“There will be catchwords filled with infection
Circulars to prop up occasion
No golden mean to guide the footsteps”
Those words from Son Volt rang through my stereo this morning as I took my final drive to the college under its own demise.
Before I honor my friends who were fired or let go because of a politicized college, I would like to praise two people whom I first met, and who were fine employees of the college. They left two years into my tenure: David Javersak and Rich Lizza.
There were many on campus who loathed Dean Javersak and Chair Rich Lizza. However, most of the campus is so toxic, there are few on campus who like anyone. It’s like a personal Bermuda Triangle here, and the loathing is palpable. Javersak and Lizza were the ones who hired me though, and they were decent men who treated me as an equal though they probably suspected I was a conservative, and leaned, gasp, Republican.
Javersak and Lizza were old school Democrats. That meant they were not PC. In fact, both of them were famous for their dirty, off color, jokes. It made coming to work fun as they never forgot that humans needed to be treated with some amount of respect and that not everything was serious. PC has a way to rid us of a sense of humor. They spent every day smashing that kind of correctness.
They both hated the interference of the accreditors and the DoE into the education realm and did all they could to resist the destruction brought by “measured education.” We appreciated that–those of us who knew what higher education was supposed to be.
There is one example to share: upon the demise of the presidency of Rick Owens who was–no shock–hated by the faculty and ousted by them and the BOG, Owens elected to invoke the section of his contract and take a tenured position as historian in the College of Liberal Arts. The story goes that Javersak, who was no fan of Owens, called a meeting of the department. It was barely 2 minutes long. He said, “Owens is joining the department. He’s one of us now. End of meeting.” That act as Dean took class. Javersak set the standard of the department and the CLA in a way that was never matched by his replacement–the now current provost. After Javersak and Lizza retired, the entire CLA and department of Social and Behavioral Sciences declined. The lack of leadership was painfully obvious as the meaning of the Liberal Arts was abandoned and a vision for the future of education at WL was never created. And so we went adrift. But after they retired from the college, we swore they looked younger and happier.
Javersak and Lizza were manly in a good way. Once a year (for Guy Fawkes Day) they would organize a steak, scotch and cigar night at a select steakhouse for leisurely discussion, drinking, and camaraderie. Only a few were ever invited. They did not want to open up the evening to the buzz killing PC professoriate that was invading the campus. They both understood that scholarship also includes leisure and intelligent discussion, along with the occasional ribald joke or two. Not invited was the new leadership in the Dean and Chair of the department who were uptight I suppose and look askance at their penchant for the off color joke because it demeaned (fill in the blank of alleged disenfranchised group here). A shift took place when they left that did not bode well for the college. Still, it was a fun time at their dinners, and I have fond memories of those days.
Javersak and Lizza no doubt would have vigorously disagreed with our defense of Capehart and his tenure. But in a small way, they earned, and deserved, respect. I have missed them ever since. When they left, the CLA and the department collapsed into a non identity.
What follows is an ODE TO THE FALLEN. Good People lost their jobs in the putsch that happened at what is vastly becoming West Liberty Community College. Those faculty, staff, and administrators should be ashamed of what they did to the reputation of good and decent men.
Today they all get a banner raised in their honor.
Howard Monroe: Monroe was a Democrat, which would seem to suggest he had a secure job. However, he was the wrong kind of Democrat. He had sense. He also did not have an advanced degree and ran a decent morning radio show. He helped to oversee the college TV station and helped to turn it into watchable entertainment as well as an informative source in the Ohio Valley. However, the professors in the college loathed him because…well…because he did not have the right degree, nor was he snooty enough to fit in. Monroe was a decent man, smart, and he knew how to deliver media content. For that, for his success, and for his wrong political opinions, he was ousted.
