How Our Politburo Puts the AU in FrAUd
April 1, 2021 | View PDF
Column readers these past dozen years will recall AU administration frequently begs attention. Distortion of this once grand institution into another corrupt arm of the Lowder-Hubbard graft machine is well documented. Hope recent imprisonment of Felon Hubbard (further dashed by a suspiciously reduced sentence) would induce a renaissance at Auburn University seems foolhardy upon closer observation of recent events. Noteworthy from past writings of the early ‘Bentley daze’ efforts to reinstall Lowder on the AU Board of Trustees offered the adage, once corrupted, “universities advance one funeral at a time…” seems even more illustrative in retrospect. COVID-19 put many under significant stress; university and university-based communities under even greater duress, such difficult events can sometimes allow one to see more clearly. Witnessing AU’s COVID-19 response is revealing.
AU shut the campus and moved to online instruction following Spring break last year similar to most other universities and in alignment with many gubernatorial orders, including Gov. Ivey’s. As fear levels w.r.t. the virus subsided and infection rates stabilized in late spring, many universities, including Auburn and Alabama, began their process of planning for campus reopening and face-to-face instruction. Indeed, Auburn-alum and Auburn Board of Trustees member, Kay Ivey (in conjunction with our State Health Officer) issued the following order for educational institutions in our State regarding social distancing:
Effective June 1, 2020, all schools, public and private-including elementary, secondary, postsecondary, technical, and specialty schools, and colleges and universities-shall comply with the following rules:
a. Social distancing. Schools shall take reasonable steps, where practicable, to maintain six feet of separation between persons of different households.
Those with an eye for semantics will focus on strong language used such as “shall comply” and defining social distancing with precise measurement of six feet. Violating the State Health Officer’s order is a criminal offense under section 22-2-14, albeit a misdemeanor. Any State university was clearly obliged to evaluate and adjust instructional facilities to accommodate face-to-face instruction and maintain compliance with Gov. Ivey’s order. Shortly after this order went into effect, AU’s Provost promised (June 2020 University Senate meeting) classrooms would be organized to achieve safe social-distancing – further asserting classroom layout mattered. Facilities management began performing CAD [Computer Assisted Design] based studies of AU classrooms to determine maximum student capacity in accordance with six-foot social distancing.
Basic understandings of elementary geometry leads one to conclude classrooms with fixed, high density seating require major reduction in capacity to provide students six-foot social distancing as mandated. Classroom studies performed by AU’s Facilities Management precisely calculated this result. Many classrooms – esp. rooms with fixed seating – required capacities reduced to 20% of normal capacity to accommodate six-foot social distancing. The football stadium imposed similar restriction to only 20% capacity given the realities of its high-density fixed seating. Furthermore, this restriction was implemented even though the football stadium is outdoors whereas classrooms are indoors.
Based on initial Facilities Management study findings (and common sense) one expects AU administrators would’ve modified the Fall 2020 schedule for ‘face-to-face’ classes. Undoubtedly such modifications require modest administrative effort, competence, and investment/redirection of resources. Instead of completing the study for all classrooms and re-organizing schedules to provide face-to-face classes with mandated six-foot safe social distancing, the Provost allowed academic administrators in charge of academic scheduling to put face-to-face Fall classes in rooms up to 50% of normal capacity, irrespective of whether such capacity exceeded AU Facilities Management findings. Even more incriminating, shortly before opening the Fall 2020 semester, critical Facilities Management studies being conducted in compliance with Governor Ivey’s order were suddenly stopped with hundreds of classrooms still unstudied w.r.t. safety. Initial findings remained hidden from faculty, students, parents, legislators and general public.
