AU student protests point to bad decision

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Staff Report

Feb. 27, 2001 10 PM

Student protests are relatively rare at Auburn University. Even during the wild and wooly days of the 1960s, Auburn saw nothing like the crazy-in-the-streets student actions at the University of Alabama.

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The historic conservatism of the Auburn student body gives greater weight to the protest movement that saw a major boycott of classes there last week.

Students and many faculty members don’t like the way William V. Muse was forced by the board of trustees to step down prematurely as president this month. Muse, frustrated by the board’s micromanagement of campus affairs, planned to leave office this summer. But the board, with no warning to Muse and no consultation with faculty or students, voted to reassign Muse to a make-work post.

In effect, it told the popular president not to let the door hit him in the rear on his way out.

That didn’t sit well with students, who saw the hand of banker and board member Bobby Lowder in the slap in the face to Muse. That’s no surprise, for Lowder controls the board, controls the football program, controls the university.

Gov. Don Siegelman’s nomination of two new board members fanned the flames. Passing over the likes of Time CEO Don Logan and Alabama Power President Elmer Harris, the governor nominated developer Earlon McWhorter, a big contributor to the athletic department, and Golda McDaniel, a Mississippi resident who worked with Lowder last year on a coup that gave the trustees control of the Auburn Alumni Association board of directors.

It’s hard to avoid the impression of quid pro quo. Lowder’s money supported Siegelman’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign.

Students and faculty aren’t the only ones riled over the trustee nominations. Owen Brown, an Auburn alumnus who is former head of Sun Microsystems, didn’t mince words when he withdrew a $2 million pledge to Auburn.

The two nominees are good Auburn people. Clearly, however, they are not the kinds of people the Auburn community had in mind when they enthusiastically backed a constitutional amendment expanding the board of trustees.

Equally clear is the fact that Lowder’s reach extends far beyond the Auburn campus. It’s stunning to see who jumps when he yells "Toady."

The Birmingham Post-Herald  

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