Shane Stack: Shane was an old soul, and a young success at WL. He was in his mid twenties. He was student body president, served as a town fiscal manager, and then raised funds for the college. He did better than the VP for Development in many respects because he knew how people worked and could actually connect with them. And, unlike many at the college, he worked his ass off. There was no other person more dedicated to the success of WL than this alum. However, he was shown the door for his innovative approach to success, and because of his defense of the president. He was also pro second amendment, and that put him at odds with faculty and certain administrators who, as one told me, “did not like him because he was too close to the president.” Good lord. Another person was so scared of his support of gun rights that he tried to get him fired for his love of firearms. That’s not a joke. Shane was also an assistant to the grant program when I ran it and did an excellent job setting up events, and making sure they ran smoothly. No person could complain at his excellent work. The close ties he developed promoting the college to the Ohio Valley was par excellence. That’s all gone now since he left. WLCC inducted upon itself a mortal blow when it let him go.
“Nobody told me it’d be easy
Or for that matter it’d be so hard
But it’s the livin’ and the learnin’
It makes the difference, it makes it all worthwhile
Makes it all worthwhile”
Jeff Knierim: If anyone came to work every day with a positive attitude and smile, it was Jeff. He was also a team player and loved WL under Capehart. He would say often “good morning team,” even to faculty. His congenial personality seemed odd to a dour faculty who, let’s face it, hated their job and seemingly their life. Jeff also helped manage the grant for the promotion of the university in the community in some ways by helping me when I had questions or needed bookings for guests and speakers. Of course, he supported the president, so he had to go.
Jim Shaffer: Jack of all trades, politically astute, and the founding member of the Research Corporation on campus, Shaffer provided people with grant monies the avenue to keep their money when the business office was more interested in keeping it for themselves. He was instrumental in giving free market profs a place to store their money so they could actually do some work, and some good for the community. He was a supporter of the president. He was also a libertarian–though not many profs on campus even understand what that means as they lump all who do not fit their “worldview” into the “conservative” category. So, of course he had to go, and they shut down the Research Corp–something no college does, unless they want to close their doors.
Jack Wright: What can one say about the CFO? He was a principled man who stuck to his guns. We used to call him the “Prince of Death” because he’d shoot down many an idea. It was actually a title we gave him out of respect, not derision. He was a numbers guy. This placed him at odds with the faculty, and even us here at R&R, sometimes. But damn did we respect him. He kept the college open. He orchestrated several raises for the faculty that they had not received in years. No one remembers that now of course. He was a no nonsense conservative. A fiscally reposnsible man who took his duty as CFO seriously. He was also a supporter of Capehart’s, so he had to go. The faculty certainly slandered and libeled his name as they demanded his ousting for doing a good job. He was likely the best CFO of the college in its history. Success and competence is not welcome at WL, so…
Robin Capehart: We have already noted the travails of Capehart. He was ousted for no reason under bogus political charges. The faculty violated his daughter’s FERPA, and then attacked her personally in Senate. They ridiculed his Faith, and they then sought to oust him because he was a conservative. As head of the college, all who were his friends were targeted. Capehart came to the campus to change the culture, and move it into a real liberal arts college. The task was so arduous it reminded us of the Drive-By Truckers. At every turn, he was opposed. As we tried to craft a core curriculum faculty stood in the way to protect turf and unacademic classes–Batman/Superman good grief. Capehart was the one who created the Research Corp. He was the one who actually gave faculty raises, and then financial incentives for publishing. He was the one who beautified the campus as best he could (how damn Rudy Giuliani of him!). Under him and his promotion of the college we got windows fixed, buildings built, and enrollment skyrocketed. Giving increased. Attendance at events increased. I personally saw Capehart stare down a particularly uninformed powerful state legislator all for the cause of WL. He worked the state government to WLs advantage. However, as I wrote, he was a conservative and had a Faith, so he had to go.
Each and every one of these men are missed. Each one sacrificed for the job. Each one of them I was proud to call friend. Each one deserves an apology for the injustice done to them by the faculty, staff and administration–especially from the Eternal Second. To those who instigated and allowed these injustices, we expect a condign comeuppance.
“There will be teachers that die by their own hand
Pundits that push headlong for atonement
Friends and followers devoted to living
There will be watchers that ply for new confines
Those committed to society’s circles
Unwary cogs with no cadence of virtue
There will be right
There will be wrong”