If history repeats itself as the old saying goes, we should not have long to wait before we hear that Missouri Southern State University President Bruce Speck is writing a book about some gay leader or something to appeal to the people he has angered on campus over the past several days.
If you have been following the situation, two sit-ins have been held outside Speck's office in recent days, both demanding that the university add gays to its non-discrimination policy.
The push began after Board of Governors member David Ansley made a comment during a meeting about the school's mascot, comparing the new mascot a "ferocious" lion to the old one, a "fag" lion.
Ansley resigned after his remark created an uproar. Speck meanwhile responded to requests for the addition to the university's non-discrimination policy with the biggest load of doublespeak the area has ever seen, much noise signifying nothing.
So now would be a great time for a new book by the prolific Speck. As I noted in the Aug. 25 Turner Report:
It was probably just a coincidence that Austin Peay President Dr. Sherry Hoppe and Provost Bruce Speck decided to write a book on a chapter of the civil rights movement in Memphis at a time when they and the university were being sued for racial discrimination.
That book, Maxine Smith's Unwilling Pupils, published in 2007 by the University of Tennessee Press is the one and only book either Dr. Hoppe or Speck, who is now president of Missouri Southern State University, has written about civil rights, though both have authored or co-authored several books.
The genesis for the book came from a meeting Dr. Hoppe had with the book's subject, Maxine Smith at a Tennessee Board of Regents meeting. Dr. Hoppe said she heard Mrs. Smith speak, was fascinated by her, and suggested that a book be written.
The timing, as mentioned before, could not have been better for such a book as far as Dr. Hoppe was concerned. Her early years at Austin Peay had been marred by the lawsuits, which also included Speck as a defendant.
The following passage is taken from an earlier Turner Report post:
In the lawsuit, which was filed in the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, a former Austin Peay employee claimed Speck made "covert racial" remarks directed at her.
The lawsuit said that Speck, who served as vice president of academic affairs at the university, insulted two of the plaintiffs, Jacqueline Wade, director of the university's African American Cultural Center (AACC) and Nancy Dawson by saying
"he 'was tired of your arm-twisting and resistance to my decisions.'
He also made clear that he would not tolerate Dr. Wade’s and Dr. Dawson’s 'pushiness' and 'uppityness.' Dr. Wade was offended by the latter comment as 'covert racial denigration.' "
At the time, Dr. Wade was fighting the administration over cuts to her staff's budget. The lawsuit says, "Dr. Wade 'limped along' without adequate staff and funds. She felt that none of the co-curricular programs directed by Caucasian directors suffered the same budget and staff cuts."
In the lawsuit, Dr. Wade says she was racially harassed by Dr. Speck on another occasion as she battled for her job, harassment which led her to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In 2003, Dr. Hoppe (university president Sherry Hoppe) proposed a reorganization plan for APSU. The AACC and the AASP (African American Studies Program) were assigned to the Department of History and Philosophy. Dr. Wade and Dr. Dawson objected, and ultimately Dr. Speck placed the AACC as a direct report to the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. Dr. Wade states she was not given an opportunity to upgrade her administrative rank under this new reporting line and the AACC did not receive any funding support from the College of Arts and Letters. Dr. Wade received a memorandum from Dr. Speck which she considered to be very antagonistic, amounting to racial harassment. She responded the same day and from then on felt she was treated in a hostile manner by Drs. Hoppe, Speck, and Filippo. Dr. Wade attests that various studies and investigations showed the existence of racism on the APSU campus.
Initially, according to interviews with Austin Peay's campus newspaper, the All State, Dr. Hoppe told Mrs. Smith she had a faculty member who could write the book. At that time, the faculty member, Dr. Dwonna Goldstone was writing Integrating the 40 Acres: The 50-Year Struggle for Racial Equality at the University of Texas.
Dr. Goldstone agreed to write the book, but later withdrew when it became clear that what Dr. Hoppe wanted was a hastily-written book, which would not allow any kind of scholarly investigation into Mrs. Smith's life.
The writing duties were turned over to Dr. Hoppe herself and Bruce Speck, the two people most cited in the racial discrimination complaints against Austin Peay.
Speck said the fast turnaround time was due to Mrs. Smith's health. He told the All State, "Maxine's health is not very good, so there was a concern to make sure we got something out."
Dr. Goldstone had written one chapter, in the book, which was used, according to an All-State article, which was written after word reached the campus newspaper that there were problems with the book. At that point, Dr. Hoppe acknowledged that Dr. Goldstone had written the chapter and said she had been given credit. That credit amounted to a citation to the chapter Dr. Goldstone wrote, indicating she had "contributed."
The book was criticized in the All State by Austin Peay professor of history Richard Gildne, who dismissed it as "a work of public history," as opposed to academic history, where books often take several years to write. Dr. Hoppe wanted the Maxine Smith book written in months.
In the All State interviews, Dr. Speck explained the research process, saying he and Dr. Hoppe examined the contents of 50 boxes of Mrs. Smith's records stored in the archives at the Memphis Public Library. "When they saw something they wanted, they photocopied it, he said." That process took four or five days. While they were going through the archives, interviews took place, but those interviewed were not questioned by Dr. Speck or Dr. Hoppe, but by others. "We took two or three people to conduct the interviews," Speck told the campus newspaper.
The manuscript took two months to write, Dr. Speck and Dr. Hoppe, but it was more than that. They also worked on weekends and a couple of vacation days. And the process, Dr. Speck told the All State was "educative." Speck was shocked to find out that racial discrimination actually occurred in the South in the 1950s.
"We started reading about how African Americans were treated. They were really treated with disdain."
That is putting it mildly, Dr. Speck.
The proceeds from the book go to a scholarship set up in Mrs. Smith's name.