Thursday, August 07, 2003

The Bulger aftermath, and questions for Chancellor Lombardi. After having spent a good part of the morning reading almost every word the Globe and the Herald have to offer on the resignation of UMass president Bill Bulger -- and having glanced at coverage in the New York Times and Washington Post as well -- I have come to a sad conclusion:

I've got nothing to say, beyond what I've already said.

Bulger's $960,000 get-out-of-town package seems excessive, given that his pension should run about $200,000 a year. He might have been talked into taking less rather than staying to face a newly constituted board of trustees with Alan Dershowitz screaming at him through every meeting.

Still, the man was under contract, and it wasn't going to be cheap to make him go away.

But with the Bulger matter having been so thoroughly chewed over, let's shift to a sidebar: the story that UMass Amherst chancellor John Lombardi may be named president -- interim, permanent, or both.

The Globe's Marcella Bombardieri reports that Lombardi -- who's been at Amherst for a year -- did a terrific job during his nearly 10 years as president of the University of Florida.

What Bombardieri does not report is that Lombardi failed to distinguish himself, to say the least, in a troubling academic-freedom case that came up last fall.

Economics professor M.J. Alhabeeb, an Iraqi native and a staunch opponent of Saddam Hussein, was paid a visit in his office by an FBI agent and a campus cop after they learned that he was against President Bush's plans to invade Iraq.

Alhabeeb pronounced the matter "not a big deal." But the fact is that a naturalized American citizen was informed upon and questioned because of his political views and his national origin.

Yet when the faculty senate met to discuss the matter, the Springfield Union-News quoted Lombardi as saying:

I have had, at some time or another, had my friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors asked about my activities, views, and politics in order to get one job or another. When we are talking about the FBI on campus asking questions, we ought to be clear about which activity we have.

Lombardi also urged that the UMass community "not be distracted over cases that are not fundamental attacks on free speech."

For his spineless performance in the face of a challenge to academic freedom, Lombardi was recently singled out for a Boston Phoenix Muzzle Award.

It's something he ought to be called to account for before anyone starts talking seriously about a promotion. The Dersh would be just the one to ask Lombardi the questions that need to be asked.

The next Sony? BusinessWeek has a fascinating piece by Jane Black on Apple's ongoing attempt to reinvent itself -- from a boutique computer maker that, despite its cutting-edge reputation, is slowly fading away to "a high-end consumer-electronics and services company à la Sony."

Her examples: the to-die-for iPod portable music player (the envious take note: Mrs. Media Log got me one for Father's Day) and the iTunes Music Store.

Thanks to FarrellMedia for pointing this out.

New in this week's Phoenix. I've got a problem with the Vatican's recent statement on same-sex marriage -- and its demand that democratically elected politicians toe the line.

Also, a Harvard study shows that the so-called liberal media are far more tolerant of conservative arguments than the conservative media are of liberal ones. But you already knew that.

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