Cartoon to the editor

Letters to the editor: June 9

June 9, 2013 

Praise, criticism and advice on Transylvania crisis

I have followed with dismay your coverage of the recent vote of no confidence at Transylvania University. While the role of the faculty in university governance is important, it ultimately falls to the board of trustees to, in partnership with the president, create a vision for the institution.

It then becomes the president's responsibility to pursue it, something Owen Williams has done with great success.

Evidence of these successes can be seen across the Transylvania campus. The university's student body has grown substantially, and both the quality and diversity of incoming classes are on the rise. The number and size of donations from alumni have increased considerably.

Williams has also strengthened the academic heart of the institution, adding new faculty in several areas while increasing starting faculty salaries and equalizing pay for male and female professors.

The payoff for these changes can be seen in the university's improved U.S. News & World Report rankings, the support of major foundations and the engagement of alumni and the board.

While change is always difficult, it is also often necessary. Williams clearly is working with stakeholders across campus and in the wider Transylvania community to effect change and in the long run, the university will be stronger for it.

Terry W. Hartle

Senior vice president

American Council on Education

Washington, D.C.


Listen to faculty evidence

As a former William T. Young scholar, I could no longer remain silent concerning recent events at my beloved alma mater and the board's handling of those events.

On May 24, 91 percent of faculty at Transylvania University voiced their lack of confidence in President Owen Williams to lead the university to success.

Because of the extreme percentage and because there is not a precedent for this type of action, I find it disturbing that the board of trustees would initially dismiss this act as "extreme and unwarranted."

More than just an issue of professor tenure, this is an issue of the degradation of the learning environment at Transylvania, a learning environment that was integral to my own success and to that of countless alumni. All current research in education reaffirms the importance of learning environment on student motivation, engagement and, ultimately, achievement.

Without a campus community where all members feel appreciated and encouraged, student success plummets — and with Transylvania's current climate due to the actions of Williams, this community has been tainted. Moreover, the damage Williams has done to his reputation is irreparable at this point.

The faculty's evidence deserves more attention than the board has given it thus far. I ask them to review the evidence they hold again and reconsider their own vote of confidence — or at the very least, to communicate why this matter has not been given the attention that it deserves.

We understand the financial and temporal burdens associated with running our institution and with a presidential search, but who ultimately suffers when a president of a university establishes a hostile environment? The students.

Amanda Holt

Versailles


Tale of two presidents

As the mother of a daughter who graduated from Transylvania University May 25, the current controversy surrounding the school and its new president saddens me.

Owen Williams should be lauded for his efforts to increase the enrollment and make Transy a Top 50 liberal arts college.

It also should be noted that Williams had some huge shoes to fill — Charles Shearer had been at Transy for 27 years before his retirement in 2010 and, by most accounts, was a much beloved figure on campus.

But some of Williams' actions the past few years are bothersome and have boiled to a point that 91 percent of the faculty supported a vote of no confidence in the president. Transy is one of the top schools in Kentucky, but I wonder if it will remain so with such low morale among the people who have the most direct contact with students.

Any change is difficult, but when a new leader shows such disrespect for the people who work for him and the people he is there to serve, the change can be unbearable.

When my daughter was a freshman, Transy had a reception for students and parents. Shearer was there and visible. He tried to speak to every family. At graduation, my glimpse of Williams after the ceremony came as he was disappearing into a building, away from the crowd and the reception. That, to me, illustrates more than anything how much has changed at Transy since Williams took over.

Mary Branham

Frankfort


No winners

The Herald-Leader May 30 editorial got one thing right: Transylvania University is in crisis. The quaint campus nestled on North Broadway, so beloved by so many of us in Central Kentucky for so many reasons, is in serious turmoil.

The advice to the board of trustees seems a bit naive, though. How many of us can really keep from being defensive when we are confronted with seriously offensive behavior?

The board has the ultimate responsibility for all affairs of the university. It consists of a diverse group of individuals, all of whom are accomplished and successful. They have collectively donated millions of dollars to Transy, and have raised many millions more.

It seems most unwise of the faculty to present them with an arrogant, offensive ultimatum before any real dialogue could take place.

No one likes being backed into a corner. It seems just as unwise for a prominent faculty member to post on Facebook that "the faculty is fighting to save (Transylvania)," implying that the board must somehow be attempting to destroy it.

Now that this conflict has been made public, the board must take some sort of action. It does appear inevitable that there will be a new president within the next few years.

There will not be any "winners" emerging from this sad situation, though, and the Transylvania faculty would do well to remember the old adage, trite, but so often true: "Be careful what you wish for."

Timothy Gregg

Lexington


Situation irreconcilable

I taught for 29 years at Eastern Kentucky University, wrote a history of that school as well as A History of Education in Kentucky published in 2011, and have been an observer of higher education for a good part of six decades.

