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Preface: The following essay was written by a person that works within the USG and wishes to remain anonymous. We at Georgia Watch understand the difficulty that whistleblowers face and will always protect the identity of those that wish to keep their identities hidden. It is presented to you here it it’s entirety and unedited. Only today it was announced that a “merger” may be in the works between Georgia State and Georgia Perimeter College.  


I have respectfully requested that my authorship of this post not be disclosed for reasons that are apparent given the topic of discussion.

I have read with interest the events chronicling both the rise to success and the unnecessary end of Dr. Anthony Tricoli’s presidency at Georgia Perimeter College (GPC). While I have not worked directly with Anthony I have worked directly within the University System of Georgia and other Systems, both public and private, in other states. I deeply understand the politics of power and how those who hold it can feel threatened based upon their own insecurities or the public revelation of their past failures. Over many years, I have developed a close friendship with Anthony, and we have many mutual friends still within higher education across the United States.

It has been said, “in order for evil to reign, all it takes is for good people to do nothing.” Before opining about my friend Anthony, and his story of travail and woe, I am reminded of two key leaders in contemporary times—Dr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a Lutheran theologian and anti-Nazi dissident.  Dr. Bonhoeffer, who completed graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and returned to Nazi Germany, publicly resisted the Nazi regime, challenged Hitler’s genocide, and was imprisoned at Tegel military prison for 18 months; while at Tegel he wrote his seminal “Letters and Papers from Prison.”  In these works he espouses concepts of equity, exposes injustice, and argues for the human dignity and rights of all.  Sadly, Dr. Bonhoeffer was executed by hanging on April 9, 1945 following a court-martial on April 8, 1945 absent any witnesses or any defense.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was arguably the father of the American Civil Rights Movement, and, as a result, he suffered much including his imprisonment in Birmingham, Alabama and ultimately his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Dr. King drafted and released his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on April 16, 1963, which parodies the aforementioned “Letter…” released earlier from Dr. Bonhoeffer—albeit a different subject matter.  In his “Letter” Dr. King states “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere….”

While both of the great leaders above made the ultimate sacrifice for their convictions—their lives—it should be noted that both men were of great moral character and integrity.  Both Bonhoeffer and King stood up for justice and exposed injustice in their society of the time.  I believe that Dr. Tricoli and his story is very similar absent the obvious historical context and gravity of the past time.

Dr. Tricoli is a leader of integrity, a man of high morals and strong ethical behavior.  We too often hear those words and phrases get bandied about in various circles today, but in leadership it has a very distinct meaning—uncompromising, honest, direct, and doing the right thing for the right reason. Anthony Tricoli is such a person.  I would encourage educated people all type to further explore the resource documents previously referenced on this topic and his case for a full picture of the facts surrounding the successes achieved by Dr. Tricoli during his tenure as president at GPC.  Chief among these is the phenomenal enrollment growth that extended educational opportunities to thousands more students of color than were previously enrolled when Anthony assumed the presidency of GPC in 2006.

Additionally, and speaking directly to Dr. Tricoli’s leadership style, is the rapport that he had and continues to enjoy at a distance with faculty, staff and students at GPC.  This last point is important as to anyone who has ever worked in administration in higher education can attest, to facilitate change, while being inclusive of faculty, staff and student constituent groups, and, most importantly, garnering respect among those groups in the process, is a feat not many can achieve—Anthony did.

Dr. Tricoli’s end story at GPC is indeed a sad one, a terrible loss to the State of Georgia, to oppressed students, and to higher education in America. Axioms such as “no good deed goes unpunished” come to mind.  I was also reminded of history—specifically when those in power seek to maintain power, or not be embarrassed, while cloaked behind government protection; in the latter case—sovereign immunity. The doctrine of sovereign immunity, in theory, was to prevent frivolous legal challenges from hindering the affairs of government or the state. Of course, when those charged with determining the frivolity of certain actions are at risk themselves of being uncovered or worse yet, losing their powerbase or their positions, then the objectivity of such a doctrine is simply ignored.

