburg. She said several business people recently went to an athletics department dinner, where many of the university's successes in academics and athletics were highlighted.
Lacy and several others decided more people needed to hear about Southern Miss' achievements, so they formed a committee of 10 to organize the meeting.
"What we're trying to accomplish is pretty innocent," Lacy said."The main purpose of the meeting is to disseminate information about USM's accomplishments."
There haven't been a whole lot of accomplishments, under Thames' watch. And the USM public relations machine, operated by Lisa Mader, has been energetic sending out press releases. The problem is that the local media no longer believe much that comes out of the Mader machine.
She said she has heard rumors that the group wants to discuss changing the university's mission, as well as Thames' future, but said"it has absolutely nothing to do with that."
Those"rumors" must be why Bonnie Drews won't return phone calls from reporters. And why in a story that ran Tuesday in the American, another organizer was a little franker:
Brad Brian, vice president of Hattiesburg Coca-Cola Bottling Co., said Tuesday the meeting isn't about redefining the university's mission or against faculty members who have spoken out against Thames and his leadership since he became president in 2002.
"I wish that had not been said because we've got enough friction now," Brian said.
Going back to the Sun Herald account:
Carl Nicholson, a former College Board member and a business owner, agreed. He said the group also wants to discuss the state's financial situation and how that will affect Southern Miss.
"This is not about Shelby," he said."It's about the fact that we're in a crucial situation in higher education in Mississippi right now. It's about external funding and where the university goes from here."
Keep in mind that during his term on the Board, Nicholson was the kingmaker who got control of USM for Thames.
Lisa Mader, university spokeswoman, said a member of the committee asked her for a list of USM's accomplishments, and she provided it. She said she did not ask anyone to host a meeting.
"The only involvement my office has had was to provide information, which we would do for any group that asked for it," Mader said.
Actually, no. Mader's office won't provide information to any group that asks for it. Otherwise, it would have turned Angie Dvorak's vita at the time of hiring over to the USM Faculty Senate. And the Independent stated that"The invitation to Drews to host the meeting was extended by Lisa Mader, spokesperon for the university."
The depth of the desperation among Thames' supporters can be gauged from comments that Roy Klumb, IHL Board President and, until now, Thames' top public cheerleader, made to Kevin Walters of the American. Klumb despises the liberal arts, and publicly supports the Thames program of ramping up grant funded research while diverting the resources that help to make USM competitive. Making a truly off-the-wall comparison between Thames and Jackie Robinson, Klumb rambled:
"How do we move these universities forward? What set of ideas is going to win at the end of the day? As a university president tries to reshape a university and move it off in a different direction, I don't know who is the Jackie Robinson to sit in that presidential chair without having to fight through a mindset that doesn't want to (change)," Klumb said.
Thames was hired by the board to increase the Southern Miss enrollment and"refocus" its finances to make it financially stronger, Klumb said.
He said Thames has made positive steps but also mentioned the setbacks he's faced. But he stressed the need for change."Is Dr. Thames our Jackie Robinson? I don't know," Klumb said.
Shelby Thames may be too impervious to negative feedback to gauge how tenuous his position has become. But his supporters are surely feeling the shock waves.
A communiqué from the Coca-Cola Cabal should be available tonight or tomorrow. Till then, stay tuned.
Robert L. Campbell
The official statements are in from last night's meeting of Hattiesburg-area businesspeople. The Coca-Cola Cabal (the original location was to be the local Coca-Cola bottler) or Paving Company Putsch was organized to drum up support for Shelby Thames, the President of the University of Southern Mississippi whose hold on power is slipping.
The attendance at Warren Paving Company was a little less than advertised: 185 of those on the invitation list passed through the security check at the door and listened to a series of speakers exhorting them to contact the Mississippi IHL Board and express their unwavering support for Thames.
The Coca-Cola communiqué is purposely uninteresting; what it conceals is far more important than what it reveals. Participants in the meeting were given a long happy-talk list of positive accomplishments at the University of Southern Mississippi. Some were trivial; many pertained to building projects or fundraising that were primarily the work of Thames' predecessors; a few (like the purported redirection of $2 million from administration to the classroom after Thames fired 9 deans and replaced them with five) were demonstrably bogus. And all have been amply promoted by Lisa Mader and her publicity apparatus, so there was little need for a community meeting just to get them out.
The organizers chose as their spokeman Bob Mixon, a car dealer who played a major role in installing Shelby Thames as USM's president in 2002--and in turn received Thames' support for a position on the Mississippi IHL Board (which he didn't get). His public utterances can be seen in today's Hattiesburg American:
Mixon suggested the state College Board should provide greater guidance - to president Shelby Thames and the faculty - on the issues facing the university."I think there has to be a meeting where decisions are made that are binding and the only ones to do that are the College Board," Mixon said."I would hope that they will clarify their position on what they think the role of a president is, that they would clarify their position on the faculty's dissension with the administration."
But Mixon dismissed the faculty's votes against Thames - first a no-confidence vote by nearly all the faculty last year and then a call this year by the Faculty Senate to find a new president."I think it's the College Board's job to set directives and policies for universities," Mixon said."I think it's their job to hire presidents. If they don't like the job the president's doing, they can make a change. But whether a president stays or goes should be the decision of the Board of Trustees of (State) Institutions of Higher Learning, not the Faculty Senate. The people who are going to be affected by the change simply cannot be the ones that decide whether he stays or goes."
Hmm, well, Mixon and his allies are also people who are going to be affected by the change. And they are trying very hard to be"the ones that decide."
He also said the meeting was not held to"bash professors" although Mixon criticized some comments posted anonymously on the American Association of University Professors Web site calling for violence against meeting organizers.
I'm thoroughly familiar with the AAUP-USM message board--on which most posters are anonymous and many are not USM faculty members--and I've seen no such calls for violence. There have been calls for boycotts against businesses that participate in the Paving Company Putsch (and some objections to boycotting the businesses); that's all.
The Sun Herald article on the meeting combines more of Mixon's official statements with a few telling details about the way it was conducted.
In any event, the real purpose of the meeting at Warren Paving comes through in frank comments from people who attended it. This item is part of a series of posts"From Someone Who Was There":
The tone of the meeting was clearly a pro-[Shelby F. Thames] rally. It is important to note that all there were not buying the bill of goods being presented, but it was apparent that those responsible for organizing the meeting were there for the purpose of throwing their support behind SFT. That was a very clear message. The following are some points that were made during the meeting:
It was strongly suggested that only a few faculty are"inciting" the masses. [Former Provost and Faculty Senate President} Myron [Henry] was mentioned specifically as in,"That Myron Henry should have never been brought here!"
Stated that the no confidence votes that have happened in the past were coerced; that is, for fear of reprisal, non-tenured faculty voted along with the masses (for those of you reading this, all votes were by secret ballot!!!)
Those who get tenure, go on to be nonproductive faculty
The Hattiesburg American is biased against Dr. Thames and can't be trusted to print articles or statements correctly; one suggested boycotting the American by cancelling subscriptions or not buying advertising space
Those organizing the meeting that happened tonight have been threatened with bodily harm and boycotting; one participant proclaimed to have a pistol under the seat of his car and stated,"I'm not afraid of some faculty member."
If [Shelby F. Thames] leaves the University, it will not survive; who would want to come to a university in such turmoil?
All were urged to contact the IHL in support of SFT
Everyone was urged to visit the AAUP[-USM] web site [and message board}
There was no mention of SACS probation, the fall from Tier 3 to Tier 4 [in the US News rankings], the College of Business, Nursing, or any academic program for that matter--or the library
Shelby knows how to talk and work the legislature and that helps the university
Teaching faculty are jealous of the Athletic Department.
