Were you able to follow Scott Scarborough’s recent State of the University address?
That was quite a performance by the University of Akron President, using his time to counter his critics who have cast him as the bull in the China shop. It went on for nearly 90 minutes with a dizzying barrage of PowerPoint figures, a new video of a supportive LeBron James, historical readings (!), warm greetings to politicians among the swollen audience of hundreds in E. J. Thomas Hall, cherry-picked quotes from projections by experts on the fate of universities, and a requisite introduction of his wife.
E,J, Thomas Hall, for Heaven’s sake, an oddly reborn edifice that had fallen from Team Scarborough’s grace.
He even went so far as to tell the protesting scholars in the audience that when people don’t understand something they resist it – a careless putdown of the confused college graduates who are not on his side. An extraordinarily self-confident preachy man at 52 with a slight Texan tilt in his voice, Scarborough has managed to remain standing through four universities, sort of. In mission and tone, think of Dr. Phil.
His mighty verbal sword failed to cut away his repetitious narrative, and he went on with his rebranding plan to make the University of Akron “great” with an outreach to students to God knows where. The rebranding would include such New Age identity as “polytechnic” that would even remove the “A” (for Akron) from the band uniforms and cripple some of the school’s departments to bruise a $60 million debt.
What he didn’t say is that a debt-ridden school can’t afford, as others have complained, to create a Corps of Cadets and more student coaches. But these things are his way of assuring everyone that he’s a man of the moment in higher education.
And he didn’t mention that his predecessor, Luis Proenza, drove up the debt as the trustees stepped aside without demanding accountability. As we’ve written before, if they aren’t the gatekeepers, what good are they? (The trustees sat in their normal Sphinx-like posture in a row near the stage and it’s doubtful whether they or anybody else fully grasped what all of those fleeting charts were all about.)
Scarborough spoke on the day that a new print voice, the Devil Strip (local bimonthly), had published some troubling benchmarks (see page 31) on his days as a young politician in Texas. He was the Travis County, Tx., Republican chairman and even ran for state rep – and lost the primary. Still his trademark was stamped clearly: politically and religiously conservative, damning homosexuality and other social “evils”. The Austin newspaper noted:
“Travis County GOP Chairman Scott Scarborough , whose term is expiring , told delegates they should “lift up King Jesus through their work as Republican activists.”
So how did he make it from his days in Texas to the stage of E.J.Thomas Hall, which had been on his hit list?
Well, you may wonder how the trustees let so much bad ink pass. You my also know that the Republicans hold a 6-2 majority on the board with two Democrats merely along for the ride. That’s not all. Trustees chairman Jonathan Pavloff had been chairman of the Summit county Republican executive committee.
You won’t need PowerPoint to follow this: The six Republicans, including Pavloff. owe their seats to Summit County GOP party chairman Alex Arshinkoff. Who, we’re sure, was quite impressed to know that Scarborough was a bird of the feather. Everything else fell neatly into place.
Thank you, Alex. You should have been there Tuesday to take a bow.
P.S. When Scarborough , borrowing from Donald Trump says he wants to make UA great, it extends the overused adjective which has little meaning because of its abuse. It is regularly applied beyond precise meaning to everything from hamburgers and dandelion killers to depressions and wars. Great Scott! Just being good is good enough for most of us.