My name has become associated with a now infamous and anonymous blog. Believe me, it was not by choice. As many of you in academia can attest, very little in academia is by choice, especially if you are an administrator in the middle of a controversy! I was not seeking fame or notoriety. I was the President of a small rural college (Alfred State College) and made a decision that almost any Presidents in my situation would have made. The few individuals who were affected by my decision vowed to make life difficult and they did. A blog was started on May13, 2005 (yes, Friday the 13th!) I received an email over a weekend that carried the first posting of the blog. It was under the name of Brewster Pennybaker.
To the Editor: Brock Read’s "Attack of the Blog"
September 15) states that the unknown blogger was "mad as hell" at my performance as the president of the State University of New York College of Technology at Alfred. My report card includes, to list just a few items, an outstanding accreditation report from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and high praise from the accreditation team for my leadership; a double-digit increase in funds raised; … a 35-percent increase in international students; several first-time community-outreach initiatives; Intel recognition as one of the top-50 "most wired" campuses; and the largest building boom on the campus since the 1960s. The full credit for the above accomplishments should go to a highly ethical, dedicated, and visionary team of senior leaders that I was privileged to be a part of. The Chronicle’s article has a few errors and omissions. First, it states that "more than 20 college officials had quit or been fired." Human- resources records show one termination, four nonrenewals requested by direct supervisors, and eight reassignments.Second, SUNY did not conduct an investigation "of the tension between administrators and faculty members at the college." The administration and the Faculty Senate jointly invited an arbitration team — which, by the way, found serious flaws with the way the senate conducts business — to do so.Third, Robert Albrecht, another target of the blog who was mentioned in your article, is a SUNY distinguished teaching professor, who has served with distinction for four decades. .Finally, the bloggers targeted not just the president, but many others, including the chancellor, senior SUNY administrators, community members, and even young children of senior administrators. These attacks are still occurring. Other presidents before me, and their families, have also been viciously attacked by this group. The article omitted two important facts: First, public documents show why James Grillo was reassigned from his administrative post, a decision enthusiastically hailed by internal and external stakeholders as long overdue, and, as your reporter noted, an event "seen by many professors as a catalyst for the blog’s formation." Second, the administration incurred Mr. Grillo’s wrath when it took a principled stand against a bar he owns a few yards from the campus, which places students at high risk through its questionable practices. Anonymity is an aphrodisiac for cowards who perpetuate lies and slander to destroy hard-earned reputions, and sacrifice the common good for their personal gain. Confusing it with "free speech" is an insult to our forefathers.
Uma G. Gupta
Senior Adviser to the State University of New York for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
State University of New York