Okay folks, the tone of the meeting was exactly what one could expect based on the preceding articles in the paper [i.e., the Independent, which ran two more articles on the pro-Thames politicking yesterday]. It is clear to me that their motives were transparent. Love of the University was the least of them!!!!Another poster on the same thread, who went as"Hattiesburg Business Member," objected to the manner in which the Paving Company meeting was run:
The organizers' assumption was that"the invited business leaders" were not bright enough to realize this was a pro-Thames meeting. As each one began their presentation, it began with"this is not a pro-Thames meeting." The ending was always the same: I personally support Shelby and urge you to contact IHL and let them know you support Shelby and the changes he is making.
The implication that our local economy and personal businesses would suffer if Shelby left, because"they fear what the results would be."
The implication that the faculty was entirely to blame for the conflict. No mention was made of the SACS [accreditation] problems, the situation with the College of Business, the embarrassment over the enrollment mistake [when enrollment numbers were deliberately inflated in the Fall of 2003], or the lack of support for academic programs.
Responses to the Coca-Cola Cabal continue to be vigorous. USM's AAUP chapter adopted a resolution at a meeting yesterday afternoon and sent it off to the Mississippi IHL Board. It presents a 15-count indictment of Shelby Thames' role in imperiling the university's accreditation and impeding efforts to get USM off probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. (I will link to it once it appears on the main AAUP-USM website.)
Obviously...to be continued.
Robert L. Campbell
It's Spring Break at the University of Southern Mississippi--a week when you'd expect students to be on vacation, and faculty to at least be taking a breather. But the struggle to replace one of worst university presidents in American history doesn't give anyone a whole lot of time off.
Today subcommittees of the Mississippi IHL Board of Trustees are meeting in Jackson; tomorrow, the full Board gets together. USM's accreditation consultant, Margaret Sullivan, has been summoned to deliver a report on the university's efforts to get off probation with its main accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. But USM president Shelby F. Thames isn't being formally evaluated at these meetings, and the best guess is that he won't be until May.
Still, evidence keeps rolling out about the destruction that Thames has wrought.
Yesterday, Kevin Walters of the Hattiesburg American finally broke the sad story of the USM Nursing program.
The University of Southern Mississippi School of Nursing is toughening its grading standards in order to improve falling state test scores that could jeopardize the school's accreditation....
Peter Fos, dean of the College of Health, said he hopes tougher standards at Southern Miss will result in better scores on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), the standardized test all students in the program must take to become professional nurses. He said the change was made this semester so it would be in place by the fall.
"We want to challenge the students to achieve more and, hopefully, that will be translated to the pass rate on the exam," Fos said.
At issue in the nursing school are students' scores on the test. Scores dropped from a 78.8 percent pass rate to a 75.3 percent pass rate in 2004. That is the lowest score on NCLEX tests for Southern Miss nursing students in 11 years.
The bright line for NCLEX passing rates is 75%. Two years below 75% and the IHL Board is required to put the program on probation.
To put things in perspective, the national average for passing the Nursing board exam has remained in a band between 84 and 87% for some years. In 2000, the USM program achieved a passing rate of 91%; it's been downhill ever since. Under Thamesian rule, the pass rates have been 78.8% for 2003 and now 75.3% for 2004. And this is at the program that educates more nurses than any other in Mississippi--in fact, about half the total. Meanwhile, in the IHL Board's domain, programs at University of Mississippi Medical Center, Alcorn State, Delta State, and even Mississippi University for Women all had higher success rates than USM last year. Two private insitutions, Mississippi College and William Carey College, also did better (both over 90%). William Carey, a small college right in Hattiesburg, has been substantially increasing its enrollment at a time when USM's (despite the constant boasts by Thames' publicity machine) has been scarcely moving up.
So how did this all happen? The American article exclusively quotes Peter Fos, Dean of the College of Health, the only person anywhere near this mess who dared to go on the record. Fos may not know some things about the Nursing program; other things he surely does know, but dares not tell the press about.
