Ashland University BOT hiring & drug policy review completed

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A summary of the Ashland University Board of Trustees’ review into the university’s hiring and drug policies was emailed to faculty yesterday. If you need to know why the BOT wanted to conduct this review, click here.

The BOT calls this an independent review, but that is not accurate. That’s because the BOT hired the law firm Barnes & Thornburg to conduct this review, the same law firm that is representing AU in the lawsuit filed by six former tenured faculty members who were fired in 2015.

READ THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES LETTER BY CLICKING HERE

Barnes & Thornburg could never produce something that made President Carlos Campo or the university look bad, because they have to defend Campo and the university, show them in a positive light, when the faculty lawsuit trial starts on April 17 in Ashland County Judge Ronald Forsthoefel’s courtroom. The only way this review could have been considered independent is if it had been conducted by an investigator or lawyers with no ties to AU. 

READ THE MEMO FROM BARNES & THORNBURG TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES BY CLICKING HERE

So, not surprisingly, the summary says that it found “no evidence that President Campo attempted to influence the hiring of his son.” It also says that the review found that no university policies had been violated in the hiring process.

The summary says that the board concluded that Carlos Campo’s “actions in dealing with his son’s employment within the University constituted a clear lapse of judgement,” and that Campo should have recognized the potential risk of the situation. But ultimately, the board affirmed its support of Campo, claiming that he has “encouraged a culture of academic excellence and student success, while leading the University from a period of serious financial strain to a more secure financial position.” (Side note: How does one encourage a culture of academic excellence when one of the first things Campo did as president was fire tenured faculty members, including faculty members who had just been granted tenure and those who had just been granted sabbaticals?)

Take the report with a grain of salt. Again, the BOT was never going to significantly rebuke Campo. After all, they also just gave him a three-year contract. But keep in mind that there are a lot of other concerning issues that stem from the hiring and later promotion of Brandon Campo.

Ultimately, when you look at the big picture view of Brandon Campo’s hiring, it’s hard to believe that the president didn’t play a very strong role in making sure his son was employed by the university.

Here’s why:

  • In January or early February 2017, Brandon Campo, who at the time was 33 years old, got an undergraduate student pregnant. We know this because the baby was born in October.
  • He was hired by the university no later than April 2017. This happened right around the same time that Brandon Campo married Madeline (Knowles) Campo, the nursing student that he got pregnant. They got married on April 15, 2017, a very short time after their engagement was announced. 
  • Brandon Campo was also, at some point in time, taking undergraduate classes at AU, trying to finish a bachelor’s degree. The earliest he could have started those courses is the summer of 2016. I don’t know when he finally earned an undergraduate degree, but it’s entirely possible that it wasn’t until May 2017, which means he could have been hired by the university before he was officially a college graduate.
  • I’ve been told that Brandon Campo was hired by Bernie Bannin. Bannin is currently the director of graduate and online admissions at AU. But when Bannin was hired in January 2017, he came in as the program manager of admissions and advising, according to his LinkedIn page. He then became the interim director of graduate and online admissions one month after he started at AU. It makes sense that Bannin did the hiring considering Brandon Campo was hired into the admissions office (that is according to the BOT letter that went to faculty yesterday).
  • Bannin came to Ashland from Regent University. He worked there from May 2008 through December 2016, which means he was there when Carlos Campo was the president from 2010-2013 (Campo abruptly left Regent just as the Fall 2013 semester started, something that he won’t talk about, even in a legal deposition).
  • Brandon Campo finished an MBA degree at AU in May 2018. That’s a one-year advanced degree. He was then promoted to a position that reported to Dan Lawson, who is an Associate Vice President and Chief Corporate Relations Officer. Brandon Campo was arrested on campus just about one month later.

What does all this mean? One would be hard-pressed to believe that Bannin did not know of Brandon Campo’s criminal history. I say this because Bannin was working at Regent University when Brandon was getting arrested (and convicted) of everything from Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated to identity theft to buying alcohol for people who were under 21 years of age to probation violations. Some of this was happening in Virginia Beach, some in Las Vegas. Indeed, it was in 2012 that Brandon Campo was convicted of a felony OVI charge and sentenced to 18 months in prison in Las Vegas. I have a hard time believing that people who worked at Regent at that time did not know what their university president’s son was up to.

Given that it’s highly likely that Bannin knew Brandon Campo’s past run-ins with law enforcement, why would he have hired him? Because the president, who had just lured Bannin away from Virginia Beach, told him to. There is really no other explanation despite what the Barnes & Thornburg review says.

But the Board of Trustees can’t admit to that, because that would look really bad for the university. And this BOT has a history of making really bad decisions — especially when it comes to hiring presidents — and then ignoring the problems or trying to sweep them under the rug.

That’s what they’re doing right now.

Why I write about AU

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Some people have asked me why I continue to write about what is going on at Ashland University. It’s a question I’ve asked myself numerous times. After all, I escaped AU and landed in a place — Fairfield University — that has made me believe in the wonders of higher education again, a place that has let me see that there are indeed institutions where the administrators and the faculty work together with a common mindset aimed at transforming student lives.

jdm 4 life

The red tag is from Tom Prizeman, a student who transferred away from AU after his favorite professors left. The signature below his belongs to Tim McCarty, a JDM faculty member who was cut in 2014. The one on the bottom is mine, after I left in 2016.

By the time I left AU in 2016, I didn’t have that mindset. It had been washed away by so many maddening and anger-inducing interactions with administrators who made idiotic and sometimes unethical decisions. Of course, one of those last decisions, at least in my time, was the termination of tenured faculty members (14 to be exact, six of whom have filed a lawsuit against AU). Those faculty were all integral to their departments, and worked hard to make a difference in the lives of students.

I left Ashland University in the summer of 2016 because I couldn’t take it anymore. I gave up and walked away from an institution I cared about deeply. That, ultimately, is why I keep finding myself drawn back to writing about what is going on at Ashland University, because truth be told, I love the place. It wasn’t just the university that gave me my first job as a professor. It was also the place where I got my undergraduate degree, where I learned how to be a reporter and why that was important to society, and, most of all, where the faculty transformed me into the man I am today.

I really do love Ashland University, but I have watched presidents and other highly-paid administrators (far more highly-paid than the faculty) and even the board of trustees systematically place their own special interests ahead of the university for far too long. And that, quite frankly, pisses me off.

The BOT and last two presidents of AU have cut the faculty to the bone.

au jdm in vegas

From left: Gretchen Dworznik, myself, Steve Suess, and David McCoy. We were all part of the Journalism and Digital Media Department at AU. Only McCoy is still at AU now.

In 2014, 15 non-tenured faculty were told their contracts were not being renewed. Less than one year later, after Carlos Campo had been president for less than three months, the university cut another 21 faculty, including 14 tenured professors. The latter has resulted in a lawsuit against the university, which is one of the things I first started writing about when I finally got out of Ashland.

Between August 1, 2015 and April 19, 2017, another 27 faculty quit, a number that includes myself. Many of us were not replaced. I was tenured when I quit, but was replaced with a non-tenure, professional instructor position.

I mention the decimation of the faculty at AU because the result has been lots of adjuncts teaching classes, but even worse, many of the full-time faculty having to teach six or even seven courses a semester, all because enough adjuncts can’t be found (or enough refuse to work for the meager pay AU offers) to handle all of the courses that terminated faculty once taught.

This means that faculty — and I know this because I hear from professors from all across the university on a regular basis — just don’t have the time or the energy to have the kind of impact on students’ lives that they used to. They just can’t.

matt au id

My AU student ID, circa 1994-98.

I know even the great Dan Lehman and Joe Mackall, the two English professors who shaped me into the man, writer, and professor that I am today, could not have made the difference they made on me if they were teaching six courses a semester while simultaneously finding themselves embroiled in arguments with university administrators over everything from faculty cuts to no pay raises to the university hiring the president’s 35-year-old son for an on-campus job despite the fact said son had a lengthy criminal record, and, it turns out, active arrest warrants, a son that would barely a year after being hired, be arrested on campus for drug dealing.

So I write about what is going on at Ashland University because I love Ashland

collegian ona

The Collegian staff and myself at the Ohio Newspaper Association annual meeting.

University. I get excited when I see the men’s and women’s basketball teams both sporting 18-1 records this season. I get excited when I see the amazing stuff the Journalism and Digital Media Department is doing when it comes to live-streaming virtually every event that happens on campus (despite the fact they are down to just two faculty, even as their enrollments go through the roof). I get excited when I see that Ashland University is included in the Say Yes to Education campaign. I get excited when Psychology professors at Fairfield University tell me they know Christopher Chartier, an AU Psychology professor, because of the Psychological Science Accelerator that he created.

bils and bucheit

Ashland University JDM grads Chris Bils and Elizabeth Bucheit work a women’s basketball game when they were students. Bils is now working for the Austin American Statesman covering Major League Soccer. Bucheit is a production coordinator at ESPN.

