In my recent series of articles looking into the Georgia Perimeter College coup d’état and the subsequent scapegoating of Tricoli and a few others, I always kept my mind open to the possibility that Dr. Tricoli was at fault. Like I have said many times before I have no connection to Dr. Tricoli or any of these people involved nor did I know of the existence of Georgia Perimeter College more than a few months ago.
I have read hundreds of pages of documents thus far. I also read a few less than flattering articles from the AJC that (sort of) supported the University System of Georgia position that Tricoli was at least partially at fault. I do not blame the writer(s) at the Atlanta Journal for taking that position because it certainly is angle anyone would take if they are on a deadline and have to explain an extremely intricate and complex story spanning years in less than a few hundred words. It was expedient and they also took the word of the USG at face value because they had no reason not to believe them.
But I also know that the AJC has some hard nosed reporters as well and if they get a whiff that there is more to this story than meets the eye they will be back on it like white on rice. Not to mention I doubt they would appreciate being played or fed false information. I am not suggesting the AJC reported false information, only that they didn’t dig deep enough. Hopefully my articles have reignited some interest in the media. There is a lot more to this story than was first imagined and what they were told by officials wasn’t necessarily accurate or complete.
It is now abundantly clear to me the details of the motion filed yesterday are supported by emails in the open records request. A similar pattern at many other colleges along with old fashioned logic and common sense also leads me to believe the motion filed by Tricoli’s attorney. Judges base their decisions on the evidence, the law, and common sense. I challenge anyone to use those three metrics and read through all the multitude of documents I have read and not to reach the conclusion that Dr. Anthony Tricoli was not a sacrificial lamb led to slaughter. Very few people have the time or inclination to devote this much time or energy on a story unless it affects them personally, but I saw this case as part of a much bigger story and a perfect case study for my own CIG Project Series. (Corruption in Georgia)
I also thought if my cousin can risk Spanish artillery as a Rough Rider in Cuba and fight the Kaiser in Europe, then I should be able to help clear the name of a man falsely accused by the bow tie brigade while also exposing massive irregularities with the system.
You always have to start with a motive and opportunity. actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means “the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty. If they decided to paint Tricoli as the fall guy, why and who would be so inclined? It could have been done in order to cover up mistakes made by the USG central office. Another possibility was to advance the ambitions of Robb Watts to resume a position as president that he is unable to hold unless a president is forced out of office. Watts has likely acted as an interim president at least eight or so times but can never remain a college president because he lacks a doctorate degree,
This is just a theory mind you, but Rob Watts made me think of a condition known as Münchausen syndrome by proxy. This is a type of factitious disorder in which a person acts as if an individual he or she is caring for has a physical or mental illness when the person is not really sick. People with MSP have an inner need for the other person (often his or her child) to be seen as ill or injured. People with MSP are even willing to have the child or patient undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to get the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill and their families. But instead of a child, universities under Rob Watts care sure seem to get “sick” quite frequently and then he rides into town to save the day with his magical bow tie and beard. I am not suggesting for a moment that he has MSP, simply that I am reminded of this condition when I see all the ailing universities that only he seems capable of saving. 😎
Rob Watts, the so called “Budget Expert” by Huckaby has a B.A. in religion and a Master’s in Religion from FSU which are about as academically challenging as nutrition degrees. No wonder he was unable to notice any budget problems since they were calculated in dollars and not shekels. Huckaby’s budget expert
So Who is Anthony Tricoli?
All of the information and facts provided below were based on documents contained in these two files which you can download. Folder With Media Sources & Affidavit Folder Both are zipped files that contain multiple PDF’s and MS Word documents. One contains articles and links to numerous sources. The other file is a 9 part affidavit taken under oath with penalty of perjury.
But before you read my assessment of Dr. Tricoli, I suggest you read this document written by faculty at the college that worked with him. These are the people that knew him best. Nomination of Dr. Anthony Tricoli: Ralph Brown Award.
I contacted Dr. Tricoli and asked him to make his case. I asked him to prove his assertions that he was proficient at his job of leading GPC as president and he provided me around 40 or so documents that you can download above and view. Granted he is only going to supply me with positive accomplishments and leave off things he might not want to share. I am not a PR person and I do not normally print these types of glowing articles. That simply isn’t my cup of tea.
However, Hank Huckaby, Rob Watts and a few others have done their damnedest to portray Tricoli as completely out of touch with the budget and blame him. But it appears they are the ones that should shoulder as much if not more of the blame for the woes at GPC. Instead they took a cowardly approach of passing the buck and not taking any responsibility of their own and this unwillingness to take responsibly bothered me. So for that reason alone I have decided to list some of his accomplishments that Rob Watts would rather people not know about. This is not the sort of article I would normally publish because it is contrary to my curmudgeonly temperament 😈
I thought it appropriate to offer him a chance to point out his accomplishments and things he took pride in while president of GPC. I also did my best to fact check all of these as well when possible with other sources and if any are inaccurate or exaggerated please leave a comment to that effect with proof and I will edit my article. My one and only goal is to always publish the truth and be as factual as humanly possible.
In my research of Anthony Tricoli I saw an abundance of evidence that this man seems to have been a good leader that was well-liked by staff and students. Even Watts and Huckaby do not seem to dispute that. From 2006-2012, Georgia Perimeter College made great strides in many areas. I could find no record that the college had ever received a national ranking (or even a state ranking) on any particular initiative, until GPC and Dr. Tricoli were recognized for strategic planning, shared governance, customer service, STEM, enrollment management, and student engagement.
Then in 2010, GPC received numerous state and national awards. What was clear is that all of these successes occurred after the groundwork had been laid by Dr. Tricoli and his team. When I asked Dr. Tricoli to speak of his accomplishments and who was responsible, he said, “We all were. GPC’s faculty, staff and students, as well as our Foundation and community supporters came together in a way I’ve never seen any place before. This was a true team effort.”
But let’s face it folks, without a strong coach to pull that team together, teams just don’t win on their own. Especially not over and over again like GPC did during Dr. Tricoli’s six-year tenure.
I have compiled several actions which I believe mark Dr. Tricoli’s tenure as president of Georgia Perimeter College. Take a look for yourself, you be the judge. Here is a sample of twenty initiatives that broke all kinds of barriers in higher education. All sources are included in these two files Folder With Media Sources & Affidavit Folder.
1) Dr. Tricoli led the college through a very tumultuous period in which the college’s largest campus was forced to close.* (Under Dr. Tricoli enrollment actually increased from a projected 13,400 to 20,500 in 9 months, the college did not lose $30 million in revenue as was projected, it actually gained income over the year from when Watts was the Interim President in 2005-06, and not one person lost their job. Watts also recommended Tricoli fire staff at that time and when he disobeyed and instead grew the college this might have been the beginning of Watts desire to ultimately remove Tricoli.