Informed sources tell me that the program got into serious trouble in January 2003, when Shelby Thames fired 9 deans and replaced them with 5. The Nursing dean, Marie Ferrell, a highly regarded nursing administrator who had been in Hattiesburg for just a year and a half, was one of those canned; she left USM altogether in May 2003. Nursing was consolidated into a College of Health. The first search for a new Dean failed (it didn't help that the"faculty" representative was none other than Angie Dvorak, the notorious and now-departed VP for Research); Joan Exline, who had been on the search committee, was made Acting Dean. A year later, Fos was hired and Exline was moved into a Special Assistant position reporting directly to Shelby Thames; she now frequently shows her complete ignorance of accreditation procedures, which she is supposed to be in charge of.
What became the School of Nursing in the reorganization has had three directors in three years; the assistant director of the undergraduate program retired last year; and senior faculty have either retired or taken jobs elsehwere. Out of roughly 35 Nursing faculty, only 3 Full Professors and 5 Associate Professors are left; more and nore of the teaching is having to be entrusted to Instructors with Masters degrees.
The loss of professors was so severe that students stopped being admitted to the Ph.D. program in nursing last fall. The School wanted to cut the number of freshman nursing students from 60 to 40, but Thames reportedly ordered Dean Fos to admit 50, while falsely promising to allow the program to hire new faculty.
On top of that, Nursing is physically housed in Harkins Hall, one of many crumbling buildings on the USM campus. As noted in a companion story in yesterday's American, Thames has falsely promised on more than one occasion that he would find the program new quarters. In 2002, USM paid $1.2 million to construction company owner (and local Thames booster) Ray Sims, for a former Albertson's grocery store. The building was supposed to be converted for use by the nursing program, but Thames' CFO, Gregg Lassen, couldn't come up with any money for the renovations, so the building has been sitting empty (except for a few months when Hudson's, a Mississippi-based furniture outlet, needed extra space to display and sell its goods.) Now the Thames regime is admitting that USM can't afford to renovate it.
The empty Albertson's store isn't the only the sizable property standing idle under Thamesian management. In the spring of 2004, Thames and crew announced that the Van Hook golf course was being closed to make way for an industrial park, whose tenants were to be recruited by Thames' administrator-without-portfolio, Ken Malone. Van Hook is now vacant; no one has moved in yet. Apparently Malone has been too busy trying to ruin the College of Business to concentrate on finding tenants.
Thames and his crew are well aware that public revelations about the state of the nursing program will hurt them. Kevin Walter's article about the program's woes includes this unusual passage:
Seven current nursing students contacted by the Hattiesburg American said they feared reprisals from Southern Miss nursing faculty and other students if they spoke on the record about concerns they had over changes in the nursing program.
Fos said he had not heard of any threats and did not condone them.
But of course Fos has heard of the threats. And they did not originate from professors in the program, or even from his office. They came from Shelby Thames and his immediate underlings. So nursing professors at USM face a dilemma. If they speak out against Thames, they could be fired, they will certainly be punished, and he will get revenge by further destroying the nursing program. If they don't speak out against Thames, they could end up losing their jobs because of deaccreditation or major cuts in state appropriations to higher education, and Thames will keep"having fun"--destroying the nursing program.
And, needless to say, redefining a C from 70 out of 100 to 77, as the School of Nursing just did, is a mere bandaid. The measure was taken in a program that can't hire the professors it needs at a university that has adopted open admissions for most undergraduate programs and is retaining many of its undegrads through grade hyperinflation. A 3.0 grade point average is now below the mean in many programs at USM.
Robert L. Campbell
Today, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board took another step back from its biggest failed project. It adopted new rules, modeled on the Georgia state system, whereby the presidents of each of the 8 state universities in Mississippi will report directly to the IHL Commissioner. Although the framework adopted today is a draft, if it is filled in along the the lines suggested at a recent Board retreat, future presidential contracts will be year-to-year--no more of those 4-year terms that have been granted up to now. The Commissioner will evaluate the presidents' performance every year, and will have the authority to fire them.
"This is a significant reform in higher education in Mississippi," said Virginia Shanteau Newton of Gulfport, the board's vice president and chairwoman of the commissioner search committee.
"Our goal is to be a more effective board and again recognize that we're lay people."
