More foibles at the University of Hartford: a swing at despotism
How to put this delicately:
The University of Hartford has become the O'Hare Airport of utter buffoonery: You have to admire it for its size.
Just when it felt unthinkable that its leadership could betray the students worse than the heedless decision to downgrade athletics from Div. I to Div. III, the university's acting athletic director just took a swing at censorship.
Acting AD Sharon Beverly sent an email to the Hartford coaches, leaked on social media, advising they each talk to their student-athletes about behavioral expectations at Sunday's commencement ceremonies.
"I encourage you to address with your team that while any disruption may result in disciplinary sanctions, including but not limited to their diplomas or transcripts being held," Beverly wrote, "the respective sport programs may also have repercussions. These will include forfeiting games and/or suspensions of the entire 2022-23 season. Lastly, keep in mind that as leaders of your program, you are responsible for the behavior of your SAs (student-athletes)."
The warning stemmed from previous public booing of Hartford President Greg Woodward at last year's ceremony, stemming from his decision that ruined the athletic program.
Woodward commissioned a sham study that specifically named athletics as responsible for Hartford's fiscal difficulties to deflect more applicable darts aimed at the shortcomings of his regime. The study's findings did what all bought-and-paid-for studies do: establish the conclusion first and then make the numbers fit.
The Day intercepted subsequent e-mails from Woodward to a university professor admitting that Woodward would "spin doctor" numbers if the faculty member championed the cause to downgrade. To this day, sources in every nearby Div. III conference say they have no interest in adding Hartford, calling into legitimate question whether any sports there will last. Good leadership does not advocate change unless all circumstances have been thoroughly researched.
And now, as if to vaccinate her boss against criticism, Ms. Beverly openly threatened coached and students if they were to exercise their fundamental right to dissent.
Sort of makes you wonder: Was this graduation ceremony a better fit in Hartford or Mr. Putin's front lawn?
Many student-athletes left Hartford disillusioned. They've said so publicly. Now the ones that stayed got threatened. Lovely environment. Do they teach the Constitution on campus or merely President Woodward's interpretation of it?
This was an abject betrayal of our country's timeless dogma that allows the free exchange of ideas and civil disobedience. And while there would be no room for Hartford students to be vulgar or get personal with their displeasure, Ms. Beverly's bid at despotism, whether she thought of it or was strong-armed into it by Woodward, goes past pathetic and straight into repugnant.
Of course, Ms. Beverly's threat, while offensive, was likely toothless. How would she make the student-athletes' lives worse? Downgrade athletics to Div. IV? Wipe them out? The place is a rudderless disaster with coaches and students transferring steadily. There is little hope for the future, no league that wants them and a bunch of sycophants on the Board of Regents who have mastered the Sgt. Schultz routine.
And Ms. Beverly threatens them with forfeiture of games? Someone really ought to clue her in that the University of Hartford has forfeited its entire athletic future.
Woodward, whom attendees said barely spoke at Sunday's ceremony, can insulate himself with puppets on the Board of Regents, lackeys on the faculty and a few dullards in the media. But he can't hide from "The Neighborhood," the culture and community created by men's basketball coach John Gallagher and his program's memorable NCAA Tournament appearance in 2021.
That was the University of Hartford at its best.
Now we see the place awash in despotism that would make Mr. Trump stand up and applaud.
Note to future Hartford students: It is your fundamental right to be heard. It's not like you'll be punished any worse than it is to be a student there right now.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro