Public relations and management

I wonder if the University of Akron has a department of management. If so, it might want to send someone — during normal office hours, please — to visit with Ronald Levant, dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences. Seems the dean is in some administrative doo-doo.

As Channel 19 in Cleveland would say — Bill Sledzik had this story exclusively in this area last week on his ToughSledding blog. I won’t go into the details. Bill does that, as usual, very well.

But the story basically is this. Howard Ducharme, a tenured UA professor and now former chair of the philosophy department, claims he was fired from that position by Levant for not being in his office every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Almost too funny to be true. But that’s the story, and Ducharme is sticking to it.

Last week, Carol Biliczky wrote an article in the Akron Beacon Journal about this: “Professor says he lost chair job for lacking chair time.” (I’m not going to provide a link. They disappear from the Beacon Journal’s Web site faster than Joe Biden in a presidential primary.)

But here’s one part of the story:

“Levant declined to disclose why he relieved Ducharme of his duties, but said the issue of office hours ‘”was not the driver of that decision.”‘

So that statement gave Bob Dyer, a Beacon Journal columnist, the opportunity to join in the fun this morning. He writes:

“Dean Ronald Levant apparently believes his people should be chained to their desks.”

“Levant denies it. [Removing Ducharme as department chair for not being in his office 8 to 5.] He told the Beacon Journal’s Carol Biliczky that Ducharme’s office hours  were ‘”not the driver of (the) decision,'” but declined to identify the driver.”

“Autopilot, perhaps?”

Ouch.

A national story in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Bill Sledzik’s blog. Two stories in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Who says the University of Akron can’t generate media coverage? Of course, this makes Levant and the university look ridiculous. And here’s my point. From a public relations perspective, why let this happen?

If Ducharme’s allegations are true — then best to say nothing. And I’m not an advocate of a “no comment.” But the fact is that a management decision has been made that can’t be explained with any credibility. Why try? But if there is more to the story from Levant’s perspective, then why not be specific? Or if the situation involves personnel issues that can’t be discussed publicly, then say so. If true, that’s at least a credible response. As it stands now, Levant is giving what former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee called the “nondenial denial. ”

And when I first read about this on Bill’s blog I thought Professor Ducharme would be philosophical about this. Apparently not. And since UA apparently has no communications strategy here, stay tuned.

And talking about management, just another quick thought. The NCAA tournament continues tonight and by now my picks are mostly sitting at home watching TV. But I was thinking about this while running this morning.

Doesn’t it seem like the person who organizes and conducts the office pool is the same person who doesn’t seem to have anything to do the rest of the year? Well, if nothing else, I hope he/she at the University of Akron is doing it 8 to 5.

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2 responses to “Public relations and management

  1. Rob:

    Just stumbled upon your site. Will check in on a regular basis.

    I’ve noticed this is just the last in a long chain of UA PR gaffes.

    The last one was how they handled a Channel 5 report on not honoring the leases of houses purchased for the new football stadium.

    A very defensable position for the U, however, the way they handled it was awkward, to say the least.

    It makes one wonder if Akron has any centralized control over their external communications.

    Let’s hope the new chief communications officer brings some direction to the UA media relations department.

    I do love my school.

    Zip go the Zippers!

  2. Don,

    Thanks for commenting. I’ll agree with you that UA, like most organizations including Kent State, can do better. And I saw the announcement yesterday concerning the hiring of a chief communications officer at UA. That should help; it sure looks like a senior-level position. Saying that — I was/am surprised at how “decentralized” Kent State is from the standpoint of communications. If that is true at UA, then that presents a challenge.

    Rob

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