City Desk

Our Morning Roundup: Gay Momentum & Stagnetti’s Revenge

*PRETTY SOON THEY MIGHT START REPRODUCING: After victories in Iowa and Vermont, "[gay] momentum...could spill into other states," the New York Times speculates.  Closer to home, the D.C. Council voted resoundingly to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.  Jason Cherkis has some comments on that, as well as some intriguing internal polling, here.

*Marc Fisher wants U.D.C. to "raise its game" by adopting University President Allen Sessoms' proposal to bifurcating the university into a two-year community college alongside a reinvigorated, competitive four-year college:

For too long, UDC has been a high school–even a middle school–in disguise, with college professors scrambling to teach basic algebra and even some arithmetic, as well as reading comprehension and other foundational lessons to students who were simply passed through the D.C. public schools.

Would such a reorg mean even more hikes for the four-years set? No word yet.

* D.C. Police report that James Duncan of the 2200 block of Sherman Ave. NW is missing:

Mr. Duncan was last seen at approximately 4:00 pm, on Thursday, March 26, 2009 in the 2200 block of Sherman Avenue, NW. Mr. Duncan is described as a dark complexioned black male, 5’6” tall, weighing approximately 180 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.

*The Washinton Times blushes to report that "hundreds of students" gathered for a screening of Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge in UMD College Park's Susquehanna Hall on Monday, defying squeamish Maryland lawmakers who'd threatened to withdraw $424 million in state funding.  Students defended the screening, citing the film's "educational" content and the fact that Stagnetti really got a bum deal the first time around.

*Prince of Petworth just really liked this sky.

Photograph above: "Tehran Sky" by Hamed Saber

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  1. #1

    At the University of the District of Columbia (“UDC”), a tug on a string of drain covers has unraveled what appears to be an auto-coup. The cover-up, no pun intended, slowly leads to President Sessoms and his plan to: (1) disarm a union; (2) subvert a faculty; (3) displace a student body; and (4) quietly replace the campus police force. And, like always, when these things happen, middle management, fearing reprisal “see and say nothing.” As a result of this behavior, the common colloquial term at UDC is “duck and cover.”

    “I’ve been here a long time,” says a senior source. We’ve seen it at the University before, but this guy is off the hook. He’s a different shade of arrogant. Some of us call him ‘Baby Doc,’ referencing the Haitian tyrant of the ‘80’s ‘Baby Doc Duvalier.’ Sessoms’ contempt for this place is well-known.”

    Once, in an executive meeting, President Sessoms went to the window, peered down on a mass of shouting students and said, “Now that’s pathetic.” Another time, after hearing the cacophony of protesting students across campus, he spontaneously said, “Wow, this really is the University of Dumb Children.” He said this with no fear of opposition whatsoever. “Did anyone say anything,” I asked? “No, most just laughed and nodded. But what can you expect people to say? We serve at his will, and this man has a major ‘for me or against me’ attitude.”

    President Sessoms still does not know who he can trust; but he’s smart enough to know he can’t trust the status quo. So he’s bringing in his own people, many from Delaware. Most of the UDC old guard can see what he’s trying to do. Actually, it’s pretty transparent. “Anyone who wants to should be able to see it,” the source said. “A few members of the City Council are beginning to ask about some things. But this stuff could never go on this way unless someone high up condones it and runs interference for him. Just take a closer look at the budget shell game he’s running right now, and look at his staffing pattern. He figures that things have been broken for so long at UDC that any success he may produce or allege, no matter how small, can be spun into an example of positive change his new regime and policies will bring. If the policy administrators can’t spin positive perceptions until we can produce them you have no place in his administration. In other words, fake it ‘til you make it. So people are encouraged to fiddle with the facts, and play word games with the Council, the Board, or whomever. “This, in my opinion, is crossing the line. It’s unethical and maybe even illegal,” the source said. “Why would career administrators risk legal danger for President Sessoms?” I asked. “Most wouldn’t,” the source said, “but Legal assures us that he is well within bounds.” Most in Legal are loyalist; if you ask too many questions of the University Counsel your every word will be flagged. And then you’re “not a team player.” You will then receive a poor performance review. And based on that review there will be a recommendation for termination by your supervisor. Then, you will be fired.” “That’s it?” I asked. “Pretty much – oh, sometimes a Corrective Action Plan is necessary before termination. When this is necessary, your supervisor will produce a Corrective Action Plan custom-designed for you to fail – and then you’ll be fired.” This is what he did at Delaware State, and the pattern continues. The point is to send the message to all staff – union and non-union -- that “you serve at the will of this President.”

    Yesterday another source told me that “Sessoms is a tyrant.” “Yet you don’t seem worried,” I said.

    “Well, I’m too old to worry,” this source said. “And, let’s keep things in perspective. I don’t think he’s a tyrant. He’s a bully.” I’m sure it feels the same to some. So let me paraphrase a famous quote: there have been tyrannical behaving people here before, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.

    When last we spoke, it was about the pool debacle. What’s happening with that? Is it close to being resolved? That issue really irritates him. It’s out of step with his superior persona. “It’s embarrassing, you know,” the source said.

    “Why?” I asked.

    “Well, the new Athletic Director answers only to him.” “So, she answers directly to the President?” I asked. “Yep, she really messed that thing up. It’s like Pandora’s Box over there. The community is mad, the students are paying for access to a pool they can’t use, and professors have classes they can’t teach. And they are pissed. One professor, Dr. Hall, in a face-to-face conversation, demanded that she save any plaster politics, and warned the AD not to mess with the pool. He told her to put the drain covers in and put the water back ASAP. The rest is history. “At Georgetown, Pat Thomas had a reputation for being stubborn,” the source said. “This time she went too far. Instead of saying ‘I messed up, I made a mistake,’ she tried to cover it up. When that didn’t work she tried to shift the blame. Now she and UDC may be in legal trouble.” And get this, as a result of her actions the University of the District of Columbia is now forced, for the first time in almost three decades, to submit a request for pool time from the DC Department of Recreation. Oh, really? So what pool are they going to? Wilson? Nope. Wilson is not up and running yet. We’re not sure where they’ll go. There are no adequate pool facilities in this area. Therefore, students and instructors must now travel to other locations to take classes that were once held right here on the campus. So once again, students are being treated like vagabonds.

    You mentioned legal trouble, what’s that about? Well, a little digging down at the Department of Health reveals serious misrepresentations and misleading statements in UDC’s Pool Inspection Report. The Department of Health (“DOH”), inspectors consider misrepresentations and misleading statements a serious matter. In this case, UDC submitted Robert L. Patterson’s name as Pool Operator.

    “This constitutes an act of submitting a fraudulent document to the Government of the District of Columbia to cover up a public health and safety violation,” the source said. “AD Thomas, in the name of UDC, had Robert Patterson, a complete philistine, and perhaps a certified pool operator, enter his name on the Department of Health Inspection Report as UDC’s pool operator because she knew the real UDC pool operator would not do so. At that time, Patterson had no connection whatsoever with UDC. He had slipped away from his duties at Howard University at the behest of Howard’s Athletic Director, Dwight Datcher. President Sessoms had no idea AD Thomas would do something like that.

    “You can’t contain this kind of thing; it’s a public document. The document also may constitute a false statement to a government agency. And that’s a crime.” “So what’s the University’s official position on this?” “The University is clueless. It’s now my understanding that the DC Office of the Inspector General is reviewing the matter.”

    And so now, people are beginning to ask questions. The man wanted to score a win somewhere, before he renovates the athletic program. Thomas was supposed to be cleaning house; instead she’s over there cleaning a pool mess she made. Now the mess has been shifted to Campus Services. But there’s not enough manpower, resources or hours in the day for Campus Services to fix the layers of problems befalling the pool -- every time you plug one crack, another springs a leak. First of all AD Thomas did not disclose all she did, and because she started major renovations she opened the door for every inspector and tree hugger in town to march into that area and demand repairs and upgrades to things that had been overlooked or grandfathered in. The President wants to bring the University’s facilities up to the state-of-the-art. At this rate it might be cheaper and faster to build a new pool, maybe even a whole new facility. Now, the students, faculty, community, and the DC Office of the Inspector General want to know, as the direct supervisor of Ms. Thomas, what did President Sessoms know and when did he know it?

    Here are the questions. Is it a crime to willfully deceive an inspector, or attempt to do so? Is it a crime to interfere with an inspection? Is it a crime, or at least a code violation, to misrepresent your employment position on a legal document, in print and signature? Is there a loophole that allows the old “bait and switch?” Example: The pool operator for Howard University, Robert L. Patterson, does not work for the University and did not work for the University at the time of the inspection. Yet, his name and operator’s number, 24808362, are handwritten on the inspection document, verifying that he was UDC’s, pool operator that day. To top it off, Patricia Thomas also signed off as pool operator.

    So what, who cares, you may say. Well, this is important because by law the facility’s operator must be present during the inspection. Here’s the bait – Patterson is a partially educated man in a bad economy. He needs a gig, and he hates the real operator, Thunder Lane. AD/VP Thomas, who answers only to the President, and also hates Lane, promises Patterson an evening operator’s position if he can help them pass inspection. Patterson takes the bait. Here’s the switch – Lane, the real operator, is unpredictable, unpopular, and chants. In an open forum Thomas promised Lane a poor performance evaluation and then termination.

    And the pattern continues. For example: UDC basketball coach Julius Smith was the acting AD before Thomas arrived. The bait – he’ll receive a poor performance evaluation. The switch – University Counsel, Terri Jackson, is a friend and confidante of Thomas. Mrs. Jackson is married to Michael Jackson, an ex-Georgetown and ex-NBA player. Coach Smith will be fired and Jackson will be hired.

    It’s happening all over the campus. Just look at what happened to the Faculty Senate. Also, have you talked with any of the Campus Police lately? And the union brass are just in shock.

    “So this pool is a real debacle, huh?” The pool is a small thread of a bad suit. If you keep tugging that thread – before you know it – you’ll be naked.”

    It’s always the cover-up that gets you; but here in Washington, DC cover-ups are a virus immune to all reason. We all remember the Watergate scandal that rocked the nation in the 70’s, but few remember how it started. We remember the highlights, the big names, and the news flash. However, compared to what it became, the burgling of the Democratic National Committee was a minor newsworthy event, reported to the police by an obscure little guard. So, why are otherwise well-educated people so easily infected by this virus? Is it arrogance or impertinence? In short, is it narcissism? Maybe, maybe not -- the fact is these people have character flaws. The deeper you look into their backgrounds the more you see this kind of thing has happened many times before. It’s all a matter of scale. One thing’s for certain, they tend to surround themselves with like-minded people. Dangling from Nixon’s coat were a lot of people infected with, or infected by, Nixon’s disease.

    “Wow! That’s heavy,” I said. “What do you say about all the other administrators who find safety in their silence?”

    I’ve been around long enough to remember the words of Martin Niemöller.
    He said:

    “When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. Then they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
    Then they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, I did not speak out; I was not a Jew.
    When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    So, to the others I say, “You are not safe, just delayed for convenience.”

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