An official announcement was finally released by USG officials that they want to move forward with a “merger” of Georgia State University and Georgia Perimeter College. I used the word merger in quotes because all of these so-called mergers have been nothing of the kind. They are simply an example of a larger or favored institution swallowing a rival. A perfect example was the fifth and most recent merger, Kennesaw State University with Southern Polytechnic State University, where it became Kennesaw State and their longtime goal to get rid of Southern Poly and their great leadership team was finally accomplished. Southern Poly Students and faculties fought vigorously against the takeover by Kennesaw State to no avail.
There are no mergers in Georgia between colleges and universities, only hostile and often unhappy takeovers orchestrated by an incompetent USG staff who need to justify their enormous salaries by constantly shaking things up. Why not just merge them all and be done with it? One public university for the entire state. I have dubbed this Huckaby’s merger mania and eight public universities in Georgia that used to exist have now become four with very little proof that anyone besides Huckaby is happy nor any proof of cost savings.
A few Key facts:
Georgia State University
- Enrollment, Fall 2014: 32,556 students
- Location: downtown Atlanta
- Budget: $738,077,043 FY 2015 original budget
- Degrees: Four-year university with 250 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in more than 100 fields of study.
- Per semester tuition, FY 2015: $4,056, in-state; $13,161, out-of-state
- Economic impact: $1.5 billion during FY 2010
Georgia Perimeter College
- Enrollment , Fall 2014: 21,371 students
- Location: Five locations around metro Atlanta
- Budget: $177,674,408 FY 2015 original budget
- Degrees: Primarily a two-year college
- Per semester tuition, FY 2015: $1,330, in-state; $5,034, out-of-state
- Economic impact: $691 million during FY 2010
- Etc: Founded by the citizens of DeKalb County and the DeKalb Board of Education. It became a college in 1964.
What are the reason or motives for a merger? These might include Increasing capabilities, Gaining a competitive advantage or larger market share, Diversifying products or services, Replacing leadership, Cutting costs, Surviving and finally just the ego or personality factor of those involved.
Let’s go back a few year while Dr. Anthony Tricoli was still president of GPC. One of his biggest ambitions that he loudly and proudly spoke of at every opportunity was to convert GPC into a four year college while still retaining the two year degrees option as well. He realized the need for a two year degree while also adding the option to those who wanted to advance their degree further. For that suggestion he was shot down and attacked by Rob Watts and others at the USG. They asked him to stop bringing that suggestion and told him to shut up. So what was the first thing that Watts did after Tricoli was gone? You guessed it he stole Tricoli’s idea that he had so often denounced. He took credit for the idea and announced plans to introduce 4 year degrees. How about that for a kick in the cajones?
The back story on the financial crisis is a long and complicated one and I have already written numerous articles that explain why no president could be expected to make good budget decisions when his entire team that are supposed to be the budget experts are feeding him bogus reports and false numbers. It is hard to steer a ship when your navigation crew tells you it is smooth sailing even after they know the ship is on fire. The budget analysis report by the USG confirmed that as well. The amount of the shortfall also changed repeatedly but yet Rob Watts went on a spending spree only this past year while acting as interim president. Hey Robb, what happened to all those missing millions and dire predictions it would take years to recover? What happened to the 6,000 fewer students since you took over? You have millions to renovate fountains but none to retain those 6,000 students?
As we have been predicting for several months here at Georgia Watch, the ouster of Dr. Anthony Tricoli seemed very suspicious and we thought a potential merger with Georgia State was the true reason Tricoli was removed. We are not talking about some crazy conspiracy theory either, it just didn’t smell right on many levels. Now that they finally had to announce their true motive which was the Georgia State University takeover of GPC, the puzzle is finally coming into focus and confirms our suspicions all along. Not to say we told you so, but yeah…we did. Too bad so few others in the media failed to follow up on this.
Reasons Why Tricoli Had To Go For The GSU Takeover To Succeed
1) Tricoli Loved GPC and the Students and fought tooth and nail for them. He saw it grow from 13,000 to around 27,000 students and it is now down to around 21,000 since he left. He was himself a product of the 2-year college system and understood the importance junior colleges represented to the poor and forgotten and disenfranchised. He was also in favor of adding a 4-year degree option while retaining the two year degrees. He increased African-American and Latino enrollment substantially which also received a lot of furrowed brows and complaints from certain USG officials. Had Tricoli remained he would have been a huge thorn in their side with any plans for the GSU takeover. He had to go for this reason alone if the GSU takeover could be accomplished with no fuss or muss or even worse scrutiny.
2) The Robb Watts Factor He has been interim president of GPC for over two years. According to USG policy an interim should serve no longer than one year. Watts was Tricoli’s boss at the central USG office. Watts should have known about and informed GPC of budget problems but said nothing and in fact said things were just peachy at GPC only a few weeks before the sky fell in. It was his job to look at budgets and yet he somehow managed to lay all the blame on Tricoli and then steal his job which gave him a much higher salary. Some estimates put his salary bump at around $50,000 or more when he became interim president. Watts only had degrees in religion and no doctorate so he could never become a real president. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride was his lot in life.
When Watts retires he will now get a far larger retirement from his salary bump. Watts escaped from the financial crisis scott free even though it was his job to notice budget problems. He either intentionally sat on the information or he was incompetent. There is no other option. In either event he should have been fired with everyone else. But as Tricloi’s boss, both Watts and Huckaby needed a scapegoat to make sure people didn’t ask why they were unaware of all these budget shortfalls and start to dig deeper. Expect Watts to retire soon now that this weasel has finished his mission and secured a higher retirement package and salary.
3) The Race Factor Yesterday I published an essay from a USG insider that seems to think Tricoli’s recruitment of African-American and Latino students may have played a much large role in his ouster. Judge for yourself. It also explains many other facets of this story that I did not know about and brings it all full circle.
4) The Money Factor Tuition at GSU is much higher than at GPC. Perhaps they are counting on a big windfall from increased tuition revenue. The more likely scenario is that most of the poor and minority students who were struggling to pay even the very low tuition at GPC will now drop out of the system entirely and abandon their dreams of a college degree. Expect the merged college to have a far smaller enrollment than the two separate ones have now. Expect the percentage of students of color and the poor to also go down dramatically.
5) The Sports Factor GSU’s football program may be new and I don’t think anyone would argue that it doesn’t suck. But, what happens to recruitment when you suddenly have an extra 20,000 students to add to your pool? Not to mention ticket sales at games and potential revenue in the future. College sports and money always go hand in hand so I am thinking their might be a sports related motive in this merger. I do not think that was necessarily a top motive but it was definitely considered. Are they trying to make GSU into a competitive college football school within the next 10 to 15 years? If Boise State could do it then why not GSU?
6) The Huckaby Factor Huckaby is not exactly an erudite scholar. He is a brown nosing worker bee that lurked in the shadows most of his career. He graduated from Georgia State himself and also lacks a doctorate degree which is pretty rare to have as a chancellor with such uninspiring bona fides. If you have ever heard him speak you will quickly surmise he is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. He is also advanced in age and looks much older than his 72 years belies.
So why was this otherwise extraordinarily ordinary bureaucrat pulled from obscurity to the highest paid public job in the state overseeing billions? His selection as chancellor was an odd one and raised a lot of furor when he was chosen. Does this bio look to be of the caliber of a state university chancellor earning over $500,000 a year to you? Biography of Hank Huckaby
The reasons they cited was he was a known entity and had a good relationship with the legislature and had budget expertise. I am not quite sure any of that is true. From what I have been able to gather he has been a lackey to the Georgia elites for a very long time and they viewed him as someone they could control and manipulate. He was former UGA’s president Adam’s gopher and lap-dog for several years. I offered some more info about his selection as chancellor here. His selection as chancellor was a sneaky way to return to the Talmadge era where SACS threatened loss of accreditation due to meddling by the Governor. The Governor and his hand picked noblesse oblige class of BOR dilettante elites managed to regain control over the USG in a quiet coup. And best of all SACS was none the wiser.
7) The Ego factor If this merger between GSU and GPC goes through it would be the sixth while Huckaby became chancellor. When corporations merge there are usually justifiable reasons that include cost savings, synergy, and sometimes just to survive against larger competition. But when colleges merge, or in Georgia get swallowed, they still have the same campus buildings and facilities, they still have the same cost. In fact the only actual savings might be from firing the President like they did with Dr. Anthony Tricoli to make way for a merger. The only real savings in a college merger are negligible at best with a few less top administration positions. The disadvantages to a merger is many of these institution may be 20, 40, or even 60 miles away from each other. How can a president so far away keep the pulse of a satellite college that far away? How can he make sure it is being run smoothly? It simply is not possible. In reality none of these mergers have accomplished anything notable at all. Many would argue the mergers have had far more negative effects than positive ones. Just ask the students or faculty of the colleges that have been swallowed.
8) Petty Revenge and Jealousy According to some insider tips I received, Dr. Dan Kaufman was the main rival for Huckaby as Chancellor. He was brigadier general in the U.S. Army, serving as Dean of the Academic Board and Chief Academic Officer at the United States Military Academy at West Point, a position from which he retired in June 2005. Dr. Kaufman also holds a Masters of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a Doctorate in Philosophy in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Huckaby by comparison holds a masters’s degree from Georgia State university as his highest degree and I could find no evidence of published writing in journals or indeed any exceptional honors, awards, or achievements. Kaufman’s résumé was long and very impressive. Kaufman was quietly pushed out since mediocre people like Huckaby and Watts who lacked doctorates, the charisma, or intelligence of men like Kaufman and Tricloi could’t dare take the risk that people would ask questions. Unlike Tricoli the former Georgia Gwinnett College president was at least given notice and a severance package.
I am now absolutely convinced that the ouster of Dr. Anthony Tricoli was orchestrated several years ago to pave the way for the takeover of Huckaby’s alma mater Georgia State University. If it also killed a few more birds with that stone like elevating Watts to a much higher salary and retirement package and increased the likelihood that fewer minorities and poor people can get a college degree then even better.
An Out of Touch and Untouchable Board of Regents Controls Billions
Take a look at a photo of our current BOR in Georgia and ask yourselves if that looks representative of the Georgia you live in.
When will the people of Georgia wake up to the fact that the entire University System of Georgia and the Board of Regents is being run by a group of egocentric and self-entitled nincompoops? When SACS forced Talmadge to create a Board of Regents so many decades ago I do not think they had this in mind. An unelected, disengaged, unqualified, arrogant and self-important group of wealthy political donators who have few among them with any pedagogical or educational management expertise making decision that effects tens of thousands and controlling billions. I think we would be far better off having districts in the state and elections where they can at least face scrutiny and answer questions.
Being a CEO of a company does not mean you will make a good regent. The fact that the Governor appoints all 19 members means the chance that you will have diversity of opinions which is needed is slim to none. As a compromise, allow the governor to continue to appoint the 5 at-large members but allow the people in the 15 congressional districts some say to select their own choice for regent. Allowing only the Governor to appoint all 19 members is not the way Georgia can move forward. Perhaps our congressional reps, mayors, or college faculty in the districts could nominate and vote on a candidate(s). We might also consider paying the regent a salary to allow middle class people to serve.
The Board of Regents are now just a group of ultra-rich friends of the Governor that have no expertise or even desire to manage the University System of Georgia. It is just a trophy for them. They were appointed simply because they are rich and donated to his campaign not because they were professors or school administrators with advanced and specialized degrees that can truly make wise policy decisions and guide the USG forward. I would be shocked if anyone of them has a net worth less than a million. They seem to rely on their own attorney’s like Burns Newsome when deciding on appeals which are based solely on the merits of lawsuits not the actual facts or merits. Everyone deserves their time in court or at a hearing to plead their case if they request that. If they are too high and mighty or busy then hire some independent arbiters that care more about justice than lawsuits to let them make their case at a minimum.
Stop using your shield of Sovereign Immunity as your free pass to destroy lives just because it is nearly impossible to sue the USG or BOR. Have some humanity and show some compassion for the students and employees who were falsely expelled or fired. 97% of all appeals are currently denied with no investigation or hearing whatsoever. But if you happen to be a regent like Don Leebern, the CEO of a liquor distribution company, you can get apparently get into street brawls with neighbors over barking dogs and not worry about repercussions. See what the UGA student run newspaper called Red & Black has to say about Don Leebern Jr. as a regent. Hint: It isn’t very flattering. He has been a regent since 1991 and his newest seven year term runs until 2019. Leebern is known as one of the University’s most generous financial contributors.
Until we have a Board of Regents not selected by the Governor, a BOR more racially and gender diverse to reflect the state, and a BOR that has actual qualifications and a desire to serve, a BOR that is fully engaged and transparent, a BOR That wants to listen to appeals from whistleblowers instead of simply firing them to shut them up, a BOR that is hands-on and proactive and their primary mission is to improve the quality of education and affordability of the USG….Last but certainly not least, until the legislature gets off their asses and adds some checks and balances to the BOR’s free get out jail cloak of sovereign immunity which they wield like a giant baton to destroy people lives…. nothing will change. Cronyism will continue to dominate Georgia politics as it has done for most of our history.
Until we get all or even a few of those things you can expect the USG to continue to fall further and further behind other states and watch our best and brightest continue to leave the state. We continue to watch people’s lives get ruined as they lose their homes, their reputations, and their will to even live at times. We also need an Attorney General that will stop using sovereign Immunity to protect the mistakes at the USG and BOR and recalibrate the justice scale.
If you are considering becoming a whistleblower in the state of Georgia I have one word of advice. Think long and hard, have insurmountable evidence to back up your assertions that include audio and video recordings and documents, and make sure if you are fired you would win a lawsuit once they probably fire you. Unless you don’t have all of those things just ignore the flagrant abuses because as others have learned the hard way. Doing the right thing in Georgia will often lead to a lot of bad things happening to you. MLK Jr. might have said it is always the right time to do the right thing but even he would admit that you need to be prepared to suffer the consequences if you work in the USG. Doing the right thing when you work in the USG will likely mean you get fired and have your life destroyed as so many have now found out the hard way.
Just ask Denise Caldon, Dr. Deszo Benedek, Todd Brandenburg and hundreds of other former employees and students who have had their lives ruined by an uncaring BOR that view their office as simply as a reward for their donations instead of a duty to serve the people of Georgia. Here are their stories.