Installing Steven 'Crash' Leath as AU's 19th President
April 1, 2017 | View PDF
I recently witnessed the installation ceremony of Steven ‘Crash’ Leath as AU’s 19th President at the University Ballroom March 20th; with considerably less ‘pomp & circumstance’ and significantly more transparency I participated in the election of Josh Tuttle as Chair of Alabama’s LP February 25th.
AU’s BoT unanimously selected Leath after a six-month national ‘search’ which provided little on how it was conducted. Last year our Lee County Commission Chair correctly misspoke affirming something passed ‘unonimously’ [sic] at a meeting where similarly all had been decided prior to putting on the show for the record and press present. Nothing like hiding behind solidarity to further conceal the process used to brazenly install the result. Noticeably omitted at the “Ballroom Blitz” event were any microphones for question/comment from faculty, students and taxpayers. Rumours were correct Leath would start July 15th to follow President Jay Gogue’s ten years as president. I guess the contract was contingent upon his ‘appointment.’ Note to the Board of Trustees: it might be better to NOT bring out the candidate until AFTER the sham installation is complete.
As some readers may recall, I’ve mostly been a fan of Pres. Gogue’s stewardship - it was easy to forecast he’d be an improvement over Ed Richardson. When Trustee John Denson was the marginal vote to get the Muse result over the Lowder gang, it signaled enough courageous souls were still at Auburn willing and able to battle the damage being done by this failed businessman and his minion ‘public servants.’ The Ballroom Blitz style rolling over transparency I witnessed goes a long way to removing hope and morale. It doesn’t take long for a cancer of this sort to spread through any organization, even more so with public universities far too insulated from market discipline. Jay Gogue had no fear of his name being publicly known in the search that resulted in his becoming the 18th president of Auburn University. Jay Gogue had nothing to hide, it conveyed his strong desire to come back to Auburn and confidence as to how secure he was with his current position as Chancellor of the University of Houston System and University of Houston President in 2007.
Far too many times many upper administrative candidates make short lists because they initially show so well on paper but when doing a little homework, it doesn’t take long to get ‘the rest of the story’ as Paul Harvey would say. I observed this many years ago with President Ryan Amacher at UTA [http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/fast-times-at-uta-6404568] who kept making short lists until he finally found a school which didn’t do their homework. If a candidate is NOT secure enough in their current job to let them know others recognize their accomplishments and would like to have them in their employ, I DON’T want them. This recent way of conducting searches is nothing more than obfuscation which far too often benefits the growing minions of colluding administrators fleecing taxpayers and saddling students with increasingly more debt.
Even the faculty Senate meeting the following day addressed lack of transparency and no short list offered for public consideration. Noticeably absent was the newly appointed Leath who would’ve been well served to attend since Jay Gogue was committed to UVA for accreditation duties - only his third Senate meeting missed in TEN years. The Ballroom Blitz was long on thanks for this ‘broadly represented’ outcome rhetoric, and very short on explaining extreme confidentiality at a PUBLIC university. If allowed to question before installation, some would’ve asked about crashed planes, misuse of public property, odd land transactions, etc. Perhaps there are many good answers for the recent smoke rising from Iowa State, but didn’t the last major Auburn hire from Iowa State, Gene Chizik if memory serves, also go up in smoke? It is not yet ripe to conclude whether Leath really is an ‘Auburn man’ …if he is, then this embarrassing installation ceremony will serve as a “crash” course for Pres. Leath as to precisely what is wrong at Auburn.
Walking over to the Ballroom, a colleague forecasted it would be some time before they voted if the event was to engage in discussion and input from the ‘Auburn Family.’ I forecasted 20 minutes; I was wrong… it was over in less than twelve! The most notable & quotable moment followed a very loud and distinctly delayed ‘AYE’ from Dr. Gov. Bentley to finally make it “UNONIMOUS.” Prompting Charles McCrary (President Pro Tem of the AU BoT) to proclaim, “The Voice of God.” Glad I had an empty stomach for that ‘special’ moment, but I must note the crab balls after the Ballroom Blitz were superb. This embarrassment is not going unnoticed. KCCI News in Des Moines reported, "Last month, officials decided against filing criminal charges against Leath following an investigation into whether he broke the law with his use of school aircraft. That review began after an audit found Leath used university planes for medical appointments in Minnesota, personal flight lessons and trips home to North Carolina. He has now reimbursed the university for the flights. Auburn picked Leath after a search that didn't include an announcement of finalists."
Gogue’s presidency began July 2007. This two-time AU graduate’s repute for engaging with students, supporting faculty and creating a strong university partnership with the local community has been well earned. What a difference from Richardson’s reign. After stepping down as President, Gogue will remain at Auburn teaching a higher education administration course and conducting special projects. The most truthful quote of the day from McCrary was, “The contribution Jay and Susie Gogue made to Auburn is immeasurable, we’re fortunate they will remain part of the Auburn community.” The 12 minute Ballroom Blitz engagement would’ve made any Stuka pilot proud. Drop the bomb then quickly fly out without answering questions certainly is a psychological tactic to make a point. Debate shall not be tolerated at Auburn University and y’all had better know your place.
On a more pleasant note, I was able to actually participate in electing a fine young public servant to Chair the Libertarian Party of Alabama at their annual convention up in Huntsville February 25th. It was an open, transparent process with nominations, discussions, and voting. Chairman Tuttle won the office after a very close race (a one vote margin) against Baldwin County Chair Laura Lane with almost a hundred attending. Brandon Moseley (Alabama Political Reporter http://www.alreporter.com/2017/03/07/libertarians-elect-tuttle-chairman/) quoted Chairman Josh Tuttle with, “I am deeply humbled to have earned the trust of the party members as Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama. Our focus will be to carry the torch of liberty and contest the Old Parties in upcoming elections.”
The Libertarian Party is the third largest political party in the US. In Alabama, former Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson received 2.1 percent of the vote (43,869) appearing as an ‘independent’ because of our State’s anti-competitive ballot access laws - among the most restrictive in the nation. As an aside, Judge Gorsuch has a sound record (according to Richard Winger’s March 2017 Ballot Access News) on independent candidates - so maybe Gorsuch won’t be part of the mainstream extremists on protecting the duopoly Parties. The Green Party is the fourth largest political party nationally, but here in Alabama the Constitution Party (CP) is gaining momentum. When asked which (CP or LP) I think has the best shot of breaking the duopoly, my answer remains which has the stronger commitment to liberty - esp. among Christians in their ranks. If we continue to have big govt. conservatives who want the State to subsidize their religion, morality, etc. we’ll fail. I can’t think of any bigger indicator you have no faith in your religion than it requires help from governments - my God is more enduring and powerful than any government. Furthermore, can you think of any worse group than the 537 in DC and the gaggle on Goat Hill to be your moral compass?
For those who appreciate good Biblical names, it doesn’t escape me that BOTH Chairs are Joshuas - I’ve written about CP Chair Joshua Cassity who I hold in high regard; here’s a little on LP Chair Joshua Tuttle.
Raised most of his life in Alabama, Josh grew up in Madison, AL and graduated from Bob Jones High School then University of Alabama joining the Alabama Army National Guard. After graduating UA with a Degree in Finance (and married) they moved back to the Madison/Huntsville Area to soon thereafter be deployed with 1st Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group to Iraq in 2011. Upon return from Iraq, Josh’s interest in politics grew as he became increasingly discouraged witnessing the outcomes from the duopoly parties to find the Libertarian Party. Ever since, Josh has been committed to growing the Party. Chairman Tuttle said, “2018 will give the Libertarian Party of Alabama a unique opportunity and I want to lay the foundation for that opportunity. We are working on building brand awareness and what the Libertarian Party stands for with training and mentoring quality liberty minded candidates that want to bring limited government to Alabama.” Sounds like a determined ‘forward looking’ soldier to me…
Postscript: words can’t convey how wonderful all the comments I’ve received on my writing of Gen. Hal Moore’s Funeral Mass in Auburn have been. I’d like to share what I thought was the best from Prof. Randy Beard,
“I remember attending Mass with Gen. Moore some years ago. It was a daily Mass, so attendance was probably 50 people. But it was close to Veterans' Day, so the Father asked all the vets to stand and receive acknowledgment and honor from those in the Church. There were several vets in the congregation, of course, and they stood up. We all applauded and expressed our respect for their service to our country. But Gen. Moore remained seated. One of the standing vets saw this, and gestured to General Moore, asking him to stand. He just smiled, and applauded the men who were standing. He was still, at that moment, their commanding officer, and he stood aside, honoring their service, and giving them all the attention. This is Christian leadership - it is service and care, putting the men who served under him first. I was in awe. I still am.”