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Thursday, May 7, 2009

UAB's Anonymous Donor Should Rethink Gift

MEMO

To: UAB's anonymous $5-million donor

From: Legal Schnauzer

You are to be commended for your support of higher education, particularly here in Alabama. And your desire to help provide scholarships for women and minorities is to be applauded.

But as someone who worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham for 19 years before being cheated out of my job for political reasons, I can tell you that UAB--in its current state--is not deserving of your support. That's why I would encourage you to rethink your gift to an institution that clearly does not support your ideals.

Let me be clear: UAB itself is most deserving of your support. The institution has many outstanding students, faculty, staff, and programs. But the current administration, under President Carol Garrison, is weak and corrupt. The university's human-resources function, which reports to Vice President Richard Margison, is a trainwreck.

Your gift, in its current form, will only go to further the goals of an administration that has proven to be wasteful, deceitful, discriminatory, and perhaps criminal.

Based on the terms of your donation, I gather that you are a progressive. But UAB's current leadership is anything but progressive. Consider my experience: I got fired because I write a blog, on my own time and with my own resources, that espouses progressive ideals. What controversial notion have I promoted on my blog? The need for honest government, particularly in our courts. That's the kind of idea that UAB's current administration apparently wants quieted. And my experience shows that UAB caves to pressure from Alabama's corrupt Republican Party. Do you really want to support that?

It appears you picked UAB because it has a female president. But you might want to take a second look at that. Just because a university has a female president doesn't mean it furthers the cause of women and minorities. Carol Garrison has proven to be little more than a toady for the "good old boys" who run the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

Why does UAB have a female president? It's not because of any noble intentions. The university's first female president, W. Ann Reynolds, proved to be a disaster--firing and running off female administrators left and right. Upon her exit, it was clear that Reynolds would sue the UA board, so they went after Garrison as a replacement in order to reduce their exposure in court. So much for high mindedness.

Have Carol Garrison, Richard Margison & Co. done anything to further the cause of women and minorities? Just check public documents. The university has been sued for discrimination by several veteran faculty members, including Susan Key, Rosalia Scripa, and Horace Huntley--all women or minorities, and all lawsuits that could have easily been avoided.

Consider other examples of the wasteful and deceitful ways UAB currently conducts business:

* Multiple medical trainees from India, women and minorities, have alleged discriminatory practices at UAB's program in Huntsville. Court documents indicate some immigrant trainees were not properly paid, a case that currently is before a judge in Ohio and has attracted press attention in India.

* At least two employees have sent racist or homophobic messages from university computers, but UAB apparently has taken little or no disciplinary action.

* Court documents indicate that UAB administrators intentionally fudged the numbers on a salary study of female professors, trying to show the university's statistics in a misleading light.

The situation at UAB apparently is so bad that its former human-resources director, a woman, bailed out to take a lesser job at another university.

Even UAB's announcement about your gift was peculiar, maybe deceitful. Your anonymous donations first came to light back in February, and The New York Times wrote about them in April. But UAB is just now getting around to announcing its gift?

Garrison explains: "We had not announced it because we were trying to respect the wishes of the donor."

What? I've seen nothing in news reports that indicate you wanted the gifts themselves to be hushed up. You just wanted your identity to remain secret.

So what were UAB officials really thinking? Who is running this train in Birmingham that can't seem to stay on the tracks?

I assume you would like your money to be well managed. But what kind of record does UAB's recent administrations have in that regard? Consider this item from one of our recent posts:

A case involving two whistleblowers outlines massive research fraud at UAB. The case was "settled" with the university paying roughly $3 million, but court documents indicate the actual fraud was at least 100 times that amount.

Let that sink in for a moment. Court records indicate that UAB defrauded the federal government out of at least $300 million, and pretty much got away with it. Do you really want these folks managing your money?

It's certainly not my place to tell you what to do with your resources. But I hate to see people's good intentions go to waste.

Would you really like to help UAB and the people who study and work there? Here is a suggestion:

Add a few conditions to the terms of your gift. Make it contingent upon the following actions from UAB and the UA Board of Trustees:

* A thorough review will be conducted of the university's human-resources practices, focusing on events that have led to a number of recent discrimination lawsuits. Corrective action will be taken;

* A legitimate study, one with real numbers, will be conducted regarding salaries for female professors at UAB;

* An investigation will be conducted of the improper, and probably unlawful, influence certain conservative political groups have over the UA Board and UAB administration;

* An investigation will be conducted regarding the use of university equipment for sending hateful messages, with appropriate discipline handed down;

* UAB and the UA Board will turn over all relevant documents regarding research fraud to the U.S. Department of Justice and will make true restitution to federal health-care programs;

* If the above actions show that various UAB administrators and UA Board members should be dismissed--and they almost certainly will show that--a thorough housecleaning will commence. If an investigation shows that criminal acts have been committed, that information will be turned over to the proper authorities.

UAB has a proud history and a bright future. But the university is floundering under its current leadership. You could do UAB, Birmingham, and Alabama a great favor by leading an effort to expose wrongdoing and restore UAB's reputation as a place of forward thinking and high ideals.

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