Rebuttal From Anonymous UAB Supporter 

EDITORIAL: Legislature should leave UA board alone

Published: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 8:43 p.m.

From http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20150415/NEWS/150419710?p=2&tc=pg

Every organization has its politics. There is office politics, club politics and sometimes even church politics. So to say the University of Alabama System board of trustees is above politics wouldn’t be accurate. The interaction of the board members and how they push their separate aims for the system is a form of politics. (Factual paragraph though somewhat misleading in that it carries a subtext that the politics present in the Board of Trustees is innocuous and of no real concern)

What has had minimum influence over the UA System board is state politics. (Statement is false on face value alone. Any state funded agency will, at times, have state politics rule over the Board. The best example was the last expansion of the Board to allow for more minority members and avoid the US Justice Department from suing {1980s}. However, it can be said that the influence has long been more from the Board to the state government than the other direction.)

People haven’t been appointed to the board based on how much they contributed to the political campaigns of governors and state legislators. And about the only people who wouldn’t say that it has worked well are boosters of the now-defunct football program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Suddenly, there is an outcry from a virtually non-existent fan base. Media outlets that provided little or no air time or space to coverage of the team now champion its cause. (This is a problematic paragraph on several fronts. The absolute statement that people “Haven’t been appointed” due to campaign contributions is an absolute, and as such, is more than likely false. The claim may be made that appointees are rarely chosen based on donations, but even that should cause the most casual of reader to ask for proof. To state that it has “work well” requires a metric of some sort. No metric is given and no qualifications are made. Without a gage of what “working well” means, there is no value in the statement. Further, recent polls at the University of Alabama of faculty has shown a marked level of disapproval of the current board policies, including the lack of a presence in nationally funded research and an over-emphasis on student life at the cost of academic status. The University of Alabama is currently around 200th in national research money awarded. Next, we come to the ever-present issue of football in the state of Alabama. While the loss of the football team did raise the most vocal outcry, it is well documented that the UABoT/UA/UAB/UAH dynamic has been defective since the formation of the system. The “non-existent fan base” presupposes that the only people who care about a university are those who attend sporting events. Should that be the writer’s position, we must all now weep for the state of education in the country. Those people who are upset about the treatment of UAB are upset because they care about UAB, the institution and people, without regard to their status as football fans. The presence or absence of athletic fandom, or how that presence is quantified, should be a minor consideration in discussing higher education.)

Enough is enough. Ripping apart a university system’s governance on account of the demise of a poor to mediocre football program with a sparse fan base is absurd. The UAB administration defied the trustees’ express wishes when it established a football team. Given that, its eventual demise was not surprising. (This paragraph begs the question as to WHY the Trustees opposed UAB Football. Again, the question of if the Board of Trustees needs reform should not be predicated upon athletics unless it is the author’s opinion that athletics are the primary reason for the existence of a university at all. If that is the starting supposition, the author should have stated it clearly at the onset and defended that asinine position. Again, the size of an athletic fan base should have no bearing on the governance of a university or university system.)

To now accuse the board of not supporting UAB is incorrect. What it hasn’t supported is a vision of UAB that the board has never shared. (This paragraph is 100% true. The vision of UAB as a world player in all levels of academics and student life has always been antithetical to the UA Board of Trustees’ vision for the school. As to why that is the case, no clear reason has been given. One would assume that the success of a member institution would be taken for granted, not opposed at the on-set)

UAB and the University of Alabama in Huntsville have a mission within the University of Alabama System. Both schools exist to extend educational opportunities offered by a state flagship at a commuter college. They are located in two of the state’s largest cities so that students who cannot afford to attend a residential college or students whose responsibilities and lifestyles won’t allow them to attend a residential college can get an education. Both perform these functions well. (This paragraph is both false and insulting. First, the author should show, clearly, that the mission statements of both schools is to serve those who are, for whatever reason, unworthy or unable to attend UA. Before the statement is made that the word “unworthy” is not used, let me first point to the phrase “lifestyles won’t allow them to attend a residential college.” That one statement contains a condemnation of a certain category of student, one that is based in elitism, and possibly outright bigotry. The idea that some are not worthy to attend the mighty University of Alabama is based in 19th century socioeconomic philosophies that continue to harm the state in every way. Next, I would ask the author what opportunities from UA exist at UAB and UAH? It is not the ability to participate in research, as both schools surpass UA’s federal research funding. It is not in outright availability of high level educational programs, as both schools have individual programs that distance themselves from those at UA. It is not the ability to participate in higher quality programs that UA offers, either, as the three schools are separate. Beyond being elitist and insulting, this paragraph makes me wonder if the author even understands the system’s structure or the member institutions involved in it. Another point that must be raised is that of cost. It is NOT less expensive to attend UAB or UAH versus UA. One does not save money by attending those schools anymore. That ended over 30 years ago.)