In order to appreciate the political backdrop in which Anthony, or any USG president, works, one must understand the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and their role as the often described “third arm of state government.”  In Georgia, state government consists of the Georgia State Senate, the Georgia State Legislature, and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

Some history is in order here.  Georgia, in responding to the regional accrediting commission (SACS) recommendation to the University of Georgia during the Eugene Talmadge administration of the 40’s, created the Board of Regents (BOR) to oversee governance of the University of Georgia and the other institutions within the USG—the University System of Georgia.  This was necessary because many Southern states were restricting the rights of African American citizens and failing to comply with federal desegregation laws affording citizens the right to enroll at institutions of higher education.  It is important to share here that GPC became a majority African American institution under Dr. Tricoli’s leadership from 2006-2012, and not everyone in Georgia was happy about that occurrence.  This change in demographics didn’t occur under the radar of the USG, in fact Dr. Tricoli actively and vigorously pursued increasing the college-going-rate of African American students, strengthening programs for African-American males, and he made a tremendous difference in this regard.  His very visible work began in 2008 with Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Congressman Hank Johnson and continued through 2012.  Today GPC enrolls, retains and graduates more African-American students than any HBCU in Georgia.

Anthony also actively sought to increase the population of Hispanic students in Georgia’s colleges by creating a scholarship program that would enable that particular student population to afford a college education.  In 2010, Anthony finalized an agreement with the Goizueta Foundation to create GPC’s Educational Achievement Program (GEAP).  This $500,000+ grant enabled Anthony to create a scholarship and retention program to increase success among Hispanic students at GPC.  This program continues today and has enabled literally thousands of Hispanic students to earn a college education.

Anthony’s efforts to support the increase access to college for Hispanic and African-American males into the USG by way of the two-year college he led was touted as the quiet handshake “deal breaker” inside the hallowed hallways of the South’s old guard….the USG.  This became the foundation upon which Dr. Anthony Tricoli’s career was ultimately undone in Georgia.

As talks of a merger between GPC and Georgia State University became louder, Anthony’s actions which were expanding GPC’s reach into the minority community did not fit into the USG’s long term plans, in particular, those of a merger with Georgia State University.  Anthony was slated for removal shortly after Erroll Davis abruptly left the University System of Georgia (Davis was the first and only African-American Chancellor of the USG).

Stepping back, SACS threatened UGA with rescinding their accreditation unless Governor Talmadge ceased and desisted with his attempts of governing the state’s flagship university—specifically, maintaining the policy of segregation. The legislature responded by creating the Board of Regents and charging them with the governance of The University of Georgia and other USG institutions. (In short, this ensured that Governor Talmadge and future governors could not directly interfere in the day-to-day operation of the state’s tax payer funded public colleges and universities and this satisfied the SACS recommendation pertaining to that Standard of Accreditation.)

Following the establishment of the BOR the state legislature passed and the governor signed into law granting the BOR “constitutional authority” or status which simply means that the BOR has the authority to set their own budget, hire and fire chancellors, faculty, and staff, as well as establish their own funding formula which is forwarded to the state legislature for approval annually. A case can be made that the BOR is the “third arm of state government” after the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches because they enjoy such autonomy.  Granted, this autonomy was necessary during the racial abuses of the past, but citizens should question if this is still necessary, after all, the state’s other system, the TCSG, does quite well with its funding being determined and allocated by the legislature in the same manner that all the other state agencies receive their tax-levied funds.

So, how it works is like this.  Governors are elected and then they make appointments of 6-year terms to regents from the state’s districts and some “at large” regents.  These regents then set to govern the USG’s 30 institutions and are advised by administrative staff at the “System Office of the USG” in Atlanta. Meetings are held monthly and, in the past, the public was not afforded a time to address the body.  I understand that to appear on a meeting docket as a member of the public is a very timely and cumbersome process requiring some advanced approvals.  As you can see, these appointments as regents are political.  This governance system affords the System Office staff great power in determining the direction of the USG and its multi-billion dollar budget.

