The sound of silence

There’s a yellow brick road on campus, and it leads straight to Hearnes Hall.

There, on the second floor, somewhere inside the University President’s  office, we assume, is Dr. Bruce Speck.

The cowardly Lion.

We can’t be sure, though. Nobody has seen Speck for days. He hasn’t talked to us for weeks. Since last Monday, the public face of  this public university, our president, has been in hiding. Since directing administrators and faculty to begin following an autocratic media policy he originally introduced in 2008, Speck has  seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth.

What’s the deal?

He no longer accepts interview requests. Calls to his office are referred to Rod Surber, director of University Relations and Marketing. Surber told The Chart on Wednesday that he didn’t know Speck’s availability when we requested an interview.

We wanted to ask our president about his decision to reopen the search for vice president for academic affairs, and his decision to invite Dr. Brian Chapman back. Chapman, you will recall, withdrew from consideration last time, citing a “poisoned” atmosphere at Southern.

Speck, through Surber, directed us to Board member Charles McGinty, who will co-chair the new search committee.

Surber also told us Wednesday that Speck will determine what topics warrant interviews. Well, here are the topics we would like to ask our president about:

 The medical school. E-mails turned over to The Chart this week show a significant lack of dialogue between Speck and KCUMB officials in recent months. From the documents we received, Danny Weaver, acting president and president of that school’s board, hasn’t responded to several of Speck’s e-mails. The reopened search for VPAA. It has been said repeatedly, by many, that the time for conducting a search for administrators is in the fall. Why then, is Speck reopening this search now? And why the quick turnaround? The administration wants someone in place by July 1. That means campus visits will occur during the summer, when everyone is gone. Chapman’s invitation. Chapman, in his campus visit last year, took shots at the way the international program at Southern is run, and at a story that appeared in The Chart about a censorship issue he was involved in at his current school. Then, he withdrew from the race, wasting hundreds of dollars spent bringing him to Joplin, and said we have a “poisoned” atmosphere. Why invite him back? It sounds to us like he may be the candidate Speck wanted all along. The media policy. This policy, which forbids University employees from speaking with members of the media freely, is drawing national attention. Speck won’t back off. Since Speck announced he would begin enforcing the policy, he has rejected every single interview request from The Chart.It seems more like a way to distance himself and keep information from the people who make up this University than an attempt to make the flow of information more efficient. 

All these issues are of utmost importance to this campus community and roar out for comment from the man at the University’s helm.

Why is  he hiding? What is he scared of?