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January 1, 2001
Ethics of Public Diaries.
Amoral Constraints of A College President.

By Howard Hobbs Ph.D. Bulldog Newspaper Foundation

FRESNO STATE CAMPUS -- In a project under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, several colleagues are analyzing the American undergraduate scene in terms of campus efforts to promote both the moral and civic responsibilities of students.
   The focus is on both moral and civic responsibility because it is believed the two are inseparable. America's democratic principles, including tolerance and respect for others, procedural impartiality, and concern for both the rights of the individual and the welfare of the group, are all grounded in moral principles.
   Likewise, the problems that the civilly engaged citizen must confront always include strong moral themes - for example, fair access to resources such as housing, the moral obligation to consider future generations in making environmental policy, and the conflicting claims of multiple stakeholders in community decision-making.
   None of these issues can be adequately resolved without a consideration of moral questions. A person can become civilly and politically active without good judgment and a strong moral compass, but it is hardly wise to promote that kind of involvement. Because civic responsibility is inescapably threaded with moral values, we believe that higher education must aspire to foster both moral and civic maturity and must confront educationally the many links between them.
   In a stunning victory for freedom of information Fresno State President John Welty, Ed.D. has been ordered on Tues. by the State Court to make public the names of SaveMart Center luxury sky box purchasers. The ruling was in response to the McClatchy suit alleging that University officials wrongfully refused to publicly disclose the names of the donors on a project partially funded by public tax revenues.
   The Clovis Free Press has questioned the appearance of conflict of interest in the construction project of the SaveMart arena for the past two years. At issue is the question of whether or not favoritism has played any part in University selection of vendors and the subcontractors and whether or not any Fresno State Foundation or CSUF transaction has been directly or indirectly influenced by the "purchase" of luxury suite leases by vendors or subcontractors or their agents.
   Superior Court Judge, Franklin P. Jones ruled that investments made by state taxpayers and the public's right to know were at stake in the matter. Judge Jones ruled the Fresno State Foundation and the California State University, Fresno, Association Inc., the University entity supervising the arena, are subject to public scrutiny and the financial transaction documents must be open to public inspection.
   However, the names of persons or companies involved in the matter may still not be open for inspection by the public, as CSUF has notified the court of its intent to appeal Judge Jones' Order to the 5th District Court of Appeals. As defined under federal tax law, the California State University Association is a nonprofit private charity whose purpose is to advance the educational mission of the University.
   In a candid Public Diary, Fresno State University President John Welty reveals his take on the University's financial stake in Intercollegiate athletics, when he writes, "A new debate has emerged with regard to the future of intercollegiate football...Some proposed that minimum attendance requirements be established and enforced for membership in Division I. The NCAA responded that a study should be conducted of the entire issue. A large number of Division I-A Commissioners took the position that a study was not necessary...intercollegiate football is prospering at universities that are involved in the Bowl Championship Series. Other Division I-A universities are faced with the extraordinarily difficult task of trying to compete. The Bowl Championship Series has successfully negotiated huge TV contracts for bowl games that allow for $10-14 million payouts to each team that competes in the top four bowl games.
   The remaining Division 1-A universities are offered $100,000 per year from these revenues as a token payment. This huge imbalance is going to lead to the destruction of intercollegiate football over time if the situation is not corrected. When large dollars began flowing from the NCAA basketball tournament, the NCAA took action to redistribute this revenue to all member institutions in a fair and equitable manner.
   This action eliminated the “million dollar free throw,” i.e. the situation in which a missed free throw could cost an institution one million dollars. The popularity of this tournament continues to increase. If these huge imbalances are allowed to persist for intercollegiate football, approximately 60 universities will capture millions of dollars of revenue which will allow these universities to gain an extraordinary edge in competition and make it virtually impossible for other Division 1-A universities to compete.
   If this revenue was distributed more equitably...this revenue would allow universities to make more investments to achieve gender equity in their athletic programs. The existence of this situation presents a huge ethical dilemma for university presidents...It is my belief that the values which we should all share with regard to intercollegiate athletics would best be achieved if there continued to be an even playing field with regard to competition."
   And again, "Serving Alcohol at Athletic Events: As the new semester opens I find myself debating the issue of whether to continue to allow the serving of alcoholic beverages at tailgates and in the stadium. This has been a long standing practice at the University and there have not been serious problems...Nevertheless, we have a large number of students under age 21... Obviously there is a financial issue surrounding this decision. The athletics department depends upon the revenue which is generated. If we stopped selling alcoholic beverages, we would be forced to curtail expenditures in the department or replace this revenue from the University budget. I cannot justify the further allocation of University funds... In the end, it is my judgment that we can allow the sale of alcoholic beverages as long as we promote responsible consumption, enforce the law, and the behavior of fans does not impinge upon the ability of those fans who choose not to drink to enjoy the event."
   Moral philosophy, the proper academic home for ethical instruction, is usually considered remote, with few professors choosing to teach applied ethics. With that discipline's studied disengagement from the world of practical affairs, it is surprising that Dr. Welty finds the subject attractive as a diary theme. However his preoccupation with economics, and a theory of human behavior that relates all motivation to personal self-interest in competition and the will to win.
   The role of the college and university is to prepare its graduates for a lifetime of learning from experience that will go better and faster than it would have done without formal education. No matter how leadership expands its investment in applied ethics, most higher education manageeent relies on an attempt to couch action in the language of ethical decision making especiaslly when the situation is clouded by ambiguity, incomplete information, multiple points of view, and conflicting responsibilities.
   Developing techhical decison making practices at Fresno State University looks like it is turning toward an administrative process involving recognition of both direct and indirect ethical implications. Ethical decisions by leaders in the university require personal qualities of competence and the intellectual power to recognize the ethical issues presented in consequences of alternative
   The ethics of responsibility involves a series of practices by college presidents who view rules as having instrumental value in manipulating college functions.
   Administrative leaders who are concerned with furthering the stock of public welfare and the promotion of harmony among divergent groups seems to perceive the right thing to do without regard for established legal norms and conventions.
   A highly motivated university president can preside over a state university because the incentive system focuses attention on short-term quantifiable results. Under pressures to get ahead, the president may be tempted to pursue advancement at the expense of others, to cut corners, to conceal from the public eye sharp or even unethical business arrangements and to seek to win at all cost, to make things seem better than they are, or to take advantage of a vague evaluation of performance.
   The first truth of applied ethics is, "People will do what they are rewarded for doing." The quantifiable results of managerial activity of the California public university is always much more visible than the quality and future consequences of the means by which they are attained.

[Editor's Note: Title 5, California Code of Regulations Sections 41301-4 covers moral conduct of students attending the University. It empowers Welty to punish any student by expulsion, suspension and or placing on probation for any of a number of behaviors, such as: cheating, misrepresenation & theft.]


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