The Governor still has “indirect” influence as evidenced in the case of former Chancellor Tom Meredith.  Chancellor Meredith was an educator and former President in Alabama prior to being named as Chancellor of the USG.  When the legislature refused to fully fund the “funding formula” for the USG, Tom Meredith announced that the USG would simply raise tuition to make up the difference. While the constitutional nature of the BOR gave him that authority it probably is the case that the governor still had influence in his continued employment as Chancellor Errol Davis quickly replaced Chancellor Meredith during the following year.  Then when Erroll Davis (an African-American man from the north) suddenly left the USG, Dr. Tricoli found himself alone.

With the aforementioned history one can appreciate further the context within which USG institution presidents, including Dr. Tricoli, must operate.  System Office staff interpret policy, forward recommendations, and discharge action to and from the BOR. Communication to the BOR and individual regents from USG presidents and others must be first vetted by the System Office staff and, if approved, is transferred through the System Office filter.  In short, the individual regents are business leaders and philanthropists who depend, almost 100%, on communication coming in and from the System Office staff.

The other dynamic that must be considered in the story of Dr. Tricoli, or any college or university president, is that he or she cannot lead alone.  Institutions of higher education are some of the most complex organizations which one can oversee.  Many states, Georgia not being one, allow collective bargaining at public institutions translating into multiple unions representing various constituent groups (i.e., faculty, classified staff, campus police, administrators, and graduate students).  Additionally, most full-time faculty enjoy protection afforded by tenure and should be given a voice in decisions related to academic and professional matters (in California this is codified in statute).  This gives rise to Academic Senates on campuses as well as the many committees comprised, in some cases of faculty exclusively, and in others, of administrators, students, and faculty.  Also, students are represented by Student Government Associations with a strong voice whose officers duly elected by the student body and their members are on committees as well.

Today higher education is under intense pressure to remain in compliance with extant and new federal and state regulations ranging from Title IV (federal aid) to Title IX (sexual assault, harassment, athletic gender parity, EEO) only to name a few.  Also, during times of compressed budgets and increased competition from intra-system institutions, the private and for-profit sector, not to mention heightened attention to regional accreditation commission standards, college and university presidents are assailed at every corner with challenges.  To this end, they must depend upon trusted lieutenants (usually vice presidents) to oversee respective areas around the institution.  If this trust is breached then the president assumes responsibility, and, if he or she is a person of integrity, they take the hit personally and not throw any other administrator under the bus.  Hence, the tenure of many presidents is only a few years. Dr. Tricoli had to rely upon his Chief Financial Officer to provide accurate facts and details about the college’s budget; which, by the way, we all know now that he failed to do; thus placing Dr. Tricoli in the worst position possible.

While this backdrop has been lengthy it is necessary to understand the general expectations placed upon a college or university president as well as the specific expectations of working within the USG. Dr. Anthony Tricoli not only advanced the mission of GPC, increased exponentially the enrollment and number of campuses, afforded transfer to 4-year USG institutions to thousands more students via guaranteed agreements (TAGs), saved hundreds of jobs, stimulated the local economies hosting GPC campuses, received numerous national awards, and was officially acknowledged and praised by former Chancellor Errol Davis, he did all of this while maintaining the respect of both students and faculty. This alone is identify and acknowledged by all as a phenomenal accomplishment.

Dr. Tricoli’s integrity remained intact, and his leadership was always focused upon what was best for GPC and the students, staff and community of that institution. One need simply review his accomplishments and converse with faculty and students of the institution to confirm these facts.  Also, reviewing past issues of the GPC student newspaper concerning their opinion of his leadership will yield very positive opinions of Dr. Tricoli.

