Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hurrricane Klara: SSU's Perfect Storm

(This is a re-posting of  piece that originally appeared in River Vices on Oct. 25, 2005. I am currently writing another piece on Kay Reynolds called “Slumlord Klara,” in the writing of which I was reminded that, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Yes, the political hack is back on the SSU  Board of Trustees only now its Governor Kasich, not Governor Taft, she will be an embarrassment to.)

As if SSU needed any further dumbing down, Governor Robert Taft has appointed Kay “Hurricane Klara” Reynolds as chair of the Shawnee State Board of Trustees. It is the kind of stupid political move that has sent Taft’s poll numbers plummeting and almost guarantees that Ohio Republicans will be made to pay by voters in the next election.

Taft has already pleaded no contest to ethic violations. If only he could be put on trial for acting like a dodo, which is what he was in appointing Reynolds chair of the trustees. If anyone in the governor’s office could remember that far back, or cared, Klara Kay Reynolds was one of those trustees who conspired with university lawyer Stephen P. Donohue to remove the most popular and effective president Shawnee State has ever had, James P. Chapman, causing an uproar on campus and reinforcing SSU’s abysmal reputation in the academic world.

Reynold’s appointment caps a trend at SSU, which more than any other institution of higher education I know of shows the validity of the “Peter Principle,” which is “The theory that employees [and trustees] within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent” (American Heritage Dictionary). With Hurricane Klara as chair of the trustees, Stephen P. Donohue as de facto president, Rita Rice Morris as nominal president, Michael Field as provost, and John Kelley as interim dean, we are faced with the equivalent of a perfect storm of incompetence and questionable ethics.

Rita Rice Morris has made a name for herself by jumping out of airplanes and joining in the beatification of real estate developer Neal Hatcher but not for being a strong leader. She lives in the infamous house on the hill, that distressed piece of property on Camelot Drive, that money pit that the trustees purchased at an inflated price from a doctor in distress, just as they had previously bought from local lawyer and politician John Thatcher at an inflated price a temporary president’s house, i.e., a piece of distressed property, on Franklin Blvd, which the trustees then took a $50 thousand loss on when they sold it to another doctor. Doctors and lawyers are among Portsmouth’s over-privileged who profit from public treasuries.

Donohue, the over-privileged’s defacto president at SSU, handled the Franklin Blvd. fiasco from start to finish. As an Asst. Attorney General for the State of Ohio, Donohue would of course have known whether the purchase of the Thatcher house violated state law, wouldn’t he? Hired in a stealth search and on the basis of a resume that would not have got him even an interview at an ethical institution, he then declined, once hired, to discuss his past history with a Daily Times reporter. Since he is rumored to have been fired from his previous job, we can begin to understand his doctored resume and his reluctance to be interviewed about his past job experience.

Provost Field, acting as interim president, was just the kind of obliging bureaucrat whom the over-privileged of Portsmouth and several trustees and Donohue wanted as the next permanent president of SSU, but Field’s performance as provost and then as interim president was rated very poorly by the faculty, and then the campaign to make him the new president was handled so incompetently by his handlers that he was not even among the three finalists chosen by the presidential search committee. There has usually been at least one trustee of integrity, and that is another reason why Field did not become the new president. Field ended up, with a hefty raise, back in the provost’s office, at the job at which he never should have been temporarily promoted from, according to the Peter Principle. As provost, he had clearly reached his level of incompetence, and there he will probably remain until he retires, for who else, given his track record at SSU, would hire him, and who given his willingness to play ball no matter how sleazy the game, would dare fire him?

John Kelley completes the perfect storm at SSU. Shortly before Kelley was appointed interim provost, when speculation was rife about who would replace Field as interim provost, the word was that the trustees were going to appoint “a faculty friendly” person to the position. Kelley may have been a trustee favorite, but he was not a faculty favorite. Kelley is liked by the faculty, considerably more than the provost is. But it is sometimes the case that a person can be liked but not respected. Kelley could be described as bi-institutional, which gives him advantages that he does not fail to take advantage of, but it is also a quality that makes him look at times as if he is working both sides of the street. It is the administration and the trustees, not the faculty, who appoint Kelley to his interim administrative positions, and they appoint him because he can be counted on to do the questionable things administrators and trustees want him to do, which is what he can be expected to continue to do as interim dean.

But who makes the impending storm at SSU frightening is, above all, Hurricane Klara. While President Chapman was working a miracle at SSU and making improvements and building remarkable bridges to faculty, students, and community, Klara Kay Reynolds and several other trustees were working to undermine and remove him. Hurricane Klara, with her undergraduate major in Home Economics at Ohio State, this political hack, considers herself pretty smart, as is evident in her pretentious but poorly written evaluation of President Chapman that was leaked back in July 2001.

While Chapman was initiating Interest Based Bargain negotiations that were unprecedented at SSU in their amity and progress, Hurricane Klara was leaking her evaluation on Chapman’s presidency from her offices at Scioto Rental Management. Her evaluation was passed on to me. I was told George Clayton, trustee chair, was one of the intermediaries. Only vanity can explain why she leaked this document when she did, for it threatened to alert me, as union president, among others, that we were about to be screwed, that the trustees and the administration were going along with Interest Based Bargaining in bad faith, that they planned to get rid of Chapman just as soon as they had milked him and Interest Based Bargaining for everything they were worth.

Reynolds had closed her evaluation of Chapman with a quote from Galileo. “You cannot teach people anything. You can only help them discover it within themselves.” I too can easily look up famous quotes, but I find another more appropriate Galileo quote, the gender of which I will change to suit my purposes. “I have never met a woman so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from her.”

I had been warned by faculty with more experience than I had, that I and the union were making a mistake in trusting trustees like Reynolds by entering into Interest Based Bargaining. Because I had faith in the honesty and ability of Chapman, I went along, and lived to regret it. I even wrote a very positive account of our bargaining experience in the NEA journal Thought & Action  ( ), but that was before I had discovered the depths of dishonesty and incompetence that characterizes the people in control of Portsmouth and SSU.

Below is the cover letter that accompanied Reynolds’ evaluation of Chapman. Notice the line, “We are in the mist [sic] of union negotiation [sic] and should present a united front.” She was in a mist, all right, the mist of ignorance and prejudice that political hacks operate in and that SSU has been cursed with from its beginning. Something Professor Kathleen Simon wrote (June 3, 2001) in response to a letter from Reynolds has relevance. “I don’t know what your intention was when you wrote your letter,” Simon wrote Reynolds, “but after reading it, I am even more fully entrenched in my belief that letting political appointees run a university is a really bad idea.” With a political appointee as chair of the trustees, and with negotiations looming, I forecast a perfect storm, with Hurricane Klara right at the eye of it.

Reynolds let