That is why Kennesaw State President Dr. Dan Papp deserves much applause for the good news coming out of the institution these days. Goodness knows, he has taken some slings and arrows from outrageous columnists over the past year.
First, the good bucks (as in $75 million of them): As reported previously, KSU has shot the financial lights out in its efforts to raise $75 million in five years. The institution not only made its goal, it did it with a year to spare. The fact it was achieved in a bad economy is even more remarkable. And it all occurred with Papp at the helm.
There have been, of course, a couple of bad bucks that hit the CEO's desk: First there was the Jessica Colotl debacle in which a student - an "undocumented immigrant" who did not have a valid driver's license and gave false information and was arrested - was allowed back in the university, much to the displeasure of those of us who have this weird idea that if you drive an automobile you should have a driver's license and if you live here permanently, you should be a citizen and if you are asked a question, you should tell the truth. Ms. Colotl was oh-for-three and still got back in.
Dan Papp's reaction? "We are especially thrilled that she will be allowed to continue her studies here at KSU."
"Especially thrilled" was not the best choice of words.
"We will abide by the government's decision" would have worked a lot better.
This brouhaha was followed by the university's aborted search for a new provost. It was discovered that the leading candidate, Dr. Timothy Chandler, had co-authored a paper extolling the virtues of Marxism with another academician who thinks the Bush Administration was complicit in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and that there really is an Easter Bunny.
That wasn't the worst part. The worst part is that both of these guys were physical education majors. Nothing against PE majors but having a couple of jocks pontificating on Marxism, 9/11 or much else that doesn't include a ball, a bat or a pair of sweat socks, makes a lot of us nervous.
When contacted about the possibility of this inmate running the asylum, Dr. Papp said he had been "blindsided." Good grief. Bad comment.
Fortunately, Chandler decided to stay at Kent State University instead of coming to Kennesaw State and having to spend most of his waking hours trying to convince us that he really wasn't talking about Karl Marx in his treatise. He was referring to Harpo.
In the midst of these bad bucks, unflappable Dan Papp stayed the course. The CEO took his licking and kept on ticking. In his State of the University address, Papp said, "Over the past year, we have received quite a bit of national attention, although not always in the way that I would have hoped." That might qualify for the understatement of the year.
One of the ways to deal with the kind of controversies that seem to follow academic institutions like a sneak thief is to communicate better. Papp has a lot on his plate as president and he needs good and trusted counsel to help him navigate the treacherous external and political waters in which he must operate. Both the Colotl and Chandler controversies could have been avoided or mitigated with better external counsel and his adherence to that counsel.
In that same address, he added, "KSU will strive to become known as "Kennesaw State: Georgia's Engaged University, by redoubling its efforts to understand the public and help the public understand what it does." Now, he's talking. KSU is a vital part of our community and both professors and taxpayers need to remember that.
I have gotten to know Dr. Papp well over the past year and have gained a great deal of respect for him. It is not easy being president of a major college university, particularly when there are wiseacre columnists lurking in the shadows. I have tweaked him for his misadventures, so it is only right to acknowledge him for his leadership in getting the school through the tough days of backlash and controversy and a miserable economy into new and exciting academic territory with the just-concluded outstanding capital campaign.
Kennesaw State has a bright future ahead. Much credit goes to Dr. Dan Papp. This is one time the man has every right to say he is "especially thrilled."
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.