According to Amy Young, the current President of the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors, who was at the meeting, the Board specifically renounced micromanagement of the affairs of the 8 universities in the system. It also declared an end to Board members showing allegiance toward particular universities in the system (easier said than done, but it's never been said before).
There is absolutely no doubt which president brought so many headaches on the Board that it became willing to delegate that much power to the Commissioner (who is really the Board's head staff person). Choosing Shelby F. Thames for the top position at the University of Southern Mississippi, and keeping him in office for nearly 3 years, may be the worst personnel decisions that the Board has ever made.
The change will keep Interim Commissioner Richard Crofts in office until August. By strengthening Crofts' hand, the Board has made it much easier for him to restrain Thames when he pulls his next maneuver that will threaten USM's accrediation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The downside is that Crofts won't be available to replace Thames as president until August. And since Crofts came out of retirement to take the Commissioner job, he may well be planning to retire permanently by the end of the summer.
Still, the tide is now running swiftly against Thames and his political backers. The Hattiesburg-area business leaders who organized the Paving Company Putsch (the complete prepared speech by their spokesperson, Bob Mixon, has been made available; I'll post it soon) now have cause to regret going public with their efforts to prolong Thames' reign.
No signal could have been clearer than the complete absence of Roy Klumb, the Board President, who until last month's meeting had been serving as Thames' personal cheerleader. Presiding over the meetings was Virginia Shanteau Newton, the only Board member to cast a public vote against making Thames president of USM in 2002, and an outspoken critic of his performance ever since. Newton takes over as Board President at the May meeting.
What's more, according to Young, the Board's new rules call for electing its President and Vice-President, instead of rotating through the membership. The President will now the sole public spokesperson for the Board--a change that was already informally in effect a month ago. Newton had to keep quiet after Feburary's meeting--even though the Board was tilting more in her direction than was publicly apparent at the time-- but starting in May it is Klumb who will have to keep quiet.
It now appears that only three Board members could be counted on to support keeping Thames past the expiration of his current contract in May 2006. Apart from Klumb, who may be having second thoughts, Scott Ross and Tom Colbert are still identified as rabidly pro-Thames. Whatever the other Board members think of USM (and we can be sure that some of them are ill-disposed toward the university), they are sick of Thames and the bad press he never fails to bring them.
Even with Thames most likely gone in May 2006, and closely supervised till then, USM is in plenty of trouble. If Thames retains any power, he will be sure to abuse it; if kept on such a short leash that it puts him in danger of choking, he will merely be ineffective. The university still has to deal with its accreditation problems and prepare for a sharp cut in its appropriation from the state legislature. Most state university administrations handle budget cuts maladaptively; Thames, if left in charge of such matters, will use a budget cut to eliminate as many faculty positions as possible, while preserving every bit of the administrative padding that he has added. In addition to those who have already given up, and will be leaving USM for other jobs this May, a large number of professors are going to seek employment elsewhere so they can leave by May of next year--unless they are sure that Thames will be gone. By contrast, there would be a huge upsurge of support for any new president who meets modest standards of competence and decency.
The Board also heard a report from Margaret Sullivan, the SACS consultant who has been working with USM faculty and administration to deal with probation. Sullivan, who is paid by USM, was upbeat about its prospects of resolving the probation, while refraining from criticizing any constituency. But then, she has only been on campus a total of 5 days since she began working for USM in early January, and isn't due back till May 9. She has never met with a single faculty member individually; all of her encounters have been with faculty committees, such as the Academic Council, where upper administrators were always present. I suspect, too, that paid consultants don't make public mention of such matters as direct intervention by the Commissioner, ordering the president to retract an order that threatened the univesity's accreditation (as happened in the wake of the Black Friday memo). Nor do they bring up such matters as passing out SACS report forms to a university committee, only to find that the administrator supposedly in charge of accreditation has never seen that form before, or mentioned it to the faculty participants.
USM is hurting badly; it hasn't been saved yet. But the end of the Thames regime is becoming visible.