There is still great stuff happening at Ashland University, but none of it is happening on the administrative side or because of administrators. It’s happening in spite of them. And the great things that are happening at AU would increase in number and as well as greatness if the university just had credible, competent, ethical leaders.

There is a vortex of leadership on the administrative side of AU, and it is sucking everything at the university down with it.

That leads to the other reason I write about what is happening at AU; somebody needs to keep an eye on those making the decisions there. The Times Gazette and the Collegian do the best they can, but they can only do so much. And if the board and Campo are able to go about doing whatever they want to do, whenever they want to, Ashland University will crumble.

I write about the goings-on at AU because I want the place to get better. And I can tell you right now that sweeping things under the rug and hoping they go away, hoping that nobody is paying attention, is never the recipe for improvement. It’s a recipe for continued incompetence and corruption.

It’s not going to get fixed if it’s not visible. I’m doing my best to make it visible.

AU Board opens independent investigation into university hiring procedures, drug policies

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The Ashland University Board of Trustees has hired a law firm to conduct an independent review of the university’s hiring practices and its substance abuse policies, according to an email sent to university faculty, staff, and students on Wednesday, January 23.

The email was signed by Kevin L. Doss, the chairman of the AU Board, and said the investigation, which will be done by the law firm Barnes & Thornburg, is being done in light of Brandon Campo’s recent conviction and sentencing for child endangerment and drug charges. The email was forwarded to me by someone who is not an AU employee or student. You can read the full email below.

Brandon Campo, the son of AU President Carlos Campo, had been working at the university and was arrested on campus. He was convicted of buying drugs from a student, as well as selling drugs from his home. He was living with his wife, Madeline, and their infant in the basement of Carlos Campo’s house. 


When Ashland Municipal Court Judge John Good sentenced Campo to the maximum 180 days in the county jail, he mentioned the fact that Brandon Campo has two active warrants for his arrest in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“I write to express our dismay and disappointment upon learning of Brandon Campo’s recent guilty plea and additional concerns that came to light during his sentencing hearing,” Doss wrote in his email. “As an employee of this university until June 2018 and as the son of our president, Brandon’s case left us with many unanswered questions that demand our timely and thorough inquiry.”

When Good sentenced Brandon Campo on January 18, he mentioned a letter that Margaret Pomfret, the vice president of institutional advancement, wrote as a testament to Brandon Campo’s character.

Good read from the Pomfret letter the following sentence: “I believe the poor choices he made that caused him to be charged was a one-off event, and not reflective of his character.”

“This is not a one-off event,” Good then said to Brandon Campo. “You have a criminal record that is extremely extensive.”

He then asked who was doing background checks at AU when it came to hiring administrators before launching into a long list of Brandon Campo’s criminal record, which includes multiple convictions for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including a felony OVI conviction in Las Vegas in 2012, which he he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for. He has also been convicted of theft, obstruction of justice, public intoxication, and identity theft, and arrested for possession of drugs, including crack and black tar heroin, the latter of which Good said he couldn’t find out what happened in the courts with regards to those charges. 

Good then mentioned the arrest warrants, which stem from multiple probation violations in Virginia Beach, which is where Regent University is located. Carlos Campo was president there from August 2010 to October 2013, when he quit in the middle of the academic year’s first semester. Carlos Campo was asked questions about his departure from Regent University during his deposition tied to the lawsuit filed by fired tenured faculty members against the university, but Carlos Campo said he couldn’t say why he left because there was a confidentiality agreement tied to his resignation.

“We are determined to gather all of the facts surrounding this situation and to carefully examine their implications for Ashland University,” Doss said in his email to AU faculty, staff, and students.  

He said the university hired the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg, and that they would get back to the board of trustees within 30 days.