Life is not fair.  The unjustified and undeserved public finger pointing at Dr. Anthony Tricoli is evidence of this. Read the voluminous documents where Anthony makes his case and consider the poignant facts raised in the evidence he provided and you cannot resist coming to the conclusion that he was not a good president, but a great college president who was damaged by the kind of people we do not want running our educational systems in America today.  Too, the following questions will surface in your mind, and these were not answered in this case:

  1. Why was Anthony Tricoli not afforded a due process hearing by the BOR where he could respond to claims while documents containing facts and witnesses, with testimonies, would be presented and cross-examined prior to ending his contract?
  2. Why was a fine man of integrity and excellent leader of people left to seek relief in the courts in an effort to clear his name and resume his career either at GPC or at another college or university?
  3. Why did this case never make it to courtroom in front of a jury trial as requested in Dr. Tricoli’s original complaint?  Why was Anthony Tricoli never allowed to speak before the judge? How could it be that the judge in this case believed that Anthony Tricoli didn’t have a contract for employment, and therefore no right the position as GPC’s president? Why did the USG and Attorney General work so hard to keep this story from getting in front of jury?
  4. Why was the protection afforded under sovereign immunity applied in the light of so many damning “undisputed facts” that would have required multiple governance officials within the state to give an account of their actions in the case of a college president who had done so much good for so many people?
  5. What role did a possible merger between GPC and Georgia State University play in all of this?  Is it true that the USG simply wanted Anthony Tricoli out of the way so they could merge these two institutions without hearing from Anthony about the value of keeping GPC a distinct and separate educational institution focused on access to education for all students, black, brown and white?
  6. Finally, what can we as Georgia tax payers and voters do to ensure that the BOR is more transparent and open with regard to all of its meetings, public comment, staff actions, appointments, terminations, budgets, expenditures, revenue streams, and most important, inclusive of all constituent groups it represents and affects—faculty, staff, students, parents, and the general public? (This should not be the exclusive purview of USG staffers.)

In summary and in my opinion, Dr. Tricoli’s efforts at reform and educational success for all races of students at GPC was recognized and lauded nationally and at the institution by students, staff, and faculty, but viewed as a threat by others within the USG who did not enjoy similar success and recognition.  Anthony was hired as an innovative president from the west coast to advance the mission of GPC and, as evidenced in remarks and performance evaluations concerning him by his hiring boss, Chancellor Erroll Davis, accomplished that.

Anthony was and is recognized nationally as one of America’s best two year college presidents to ever lead a community college.  In addition, Anthony has been recognized by the AAUP, the NCMPR, NACADA, and the Chair Academy as one of the Pacesetters of American modern day higher education.

Unfortunately, given the politics, opinionated reasons, and structure described above, Anthony’s success ultimately resulted in his demise.  Thwarted trust, betrayal, false allegations, the absence of due process, and protectionism cloaked as “Sovereign Immunity” were all part of Dr. Tricoli’s end and ultimate undoing.

Similar to Bonhoeffer and King, Dr. Anthony Tricoli has the foundation and conviction of truth, justice, and equity on his side, but unfortunately, greater forces and the threat of exposure prevailed, and justice and truth once again remain suppressed.  While Bonhoeffer and King were on a global stage and affected positive change for millions of people, Tricoli shared their conviction for truth and justice and his voice, as was theirs, remained suppressed from the common layperson of their respective epoch. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr. paid with their life.  Dr. Anthony Tricoli has paid with his good name and his career……unjustly.  America has lost a great and fearless college president.

By Alan Wood

Musings of an unabashed and unapologetic liberal deep in the heart of a Red State. Crusader against obscurantism. Optimistic curmudgeon, snark jockey, lovably opinionated purveyor of wisdom and truth. Multi-lingual world traveler and part-time irreverent philosopher who dabbles in writing, political analysis, and social commentary. Attempting to provide some sanity and clarity to complex issues with a dash of sardonic wit and humor. Thanks for visiting!