Numerous face-to-face fall semester classes met in rooms far beyond the maximum capacity level accommodating six-foot social distancing. Naturally virus levels surged throughout the student population during the first month of fall semester. Consider the example of outspoken Economics Professor Michael Stern who volunteered to teach his fall semester classes face-to-face advocating to provide students with the best learning experience possible given the complex nature of his classes. Stern’s undergraduate mathematical economics class was placed in Lowder (aptly named) Hall Room 015 with an enrollment of 33 students. This room’s normal capacity is 68. Some think Prof. Stern’s class was placed there by corrupt or grossly inept (pick one) AU administration under the Provost’s reckless, unlawful 50% rule. Facilities Management had not studied this room before the politburo suddenly stopped remaining critical studies just before fall semester began. When Facilities Management suddenly resumed performing room studies mid-November, this room was correctly determined to have maximum safe capacity of only 15 students! Class enrollment was more than double the maximum level accommodating six-foot social distancing ordered by Governor (and AU Trustee) Kay Ivey. Even more disturbing – classrooms that would have safely accommodated Prof. Stern and his students were empty during the exact same time block.
AU pushed for vastly more face-to-face instruction during Spring 2021 semester when the virus subsided in October 2020. Auburn students registered in early November via a spring schedule loaded with explicitly advertised face-to-face classes. The spring academic schedule was again determined under the Provost’s unlawful 50% rule as Facilities Management studies remained ‘on ice.’ When the Provost failed to attend (perhaps fearing questions about his conduct) one of the largest faculty assemblies in university history in early November, Prof. Stern proposed a motion of no confidence. Little surprise the Senate Chair violated rules to block Stern from formally making the motion.
As one who witnessed much fraud at AU Senate meetings (esp. for the most sycophantic politburo members) another successful effort to protect this corrupt Provost along with other ‘public servants’ was no surprise.
In response to these outrageous acts by a lawless Senate Chair, 50 brave faculty members organized and petitioned for another meeting to allow Prof. Stern to formally make the motion. The University Senate meeting [11/17/20] announced recent receipt of the signed petition. Magically, the very next day, it appears Facilities Management studies of safe classroom capacities required six-foot social distancing suddenly began again – they’d been on ice for nearly three months. No surprise to this former lowly instructor that Facilities Management documents indicate they restarted classroom studies with Miller Hall, the professional home of . . . you guessed it, Prof. Stern!
Stern discovered existence of hidden Facilities Management classroom studies in early December and corresponded with Pres. Gogue and others to acquire their public release. Classroom studies were finally posted on-line without notice December 18th, the final business day before AU closed for the long holidays. The studies affirmed Spring 2021 scheduling had been determined with widespread disregard for six-foot safe social distancing ordered by Gov. Ivey. Student registration was already completed, and the pandemic was surging to unparalleled heights heading into the start of the semester in early January.
The corrupt and incompetent academic administrators (all too willing to |follow the reckless and low-effort ethos of the Provost) panicked and strongly encouraged – i.e., bullied and threatened – faculty to reduce the quantity of face-to-face instruction students had been promised by telling students they could no longer come to a portion of the classes. I was provided one (extreme I hope) example where a face-to-face class had an enrollment of over five times the mandated maximum safe capacity for six-foot social distancing! Students were told they’d only be able to attend on average one of every six classes. Some instructors refused to cut face-to-face instruction promised to students and conducted courses with massive class size compared to capacity limits in compliance with Gov. Ivey’s order. Prof. Stern’s face-to-face spring classes were rescued into safe rooms at the last minute, only due to Pres. Gogue’s efforts.
AU could’ve easily provided much more face-to-face safe instruction by engaging in transparency, hard work (the Auburn Creed is now useful ‘cover’ for the corruptiest village on the plains) and the investment of additional resources in the academic arm – all of which would be received as Holy Water on vampires like FDIC Lowder- and Felon Hubbard-type parasites. Instead, deceit, laziness, and disregard for academics once again carried the day at AU. This is in stark contrast to the outstanding job Auburn Athletics accomplished when handling COVID-19 as we witnessed yet another “investment” of $25 million in paying people like Gus Malzahn and Steven “Crash” Leath to no longer perform AU duties. A small fraction of that money would’ve sufficed to split up the Spring schedule, hire additional faculty, and avoid academic fraud associated with telling students they can’t attend classes as promised and that they, their parents, taxpayers paid for with hard earned money or federally subsidized loans.
