Thursday, February 08, 2007

Quote - Cleveland Free Times

This is a link the the Cleveland Free Times about Lester Lefton ... once the Provost at Tulane University. I wrote an article at the time calling for his resignation - which is explained below.

Here's the very innacurate part of the story that is about the incident:

Before taking over at Kent State, Lefton was provost of Tulane University in New Orleans. In 2003, after Lefton changed housing policies to require any senior who was writing a thesis to live in a dorm, the Tulane student newspaper The Hullabaloo published a blistering editorial titled, "Fire Lester Lefton: The Provost Must Go."

"You're rude, and what's more — you lied to us," wrote then-editor Jonathan Stroud.

"I was upset at the time because I didn't think he showed proper respect to students, so I answered in the only way I knew how — because students have such little power at a private university," Stroud says in an interview. "But the core of the message is accurate. I didn't think he was good for our university, and I don't think he's good for any university."

Another former Hullabaloo editor, Jaclyn Rosenson, says the newspaper's dealings with Lefton were strained after that.

"Our views editor took a point-blank attack at him and it just led to a very adversarial relationship where Lefton was not forthcoming with any information," Rosenson says. "There were pleasantries exchanged, but almost never information. But he was always there for the sound bite that made Tulane look good."

Here's my letter-to-the-editor response:

Dear Cleveland Free Times,

I'd like to clarify a couple of major errors you made in your "chatter point" piece on Lester Lefton, for the record.

The problems at Tulane arose from an unannounced withdrawal of almost $2,000 a semester from a specific scholarship - the Founder's scholarship - which many underprivileged Tulanians were recipients of. There was no guaranteed off-campus housing, so certain students - friends among them - lost almost $2,000 in scholarship money, with no student vote, no real action or announcement. It was done over winter break, while the students were away.

My actions at the time were acerbic and hyperbolic - but like I said, I didn't know what else to do. I stand by my article, and my quote, but would like to make the point - which I made to your reporter - that if I had the chance to handle it differently I would have. It was a proper forum for my opinions, but the word "liar" should not be thrown around so lightly.

I was not the editor, but rather, the views (editorial) editor. And afterwards, I enjoyed a more collegial - if strained - relationship with Lefton and the administration. That being said, his actions were wrong - and it appears, continue to be so. Example - the closure of the prestigious (but unprofitable) School of Engineering in the face of Hurricane Katrina's budget shortfall, shortly before Lefton left the university. But overreaction is not the answer. Meaningful debate is.

-Jonathan Stroud
BSE, Biomedical Engineering
Tulane University School of Engineering
former views editor, Tulane Hullabaloo

Sigh. Anyway, there I am, in print, for better - or worse. You decide.