13 thoughts on “Truth, Justice and Anthony Tricoli”
  1. I have read several articles about the GPC’s budget issue starting back in 2012 in the AJC and most recently here on your blog site as well as in the DeKalb Champion. At first I thought Dr. Tricoli may have made a mistake with GPC’s budget, but I no longer believe that to be the case. I know him, and I have always known him to be a good man, honest, and ethical. He said from the start of all of this that he was intentionally misled, the documents he presented to the court proved all that he said was true. What happened to Dr. Tricoli should never have happened. He should still be GPC’s president. This article hit me right in my heart. This man did absolutely nothing wrong, and he lost his job and his career. On top of these thoughts, I am deeply concerned that he may have been removed because he was trying to help people of color. The War of Northern Aggression is over, the South lost. Blacks, Browns and Whites all have equal access to a college education, and Dr. Tricoli was doing all of the things he should have done to assure that equal access was available to all. I do believe that he was “undone” because he tried to help students of color. Here we are in 2015, and men (and women) are still being harmed for fighting against discrimination. Will we ever learn from our past mistakes?

  2. Goodbye GPC.

    Today is a sad day for me, as it is the day that the Board of Regents and Hank Huckaby and his crew will officially vote to destroy and close GPC. Although, we all know this decision was made 2.5 years ago – this is the main reason they wanted Dr. Tricoli out of the way. After 30+ years of teaching at GPC, I am putting in for my retirement; I’m just tired of the politics in the USG. This place has become the underbelly of a snake, and I can’t put up with it for another day let alone another year.

    In the past 30 years, the best we had it was during the 6 years of Dr. Tricoli’s leadership. That guy was good for students, good for faculty and good for the college. Fran once said that Dr. Tricoli created Camelot at GPC, and I think she was right. But Camelot closed when they hung Dr. Tricoli on a tree they called the budget catastrophe – that was the catastrophe that never existed.

    What sickens me most is that I stood by with many of my colleagues and did nothing to help that man. He gave us his all, and we gave him nothing in return. When he needed us the most we turned our back on him, and I am just sick about that.

    This story of ours reminds me of an old German poem that was written when Hitler and his crew destroyed good men, women and children.

    Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

  3. Equating Tricoli with Bonhoeffer and King? Wow. What arrogance. I worked for Tricoli. I worked very closely with him and the VP’s during his tenure. Tricoli did do some great things for students. But he was certainly not without faults. I found him to be arrogant, condescending and manipulative. He was a micro-manager and often inserted himself into situations that were outside his purview of expertise, frequently out of pride or to simply assert his authority. Whether you believe it or not, he did commit unprofessional and unethical acts. I know this because he did it in my presence. I witnessed these acts with my owns eyes and ears. Did Tricoli deserve the shafting he got from the BOR? Probably not… the Executive VP likely deserves criminal prosecution and the blame for misleading Tricoli as well. But is Tricoli the saint you portray him to be? Most certainly not.

    1. I didn’t write this article. This was a guest essay by someone at GPC. I will not try to speak for them but I do not think there was any intention to directly compare Tricoli to the likes of MLK or Bonhoeffer. I think that was likely just some creative writing gone awry. Academics often use some rather flowery literary techniques not suited for the general public that can backfire. I will agree with you that the writer should have been a bit more clear that he was not directly comparing Tricoli to those esteemed men.

      I have however covered this story in great detail the last few months and I am now more convinced than ever just how corrupt the entire USG and BOR systems are. I have read thousands of internal emails from open record request and have them on this site for everyone to read. Huckaby should have never ever been selected chancellor. Rob Watts also was not held responsible in his duties at the USG to oversee budgets. Oh and by by the way Rob Watts has a B.A. and Master’s in Religion and this was Huckaby’s budget expert. I do not think Tricoli was a saint and I have yet to meet a university president that wasn’t arrogant to a degree. But I certainly appreciate your comments and perspective.

      1. I am well aware and have personally been a victim of the BOR’s corruption. I know Denise Caldon and others and we have been fighting for years. The sad fact is that the well of corruption runs deep in GA… right to the Governor’s office. I rue the day that I left my former state to come here to GPC. What I have seen here would never have happened there. I am getting out at the first opportunity.

        1. Sorry for your troubles and I have done all I can to shed light on all these stories. We welcome guest writers and if you some day decide to tell yours we would love to publish it. Either under your own name or you can remain anonymous just as this writer chose to do for fear of repercussions. We certainly need reforms to the entire USG, BOR, and new people put in place.

