More Jackson County Opinions...

MARCH 19, 2003


Column
By:Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
March 19, 2003

Profiles in common sense
Two Georgians, former Gov. Roy Barnes and former state Rep. Dan Ponder, have been named winners of the prestigious “Profile in Courage” awards for displaying uncommon courage in dealing with the state flag and condemning hate crimes.
Most citizens will applaud these two deserving men. Perhaps we ought to feel a bit embarrassed, however, that at least some members of the nation’s intelligentsia - those who choose the award winners - have decided coming out against hate and bigotry to be such a high-risk endeavor in Georgia that it is worthy of medals.
Too bad the “Profile in Courage” awards do not have a sports category. If they did, University of Georgia President Michael Adams might be among the first nominees.
In dealing with his institution’s basketball scandal, Adams, along with UGA Athletics Director Vince Dooley, has shown more than uncommon courage. They have exhibited common sense.
Within two weeks after a former Bulldogs basketball player assailed his team and coaches with credible charges of dishonesty, Adams and Dooley moved quickly to control the damage. They fired one coach, suspended another, cancelled the team’s scheduled tournament appearances and dropped players from the squad.
Adams said he felt compelled to show that the university was still in full control of the basketball program.
The president and Dooley have been greeted by a storm of protests and at least one lawsuit. Students and some faculty are angry. Players say they have been cheated out of perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in national and regional championship tournaments.
And not a few say Adams had caused the whole mess in the first place. So why not punish himself?
In hindsight, one could conclude that if Adams had not been instrumental in hiring Jim Harrick as head basketball coach, none of this might have happened. Harrick already had a black mark on his record for illegal recruiting when he came to Georgia.
But no one wanted to talk about that flyspeck back in April 1999 when Harrick’s appointment was announced. “We said from the beginning our commitment was to hire a proven head coach,” Dooley said. “I think it’s obvious we far surpassed our expectation in that regard. It’s not often a school has a chance to hire a coach who has won a national championship.”
So they — Adams and Dooley — hired Harrick. Then they broke a rule: the University System’s anti-nepotism rule. Upon Dooley’s written request, Adams approved hiring Harrick’s son, Jim Harrick Jr., as an assistant basketball coach.
After all, as Dooley pointed out in a letter to Adams, UGA had hired Todd Donnan as assistant to his football coach-dad, Jim Donnan. That little rule violation hadn’t worked out very well either, and the Donnans were sent packing. No matter, a member of the Board of Regents wanted young Donnan at his father’s side and on the payroll. What a regent wants, a regent gets — at UGA.
In any event, the whole basketball episode is falling apart now. Payoffs, academic fraud, special treatment - the entire litany of anti-amateur sins is being unfurled. Adams admits the scandal may run deeper and get worse as several investigations proceed.
The basketball brouhaha is reminiscent of the Jan Kemp football mess of the mid-1980s, when a young English instructor sued UGA saying her contract was not renewed because of her outspoken criticism of the athletes’ developmental studies program. She collected big bucks from her legal action, and the Bulldogs picked up a gigantic black eye.
Adams said he does not see a parallel between the Kemp case and the current fiasco. Yet some lessons from the Kemp era may be worth remembering now.
Back then, Fred Davison, one of the university’s greatest presidents, saw his career shattered by the affair. Davison decided to clamp a tight lid of secrecy on the investigation of Kemp’s allegations. He defended to the limit the university’s actions, even when investigations by the regents and then-Attorney General Mike Bowers found serious flaws in the athletics-and-academics program. Davison made no attempt to hide his contempt for the news media assigned to cover the Kemp matter, which, in turn, created a whole new war front for the besieged university. But his worst mistake may have been in waiting. He failed to take immediate action, and he failed to recognize serious problems in the administration of his beloved university. The scandal eventually led to his resignation.
When you mention Davison today, hardly anyone thinks of the Jan Kemp story, but rather of Davison’s joyous boosterism of the university and his constant battles with the legislature and even the Board of Regents to gain more funds for the school and turn it into one of the nation’s finest public universities. Davison succeeded in that goal. He failed, however, to recognize that his zeal to protect UGA from criticism and sanctions may have hurt the school and himself.
So far, Adams — despite the brickbats now raining down on him — does not appear to be headed in the Davison direction as far as the UGA sports program is concerned. Still, one wonders why Adams insists on playing such an up-front and dominant role in dealing with the volatile university athletics program when so many more positive and more important issues are begging for his attention.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422-2543, e-mail: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com

Jackson County Opinion Index

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Column
By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Jackson Herald
March 19, 2003

Freedom of speech with no repercussions
Every human being should have the right to voice their opinion without repercussions. That is one of the founding principles of our country. One that has driven the United States to aid foreigners bent on overthrowing rigid governments which do not allow freedom of speech. A person should be able to say, “I don’t like the president. I don’t think he is doing a good job. I don’t want to go to war.” This is what our military is fighting for. Freedom. But what kind of freedom is it when you can lose your livelihood because you voice an opinion that is unpopular with the general public? Think about it.
If someone says they don’t like the way the president is handling the entire Iraq matter and they are fired from their job, who do you think the court system is going to say is right? The employer who was angered at the comments and so fired the employee with no provocation? Or the employee who lost his job because he is anti-war? I would be extremely disappointed if the judge found in favor of the employer. After all, we can’t discriminate based on race, religion, sexual preference or creed, why would our stance on the war be an OK excuse to terminate an employee? I think you know where I’m going with this.
The Dixie Chicks have a livelihood that is threatened because so many Americans are angered about comments made in England. Radio stations have pulled their songs from the air and people are throwing out their CDs. While it is OK to be angry about the comments made, it is not OK to stop listening to their music, which has nothing to do with the comments made by one member of the band. To do that and boycott their music and vow to never attend another concert is also an American right. But in exercising that right, you’re walking all over Natalie Maines’ right to free speech. It is the same thing as the employer who fires the anti-war employee. She has since apologized and said she should never have spoken so disrespectfully about the president. She learned a hard lesson that I think she never should have learned — that being in the public eye means free speech doesn’t always apply to you.
And there are more. Charlie Daniels, a revered name in country music and maybe the proudest American, has called for a boycott of anti-war Hollywood actors and actresses. Visa pulled the Martin Sheen advertisement from TV after being flooded with calls complaining, though Visa says it did not pull the ad for that reason.
After World War II, the United States adopted an anti-socialism policy, aiding any army trying to overthrow Communist regimes. Unfortunately, one man saw it as his opportunity to make a political career overnight. He ran for office hinting of a secret communist party operating in the United States. When elected, he promised to root out the evil and name names. One of the repercussions of his statements was the Hollywood 10, a list of writers and actors who would find no work in Hollywood because they were “blacklisted,” suspected of being communists or sympathizing with socialism. The House Committee on Un-American Activities began to hold hearings in November 1947, where it became clear they had no evidence to support paranoid claims that “subversive” movies were written, produced and acted by Communists as a plot to convert America. By 1954, 210 actors, writers and producers were blacklisted while hundreds more were “graylisted.” In history class, the Hollywood 10 is mentioned along with the moving of Japanese-American families to holding camps during World War II as some of the darkest days in American history, when fear outdistanced moral reasoning and American freedoms were stripped out of ignorance. Let’s learn from past mistakes. Don’t strip entertainers of their ability to speak freely when they disagree with our leader or our actions. We are their employer and they are just as entitled to their opinion as the rest of us. They are Americans, too.
Rochelle Beckstine is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.


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