Who at the the University of Hartford has the courage to compel change?
Rhythms of human nature are such that stubbornness often grows in direct proportion to greater public shaming. The louder the criticism, the more the heels get affixed into the ground.
Such is the behavior of the University of Hartford's Board of Regents, who have chosen to close their ears and their minds to the now overwhelming evidence of president Greg Woodward's dishonesty and incompetence — and to the negative fallout of the school's slapdash decision to downgrade athletics from Div. I to Div. III.
Here is the truth: The evidence, beginning with Woodward's willingness to "spin doctor" numbers, suggests the fix has come from within from the beginning. But the only people who can fix the fix come from within as well. From "The Neighborhood."
The only people who can rescue the university from its bungling leadership are the people who make it go. Students, staff, faculty, parents and donors need to organize and find the patience, courage and resolve to put Peter Finch's cathartic line from the movie "Network" — "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore" — into action.
Because this is no longer a story about Woodward acting as the master puppeteer, manipulating the strings and wires of the Board of Regents to suit his whims. This is about the future of the university and whether a school already in perilous financial shape can afford what is about to happen.
Several sources on campus and others with ties to the university say a major donor is about to yank a "seven-to-eight figure" bequest, or disposition on a will, if the Div. III charade doesn't end. The matriarch of the family wishes to remain confidential. I hope that changes. The public should know.
Another source said last week, "based on my information, at least $25 million in bequests will disappear, too. That's just bequests. Other donors are going to withhold as well."
This information is consistent with six letters to the Board of Regents sent to The Day last week, all saying that if athletics drop to Div. III, they will withhold what amounts to generous sums of money. Remember, too, the Golden Rule of Fundraising: You never know what you didn't raise. The $25 million could be lunch money compared to what else is out there — and won't be forthcoming.
Once again: How long are parents, faculty, staff, students and other donors going to tolerate this without organizing and publicly demanding Woodward's resignation and staying in Div. I?
Woodward was forced to publicly acknowledge last week that he lied on his biography. Turns out that Woodward was not a scholarship Div. I soccer player at Villanova. He is not in his high school's Hall of Fame. This had been part of Woodward's written biography and what he told Colin McEnroe on NPR as late as this past March.
Combine his biographical baloney with his willingness to "spin doctor" the athletics numbers — as he suggested when he sought the support of history professor Warren Goldstein in an e-mail that went public — and I get this image of Woodward on the witness stand during an episode of "Law & Order."
Here comes Jack McCoy salivating, saying, "Were you lying then or are you lying now? Why should we believe anything you say?"
And yet the more shameful behavior comes from Woodward's sycophants, who somehow get to not only speak for the university, but continue to influence policy. Want to know how they really act?
First, there's Goldstein. He wrote to the faculty senate in a group chat last week, obtained by The Day via screen shot. He wrote, "The p.r. fallout from the athletics decision is only growing. Do we have a more aggressive strategy to address our own staff working to raise community opposition to that decision?"
Translation: In spite of overwhelming support to stay in Div. I, let's do more spin doctoring.
Then there's the case of a baseball parent — a friend of mine and a man who is actually paying tuition to the university — who sent a recent e-mail to the Board of Regents expressing his distaste for the Div. III decision. Board of Regents member Esther Pryor, in response to my friend's e-mail sent May 21, replied, "please remove from your distribution list."
There it is, Neighborhood: A member of the Board of Regents just dismissed a tuition-paying parent. He doesn't count.
How much longer are you all going to allow such supercilious snobs to make decisions for the university? They must go. And the only way that happens is through revolt. Donors need to withhold and say so publicly. Parents need to organize and withhold tuition. Maybe that's scary for a few parents. But not a band of 500. Or 1,000.
It must be organized and relentless. That's the only way this works. I've had my say. Others in the media — John Feinstein, Jeff Jacobs, Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale — have as well. This is about The Neighborhood now. And whether the Neighborhood gets to exist in the future.
Good luck to you all.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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