Saturday, August 22, 2009
MSSU Presidential Search Committee failed to do its job
Faculty members at Austin Peay University would have been happy to have given the Missouri Southern State University Presidential Search Committee the lowdown on the havoc created by Dr. Bruce Speck on their campus...but no one ever asked.
During the past few weeks, I have corresponded via e-mail and had telephone conversations with current and former Austin Peay faculty members and students and none of them knew of anyone who had talked to anyone at Missouri Southern about Bruce Speck.
Had they talked to any of the sizable anti-Speck contingent at Austin Peay, the committee, which was led by MSSU Board of Governors member Dwight Douglas, would have discovered the following things:
-Speck was considered an enforcer for the university's former president, Dr. Sherry Hoppe, who created the same kind of friction on campus during her tenure as Speck has created at Missouri Southern.
-Hoppe and Speck created havoc for the international studies program at the university, forcing it to go through an audit. Speck has taken the same kind of approach to what had been Missouri Southern's crown jewel, its international mission.
-After Speck was named provost at Austin Peay, he made friends at the first meeting with faculty afterwards by insisting that they did not work enough hours and they were prone to inappropriate relations with students. Both allegations appeared to have come out of left field.
-Speck and Ms. Hoppe were sued by African American faculty members who charged them with discrimination. One of the members said, as I have noted on The Turner Report, that Speck called her "uppity." Though the faculty members who talked to The Turner Report said those who sued did not have a strong case (and their lawsuits were tossed out both at the district and appellate levels), the situations would never have occurred if Speck and Hoppe had used some tact when dealing with people.
-Faced with the lawsuits and charges of racial discrimination, Hoppe made a deal to have a respected faculty member and historian write a biography of Memphis civil rights pioneer Maxine Smith. When the professor, Dwonna Goldstone, was not willing to sacrifice academic integrity or scholarly standards to push the book through in a few months for the political pick-me-up Hoppe and Speck needed, they pushed Dr. Goldstone into removing herself from the project, and wrote it themselves, a book that was derided as more a "popular history" book than an academic history.
The search for a replacement for Dr. Julio Leon, who was forced out by the Board of Governors after a quarter of a century, began in controversy as the board discussed in closed session the hiring of a search firm, a clear violation of the Sunshine Law.
Forty-one applicants sought the position, but only two were deemed worthy of an interview, and when the other candidate took the president's post at another university, the Board ended up interviewing only one candidate, Speck, whom Douglas then shepherded through a public session in which questions and answers had to be written and pre-screened, which prevented anyone from seeing how well Speck reacted under pressure.
In upcoming posts, I will examine in detail each of the items I have mentioned.