In his first public appearance following heart surgery, last week Dr. Eugene P. Trani, 68, announced that he will leave his post as Virginia Commonwealth University’s president on June 30, 2009. Trani said heath considerations were the only reason for his decision to step down a year sooner than had been planned. In a press conference […]
In his first public appearance following heart surgery, last week Dr. Eugene P. Trani, 68, announced that he will leave his post as Virginia Commonwealth University’s president on June 30, 2009. Trani said heath considerations were the only reason for his decision to step down a year sooner than had been planned.
In a press conference [Thursday] morning at VCU, Trani said his decision is based entirely on his health and the quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery he underwent a month ago. “The surgery just changed everything, no question,” he said.
In his remarks Trani referred to the bad light that has been shinning on the university, stemming in great part from the former Richmond police chief’s improperly granted degree, and somewhat from questions about the propriety of accepting tobacco money, as “a summer of challenges.”
The brouhaha over money going from Philip Morris to VCU doesn’t concern me today. However, the story of the Rodney Monroe degree is rapidly morphing from a flap into a scandal.
Which leads me to wonder: Was Trani speaking euphemistically? Or, was his statement about “challenges” an indication that he means to make the Monroe degree affair a summertime story only — a story that doesn’t have the legs to stay on the front page into the fall?
The Richmond Times-Dispatch has been using the Freedom of Information Act to get at emails and such, to dredge up more evidence that proves some employees of the university were quite concerned about Monroe‘s lack of credits earned at VCU. Today’s newspaper has a story along those lines.
Linda L. Spinelli, in e-mail messages to the Richmond Times-Dispatch this week, would not identify who applied pressure for her to approve Monroe’s application to graduate from the program without earning enough of his credits at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Today, VCU’s board of visitors will meet in closed session and is expected to discuss the investigation into how Monroe was awarded a degree, even though he did not meet the university’s residency requirement. The board has overseen that investigation.
Spinelli, who has retired, said she raised concerns “from the very beginning” that the six additional hours that Monroe needed for a degree would not meet the requirement that he complete at least 30 of the total 120 hours at VCU to receive a diploma from the university.
Click here to read “Ex-VCU official says she was pressured to approve Monroe’s degree cited.”
Thus, it never was a matter of people being asleep at the switch. It wasn’t a clerical error or an oversight. No, Monroe got his approval for his degree because rules were set aside.
Why were the rules set has become a festering problem.
Eventually, it’s all going to come out. What Trani needs to do is tell everybody at VCU the same thing — tell the truth and tell it now. Sunlight is the only thing that will disinfect this scandal.
If Trani doesn’t want the 40th anniversary celebration VCU has planned for this fall to be overshadowed by the Monroe degree scandal, then he has to see to it the whole story is aired out, pronto. If Trani, or anyone else at VCU, is shielding someone — anyone! — from being seen as the culprit in this case, it has to stop.
VCU’s reputation is more important than protecting department heads. It’s also more important than protecting a politician. The public wants to know if Mayor Doug Wilder played a role in this affair. People who love VCU want to know if Trani is taking the heat for Wilder.
As far as rescinding Monroe’s degree goes, such a move would expose VCU to the possibility of facing a monster lawsuit. To make that sort of legal action go away VCU might have to pay Monroe some sort of settlement. So, it’s a lot easier to say “revoke the degree,” than it would be to actually do it.
Still, more damage control simple won’t do. With the fall semester about to start, VCU simply must get ahead of the story and make sure there’s nothing more to tell.
Revealing the complete truth is more important than whether Monroe gets to keep his rather bogus degree. Telling the truth, the whole truth — and nothing but the truth — is the only way VCU can to prevent its summer of challenges from enlarging into a fall of sucking up not having done the right thing.
– Words and photo by F.T. Rea