Critical Crossroads?

Filed in PersonalTags: College, Indiana, RHIT, Terre Haute

The Terre Haute Tribune Star reports on the on-going controversy surrounding Rose-Hulman President Jack Midgley:

Normally, the tight-knit Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology community tries to settle its differences and controversies in-house and out of the public eye.

These aren't normal times, however.

Many faculty, staff, students and alumni are frustrated and angered that the board of trustees is not addressing long-simmering concerns about Rose-Hulman President Jack Midgley, who has held the post since July 1.

I still have yet to hear any real evidence of anything Midgley has done. Several hot-button issues have been brought up, including: Ventures, the Homework Hotline, and the departure of several Vice Presidents since Midgley's arrival. Still, I've yet to see much real, hard evidence, besides "intimidation" and "threats". Several times I've heard or read that Midgley has "lied", or "said one thing to one person, and the opposite thing to another," but I have yet to hear of a specific instance of either allegation.

Take, for instance, the Homework Hotline. A picture caption in the Trib Star article reads as follows:

Hard facts: Mike Lindley a Rose-Human senior from Robinson, Ill., states his case for saving the Homework Hotline during a rally Friday calling for the removal of Rose President Jack Midgley. Some fear the Homework Hotline may be in jeopardy.

"Some fear..."? Taking a look over on sheds some light about these "fears". According to Institute meeting minutes (available on-campus only), the current grant for the Homework Hotline will end June 2005. During this meeting, a report was given that the school was in discussion with to transition the Homework Hotline to, and also that a propasal was to be prepared for a transition grant through a Lilly endowment to cover an additional year for the Homework hotline.

So, without getting into the merits of the plan, it seems that Dr. Midgley is trying to find a way to preserve the Homework Hotline beyond its current grant, and yet his detractors count it against him.

Speaking of the web site: the Trib Star references the site forum (in fact, the article quotes my post on the forum, as well as a follow-up phone interview by the author, Sue Loughlin, who contacted me through my post on the forum). However, this same forum, that positions itself ostensibly as "a conversation about our president" with the following criteria stated:

This site hopes to provide the following:

  • A public forum to allow us to discuss Midgley and his actions (anonymously if desired)
  • News articles relating to Midgley and our campus

The site, however, will not provide the following:

  • A means for simply bashing Midgley (any discussion topics must be of intellectual value)
  • An unfair picture of Midgley (post your positive experiences as well)

Hit The Road, Jack T-ShirtYet this same site, with this stated purpose, both unequivocably supports an online petition to ouster Midgley, and blatantly sponsors anti-Midgley rhetoric, as with this rally in support of a faculty meeting to hold a no-confidence vote - going so far as to sell "Hit The Road, Jack" T-Shirts directly from the web site. While the web site may have been started with objectivity in mind, it no longer maintains any credibility in that regard.

Back to the article: without any apparent evidence of deleterious changes made by Midgley, the focus is instead on the more abstract "way he treats people" and questions of character. However, no specific instances are referenced, and the rhetoric among the "Hit The Road, Jack" crowd has elevated to hysteria:

1993 Rose-Hulman graduate and current Ventures employee Brian C.] Dougherty further says that Midgley "is destroying Rose-Hulman at a pace that I would have never believed attainable ? Rose-Hulman has suffered damage to its reputation that will take 20 years to repair."

Rose-Hulman is "at a critical crossroads," [Assistant Dean of Faculty Dan Moore] said. If Midgley stays on as president, "I don't think the 2015 conversation [about the college's future] will be relevant. We'll be lucky to still be operating."

[Former Board of Trustees member Scott A. Jones] resigned from the board in mid-February "because I could not get other trustees to listen to my concerns or to take any reasonable action to save Rose-Hulman from Midgley before it is too late."

Jones believes "the future of Rose-Hulman is at stake."

Even should the allegations prove to be all true, Rose-Hulman has survived disastrous administrations before, and it will do so again in the future. I certainly understand and appreciate the passionate concern for the Institute; I share that same concern. But so far, I still believe this issue is really a matter of conjecture, rumor, change-resistance/post-Hulbert fear that have all blown out of any reasonable proportion.


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