If I have learned anything it is that American colleges and universities only operate well if everyone is cooperative — including administration, trustees, faculty and staff. Eventually, students will be affected by ill will that they sense around them. The current situation at Transylvania University is irreconcilable.

For at least the last two years I have been hearing from various sources that the current president of Kentucky's oldest institution of higher education has been ineffectual, owing to a dictatorial style of leadership.

As pointed out in the May 29 article by University of Kentucky's John Thelin, "shared governance" is the key to a successful higher education experience.

Two short-lived presidencies at EKU between 1998 and 2007 demonstrated that if the president and faculty cannot cooperate then little, if any, progress is accomplished. Eastern has been struggling ever since to make headway.

It would be better for the trustees to bite the bullet and get on with the business of finding a new chief executive. The present imbroglio at Transylvania is unfortunate but to paraphrase an old truism, "If the faculty ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." I know that the trustees hate to admit it but you don't throw good money after bad.

William E. Ellis

Richmond


No pedestal for Morrison

Curtis Morrison, whose secret recording of Sen. Mitch McConnell and Co. has earned him front-page attention as well as a possible grand-jury indictment, is working hard to build himself a pedestal as a liberal hero.

But he needs better material: exposing McConnell as a ruthless campaigner is a bit like exposing the pope as a fervent Catholic. Kentucky's senior senator has always brought live ammunition to the political battlefield, with no apologies.

Morrison's manufactured outrage at a conversation he heard through an office door has to tickle anyone familiar with modern campaigns. Combing through a potential rival's background for embarrassing information is called opposition research. Both Democratic and Republican candidates routinely employ it.

Opposition research was the reason Americans were able to consider, among Mitt Romney's qualifications for the presidency, his decision to strap a cage to the roof of the family vehicle to take his dog vacation.

It was the reason George Clooney pulled his toe from the political waters in 2011, explaining that he hadn't lived his youth with resume-building in mind.

It's unfortunate, at least for her fans, that Ashley Judd's emotional problems, left-wing activism and sometimes bizarre public statements present an inviting target for opposition research. But no incumbent senator would have ignored that target, and suggesting that McConnell's strategizing was unique — or uniquely sinister — is itself a political ploy, resting on an assumption of public ignorance.

Michael Smith

Cynthiana


Buckeyes don't back Gee

The derogatory comments about the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville made by Ohio State University President Gordon Gee don't reflect the opinions of the Buckeye nation at large.

The Bluegrass Buckeyes Alumni and Fan Club consists of over 30 families who live here, work here and are an active force in the Lexington area community.

Our focus on community service has led us to God's Pantry, Ronald McDonald House, Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association. The breadth and depth of our club's diversity reflects that of Ohio State University.

Our members come from many backgrounds, religions and cultures. Several members hold alumni or student status with the University of Kentucky, indicating it is a fine institution as well. We are proud to be a part of this community, and hope that anyone who shouts "O-H" or proudly dons scarlet and gray will feel comfortable joining us in the future.

Marci Timmerman

Bluegrass Buckeyes Alumni & Fan Club

Lexington


Protect flock, not priests

It's a shame that the Lexington Catholic diocese's recent celebration has been marred, in the eyes of some, over the controversy surrounding Father Carroll Howlin. ("Thousands attend 25th anniversary mass of the Diocese of Lexington," June 2.)

While some enjoyed the "pomp and pageantry" of the event, others worry about Howlin, who is accused of molesting two boys in Illinois and two in Kentucky, but basically remains living and working among unsuspecting McCreary County families with little or no supervision by his Catholic supervisors.

Bishop Robert Gainer used the anniversary to defend various estimates of church membership in his diocese. We hope he spends more energy on defending his flock from predatory priests.

Barbara Dorris

Outreach director

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Saint Louis, Mo.


Greatest generation

Thanks to Adrian Bruce Rogers for his May 26 column, "Winning war, building peace."

My father was also a veteran of "The Greatest Generation." He was a POW, suvived and made it back home.

When I visit the cemetery, I'm proud to place an American flag on his grave.

Bonnie Brown

Paris


Fields a class act

Congratulations to Mike Fields for his induction into the Dawahares/Kentucky Athletics Association Hall of Fame.

I spent over 30 years coaching high school football in Lexington at three different schools. I have been interviewed by him after exciting victories and devastating losses.

In every case his questions have been professional and respectful. I have never known him to criticize a student-athlete. And yet, he has asked the hard questions that called many coaches, including me, to task.

He is a hard worker who is dedicated to accurately reporting high school athletics in the area and representing the Herald-Leader in the most positive way.

Long after the game has ended, the stadium lights are extinguished and the custodians are sweeping up the spilled popcorn and torn-to-shreds game plans, Fields can be seen, alone in the press box, typing his story on his laptop in order to make his deadline.

He truly deserves to be a hall of fame member and the Herald-Leader and the thousands of high school sports fans in the area know that.

Mike Meighan

Lexington

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