Buy My Book Here

Fox News Ticker

Please check out my new books, "Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney's Kafkaesque Divorce and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the World's Last Custody Trial"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

CMU Vs. Dennis Lennox: The Lessons of Unchecked Arrogance

Introduction: Here is a quick summary of the fiasco at Central Michigan University and its hire of Gary Peters. Peters was hired in March of last year to the distinguished Griffin Chair in the Political Science department at Central Michigan University. This was a controversial hire because Peters had already filed formal paperwork exploring a run at the U.S. Congress in a district hundreds of miles away from the campus. Dennis Lennox, currently a junior at CMU, immediately began tracking the story and even created this website. In October, Lennox had a controversial confrontation with the Dean of Students at CMU, Pamela Gates. Following this incident the manner in which the administration treated Lennox became much more heavy handed and it all culminated in a disciplinary hearing against him that might have lead to his expulsion. This hearing was postponed due to a blizzard. In the meantime, Lennox has spoken at CPAC about the ordeal, and has recently teamed with the Michigan Republican Party for more publicity. Peters continues to teach at CMU and run for Congress concurrently.

I hate speculating and even more I hate trying to get in another person's head, however I am fairly sure that when the fiasco at Central Michigan University started the administration never imagined the sophistication and media savvy that Dennis Lennox has been able to exhibit. Lennox has been able to ally himself with every entity from to the ACLU to the Michigan Republican Party and everyone in between, including to a certain extent yours truly. In many ways, it is quite surreal. One time I had a conversation with Lennox that he had to squeeze in between a conference call and homework. Most recently, he started a campaign along with the Michigan Republican Party: Where's Gary Peters? The two allies even created and set up an oversized milk cartoon with Peter's name and photo on it outside a meeting held by some administration officials. This comes on the heels of Lennox being invited to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Nearly single handidly organizing and orchestrating a full media campaign for nine months on this fiasco in between classes and all other college activities is frankly rather impressive, and more than that, something the admin couldn't have possibly dreamed could happen from a "mere" junior in college when they made him their adversary. This is just one of many instances where I see the administration unchecked arrogance and where it became their own albatross and fatal flaw.

The first instance of arrogance came in the decision to hire Peters' in the first place. It is still unclear, and will likely never be known, if the administration knew the inherent conflicts and ignored them or didn't even realize that hiring him would create a conflict at all. Either way, it was yet another example of overwhelming arrogance. Several internal emails released as a result of a FOIA request indicate that Peters' hire became political and ideological. Several members of the political science department, including its' head Del Ringquist, appeared determined, according to the emails, to hire a liberal and a Democrat. The fact that Peters was on record as exploring a run at the U.S. Congress, in a district hundreds of miles from the campus no less, never seemed to enter any discussion. (at least none of the emails released showed much of a debate of that conflict) Again, it may have been a matter of the admin not even realizing the conflict or not caring about it, but either way this obvious oversight was due solely to their unchecked arrogance.

Once Peters was hired, many of the current students as well as many other alumni began questioning the decision. (This is also indicated through several emails released from angry students and alumni) This was followed by growing media scrutiny and even many politicians started to question the decision. Yet, the administration wouldn't budge. The concerns of students were dismissed. Here is how one email framed their concerns...

Furthermore, this continued diatrobe from (again name blacked out) and his friends does not represent the majority of CMU students nor does it present accurate facts to the public. This is an Endowed Chair- not one that is supported by student tuition dollars. To allow (again name blacked out) the power to dictate who will or will not serve as the Griffein Endowed Chair for American Government is not a precedent I
believe we should support.

I have several family and friends in academia and I firmly believe that the reputation of arrogance and elitism that some give it is overblown, however in this case and certainly this email, the perception of the ivory tower arrogance that academia has is perpetuated. Clearly, all opposing viewpoints were dismissed as marginal and a minority. By failing to listen, or at least address legitimately, to the voices of its students, alumni, and other entities outside the campus the administration again exhibited the sort of arrogance that ultimately became its own undoing.

In October, following this controversial incident, caught on tape and downloaded to youtube, between Lennox and Dean Pamela Gates, the administration became quite heavy handed toward Lennox. (I wrote about it extensively here) The admin went through formal proceedings and charged Lennox with what amounted to passing out literature where he wasn't supposed to and not identifying himself to a stranger. The formal proceedings nearly reached a full and formal hearing until weather stepped in and they were postponed. It was never clear what the administration hoped to accomplish. Had they come down in a heavy handed manner on Lennox, the public outcry would have been so great, all their jobs would immediately have likely been in jeopardy. If they merely gave him a slap on the wrist, they wouldn't have deterred him from following the story. Frankly, even if they had kicked Lennox out of school, which frankly would have likely spelled their own eventual pink slips as well in my opinion, he and everyone else wouldn't have stopped reporting on the story. The charges were quickly snuffed out by almost everyone as nothing more than a trojan horse to intimidate Lennox. Their emails, phones, and faxes were lit up as a result. Throughout the whole formal proceeding, Lennox never let up in reporting on the story. If the admin hoped to intimidate him with the charges, they failed. If they really hoped to accomplish anything positive for themselves, it was strictly due to arrogance.

Finally, the fiasco isn't much different today than it was when it started. Peters' is simultaneously serving as Griffin Chair and running for Congress, in a district hundreds of miles away. Lennox, and his group Students Against Gary Peters, only want him to choose between the two. The administration has never to this day answered with any clarity how these two dual roles can work simultaneously. Yet, they have dug in and refuse to admit they were wrong and correct it. The administration must know that we live in the Google age. The longer this goes on the more articles will be written about it, and the more times each of their names, along with the good name of the university itself, will be associated with this fiasco, and thus along with any google search. Their refusal to recognize the mistake they made and correct it is the last example of their unchecked arrogance and how it has become a fatal flaw.

Thus, among the many lessons of the fiasco at CMU is the lesson of unchecked arrogance and its own fatal flaw.

No comments: