Update: Graham Spanier, former Penn State president, former Oregon State provost, and convicted criminal, will be sentenced on June 2, 2017.
The editors: If you remember, we asked our contributing editor, snow camper, and expert on corruption in higher education, Barry Roberts Greer, to take a closer look at the institutional culture at the schools where Graham Spanier learned his administrative tricks before leading the long, enabling Sandusky child rape cover-up at Penn State from 1995 until Spanier was fired and indicted in 2012. Spanier didn’t become who he was in isolation.
And Greer did not disappoint. It’s easy, he said, Look at the propaganda, and Oregon State nicely provided a new promo video on the new homepage with the new logo, part of an ad campaign to sell admission seats for the coming academic year. And, said Greer, follow the paper. Some would say follow the money, but that, Greer added, is old hat. OSU, like any other backwater research university, puts money into research and the hell with undergrad education. Scroll down below the amateur oregonstate dot edu video (more on that in a moment) to see Oregon State brag about all the grant money it gets, as in research grant money.
Greer: Nope, not enough room here to read the whole visual text, to use the jargon. In plain English, this image, the opening image of a cheesy ad to promote Oregon State is smelly crap. A stinking lie. The image shows a badly equipped free-heel skier on the meadow just next to the cross-country ski easy trails at Mount Bachelor ski area near Bend, Oregon, the location of the OSU branch campus in Central Oregon, that part of the state just east of the Cascade Range. That summit on the horizon is Broken Top, an extinct, smaller volcano in the Cascades, but the skier sure as hell is not headed there, although the ad implies he’s off to a wilderness challenge, and the image returns at the end of the video with the skier kicking and gliding off, apparently, toward the tree line with nothing but a near empty day pack and a shovel. The message is that Oregon State undergrads can meet challenges without equipment or knowledge. Ignorance is good.
If the video crew turned to the right, the frame would include the Bachelor ski area groomed cross-country trails and Bachelor itself with all of its groomed downhill runs. I know, the image is a metaphor, but a bad one. Snow camping in the Cascades is serious business, not something to use for enrollment hype, especially given the stench of lies in this image. Unless a student wants to attend the Bend campus, she or he will have to drive three and a half hours from Corvallis, weather permitting, to reach Bend, then another half hour to reach Bachelor. Snow campers park in the massive, paved lot at the cross country lodge, then start from there wearing heavy packs or hauling a sled or both down the common corridor, across Century Drive, then off onto established National Forest trails. Not that snow camping can’t be done off-piste, but not at the meadow with all the snow mobiles buzzing by.
So if you want to be an Oregon State administrator, learn to love a lie. Critical thinking be damned.
follow the paper trail
The editors: Greer went looking for his tenure dossier, a collection of documents he and other writing instructors had to pull together for the bogus tenure decision during the Oregon State 1988-1991 Spanier purge. Note (again) that none of the instructors purged were on tenure track and no criteria for the tenure decision existed nor were offered. Instructors were told by CLA Dean Bill “Foghorn” Wilkins (now dead) that few of them would be tenured, most had better start looking for another job. In short, the tenure process was fake and used to provide legal cover for firing people to make room for jobs for grad students. All the gory detail is found in Malamud and Spanier at Oregon State.
Greer went through the motions to see how it would all work to provide a conclusion for the chronicle of corruption and censorship. He was a writer, and this was a good story about a university that touted critical thinking as the penultimate (after finding a job) value of an education, but fired any faculty member who used critical thinking it did not like.
In 1989, Spanier and English chair Bob Frank stupidly tried to fire Greer for something he wrote before he came up for tenure denial in 1990. Greer published again and they backed off and used the newly minted Spanier purge to get rid of him. So Greer pulled together the dossier, after a nudge from David Robinson, one of the tenured profs who showed up at Greer’s office one day and wanted Greer’s dossier given that he hadn’t submitted one yet. Greer toyed with the idea of not submitting given that the decision was forgone and phony, and given that Spanier and Frank made it clear they’d get rid of him for the audacity of using what he taught—writing. And critical thinking.
Then the sick, sadistic Frank sat in his office with a smirk and his door open while Greer was called down to glance at his dossier with the decision to deny; Greer was told to leave the dossier but should have just walked out and disappeared to make a copy. He didn’t, which now works to his benefit.
the lost dossier
The editors: Twenty-six years later, Oregon State, national research university, can’t find Greer’s tenure dossier on its own campus. Just before spring term 2017 started, Greer checked with Roshni Sabedra in OSU human resources and they couldn’t find it, and when Greer asked for a copy of his personnel record, human resources suggested he look in the university archives, in the main library, but they weren’t certain. Greer looked, found his personnel records, but no tenure dossier. He reported his finding to Roshni Sabedra so human resources would know in the future how to find its own personnel records.
The archivist suggested Greer ask at the College of Liberal Arts dean’s office if CLA had the missing tenure dossier. Greer went one step farther and emailed a request for his dossier to both the CLA dean and to the director of the School of Writing, Literature, and Film (SOWLF). Both the dean and the director referred Greer’s request to Roshni Sabedra (without telling Greer). Sabedra sent Greer an odd note saying she’d received his request, but to conduct the necessary search for the missing dossier, she’d need an unspecified amount of time and would get back to him. Greer responded that he’d told her where to find the personnel record and that the dean and the director requested the dossier, and she should report back to them with her sine die findings.
Get the picture. Spanierthink involves stonewalling to avoid admitting complete institutional incompetence. A tenure dossier is not a minor document, and its loss could mean legal problems, especially when wrongful termination during the illegal Spanier purge is involved. If the dossier is missing, does that means no tenure decision was kept by English or CLA? Does that mean Spanier and Frank ordered the dossier destroyed? The only fact now is that nobody knows where to find the dossier at a research university.
the plot thickens
The editors: On April 24, 2017, Greer called Oregon State institutional research, which, as with any university, is charged with being able to locate documents generated by the university. The IR director said he didn’t know where to find the dossier, but he did know that faculty records were entered into a university database in 1998, seven years after Greer and Spanier left Oregon State, but he didn’t know if faculty documents before that date were preserved or not. He suggested Greer contact Susan Capalbo, who had a title that tells a lot about bloated modern university bureaucratic management concomitant with neglected undergraduate education. Capalbo’s title is senior vice provost. Let’s stop there. When Spanier served as provost, that was it. One provost. Now Oregon State has vice provosts, junior and senior, and each of them has, not a secretary, but an executive assistant who can be reached through a receptionist, who offered to connect Greer with the senior vice provost executive assistant, who was out of the office at a meeting. So Greer left a long, convolution message with the receptionist at 541-737-2111.
back to roshni
The editors: On April 24, 2017 at 7:45 pm, Greer received an email from Roshni Sabedra claiming “some” of the dossier documents had been found and would be emailed to Greer as soon as the records had been “processed.” Sabedra did not explain what “some” meant, where “all” of the dossier resided, where “some” were found, and what “processed” meant.
Stay tuned. But now you know how Spanier learned all about denial, evasion, and obfuscation.