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Sunday, May 18, 2008

CMU Vs. Dennis Lennox: A Failure of Leadership

The ordeal that brought Dennis Lennox, a Junior at CMU, in direct confrontation with his administration has lasted about 14 months. Fourteen months ago, CMU hired Gary Peters to the distinguished Griffin Chair. This was always a controversial hire because Peters had already formed an exploratory committee to run for Congress in a district hundreds of miles from campus. In the subsequent fourteen months, the administration went through all sorts of extraordinary steps to protect Peters. Furthermore, they went through all sorts of extreme steps to confront and intimidate Dennis Lennox, a junior that became the sore in their side on this case.

The effort was coordinated between the Dean of Students Pamela Gates, the head of the Political Science Department, Del Ringquist, and all the while the President of the school, Michael Rao stood up and did nothing. At all levels of the administration, not only was Peters protected, but Lennox was targeted. Which makes the ruling from last week that much more stunning.

The affair had its climax last week when the administration reached this decision.

Reports out of Mount Pleasant indicate the school's Human Resources Department has finalized a policy that would require professors to pick between Congress and campus.

Under the new policy, which comes some three weeks after classes ended, Peters will be required to resign by June 5 -- 60 days before the Democratic primary on August 5 -- if he wants to challenge Congressman Joe Knollenberg.

Now, since the beginning Lennox wanted for Gary Peters to choose between running for U.S. Congress, in a district hundreds of miles from campus, and serving as the chair of the prestigious Griffin Chair. Of course, between now and the beginning of this affair, the administration did all sorts of things to not only protect Peters but to attack Lennox.

From emails sent back and forth between staff, we can see that Peters' hire likely had less to do with qualification and more to do with ideology and political favoritism.

I think there is a growing impression that CMU is a Conservative Republican base and I and several others have heard this over and over from folks in our own administration, the faculity, and from Lansing politicians. The Department of Political Scinece has had top rate policy analysts in the first effort to fill the Griffin Chair and they percieve that they were overridden because of Ranny Ricker's call regarding (name blacked out). In the second search to fill the Griffin Chair the Department received a hassle when they found a moderate Republican to have cleared al the hurdles and a political ally and close associate of John Engler was almost foisted upon them even though the person lacked the same excellent qualifications as Bill Ballinger...


As close as he (Gary Peters) is to the governor (Jennifer Granholm), it might look bad for CMU if he is not offered the position after such a recommendation."

Of course, as corrupt as the hire was, it was nothing compared to the corruption that CMU created to protect Peters and confront and intimidate Lennox. The administration created a ban on video cameras after a couple confrontational incidents between Lennox and Peters. (creating a bit of political strange bedfellows between the conservative Lennox and the ACLU which rushed to his aid in this matter)

Furthermore, Lennox was involved in his own highly confrontational incident also caught on camera. Here she commits assault on Lennox when he attempts to serve here with a FOIA request.

After this confrontation, the school went on a systematic attempt to try and discipline Lennox. Not only were the charges dubious, but the whole process was anything but fair. It was scheduled and cancelled multiple times. Finally, when Lennox showed up to his disciplinary hearing with multiple media in March, the administration cancelled the hearing and announced that the next hearing would be held in secret without Lennox being in attendance.

They went ahead and held the hearing in secret while students were on Spring break. Of course, the charges that all of this stemmed from came from an incident in which a school professor confronted Lennox inside a school building late in the evening when Lennox was attempting to pass out literature. Because the simple act of passing out literature was against the CMU student code of conduct, and because Lennox wouldn't identify himself to the professor (another technical violation), this incident lead to a five month ordeal for Lennox. Keep in mind that underage drinking is also against the CMU student code of conduct, and yet the school allows the freshman and sophomores to systematically violate that policy, while they strictly enforced Lennox' aggressive use of free speech and his unwillingness to identify himself to a stranger in the evening.

These are just some of the things that the administration did to Lennox and for Gary Peters during the last year plus and after all of this the administration agreed with the premise of Lennox' arguement. Of course, Dennis Lennox hasn't changed what his position since this affair started at the beginning of April 2007.

In other words, while they systematically targeted Lennox and protected their corrupt hire Gary Peters after over a year they admitted they were wrong and Dennis Lennox was right. Now, I am reminded of the climactic scene of the movie, Quiz Show.

I'm happy that you've made the statement. But I cannot agree with most of my colleagues. See, I don't think an adult of your intellegence should be commended for simply, at long last, telling the truth.

While I commend the administration for finally coming to their senses, it doesn't excuse their behavior over the last year and more. Their admission finally at long last makes their behavior over this whole affair that much more despicable, unprofessional, and ultimately a failure of leadership.

When leaders fail to lead, new leaders must replace them. Everyone from the President of the school, Michael Rao, to the Dean of Students, Pamela Gates, to the head of the Political Science Department, Del Ringquist, showed an utter failure of leadership. From the beginning rather than standing up for a good and proper process, they stood up for corruption. Rather than protecting the rights of their students, they trampled on them. This whole affair should have never happened because it takes basic common sense to know that hiring Peters would have lead to disaster. Not only did they commit this corrupt hire, but the entire leadership of the school then went on to commit obscene amounts of more corruption to protect that hire. In the meantime, Dennis Lennox saw many rights squelched and trampled on. Peters was paid a rather large salary to simultaneously campaign hundreds of miles away while he was supposed to be dedicated to teaching. All of this happened because the leadership has no idea what the word lead means. If your leaders aren't leading, then there is nothing but chaos. That is what this whole affair wound up being.

I will not show anymore hubris in calling for the administration to do anything, but I do know that none have shown any ability to do the most important function of their respective offices...lead. If they can't perform that function, how can do their jobs?


Anonymous said...

Sorry, wrong again.

From the Morning Sun:

A proposed political activity policy for Central Michigan University employees has some confused as to who the proposed policy actually speaks to, and when it will go in effect.

"It is a proposed update to a policy that has been on the books since 1955," CMU spokesman Steve Smith said.

"It's a long way off from becoming a policy," he said.

Smith said that it will not affect any employees that are currently running for political office because it is just a draft and would have to go through all of the collective bargaining units on campus, as well as the CMU Board of Trustees before approval.

mike volpe said...

Before you say again, you have to have a first time when someone is wrong. Thus, you first need to tell me when I was wrong before.

Second, and much more importantly, you need a serious lesson in big picture. The important about this is not whether or not they have finalized the policy or not. If they do this and then don't finalize it, they really show a failure in leadership.

What is important is that Dennis Lennox was put through hell in order to protect Gary Peters and maintain the very policy they are now in the final stages of changing to exactly what Lennox wanted in the first place.

I assume you are the same person arguing the same thing on Right Michigan, and you look no less like a fool there too. Fixating yourself on which stage of the process the policy is at rather than realizing what the change in policy means, means that you are totally oblivious to what has happened.