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28 years later, memories of nurses strong as ever

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Twenty-eight years ago today (January 2, 1991), I sat in a hospital bed and watched “Hoosiers.” Mom had gone home to be with my brothers John and Jim, as Dad was still driving back east after making it several hundred miles west before he got the news and turned around.

cropped-runningwithghost_fc_f2-11.jpgAbout six hours earlier in the day, I had been admitted to Wooster Community Hospital, to Room 404, so doctors could run tests. I had heard the word leukemia mentioned, but I didn’t know what that was and I didn’t think it was any worse than a cold or the flu. At 3:30 p.m., I ate Little Caesars pizza and drank a Coke. I talked on the phone with my friend Jim Pagniano and told him I was in the hospital, but that I expected I would still play in the basketball tournament on the weekend.

But now that I was alone, and watching “Hoosiers,” I started getting nervous. I had spent a night in this hospital before — just about a month-and-a-half ago — when I had a surgery to repair a hernia, but this just seemed different. Dr. Frank Cebul III and a new doctor I had never seen before, Dr. Jeffrey Spiess, talked about bone marrow tests and leukemic blasts and even chemotherapy. He said the next day’s tests would tell them more.

“We’ll know then where we go from here,” I imagine Dr. Spiess said.

I didn’t understand that at all, at least not right then. I felt fine as I chowed on pizza. I didn’t feel like someone who should be sitting in a hospital bed.

But I also knew that I had been very tired over the last couple weeks. And I had this sharp pain in my back anytime someone touched me. And now, as I watched the boys from a small town in Indiana play basketball, a sport I loved to play, and did so on a team at a school that wasn’t much bigger than Hickory, I started to wonder what was happening to me.

A nurse came into my room and sat down. She asked me how I was feeling and I mumbled that I was fine. Earlier, before Mom left, the nurse told us that if we had any questions about any of the upcoming tests, we just had to ask. Now that Mom was gone, I didn’t have any questions. I had nothing but a creeping loneliness and a feeling that my life was changing and I didn’t have any idea how or why.

Tears started rolling down my face, but I didn’t say anything and neither did the nurse. But she was there, sitting quietly, and that meant everything to me.

The next three years of my life would be dominated by caring and compassionate nurses like the one in Wooster. The nurses at Akron Children’s Hospital helped me through the 10 weeks that I lived on 4-North, and then the two-plus years as an outpatient.

Matt and Joan Camp CHOPS photo

This is me, in June 1991, with Joan, at Camp CHOPS.

There was Theresa and Joan who acted crazy, who loved to laugh and do things in an attempt to make me laugh, to make me forget for just one second the battle that was taking place inside by body.

Rickey Henderson rookie photo

The card John gave me back in January 1991.

There was John, the only male nurse I had in my days as an in-patient, who brought in his baseball card collection one day so I could look at it, and after I had turned through pages of baseball cards worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, he asked me what card I liked best. I told him I liked the Rickey Henderson rookie card best because I was collecting Henderson cards, and the rookie – valued at the time at close to $400 – was one I coveted but could never afford. He slid the card out and handed it to me.

“It’s yours,” he said.

There was Janet, who knew I needed to eat, and who knew I couldn’t stomach hospital food, but that I loved sausage biscuits from McDonalds, and so she would stop there on her way to the hospital in the mornings and buy one for me, dropping it off in my room before her shift started.

Matt and Pam photo

Pam and I stand at the Akron Marathon Expo in September 2017.

And in the outpatient clinic, there was Pam and Char, who guided me through life as a kid whose cancer was in remission, a kid who was trying to get back to a normal that didn’t exist anymore.

The nurses are one of the reasons I can look back on what by all accounts should be a tragic and sad anniversary – the day I found out I had cancer as a 15-year-old – and be thankful for my experience.

The nurses changed my life every bit as much as the cancer did.

 

 

Vertical Runner in Wooster, Ohio

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Whenever we go back to Ohio for visits, I always make sure to stop in at Vertical Runner, the running store in Wooster. I did the same when we were there over the holidays and bought myself a new pair of running shoes.

It was the last pair I’d buy in Vertical Runner’s original store, as they’re moving to a bigger facility, one that is also a historical Downtown Wooster building that has been beautifully restored.

One of the best parts of our trip home was getting to see the inside of the new building, which will open tomorrow. Another great thing was getting to read The Daily Record’s story on the new store, written by Tami Mosser. That story ran on Sunday, December 30, and I was lucky enough to read it before we drove back to Connecticut.

One thing the story mentions is how Brian and Tammy Polen have not just built a successful business, but they’ve also built an amazing community of runners and walkers. This community and this store is really one of the biggest things I miss since I moved to Connecticut.

