One of his first major decisions was to oust the longtime provost, Myron Allen. … Once Sternberg came in, Allen’s exit happened quickly. Within four weeks of coming to campus, Sternberg told Allen to go back to being a faculty member. The official story – which Sternberg and a university spokesman both told faculty and the media – was that Allen’s resignation letter was received with “great regret” because Allen had decided to go back to teaching.
“That’s what’s usually done,” Sternberg said in an interview.
Indeed, the usual practice is for a president and departing official to coordinate their statements and have a cover story.
But the cover was blown when Allen made it known that he was forced out.
Shive said that cost Sternberg.
“He said that everybody resigned, but it quickly became apparent that that was a lie,” Shive said. “He explained the lie by saying, ‘Well, I lied because I wanted to protect the reputation of these people.’ So, that begs the question, If it’s O.K. to lie in this circumstance, what other circumstances would justify his lying to his faculty?” Sternberg said was only following standard procedure to protect those asked to step down.
“My trying to preserve their dignity and administrative job possibilities, therefore, seriously backfired,” he said in an email. “What I did not anticipate was the negative feelings that my effort to preserve their dignity would create, nor did I anticipate that many of the officials who stepped down actively would turn on me.”
Of course, the dignity preservation effort often works.
For instance, George Washington University President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was once a new president who wanted to get rid of a “very nice older gentleman who held the title” of provost.
Trachtenberg told the provost he could stay around another year, keep the title, keep the office, keep the secretary — but with someone else doing the actual job of provost.
“It’s just the way adults treat each other,” Trachtenberg said.
Especially when the adults are spending other people’s money, as Gottfredson is doing with UO’s former provost, Jim Bean. (For some more outrageous examples, read this Boston Globe story, courtesy of an anonymous reader.)
Shive said things got so bad on campus that trivial things would become part of the climate of fear. For instance, Shive said Sternberg asked everyone to wear the school colors, brown and gold, on Fridays.
Shive, a geologist by training, said he walked around campus and found the farther away from the administrative building he went, the fewer people were wearing brown and gold – except for a spike at the College of Education.
“They wore brown and gold on Fridays only because they were afraid not to,” he said of the people who wore the right colors.