Some know I left Auburn (years before I could draw laughable RSA checks – lowly instructors forced into the system are treated very poorly) because I could no longer stomach the fraud. I made my way in the ‘real world’ working for Ford Motor Company so I could take my ‘vow of poverty’ to teach. I think students appreciated my knowledge and understanding of the subject matter was not simply academic but also experiential. I’m grateful and understand I’ve been truly blessed unlike many at AU who are there for tenured, guaranteed paychecks, inflated administrative politburo pay, etc. Perhaps my biggest concern I’d like addressed is the poor disclosure of risk. Over 30 years teaching I realize there was some higher probability of getting the flu or worse (the measles scare when teaching at Clemson comes to mind) and certainly have been no stranger to spoiled students recklessly driving cars (they couldn’t afford and protected by shameless parents) damaging my health and property.
What makes this specific episode of ‘High Plains Grifter’ so upsetting is not disclosing the risk and willful failure to follow such a well-defined, public mandate. I pray faculty and students may be granted a class-action to discipline these AU fraudsters as it seems every internal mechanism is failing.In closing, I want to thank all who sincerely wanted me to continue teaching and provided many heartfelt accolades and empirics to convince me I was an outstanding instructor. Was told I’m one the few multi-recipients into “Who’s Who of College Educators” at AU, was honoured to teach many years for the Air War College International Officers Summer Program, was humbled and most rewarded to teach prisoners in Auburn’s APAEP [Alabama Prisons Arts & Education Project] and have what some consider an impressive publication record for a lowly instructor – i.e., not a professor. In retrospect, the award/recognition I hold most dear is being the first (and at the moment, only) recipient of the Prof. Ault Excellence in Teaching Award. While I make no claim to be as skilled or accomplished teacher as Prof. Ault, what I recall most in my many years blessed to have Ault as a colleague was his observation, “The worst sin anyone can commit at AU is compel an administrator to do their job.” I was further choked up by this recognition to have Pres. Gogue attend the Ault award ceremony. Sadly, AU administration is so incompetent or mean-spirited it still has not paid this award from 2019 and I refuse to become a grubber like the highly paid politburo members responsible for this payment and press the matter. The theme of my acceptance speech was that it spoke more of those who made an environment for someone like me willing to continue teaching for pure passion not income.
When the corrupt Richardson administration down to my un-elected dept. head made sure I was not re-hired, I was immediately picked up by AUM thanks to an outstanding, duly elected Chair, Prof. Gregowicz – unafraid to hire someone he thought certain to serve students and taxpayers well even if corrupt politburo members wouldn’t like it. When Pres. Gogue came to AUM (as part of his responsibility he took seriously) I took notice and when asked to return by my department’s duly elected Chair (the corrupt dept. heads installed had been removed by the efforts of good faculty like Prof. Ault mentioned above) it was a worthy place to teach once again. Sadly, the corrupt are in unbridled power again and want to silence or push out those who keep them in-check like Prof. Stern, along with Professors Altindag and Seals who’ve done the academic research (with Grad. Student Samuel Cole) on this matter recently covered by The Chronicle of Higher Education and submitted to a professional journal for publication.
The First Amendment and Academic Freedom are in similar jeopardy as our Auburn Creed. [https://www.alabamagazette.com/story/2018/03/01/opinion/the-auburn-greed/1301.html] As much as Pres. Gogue despises so-called ‘micro-managing’ when removing these cancerous personnel operating outside their authority, it is time to earn the pay and get rid of these corrupt politburo members and get those who’ve tried to save Auburn from rape lawsuits, NCAA violations, federal litigation, etc. back to work as advocates for students, taxpayers and their units. It grows easier, even for those blinded by Orange & Blue glasses, to see it is impossible to spell the word ‘fraud’ without an AU these past years.