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.
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.
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.
- 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.