"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Was Hanley harassed for racial/political reasons?

Dr. Rodney Hanley
The abrupt withdrawal of Rodney Hanley has been cloaked in mystery, publicly at least. It made no sense: this dynamic man wanting to come and lead our U of M-Morris, winner of an extensive search and interview process. It looked as though he would be an inspiring leader for our "jewel in the crown."
And then out of nowhere: an official email announcing he's not coming after all. It strained credulity, to say the least. Also puzzling was the lack of any sort of official explanation. There was nary a clue as to why this reversal happened. The vagueness surrounding the official announcement seemed almost disrespectful to Morris, as we really ought to know what happened as the culmination of the chancellor search process, a process that presumably cost money.
In a snarky way I suggested that maybe U President Eric Kaler was so accustomed to money getting wasted in athletics, he was numb to such a thing. Surely the Man from Stony Brook is not numb, but his statements regarding the UMM chancellor situation seemed a little maddening, as if the significant development could be explained away on vague "personal" terms. Oh, it was just one of those things.
One might expect President Kaler to express some anger or hint some anger. No such sentiment emerged vs. Dr. Rodney Hanley, the appointee as UMM chancellor. I had to sift through all of this for quite some time, trying to arrive at a nugget of truth. Maura Lerner of the Star Tribune had no success trying to reach Hanley for a comment. Strange, since Hanley's action seemed to impede the continuity of an important public institution in Minnesota's higher education system.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I think I have broken through the fog. This morning (Thursday) I finally read in its entirety, the article profiling Rodney Hanley in the April 28 issue of the University Register. That's the "good" student newspaper on the UMM campus, as opposed to some other (reactionary) ones of late. The whole front page is devoted to Hanley's appointment. There are two photos of the guy, one taking up nearly the whole top half of the page.
The article by Jon Antonsen, news editor, is very well done. We come away with a most positive impression of the appointee, coming here from Nashville TN (one of my favorite cities).
Before reading the article, I had it in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, he had given a quote or two in there, or maybe revealed some background in there, that rankled some Neanderthal types.
Here's a hint: Remember that guy with the last name of Stock who sent those anonymous and scary letters to people with adopted children of color, or members of inter-racial marriages? That term "inter-racial marriages" strikes me as quaint now, as we have steadily moved beyond putting labels on people based on "race." See, I put "race" in quotes.
UMM is a campus that has tolerated the "Counterweight" and then the "Northstar" papers. Remember how "Wayne's World" morphed into "Beavis and Butthead" in terms of the tasteless evolution of youth-centered entertainment? The morphing process was similar, from the Counterweight to the NorthStar.
Maybe at age 61 I'm getting too old to understand the currents of thinking among 20-year-olds. Like, the kind of thinking that has now given us "gay devil worshipers" on campus. I feel like a stranger in a strange land.
The people behind the reactionary publications strike me as ugly. It seems they will stop at nothing. There is no way to morph any further from "NorthStar." So, where do we go from here? Do we go to literally harassing a self-defined political progressive and racially nurturing person? I have a theory now. Keep in mind that unless and until the U reveals the real background as a matter of fact, we are forced to speculate. And yes, the real reason may in fact be too unpleasant to report, to Maura Lerner or to me or to anyone.
Let's look at Jon Antonsen's fine article in the Register. It reveals that Dr. Hanley and his wife "adopted two children from two different countries in Africa, and after all that has happened in recent years - like the shootings of African American teens and general direction of American politics - he wants to create a safe and productive space for diverse populations."
Hanley is quoted: "I wanted to do something that would help in some small way in reversing what was happening in the United States. When that opportunity arose, I took it."
Cheers, Dr. Hanley, you articulate my sentiments along with how all proper-thinking people out here on the prairie feel. Was it a political statement? Yes it was.
First we have the fodder for racists re. the adopted children, the kind of thing that would have brought a revolting letter from Stock, and then the implication that American politics has been sliding in a regressive way. It's certainly a legitimate opinion.
Conservatives want all the breathing room in the world to express their opinions, to be sure. Look at that meeting with Mark Zuckerberg. There ought to be another meeting prompted by progressives who want to be sure Facebook doesn't cave or get intimidated by "conservatives." I use quotes because of the large number of conservatives who are in fact reasonable, the conservatives who in a previous age were spoken for by William F. Buckley. I learned about conservative thinking by reading a couple of his books. Responsible conservatism plays an important role in our political system.
But then we have the kind of people who would put out "NorthStar" at UMM.
Hanley would have come here from Fisk University, Nashville, one of the nation's top historically black colleges. More fodder for the Stock types. I suspect some threatening messages may have been sent Hanley's way. This is getting to be an uncomfortable subject for me to write about. So I'll stop here. Peace. Or as Dan Rather would say, "courage."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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