    2. John Doe,

      You are right about this “John Doe”, Dr. Tricoli did not deserve to lose his job. He did have crimes committed against him. I was very close to that man, and he never did what you said. Unprofessional and unethical, never, that is a fact. If you believe this then you are delusional. And if you believe this to be true then share your real name and work relationship with him, he cannot hurt you. I also agree with you that the college EVP does deserve jail time, as do others. But don’t discredit that man. Dr. Tricoli was perhaps the most authentic and honest leader in the USG; he was always forthright with us. You may not have liked his hair cut, or his leadership style, but he always involved us, he fought for us (including you), and he lost his job fighting against people who are unethical and dishonest and unprofessional.

      1. He was most certainly unethical at times. He once walked into my office to talk to me about a position search committee I was chairing and all but demanded I hire a specific candidate. He also trumped another committees decision about a hire to put his own person in place (I know because I was the person who got trumped).

        Now, that said, the man was also a BIG dreamer and I was excited about many Tricoli-led initiatives, some of which I was directly involved. I hated how he was treated and I think that was absolutely some foul things happening with Watts, Huckaby, et al.

        I left GPC recently – right before this merger biz – and I am glad I did. The GPC dream died with Tricoli. He was not a man without fault, but few are.

        1. Tricoli was not unethical, never a day in his tenure at GPC! Your statement about this “Former Faculty” is purely false. You cannot be as authentic and as open as Dr. Tricoli was with us every day at GPC and be unethical. He had no time for unethical behavior and he stopped it in others whenever it cropped up. I know, because I worked closely with him daily, and I know he never (and I mean NEVER) got involved in searches that did not report directly to him. I do agree that he was a masterful leader and a kind man who has a great sense of humor, and that his initiatives were all very exciting; they created at GPC a team atmosphere that I never experienced before nor after him. Tricoli breathed life into our college; and you are right, the GPC dream died when they blamed him for the budget mess.

          But read the USG’s Audit Report, it clearly states he was provided with false and misleading budget information from Carruth and Gerspaher and Champion. They lied to him! Tricoli was treated terribly by Huckaby, Watts, et al. They hated his success and his ability to create the atmosphere of trust that he led us to at GPC. I trust that man with all of my being. No body is perfect, but Tricoli was without question a great leader, look at all of what was accomplished under his six years. I would definitely work with Dr. Tricoli again if given the opportunity.

  4. This piece clearly communicates what really happened to Anthony Tricoli and what really happens in the University System of Georgia. Anthony Tricoli was all about helping students to succeed, and he was also all about creating a shared governance environment with the faculty and staff at the college.

    Recognition of his leadership efforts by several national associations and organizations were well deserved and justly earned. I found Dr. Tricoli to be a truly caring man who deeply respected the opinions of others. He is a very creative thinker, and his ability to think in that way resulted in others around him to begin to think “out-of-the-box” too. He rewarded open discussion, and he himself led many, many open forum discussions on all five of GPC’s campuses on a wide variety of topics.

    He always let us know that every concern we had could be on the table for discussion; and I appreciated his open communication style and his regular “Message from the President” pieces. I always found him to be respectul and appreciative of the opinions of others. Frankly, he was a breath of fresh air to GPC, and we’ve not been the same since we lost him.

  5. There is a massive amount of history presented in this article. The person who wrote this has a very deep and accurate understanding of Georgia and of the USG’s politics. I too have been around a long time, and I agree with all that’s been presented. Tricoli was a savior of sorts for GPC. Many have tried to take down this college over the years, and with Tricoli in place the college was booming like never before. He was a threat to the old establishment, and he brought too many minorities to the college. His success was beyond was anyone could have imagined. He was suppose to fail, he was expected to fail. But instead, under Erroll Davis, Tricoli flourished and became Georgia’s rock star president, and the USG simply couldn’t have that. Davis was pushed out, and the new leaders of the USG believed they needed to take Tricoli out permanently and absolutely destroy him. So that’s what they did. I feel bad for what the USG did to Tricoli. He was the best thing to land in Georgia in over two decades.

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