The University of Akron’s longest running nightmare has finally ended – or many of us would hope. Scott Scarborough, who rode into town from out west with a starchy commitment to clean up the school’s $40 million debt and fading enrollment a couple of years ago, is now the ex-president of UA, adding the dark distinction on his resume to three other universities where he once labored.
Finally acting in a role to which it had been appointed, the bystanding Board of Trustees belatedly took a collegial breath and forced him out the door.
It will be a chapter in the school’s history not only of Scarborough’s sorry performance that made a bad situation worse but also of how the town-and-gown’s true culture finally persuaded the board that his many critics were not going away. Indeed the only people leaving town were folks either fired by Team Scarborough or who resigned to find a less seismic campus where their talent and experience would be more appreciated. It was, after all, Scarborough who said UA would no longer hire tenured professors because the school couldn’t afford them. How’s that for a non-sequitur for a crew on a spending spree that even embraced and later rejected a start-up company for $840,000 that failed to deliver.
But there were other times in which Scarborough’s personal culture exposed him as little more than a white collar elitest who didn’t understand how offensive his notions could be. He was a terrible communicator, forever talking down – or not at all.
He lectured professors on sanitation, to wit: “A person who is too important to pick up trash is probably too important to help a student who is struggling to understand an important concept or practice.” He told an Akron Roundtable audience that he got that idea from someone who identified church leaders as those who “stooped” to pick up trash. Huh?
He said anybody who disagreed with him simply didn’t understand what he was trying to do.
He said that when he decided to rebrand the University of Akron as “Ohio’s Polytechnic University” (One of his several initiatives that were later mercifully abandoned) , he referenced “Ohio” rather than “Akron” so that people knew where Akron was.
It would be painful to continue these utterances from a fellow who was wedded to a business model.
The response to his departure was pro forma praise from the establishment that ignored his personal failures and wished him well.
As the well-wishers remained silent on the sidelines during his fumbles, we can only wonder whether the Board would have moved on the matter had there not been the blow-back from the area’s true heroines and heroes – Jane Bond, Louise Harvey, Dan Coffey, John Zipp. Tom Guarino – to name a few. They had tcaught a lot of people’s attention with full-page ads and other means of resistance. The Beacon Journal finally came around by calling for his departure . But in a much earlier editorial it had declared that “UA has a good plan. It really does”. To which many of us could only ask “Oh?” That was a reaction that finally crept to the BJ’s full disapproval of Scott Scarborough’s leadership as the trash piled up to the point that not even the trustees could pick it up.
P.S. The unanswered question remains: How in the world did the Board hire a guy in the first place with such a spotty record?