PART I - BULLDOG NEWS INVESTIGATIVE SERIES
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
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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