Some days this blog writes itself. . .
As a homegrown mechanism for pointing out the political absurdities and hypocritical horseshit that permeates our haughty government offices and defines our social and civic elite here on Florida’s Fun Coast, this blogsite was founded on watching from the cheap seats and writing down the farcicalities I observe.
And the orchestrated shit shows I see through a bloodshot eye rarely disappoint. . .
For instance, in 2016, I watched intently as the Volusia County Council ponied-up $1.5 million in public funds to underwrite struggling startups at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Complex – while simultaneously authorizing the sale of public property near Clyde Morris Boulevard and Bellevue to the University for half its appraised value.
In my view, at that point, you and I – the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County – became de facto members of ERAU’s prestigious Jack L. Hunt Society in grateful recognition of our generous endowment to the University.
So, for the past four years, I have taken it upon myself to keep an eye on our investment.
You’re welcome. . .
In that time, I have come to understand that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – our own Harvard of the Sky – belongs in toto to our High Panjandrum of Political Power, Mortenza “Mori” Hossieni – and the students, faculty and staff are just visiting.
As I’ve previously noted in this space, Mori’s Machiavellian attempts to control virtually every aspect of University operations and administration – including unilaterally selecting the university’s senior leadership – has not been well received by those who pay tuition or prepare and present the best curriculum in aerospace education.
In April 2016, student government representatives going back 15-years issued an open letter denouncing the actions of the ERAU Board of Trustees and expressing their collective concern for the future of the University.
Then, in August of that year, the faculty senate took the courageous step of issuing a vote of no confidence against the board – the most powerful statement of disapproval available to faculty members – many of whom felt marginalized under Mr. Hosseini’s dictatorship.
In Mori’s expansive world, he controls organizations and institutions with the dominance of a Feudal lord – and those who get crossways with the Big Man suffer the personal and professional consequences.
And this unbridled power – which seems to exempt Mr. Hossieni and his hand-select minions from the rules, decrees and social imperatives that control the rest of us – has never been more evident than during this most recent escalating brouhaha – one that has left ERAU student’s righteously pissed off.
What? You didn’t hear about it?
Well, that shouldn’t surprise anyone – because it is the last thing The Daytona Beach News-Journal is going to tell you about. . .
According to an excellent article in the student newspaper, The Avion, entitled, “Double-Standards: Controversy arises as Embry-Riddle hold first external event,” last Thursday, Mori – as Chairman of the Board of both ERAU and the University of Florida (?), hosted an elegant soiree at the 177,000 square foot aeronautical athenaeum which bears his name – the Mori Hossieni Student Union – for the UF Board of Trustees.
With student’s and staff having been warned, in the gravest of terms, that any violation of the University’s stringent COVID-19 safety protocols would result in draconian punishment – up to and including being sent home – it became apparent that the rules only apply to the little people. . .
As The Avion’s news editor Oliver Du Bois and staff reporter Mike Shekari so aptly explained:
“On Thursday, Aug. 27, a retreat was hosted for the University of Florida Board of Trustees by the Embry-Riddle Daytona Beach Campus. As part of this retreat, on Thursday night a banquet was held in the Student Union for the Board of Trustees, which shares its chairman with Embry-Riddle’s board, Mori Hosseini. Based on photographs taken by students during the banquet, it appears that over 30 individuals attended. The images also show that tables at the banquet seated six people and did not have any form of divider. Whereas students are only allowed to eat in groups of four and most other campus areas where food is consumed is required to have dividers. Banquet attendees were also in the Student Union without masks. However, what is truly disturbing about this incident is that the university violated its own COVID-19 control policies, which mandates the wear of face coverings and physical distancing of tables and chairs during events.”
Facing growing outrage by students who rightfully perceived this event as a dangerous double-standard, on August 28, University President P. Barry Butler issued a lame mea culpa, calling the gross violation of safety protocols a “valuable learning experience.”
In addition, Dr. Butler explained that all attendees had been screened and tested for COVID-19 – while admitting that “…social distancing was insufficient and face coverings were not consistently worn. Moreover, the appearance of the event, particularly as visitors were dining and talking without face coverings, was bad optics to say the least, as it appeared hypocritical and may have caused some of you to think that our rules are ‘good for thee, but not for me.’”
That’s exactly what it was – the arrogance of power on parade.
It appears the ERAU Student Government Association didn’t buy Butler’s bullshit either and issued their own statement to students on Friday, which read, in part:
“Chairman Hosseini and his guests attended a dinner in the Mori Hosseini Student Union [building] that was not in compliance with the University’s COVID-19 policies … The SGA [Student Government Association] Executive Board has heard you, and we agree that the actions of Mori Hosseini and the UF [University of Florida] Board of Trustees on Thursday were absolutely unacceptable … Everyone must be held to the same standard. Our safety is non-negotiable.”
Now, students have scheduled an “Accountability Protest” this morning at the Jim W. Henderson Administration & Welcome Center – as calls grow for Chairman Hossieni’s removal. (See more here: https://tinyurl.com/yxun63vj )
Trust me. Despite Dr. Butler’s fervent desire – this is not going away anytime soon.
Nor should it.
This is a big deal.
Because it has eroded the omnipotent safety culture that is critical in an aeronautical environment – one that holds everyone to equal standards of safety and conduct – and has personally insulted the efforts of students, faculty, and staff to safely reopen the University’s residential campuses to face-to-face instruction in keeping with the Board of Trustees’ desire.
While I admire – and wholeheartedly support – the valiant efforts of ERAU students to transform this beleaguered University and begin the difficult process of rebuilding trust, my fear is nothing will substantively change, and this cloistered institution will remain deeply embroiled in these recurring controversies so long as it is aggressively controlled by one man who casts a very large shadow on campus and off.
Photo Credit: The Avion