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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

This is Not an AMSOL BoG or Dean of Students!

The following posts are taken from the "puffs of smoke" from an earlier post. I think they deserves a wider exposure due to their content and witness.

It has been said that there is a clash of cultures (academic and business) in the Ave Maria universe of institutions - the reality is that there is a clash of ethos. Tom Monaghan and crew represent an ethos which is not entirely Catholic but dressed up as such. They represent an ethos which validates the use of instruments of power and wealth to advance narrow interests. Contrasted to this is the communio ethos of life in the Trinity.

If there is to be a true renewal of society - a Civilization of Love, then we must confront not only the culture of death in "the World" but indeed we must confront those dehumanizing cultures within our own fold whose actions teach that only an elect are made in the image and likeness of God, and everyone else can be treated like dogs because . . . well you know.


Back in 2003, then AMC Board members Ralph Martin & Paul Henkels were asked (by the Board!) to investigate the complaints coming from AMC staff and faculty. Here are excerpts from their preliminary findings in August 2003:

"Our preliminary conclusion is that there is a serious clash of culture and expectations between the entrepreneurial mentality that is characteristic of our top leadership team, and the more restrained, process oriented, leadership characteristic of successful academic institutions. This has resulted in very wide-spread frustration which has produced a serious morale problem.We believe that the testimony to this is so clear, wide-spread and convincing that it would be a mistake to wait any longer in responding. We recommend that we immediately launch a search for a President or Provost of AMU who has significant academic leadership experience.""We continue to be excited and hopeful about what this project could mean to the Church but believe that this leadership issue must be promptly addressed for the endeavor to be successful and a widespread morale problem be resolved."

Who were the President and Provost of AMU back then? - the same ones there today, Healy & Fessio.

I hope that this recognition, by 2 former AMC Board members, gets spread far and wide - that the problems were/are legitimate, and that resolving the problem requires leadership change (which never happened).

Every time you hear an AMC/AMU/AMSL Board member try to paint current and past problems on a small group of carping academics - as Michael Novak shamefully did in today's NYT saying of critics If it weren’t Monaghan, it would be dissatisfaction with whomever,” - when you hear this, shove the above Martin/Henkels report at him/her and tell 'em to wake-up (or get their head out of their rear).

- Andrew Messaros post


Good grief, Bowie Kuhn picked a good analogy for his comments about the directors of Tom Monaghan’s various entities.

“Trained dogs,” indeed! Like the best-trained canine circus performers, Tom’s board members roll over on command.

Steve Ray, who serves on the boards of AMC and the Foundation told me and at least one other Ave Maria employee multiple times that his role as board member is to do what Tom tells him to do. He said before the meetings, Tom tells him how to vote, and he does so.

During a break during a board meeting in 2004 one of the board members told me in the hallway that he/she didn’t even know what he/she was voting on, but was voting anyway, Tom’s way.

AMC board member Judge Jim Ryan told a small group of faculty/staff members in a meeting that the college was really a “one-man show” and all that really mattered was how Tom wanted to spend his money. This sentiment was repeated in the same meeting by board member Tom Fagan, who also indicated the only opinion that really mattered was Tom’s.

In June 2004, there was a very important and controversial vote that decided the fate of AMC. Tom wanted to vote to close AMC in 2007, even though faculty and staff were pleading for them to delay a vote on the issue so we would have more time to make plans for a successor institution. We (faculty/staff) particularly wanted AMC to continue to accept new students, and give us time to tweak the business plan for the successor school. Tom’s plan was quite contrary to this, as several board members told us repeatedly. They said Tom wanted to shut the place down yesterday. Some of us were lobbying board members. One board member told me the night before that climactic vote that he was being threatened with a lawsuit by Monaghan/Fessio if he did not vote Tom’s way, and another board member said the same. So, sorry Bowie Kuhn, you are no doubt quite privy to these shenanigans, which makes your comment all the more laughable. There is no real independence on a board when the chairman and his priest threaten lawsuits against directors.

Indeed, from top to bottom, when it comes to governance, Tom and Nick Healy use drastic and sometimes ruthless means to assert their agenda on matters large and small. The “at will” agreement all employees sign indicates that the employee may be fired for any reason, “cause or no cause.” Severance packages of employees who leave include stringent gag orders forbidding any negative comment about Tom and his whole operation.

Thus, there are many cases of unjust dismissals by Nick Healy that have not been publicized much:

• An accountant who questioned and refused to go along with what he considered unethical/illegal activity.

• Kate Ernsting and I were ousted for reporting to the Dept. of Education what I considered a money-laundering scheme of federal tuition funds. AMC wound up paying $259,000 back to the DOE, and the criminal investigation went on for 1.5 years, before being dropped, I was understand, for political considerations.

• There is a memo written by a Healy assistant who suggested that a highly qualified, well-respected department chairman be fired because he did not show “loyalty” to Nick. His subsequent firing shocked just about everyone in the organization.

