USM Administration Keeps an Embarrassing Issue Alive
During the crisis at the University of Southern Mississippi, President Shelby Thames and his cronies have done an excellent job of keeping an a major source of embarrassment alive.
When a university administrator, or anyone who enjoys the sponsorship of administrators, is caught misrepresenting his or her background or accomplishments, the top administrators normally work feverishly to ensure that the charges of misrepresentation do not get press coverage. They do not bring the issue in front of the public, let alone strive to keep it there.
Yet keep it there is precisely what Shelby Thames, the President of the University of Southern Mississippi, and his backers have done, in their ham-handed efforts to protect his Vice President for Research and Economic Development, Angelina Dvorak.
The wall of containment was breached on January 16, 2004, when information about Angeline Dvorak's vita was released to local television station WDAM. On January 20, 2004, Shelby Thames and Angelina Dvorak called a press conference to proclaim that she had not made any misrepresentations on her vita. At the press conference Dvorak threatened to sue anyone who questioned her claim to have been an Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky, instead of President of Ashland Community College, with tenured Associate Professor status in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. When the press conference took place, the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors, led by Frank Glamser, had not even issued its report on Dvorak's credentials.
By calling Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer into his office on March 5 and firing them for daring to check out claims made on Dvorak's vita, Thames ensured that questions about Dvorak's credentials would keep following her around. Even after the awkward settlement that was imposed during Glamser and Stringer's appeal hearing of April 28, Thames and his allies have repeatedly renewed the issue in front of the public.
When Thames backer and soon-to-be state College Board President Roy Klumb went on a call-in show and tried to obliterate the settlement, he was keeping Dvorak's credentials in front of the public. When the Mississippi Business Journal published an interview with Dvorak under the headline,"In the middle of a storm, Dvorak credentials stand up," it put the issue back in front of the public. And the MBJ article was obviously Dvorak's idea: The opening paragraphs make the now-familiar false claim that the Vice President for Research at USM does not need to be a tenured faculty member--even though evaluating faculty members for tenure and promotion is part of the Vice President's job, and USM's Faculty Handbook requires that anyone who evaluates faculty members for tenure must be tenured, and anyone who evaluates faculty members for promotion must have attained the rank that the faculty member is being considered for promotion to. The actual interview questions are all softballs; the article's author, Lynne W. Jeter, not only wrote for Pointe Innovation magazine, which Dvorak says she founded, but published a book about WorldCom that managed to skate over the company's accounting scandal and ensuing bankruptcy.
So the questions about Dvorak's vita are never going to go away. (If you have a subscription you can see, for instance, how they are treated in the Chronicle of Higher Education's recent update on the USM crisis.) Dvorak, Thames, his spokesflack Lisa Mader, and his backer Roy Klumb have done everything in their power to make sure that they won't. They have acted in flagant disregard of the administrator's prime imperative: Avoid Bad Publicity.
Thames met with the deans of the five colleges and the library yesterday morning. So far, they all still have their jobs, but well-informed sources indicate that at least two of them remain in imminent danger of being fired. Myron Henry, the President of the Faculty Senate, and several other vocal critics of Thames and his henchcrew are thought to be close in line behind them, should Thames remain in power.
The Academic Council at USM met yesterday and passed a unanimous resolution demanding that the administration cease surveillance of faculty and student emails, and publicly reveal the names of those who have been spied on in the past.
And today the student newspaper at USM hits the administration hard, regarding the settlement, the email spying, and the order to the deans to violate the state Freedom of Information Act.
As always, for the latest news see the Fire Shelby Web site.
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