We have running stores here on Fairfield County, but none of them have built the community that Vertical Runner has. None of them have developed an atmosphere where runners of all speed just want to hang out together. I miss that more than anything.

And even though I live more than 530 miles away from the store, it is still the only place I will buy running shoes from.

Congrats to Brian and Tammy and the entire running community on the new store, and thanks to Tami and The Daily Record for having that great story in Sunday’s paper.

Deposition of AU President Carlos Campo

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Here is the deposition of Ashland University President Carlos Campo. Once again, this is tied to the lawsuit that six former tenured faculty members have filed against the university, claiming that their termination was a breach of contract (which essentially means they’re claiming their firings were done in violation of Faculty Rules and Regulations).

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There are a few things that stood out to me in this deposition.

• The university is arguing that it terminated faculty because of “the formal restructuring of a program or department not mandated by financial exigency.” This is one of the three reasons given in the Faculty Rules and Regulations for terminating tenured faculty.

Campo actually argues, though, that simply terminating a faculty member is indeed restructuring.

 

In fact, many of the courses that were taught by the tenured faculty who were fired are still being taught, but now they’re being taught by adjuncts. No majors or minors were eliminated. No departments were eliminated. The College of Arts and Sciences did actually start combining departments in late 2015, several months after the faculty were terminated, but it was clear (to me at the time) that this was being done to protect the university in a possible lawsuit, a lawsuit that was ultimately filed a few months later. The college did save a bit of money because of this. Since they combined departments, they didn’t have to have as many chairs the meager stipends that department chairs get.

Still, how does one explain a new department of Philosophy, Math and Computer Science?

• Campo claimed to have never read the 1982 Settlement Agreement that stemmed from faculty members being treated unfairly by what was then Ashland College administrators. In fact, that mediated settlement agreement was in many ways the document that ultimately gave power to the university’s Faculty Rules and Regulations.

You can read that agreement for yourself here: 1982 Settlement Agreement

• Even though Campo claimed to have never read the settlement agreement, he argues that it doesn’t have any power because it was a document tied to Ashland College, not Ashland University. He essentially argued that Ashland College and Ashland University were not the same institution. The name was changed in 1989 to more accurately reflect what the institution had become.

• These terminations were done purely for financial reasons. In the year prior to Campo arriving on campus (academic year 2014-15), the university had somewhere close to $65 million in debt, versus just $41 million in its endowment (info according to AU’s IRS 990 form from that year). The university was also trying to refinance that debt, but since Moody’s had downgraded its credit rating to near junk bond status in 2014, it was finding it hard to find bond holders willing to refinance.

Campo actually testified that after the university’s academic programs completed its prioritization process, that information was turned over to the Board of Trustees who then told Campo to cut 15 percent of the faculty compensation budget. There was nothing from the BOT about academic programs or departments to be eliminated. They simply wanted to cut about $3 million.

• Which leads to another one of Campo’s arguments, and that’s that some of the restructuring that was done was to the university’s budget (remember, the FRR says that it must be an academic program or department that must be restructured, not the university budget). Campo even claimed that with the money saved by cutting tenured faculty, he could spend more on university athletics. Which AU did recently, when they started ESports as a varsity team, hired a coach and created a scholarship for FortNite players.

 

This should be distressing for anyone in higher education. What Campo is arguing is that he can terminate a faculty member anytime he wants, so long as he’s thought about it for a long time.

If Ashland University prevails in this lawsuit, then tenure there is dead.

Deposition of CAS Dean Dawn Weber

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Here is the testimony of College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dawn Weber. Weber arrived at Ashland University in the Fall of 2008, the same year I was hired as an assistant professor of English and Journalism. She was the only dean I had in eight years at AU. Screen Shot 2018-12-07 at 7.34.03 PM

Reading through this deposition makes me think that Weber either has an incredibly horrible memory or she is not being entirely truthful. I mean, she testified that she didn’t know who the president of the university was in May 2014.

I’ll tell you who it was: It was Fred Finks, and the provost was Frank Pettigrew. And early in May 2014, Faculty Senate passed a vote of No Confidence in Finks and Pettigrew after we became aware of a proposal Finks turned in to the Board of Trustees that recommended, among other things, eliminating tenured faculty.

Fifteen months later, 14 tenured faculty were eliminated.