Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., has been Virginia Commonwealth University’s president since 1990. He’s the fourth president in the burgeoning school’s 40 year history; he’s served longer than any of his predecessors. The impact Dr. Trani has had on VCU has been dramatic. In his 18 years in the job, no one has had more impact […]
Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., has been Virginia Commonwealth University’s president since 1990. He’s the fourth president in the burgeoning school’s 40 year history; he’s served longer than any of his predecessors. The impact Dr. Trani has had on VCU has been dramatic. In his 18 years in the job, no one has had more impact on Virginia’s capital city, either.
Now, with VCU in the process of generating warm and fuzzy publicity in connection with its 40th anniversary — by legislative decree today is VCU Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia — the university’s high-profile president is under some fire. The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s columnist Michael Paul Williams writes:
VCU has become as heedless and headstrong as its [ram] mascot — a reflection of its peerless leader.
In his column today, Williams chides VCU for taking money from Philip Morris, then he writes about his own father’s battle with cancer.
VCU, with its medical center and cancer-research facility, does not want to be “in bed” with a historically duplicitous industry that produces a public health hazard. I don’t pretend to be impartial. Before his death in 1992, my father spent time at Medical College of Virginia Hospitals as a lung-cancer patient, blocks away from what would become the Philip Morris research and technology center in the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park.
Well, if the columnist’s implication is that Philip Morris money is dirty money, then what about the money from Massey Energy (formerly A.T. Massey) that has gone to build VCU’s Massey Cancer Center? If you think there is such a thing as dirty money, check out the history of that Richmond-based company. Isn’t the Massey Cancer Center a good thing, no matter how much cold dust coats the money that built it?
Universities all over the country are in bed with corporations that have done all sorts of things that might seem bad. If a bank that owned slaves 150 years ago wants to build a hospital to treat and cure sickle cell anemia, perhaps to atone/get good publicity for its bad old self, should we say “no,” your money is too dirty?
The important thing to know about the Philip Morris money is to know what it bought.
Once the dust of outrage settled on the VCU research for Philip Morris story, it seems the biggest problem with it is was that the client got/gets to look over the findings of the research for a month longer than some other clients, before information went/goes public — 120 days instead of 90 days.
Is that really a big deal?
Williams also weighs in on the flap over Rodney Monroe’s degree. This story has yet to play all the way out. Although VCU has admitted the degree was unprecedented, in that Monroe apparently earned only six hours of credit, it has not revealed much about how Monroe got such special treatment.
Because Monroe, Richmond’s former police chief, was so closely associated with Mayor Doug Wilder, some observers think they smell political rats afoot. No doubt, there’s more to come with this brouhaha.
At this desk, its isn’t known why Monroe got to be the only person to get a degree from VCU with so little time in the classroom. But I’m interested in finding out more and I hope VCU will tell us more soon.
Still, coming down on Trani so hard at this time doesn’t make much sense to me. VCU is a big school. The largest in Virginia. Trani can’t personally supervise everything that goes on there. But what he can do is set a tone, and then hold the people who are connected to the university accountable for what they do.
If there was something wrong with Monroe degree, Trani should identify the problem and deal with it. But I don’t see why reasonable people would urge Trani to rush to judgment. This particular problem surfaced about a month ago. Why not give the school a little more time to figure out what it needs to do to put this matter right?
My own contact with Dr. Trani has had to do mostly with basketball. I see him in the media room after games. Sometimes we exchange hoops small talk. I’ve interviewed him a couple of times; he was utterly forthcoming and cooperative. Yes, he’s as smart as they come, and he doesn’t hide it. But I find that trait in him to be a lack of falseness, rather than the presence of arrogance.
In contrast, I also interviewed Trani’s predecessor, Dr. Edmund Ackell, in 1984 and I found him to a horse’s ass. Talk about arrogant! Don’t get me started.
It was Trani who put the kibosh on Ackell’s march to the river that had VCU poised to take over Oregon Hill. It wasn’t long after Trani arrived that the VCU master plan was revised. The school started building on West Broad Street, instead of mowing down Oregon Hill. (more…)