• At AMC, the faculty were reminded with a terse memo in 2004 that they would be fired if they made comments publicly critical of AMC.

The Charlie Rice episode of last fall, in which Rice was ejected from the board due to his independence, illustrates the tolerance Monaghan has for those who disagree with him.

If the Ave Maria board members were not “trained dogs,” the 2003 Ralph Martin Report, which called for Nick Healy’s removal as president, would have resulted in some change, besides Ralph’s resignation. Surely, the Dec. 8, 2005 letter by Guillermo Montes, chair of the AMU economics department, should have attracted some attention and resulted on changes by the board. But no, there have been no changes.

The Montes letter is 1,200-words long and reiterates many of the same complaints other respected academics have made about their treatment at AMU: He wrote, “I feel deeply misled. … We left family, jobs, established research careers to make this place a national leader only to find out that I had been lied to.”

This note is way, way too long, but I’m compelled to include another metaphor about Ave Maria leadership, written by one of the academics who left a tenure-track post 1,000 miles away with his family to work at St. Mary’s. He was one of the early casualties of the Ave Maria disaster. He wrote:

“I will forever consider the AMC-AMU team to be a bunch of pirates, a reckless band of marauders on the high seas of academia and Catholic culture and I thank the Lord that I escaped with my own personal integrity and with whatever tenuous professional and financial stability that I have. I believe that other people need to know about these pirates before their vessels are boarded, their treasures plundered, and their families carried off to futile ventures. The facade of ecclesiastical, political, and conservative backing makes their deceit all the more shameful and tragic. It is our solemn duty to shout 'Jolly Roger.'"

Finally, it is noteworthy that AMU’s web site does not list the names of the board members, including Bowie Kuhn or Michael Novak, both quoted in the NYT article defending Monaghan/Healy.

We know that some board members have quit in apparent disgust, including Ralph Martin. Mary Ellen Bork also resigned. Why is the AMU board not listed on its own web site? Early on, these folks were prominently displayed in advertising in major Catholic media.

- Jay McNally

UPDATE: In the spirit of "Letters to the Editor" and in the interests of fair play, we have decided to reprint the comment of Mr. Steve Ray who responds to Mr. Jay McNally's comments above. Mr. Ray has authorized us to do this and has added some prefatory remarks. Please Note that Fumare does not endorse the comments of either of these individuals; the comments are their own and we reproduce them here for our readers' consideration. (When we endorse something you will indeed know it!)

I have nothing against Jay on a personal level--in fact, I know and like him. We have worked together in the past and I genuinely like the guy. He is gifted and loves Our Lord and the Church. But this AMC situation seems to have filled him with anger which adversely effects his words and conduct. It would be best for him to root out the bitterness and move on with his life. The fruit of bitterness is only anger and death (Heb 12:15).

Unfortunately most of what Jay McNally says above is untrue, at least as it relates to me, Judge Ryan and Bowie Kuhn. I happened to be with these two gentlemen today when someone handed us a printed copy of this blog. We read it with sadness and I thought I should respond.

Judge Ryan gave me permission to say that Jay is a liar in regard to what he said about him. Bowie also says Jay misrepresents his comments and uses a few words he said to extrapolate things Bowie never said nor intended. Jay forgot a very important word in his statement about Bowie -- Bowie used the word "not" which was somehow deleted by Jay.

I also say Jay is a liar in regards to what he said about me. I know "liar" is a strong word, but it not only refers to an outright lie or fabrication; it can -- and often does -- refer to a twisting and distorting of the truth to make something seem other than it is.

I will not go into the details here; other more important things demand my time. But, I don't appreciate being maligned and misrepresented, especially when the exact opposite is true. I never said Tom dictated how to vote and that I voted according to his dictates -- like a trained canine.

Such analogies by Jay are, by the way, beneath him and any sense of propriety. I was in the board meetings and know that NO ONE was a trained canine. Many and heated arguments filled the meetings. However Jay was not there so he does not know of what he speaks.Regarding myself, in fact, MANY times during votes about AMC I voted against Tom and the others based on my conscience. I do not appreciate someone implying otherwise. Jay was not in the meetings and knows not of what he speaks. I was there -- I know.

Others who are less blinded by anger and frustration know the truth in this matter but are not willing to lie about me, Bowie, and Judge Ryan to get sympathy and foment unrest. I am referring to other staff, faculty and students who were adversily affected by the move to Florida. These know the truth and have often supported and thanked me for my influence and participation.

Suffice it to say, the three of us today were surprised at the twisting and misinformation written by Jay on things we are knowledgable about -- and he is not.

I might ask, why should we or anyone else trust anything else he wrote in the above blog when that which we personally know is completely contrary to what Jay says. If he is so wrong on what I personally know, why should you or I trust the rest of his assertions?