Still a bad call

Part 2 of WVU Board's mistake in appointing Gee Interim President

Like in searching for, finding and hiring a weak football coach, West Virginia University's Board of Governors did it again in recently choosing E. Gordon Gee as the university's interim president.

Although Dr. Gee reportedly makes high marks for his academic credentials in being a former president of prestigious institutions of higher learning, such as Brown, Colorado, Vanderbilt and Ohio State University, his record fails to reflect his lack of tact, religious intolerance and common sense. In fact, in reviewing his complete career record, it's difficult to understand why WVU's Board would appoint an administrator who'll surely face many tough questions from both the faculty and student body from the "get-go." It was only luck (or maybe by the Board's devious design) that Dr. Gee was appointed during the Christmas break, when few in authority and practically no students are left on the campus to contest the choice.

Dr. Gee's "off-the-cuff" private club speech showing his anti-Catholic bias should have been enough for the WVU Board to look elsewhere. After all, why would a 69-year-old administrator - after making his tactless anti-Catholic remarks and resigning his Ohio State University presidency two weeks later - want to face a sharp and scrutinizing WVU faculty ... unless there was some sort of behind the scenes machinations among the University's Board of Governors?

The Interim President's ill-conceived words speak for themselves: Catholic "priests can't be trusted... The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week... You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that."

That doesn't sound like a joke, which he may have thought it was, but, to the contrary, a blatant instance of religious intolerance.

Indeed, by his "off the cuff" remarks, Dr. Gee offended Ohio's many Catholics, who have a very active church community. Then, the heat on his OSU presidency was, no doubt, turned up, leading to his rather abrupt resignation and departure from Columbus. Even his after statement apology didn't forestall the ending of his long OSU presidential tenure.

In addition to his shortsighted embracing of religious intolerance, Dr. Gee's character in his leadership also has shown maladies. To successfully lead the diverse segments of any higher educational institution, a college president must exhibit a high moral fibre that is beyond reproach. This, Dr. Gee hasn't done, especially during his Ohio State tenure.

Specifically, according to the West Virginia news sources, WVU's interim president, who had been earning $1.9 million per year at OSU, apparently felt he needed some "part-time employment" for extra spending money, so he served on Massey Energy's high paying Board of Directors from 2000 to 2009. He resigned that lucrative post, only upon the outcry of the OSU student body and various environmental groups.

A lack of character? College presidents, above all, need to prove themselves honest, to be persons of their word and to lead their schools forward. In the main, if they show dishonesty, their ability to lead the institution going forward is badly compromised and their "character" is marred.

To the specific point, West Virginia news sources relate that in an April 2000 interview with the OSU student newspaper, Dr. Gee affirmed that Massey Energy exhibited "one of the best environmental records in the country."

To the contrary, the year before Massey, under the controversial ex-CEO Don Blankenship's tenure, was forced to pay a $20 million fine to the US-EPA for water pollution permit violations Ñ the largest fine in the agency's history. So, if Massey Director Gee said the company had a great environmental record the year after the largest fine was exacted from the firm, he told the OSU student newspaper and its community "a lie."

Such an example of dishonesty shouldn't be rewarded by being hired as WVU's interim chief. (Additionally, Mr. Blankenship is currently being investigated for illegal mine safety practices that led to the killing of two miners in Massey's Aracoma Alma No. 1 Mine in Logan County in 2006 and 29 miners in the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County in 2010. He also has been under fire for his multimillion dollar political contributions, which have been used to defeat incumbent mine safety advocates in statewide elections.)

Current WVU President James Clements, who is going to a similar position at Clemson, and former WVU President David Hardesty are two high quality administrators whose strong moral compasses bolstered their managerial and results-oriented standing within the University's community and the entire state.

Honesty, religious tolerance, fairness and above board dealings are all crucial character traits that any college or university president needs to exhibit, if he or she is to be successful. It's a shame that these characteristics haven't apparently been learned by West Virginia University's new interim president, Dr. E. Gordon Gee. Give him a chance, though, as that will show him what "fairness" in comments is all about!

Continuing education

Mayor Fitzpatrick encourages Glenville City Council to attend area's workshops

At the Mon., Dec. 7, 2013 City Council meeting, Mayor Dennis Fitzpatrick encouraged his city council members to attend continuing education sessions at Glenville State College this week. The initiative is the first in recent history, where Glenville's mayor rightly promoted continuing education for the council members. For any public body to succeed, its members must be willing to learn.

The two one-hour workshops, held at Glenville State College Monday, dealt with important issues: the first explained Robert's Rules of Order (a help for any elected official); and, the second, with Sexual Harassment, a national problem in the news almost weekly. This mayoral encouragement was visionary for Mayor Dennis Fitzpatrick, and he should be commended for it and supported by the City Council.