2) Dr. Tricoli led enrollment growth which more than doubled in five years from 13,400 in fall/2007 (projected by Mr. Rob Watts), to more than 27,000 students in 2012;
3) Dr. Tricoli led a budget increase from $104m in 2006 to over $180m in 2012;
4) Dr. Tricoli led the college to a $19 million reserve in his first three years as GPC’s president;
5) Dr. Tricoli led GPC’s economic impact on Atlanta and surrounding communities from $212 million annually under Watts in 2006 to $715 million annually. Tricoli said that economic impact would have been $1 billion by the year 2014;
6) Dr. Tricoli led GPC to “Top College” status in the USG for providing customer service to students. Dr. Tricoli was also selected as the top leader in the USG for his work in creating an outstanding customer service atmosphere for students;
7) Dr. Tricoli led the college in partnership development, in particular 50 “Transfer Admission Guarantees” with the presidents of other college and universities in Georgia and from around the nation for the ease of GPC’s student transfers. Dr. Tricoli also created the USG’s first three year BA degree in concert with Georgia Southwestern State University’s President Dr. Kendall Blanchard;
8) Dr. Tricoli placed an emphasis on GPC’s on-line program, growing it from 1,200 students under Mr. Watts in 2006 to over 10,000 students in 2012;
9) Dr. Tricoli led a “listen tour” through GPC’s campuses which resulted in 19 major initiatives being successfully addressed during his tenure, these included issues in Diversity, Communication, Strategic Planning, Shared-Governance, and bringing the very silo-ed campuses of GPC together as one unified institution;
10) Dr. Tricoli led the creation of a shared-governance model which was recognized by the AAUP as the best in the nation, and for which Tricoli himself was recognized Ralph S. Brown award for being the most outstanding shared-governance leader of the year from among all two-year and four-year college and university presidents;
11) Dr. Tricoli led the college through a 18 month strategic planning process which resulted in a four-page strategic plan that the college used daily to keep it focused on its vision, mission, goals, and values;
13) Dr. Tricoli led the college through the development of the Southeastern Institute for Sustainability which connected classroom learning and theories of sustainability, and which GPC was recognized by the EPA as the first two-year college partner in the nation;
14) Dr. Tricoli led the college through a complete revitalization of its website, social media and public relations and communication which led GPC to the recognized by NCMPR as one of the top colleges in the country in Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations, and led to Dr. Tricoli being recognized as Pacesetter of the Year for the southeast;
15) Dr. Tricoli led and supported the colleges efforts to strengthen student success outcomes with the development of a mentoring program in which NACADA recognized as one of the best in the nation, and led the NACADA Board to select Dr. Tricoli as their National Pacesetter of the Year in 2012;
16) Dr. Tricoli led the college through the development of not one but two new full-service college campuses: one in Newton County and one in Alpharetta;
17) Dr. Tricoli led the college through a fundraising campaign which raised approximately $85 million dollars in new funds and the state and from individual donors which resulted in the addition of new student service centers on each of the college’s campuses;
18) Dr. Tricoli led the college through a fundraising campaign which raised the dollars needed to add over one-million dollars of “Smart-Classroom Technology” to every classroom and lecture hall on its Newton Campus;
19) Dr. Tricoli led the college through a series of grant applications which netted the college millions in federal STEM dollars; and for which he was invited to the University of Alabama to deliver the Keynote address on STEM to educational and business leaders from throughout the country;
20) Dr. Tricoli led this Atlanta College through a college wide discussion on the topic of diversity. He personal discussions with students, faculty, staff and community led to an improved atmosphere and understand of the issues on the college five campuses, and resulted in an in depth study completed by a Think Tank and Task Team on this topic which culminated with a community discussion led by former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Congressman Hank Johnson on the Back Male Initiative. Under Dr. Tricoli’s guidance and during his tenure, GPC’s African-American population grew from 32% to over 50%, making GPC the institution with the largest number of African-American students in Georgia. GPC also graduated the greatest number of African-American students from among all colleges and universities (public or private) in Georgia.
I called Dr. Tricoli and asked him about all of these successes, here’s what he had to say to me, “The teamwork we had at GPC was unbelievable, none of this success was the work of one man or one woman, this was the work of dozens and dozens of faculty, staff, students, and community members all pulling this institution in the same direction. We worked hard and long hours, but we also worked smart and we had fun along the way; and we took the time to celebrate our success. Our collective goal was always to create the greatest benefit and outcome for our students; our students were always foremost in our mind on every task we faced. If I ever thought we might be getting off task, I’d ask the question – Is this action in the best interest of our students? If we agreed, then we would continue with great vigor. If we didn’t think so, then we’d reassess and move forward. The bottom line is that “we” created a foundation of trust, “we” had a singular focus, “we” were all open to suggestions and willing to morph the process in order to gain the greatest success, and I usually found myself “listening to understand” instead of saying what I thought was best – because oftentimes the best ideas came from others on the team, and not me. I was just fortunate to be the team leader during the time “we” came together as one and experienced some unimaginable success.”
Dr. Tricoli ended with this following statement which I thought you should see, “I loved the work I did, and I loved the team atmosphere we created together, but mostly I loved who we did all of this for – our students. GPC was the part of my life that I will cherish forever.”
So once again I wonder why Dr. Anthony Tricoliis no longer is the President of Georgia Perimeter College. Besides not growing a beard and wearing a bow tie I suspect it had very little to do with his performance and far more to do with the ambition of someone else and the need to find a scapegoat to blame to fulfill his own personal ambition to take Tricoli’s job. Why was a man like Watts with a religion degree ever placed in a position to monitor colleges and budgets to begin with?
Other colleges had had budget woes and the 700 pages of documents I just published confirms this. Not to mention Huckaby made massive changes in protocol after GPC at the central office which proves they were also asleep. Now I think if Dr. Tricoli had it to do over again he would have double if not triple checked the budgets especially had he known Watts was asleep at the helm and was no budget expert nor was Carruth.
But at the end of the day college presidents are not hired because they can win the C.P.A. of the year award. They are not expected to micromanage budgets. They are hired to be leaders, grow enrollments, to provide a vision and leadership. Yes, Dr. Tricoli relied too much on Robb Watt’s budget guy Carruth and that was a mistake I think he would now acknowledge. But when your entire budget team are telling you there is no problem and there is no deficit, when your boss Rob Watts is also telling you everything is fine and these “experts” have finance and accounting degrees or expertise, how in the hell can anyone expect someone who lacks the time or accounting expertise to dispute the very people that you rely on for accurate information? How can you run a college if your budget team are lying or simply incompetent? No president can or should be expected to assume their budget team is lying to them especially when their boss Rob Watts claims they are the best in the state.
What a loss to Georgia and to Georgia Perimeter College that had been growing but now seems to be in decline under Rob Watts who is absolutely not suited to lead. In fact, I am not quite sure what skills Rob Watts brings to this or any other table. Religion degrees aren’t much in demand at a public university after all.
Tricoli should be a college president again and I think he will be hired by a forward-thinking institution ready to modernize and grow. I hope he is rehired as GPC president and I think the vast majority of faculty and students would be very grateful to see that happen. To have him sitting on the sideline is a total waste of talent, intellect, and leadership. This guy seems to be able to build teams and lead them to success. He deserves a chance to prove himself again and his departure is a loss for the entire GPC community as their morale and enrollment declines further under Rob Watts. The guy in a bow tie who so desperately wanted to be president.
Any college that decides to take a chance and hire Tricoli again will likely not regret that decision and his type of enthusiasm and accessibility to students and faculty is a refreshing change. Typical college administrators like Rob Watts and others are stodgy and more eager to be feared than admired which comes from their own insecurities. Leaders inspire and Tricoli did this in spades.
Tricoli offered a new style of leadership not concerned with vainglory or accolades. He genuinely seems to care about his students and faculty because he does not come from a privileged background. He is a product of the junior college system and appreciates the value and opportunity it offers to so many students. In fact he is the first of his working class family roots to graduate from college.
Perhaps that was his fatal error. Being nice or well-liked is sure to cause jealousy among others who crave that attention and feel such insecurity and jealousy. Maybe it was his popularity and charisma that ended his tenure at GPC and not a budget.
Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is to beware the bow tie or rather the person who chooses to wear one to give themselves professorial gravitas to make up for their inability to ever get a doctorate. Beards and bow ties can only fool people for so long. Sooner or later impostors are always found out. Especially when they don’t the difference between jibe and gibe. 😉 I think Mr. Watts might understand the true meaning of gibe now though.