Friday, November 04, 2005

ASU to Watauga County: We Don't Need No Stinking Artifacts!

The mistreatment of the Appalachian Cultural Museum by ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock is a blunder that has the potential of becoming a fiasco on its way to a scandal. Wednesday's Watauga Democrat opined in an editorial ("Keep our mountain heritage in good health"), "The university should invest as much money, time and space in this cultural icon as they will with the new nursing school." (Watauga Democrat editorials aren't posted on-line, apparently.)

Money seems to be the issue. Ironically, the Appalachian Cultural Museum costs the university virtually NOTHING. It's annual operating budget (exclusive of salaries) is a measly $10,000 (and, yes, you read that correctly). It's apparently as easy to throw away something you don't value highly as it is to cut out hugely expensive white elephants.

In his hot pursuit of a new nursing program, Chancellor Peacock apparently hatched a plan to seize the Cultural Museum's space up to 14 months ago but never bothered to involve the museum staff in that decision or in any planning. Now they are told suddenly to vacate the premises. Lorin Baumhover, the chancellor's numero uno hatchet man, stated on Oct. 13th that the nursing program is a higher priority than the museum's relocation (yes, we get that!), and on Oct. 21st Baumhover blandly told the museum staff, along with a committee of town and county leaders, that there was no money available to fund the relocation of the museum. Nevertheless, the museum must be moved out by New Year's. That's their story, and they're sticking to it.

Nice vise-grip you've got there, Mr. Hatchet Man. So what's the museum to do? Throw the stuff out into the parking lot? Hold a yard sale? "Frankly, my dear, we don't give a damn," Mr. Baumhover appears to be saying (on behalf of his boss). Baumhover hinted Oct. 21st that the museum may just have to close, but, he cheerily hastened to add, none of the personnel would lose their jobs. That's a huge whopping plate of consolation! You may not have a museum to manage, but we'll give you a nice desk somewhere with infinite paperwork to shuffle.

(It's as clear as the nose on a certain someone's face that the ASU administration just wanted the museum to go away as quietly as possible. But there's something of an unanticipated spotlight shining on it. The editorial in the Watauga Democrat on Wednesday helped, and we hear there's to be a resolution introduced in the Faculty Senate scolding Peacock for doing crummy things in the name of progress.)

The committee that formed of town and county leaders (the "Museum Building Committee") is shouldering what should be by rights the university's responsibility. If anything bad happens to one artifact, it's the university's fault.

The ASU administration passes the buck to a group of private citizens, offers them no money whatsoever to support a museum relocation, and impatiently pats its foot while pointing to the calendar: "You've got to be out by January 1st. Why haven't you started moving?"

Chancellor Peacock is apparently fond of handing out copies of his favorite corporate advice book, "Good to Great" by Jim Collins, who evidently offers a justification for putting someone with no leadership skills into a leadership position. Maybe Peacock ought to be passing out copies of Kafka instead.

We pray that the clouds break, that the sun shines through this abysm, that some private angel steps forward to offer the museum a place to go and money to get there. When and if that happens, Chancellor Peacock and his hatchet man should get the sort of recognition they have so fulsomely merited.


Is Appalachian State University broke? To wit:

1. There's no money to relocate the Cultural Museum (got it!).

2. There's a rumor afoot that bright brains in the administration intended to use free convict labor to move the departments of history & political science to new quarters ... because they don't have any money to hire it done. That plan has been scrubbed (someone with a lick of sense apparently considered the negative PR. Sample headline: "Peacock Gets Penal Implants").

3. The third floor of the brand new library cannot be utilized (furnished and occupied) because ... THERE'S NO MONEY FOR IT!

So what's up? Mis-management?

Clearly, we're going "from good to great" at quite a clip!

No comments: