Thursday, August 13, 2009

Forget Rick Pitino. Fire James Ramsey.

The locus of responsibility in the Rick Pitino scandal has shifted several times. The first was Pitino's encounter with Karen Sypher, in which both Coach Pitino and Sypher were complicit. Then it shifted again when Sypher tried to extort Pitino, in which Sypher proved what kind of person she was. It shifted again when Pitino went to the police to report the extortion.

What this latter action says about Pitino is hard to determine. His choice was between being extorted and not having his dirty laundry aired out in public, and not being extorted and having people finding out about what he did. He chose the latter. Whether he chose it because it was the cheaper alternative (she was demanding $10 million) or because it was the right thing to do is hard to tell. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

The locus of responsibility shifted once again when the police report came out yesterday in which it was revealed that Pitino did indeed have a sexual encounter with Sypher, and that, in addition, when she called and told him she was pregnant, he gave her $3,000 for an abortion. At this point, the responsibility shifted to the University of Louisville, specifically, to the ethically challenged James Ramsey, the university's president.

Sypher certainly didn't acquit herself well when she had it. Pitino failed his first test and passed the second only because we are stipulating that he did. How did Ramsey fare?

This isn't Ramsey's first test.

His first test was during the controversy over domestic partner benefits at his university, in which he lied to a legislative committee about whether U of L was paying for health benefits of its employees live-in partners. He was caught red-handed when it was discovered that U of L had been subsidizing the benefits for several months.

When ruse was made public by Yours Truly, Ramsey had to go back to Frankfort to smooth things over with the legislators he had lied to. Word has it that Ramsey or one of U of L's lobbyists was raked over the coals by at least one legislative leader for his behavior. Ramsey never publicly fessed up, and he continued to dissemble about it for weeks afterward. He even followed up his original lie with lies to his alumni.

And then there was the matter of the U of L Board closing ranks to protect him.

About a year later, Ramsey was faced with another opportunity to do the right thing, from which he backed down once again. After numerous complaints from staff about Education Dean Robert Felner about personal bullying and sexual harrassment, to which Ramsey and Provost Shirley Willinganz repeatedly turned a blind eye, it was revealed that Felner, who one former employee referred to as a "psychopath," was defrauding the University (and the federal government) of tens of thousands of dollars in grant money.

This was a man who "bragged openly at faculty meetings that he had the full support of the Provost and President," according to a letter signed by twenty-one former faculty members.

Here was Ramsey's response:

That's right "anonymous crap." Sheeez. Ramsey finally apologized, but only after making a complete fool of himself and having no choice. Ramsey first understated the severity of the abuse of grant money, then, after five years of verbal abuse by Felner, Ramsey added insult to injury by verbally abusing them himself, calling their complaints "anonymous crap." Not only were they not crap, but, it turns out, they weren't all anonymous. And, of course, there were no consequences for those in administration--Ramsey himself and Willinganz--who mishandled the whole situation.

Then, just three days after the belated apology, it was revealed that John Deasy, a superintendent in California and one of Robert Felner's cronies, received a PhD from the University after completing only 9 units of coursework never completing any residency, opening the university up to charges of being the equivalent of a degree mill. Again, it was swept under the rug and Ramsey looked like a bungling idiot.

Not only has Ramsey demonstrated a decided lack of ability to deal competently with administrative problems and public scandals at the university, he apparently has a tin ear when it comes to the political and public relations issues that these problems have caused.

Now the University has a coach on its hands who has not only committed behavior that is a public embarrassment to the University, but is more morally reprehensible than anything it has ever expelled a student athlete over.

Here's Ramsey's lame statement over the matter:

Rick Pitino is the University of Louisville's basketball coach. He has been a role model for countless young people and a positive influence on this community.

Regardless of the truth or falsehood of specific actions that have been attributed to the coach, he's clearly made errors in judgment that have come under intense public scrutiny. We can't ignore these errors in judgment, and they have saddened and disappointed me. As we try to teach our students, when you make a mistake, you admit it and right it as best you can. Coach has done that today.

It's not an easy thing to come before the university community and all of you to admit mistakes and commit to do better. I know this has been difficult on the coach, it's been difficult on me, and difficult for our university. But as Coach Pitino and I discussed earlier today, this was the right thing for him to do.

We hope this closes this chapter; we're all ready to move on. Our university is recovering from a flood that shut down a large portion of our campus, preparing for the start of classes on August 24th, and getting ready to welcome the most academically talented freshman class in our history. We need to get back to our job of educating the next generation of Kentucky's leaders.

This is utterly absurd bureaucratic cant. "Regardless of the truth or falsehood of particular actions"? What kind of mealy-mouthed talk is that? We know what happened. And "errors in judgment"? Is that what ethically challenged university bureaucrats call paying for the destruction of a human life?

Before we get "back to our job of educating the next generation of Kentucky's leaders" we need to have leaders now that know how to actually engage in leadership. And James Ramsey is not one them.


Anonymous said...

What a pathetic performance. Ramsey should be fired for this performance alone. His sanctimony was oozing here.

e jerry said...

And now Penn State makes this look like Sunday School...