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Monday, February 11, 2008

CMU Vs. Dennis Lennox: The Chess Match

Introduction: For anyone unfamiliar with this story, here is a quick run down. In March, Gary Peters was hired to the prestigious Griffin Chair at the Political Science Department at Central Michigan University. This move raised eyebrows because Peters was simultaneously preparing a run for the U.S. Congress in a district hundreds of miles away from campus. A group of students led by Dennis Lennox began tracking the case and even started this web site. A couple of months ago, a FOIA request led to the release of dozens of emails found here. There were several emails that indicated that Peter's hiring was ideological and political. Furthermore, several emails used incendiary language toward Lennox himself, and once he was compared to the Virginia Tech shooter. In October, Lennox got into a controversial confrontation with Dean of Students Pamela Gates. The confrontation was captured on video and can be found here. At this time, the administration became more heavy handed toward Lennox. He was eventually cited for multiple violations of their student code of conduct. He was cited for passing out literature inside a university building and not identifying himself to a university official. About a week and a half ago, he was to face a disciplinary hearing when fate stepped in. A blizzard cancelled all school activities that day. Since the cancellation the story has become largely silent. The silence is deafening to me and that is the subject of this next piece.

While they certainly had nothing to do with the blizzard that canceled Dennis Lennox' disciplinary hearing a week and a half ago, it looks as though the administration has benefitted from it. I was told a while ago that Lennox' best ally is media pressure. That is exactly what he got as he faced his disciplinary hearing. The media pressure lead to angry emails, faxes and phone calls from alumni and others demanding that he receive better treatment. Had the administration proceeded with the hearing, they would have been in a no win situation. If they had actually come down on Lennox with any significant sanctions, they would have faced the pitchforks of everyone that was paying attention to the story. If they only gave him a slap on the wrist, they would have lost that leverage.

Instead, the blizzard allowed them to cancel the hearing, and in the meantime, the interest in the story has died down as well. Of course, nothing much has changed. Gary Peters continues to be on the Central Michigan University payroll despite all sorts of documented incidents of conflict of interest. Peters is concurrently running for the U.S. Congress in a district hundreds of miles away from campus. If he wins, he will likely have to give up his lucrative post at CMU as Griffin Chairman. Lennox continues to be under the same cloud he was that morning, and his disciplinary hearing still hasn't been resolved.

Thus, the situation is still where it always was and in the meantime the case has left the public consciousness. The administration couldn't have drawn up the situation any better if they did control the weather. The situation remains status quo. The media attention dies down, and in the meantime they can re group and figure things out.

Of course, it appears that Dennis Lennox had the same thoughts as me, and he wasn't about to sit by while the administration regrouped. Here is a press release he emailed to me...

Legal action will be taken against Central Michigan University unless they respond to a formal complaint by 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

A complaint was filed on Jan. 31 with CMU President Michael Rao, Provost Julia Wallace and Dean of Students Bruce Roscoe alleging that some employees are violating school policies and the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act with their efforts to shield Democratic congressional candidate Gary Peters from criticism.

CMU delayed a hearing aimed at expelling Students Against Gary Peters spokesman Dennis Lennox because bad weather closed campus, and the faculty has repeatedly gone after Lennox for expressing his personal beliefs.

"It's difficult to attend classes and learn when some at CMU are creating a hostile learning environment with their malicious attacks against me," said Lennox. "I came here to get an education – not defend myself from out-of-control faculty and administrators."

The English Department faculty has called the Students Against Gary Peters spokesman "Virginia Tech dangerous," saying he suffers from mental illness because he holds "noxious political and social beliefs."

Thus, while the administration is re grouping, Lennox has taken matters into his own hands and is threatening to file suit. One thing appears clear in this confrontation, the stakes continue to get raised by each side the longer it gets drawn out.

2 comments: said...

The real shame in this is that Lennox has entirely valid and compelling points about Peters position at the University.

What he and CMU have succeeded in doing is shifting the focus away from Peters and the school's shenanigans and on to the student. Worse, they've done it awfully maliciously. Assault, character assasination, expulsion hearings...

Sad commentary on the left and academia that they'll go to these extremes to protect a congressional candidate in a district hundreds of miles away from entirely justified criticism.


mike volpe said...

It isn't merely a shame, but likely, it is be design, Nick. Having followed the fiasco at Grady,

The administration there also made Kevin Kuritzky the story rather than their own corruption.

The reason is quite logical. In a debate, if the facts are on your side then you argue the facts. If they aren't, you try and attack the credibility of the opponent.

It is exactly because Lennox had the facts that the admin tried to make him the story. By turning everyone's attention from the important story of their own corruption, and turning it to something entirely different, they have managed to take the light off of the hiring of Peters and onto something else.

I have seen it before and we will see it again in any other case of corruption.