I attended the Aug. 27 Auburn University Senate meeting to see if President Gogue would live up to his well-earned repute of rarely missing Senate meetings and taking questions from those present. I was not disappointed. Jay indeed showed and opened the floor to questions. It was a welcomed “breath of fresh air” after these past years of Steven “Crash” Leath’s stewardship. I did not ask my prepared question because it is well known that I did my best to sound the alarm on how poor a “public servant” Leath showed himself to be at Iowa State, sorting to the top of our very flawed search process. As the two questions asked by faculty were more than enough to set the tone, another question from this former lowly instructor seeking if AU is worthy of return would’ve seemed ‘piling on’ to most present.
The first question was submitted by Prof. Robin Jaffe [Theatre] on AU moving forward with the $100 million Culinary Arts facility which appeared to have already exceeded initial budget proposals. President Gogue said he did not know the answer. He didn’t recall it as an agenda item for the next Board of Trustees meeting but would look into it. The second question was submitted by Professor Michael Stern [Economics] after a kind hearted exchange on how Jay had missed Stern’s input at Senate meetings elicited genuine laughter. Professor Stern noted how important/well received it was for the President to personally visit every academic unit when Jay first took the job back in 2007 and asked if he would be willing to do so again. Without hesitation Jay agreed, which prompted approving applause.
Lack of communication between faculty and the President was one of the more visible areas of dysfunction during Leath’s short, yet well-paid tenure. If this first Senate meeting under Jay’s renewed leadership is any guide, then a far healthier level of communication is undergoing rapid restoration. The return of positive engagement between the President and oft outspoken Professor Stern was indeed refreshing. Even more encouraging was other faculty members already comfortable enough to engage President Gogue over something like the $100 million ‘kitchen’ planned to leverage massive amounts of taxpayer and student dollars to subsidize Jimmy Rane’s desires and obsessions. Some say this puts AU in unnecessary jeopardy.
Public criticism of this sort was followed by retaliation during the Leath years if recent 1st Amendment lawsuits filed in the federal courts naming him as a defendant are any indicator. At the moment, President Gogue’s return has encouraged the meek and brave to voice their distress with the current state of their university. Communication and exchange of information is certainly not the equivalent of corrective action, it is an input to navigate back toward a productive course. Welcome back to the helm Jay, you’ve been missed by those who want AU to be a place of humble, effective coaches, educators and researchers instead of coercive, overpaid administrators.
In closing, forgive this letter if it was covered and I missed it. Made me long for the days when I would look for Jacque Kochak’s reporting on the Board and Senate meetings. As for my “premeditated” unasked question for Jay – is there any discussion on the search process to determine our 20th President? If it is the same flawed process as our last, is it rational to expect any better result? I prefer Jay not get another call interrupting his fly fishing to come clean up another crash landing into Samford Hall…
John P. Sophocleus