UAB does not exist as a toy for Birmingham politicians and civic boosters. It isn’t there so that they can boast about having a Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) football program in their city. It isn’t a feather to stick in their caps. (Again, the author assumes that the only reason to care about a university is because of athletics, once again presupposing that universities only exist because of athletics. UAB should not be a toy for local politicians. It should also not be a toy for ANYONE in the state, including Trustees.)

It’s time to quit pretending that there is broad outrage over the decision to end UAB football. The protests coming from its relatively small fan base and former players is understandable. But most of the noise is coming from those who have little interest in the school’s real purpose. (The writer of this editorial is one of those who have little interest in the real purpose of any university, based on the repeated return to football. The UA BoT/UAB issue has nothing to do with football and everything to do with self-governance and ethics.)

Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, has introduced a bill that would hand over part of the appointment process for UA System trustees to the boards of UAB’s and UAH’s alumni associations. Why not throw in one from Dollarhide Hunting Club or Shoal Creek Country Club, too? It would make just as much sense. (Several logical issues exist in this paragraph. First, the bill does not “hand over part of the appointment process” to anyone. What the bill would do is create four new seats on the Board, two for UAB and two for UAH. The rest of the Board is appointed in the same exact way. Second, how can the author equate UAB and UAH with two organizations, noble as they are, that have no connection to the UA System? It is somewhat unbelievable that anyone would think that allowing member institutions to have a voice is the same as allowing anyone and everyone to have one.)

We hope that the Alabama Legislature will reject this very bad idea. If not, we certainly hope Gov. Robert Bentley will veto it. Changing the UA System board of trustees over a football program few cared about isn’t reasonable. (The author has yet to establish why the change would be a bad idea. In fact, the author has yet to establish why the strawman version of the bill is a bad idea, let alone the real one. Again, the author seems to feel that football is the only driving force for this movement.)

 

 

This entire editorial is nothing more than a set of logical fallacies and spin set to the tune of “football is all we want.” As such, it ignores history and current events and refuses to treat those with legitimate concerns as worthy of having a voice. In 2011, UAH was without a president. Dr. Portera, then chancellor, filled in. His first act on campus was to unilaterally end the hockey program, providing no recourse for the school. Later that year, UA opened a research facility on campus with the express intention of undercutting UAH’s research bids. Were either of these actions those of a System whose Board wants to insure all schools succeed?

I would ask the author “Why is it that people should not have a voice in their own affairs? Why is it that only a handful of people, most of whom have never once been connected to two of the schools, know what is best for all three? Why is it that you feel that only the Board of Trustees knows what is best for everyone else?”

My questions for all who read this are slightly different. Please consider each of these absent any university (or team) allegiance.

1.   Do you believe that a nearly $4 billion state agency should be governed by a board that chooses its own members?

2.   Do you believe that the members of that board should fall under state ethics laws?

3.   Do you believe that some government entity, governor, Legislature, or State Supreme Court, should have the ability to remove members from that Board for cause?

4.   Do you believe that members of that board should be able to profit from their membership?

5.   Do you believe that members of that board should be able to have strong financial ties to each other, including being employed by another member? Or having a family member employed by one?

6.   Do you believe that members of that board should be chosen based on who donates the most to athletics or by who has the most skill and ability to lead a system of higher learning?

7.   Do you believe that is in the best interest of the state to silence any segment of the population, removing their rights to voice their concern or participate in government?

The #FreeUAB argument says the answers are 1. No 2. Yes 3. Yes 4. No 5. No 6. By skill and ability 6. No

If you agree with us on any of these, you should now understand that we are not concerned with football as the primary driving force of the school or the movement. Our primary driving force is a stronger, more ethical governing body for the UA System.

Either way, you must ask yourself why are they so afraid of ethics laws and giving four votes out of 21 to the other two schools…