Dear President Satish Tripathi and UB administrators, we want answers.
We are confused. We don’t understand why you find it so hard to tell us the truth.
We know your jobs are messy. We know UB has a beefy, billion dollar endowment and even fatter dreams of proving itself nationally. We believe you are sincere in your wishes for your students and for the school’s reputation. And we know you celebrate each time UB is mentioned in national rankings or jumps a notch in U.S. News polls.
What we don’t know is why you are so secretive, why you dole out information like war rations and why we had to find out what happened to Dennis Black from The Buffalo News.
We’ve been asking for weeks about Black's oddly silent disappearance after 38 years as the face of UB. On Sunday, The Buffalo News had a front-page story saying, “Black is at the center of an investigation of hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable expenditures.”
Black, who served as the vice president of Student Affairs, told The Buffalo News it was more like hundreds and thousands, not hundreds of thousands and insisted it was “crazy talk” and he doesn’t know “anything about dollars like that.”
What do you say? What should we believe?
We asked your spokesperson, John Della Contrada, to help us make sense of The Buffalo News’ story. In an email, he replied the university “cannot confirm or comment on potential investigations reported in the news media.”
On Sunday, President Tripathi, you sent a letter to the UB community. You began, “As you may be aware, today there is an article in the Buffalo News regarding the Faculty Student Association at the University at Buffalo.”
Not once did your short email mention Black’s name. Why not? Is even saying his name taboo? Is the investigation so secretive you can’t even acknowledge it exists in print?
You also wrote to assure faculty and staff of the “university's abiding commitment to upholding the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct in every aspect of the university.”
The definition of integrity is “the quality of being honest.” Its synonym is “truthful.”
Is this letter truthful?
You also wrote that the university “will continue to be diligent in ensuring that appropriate business protocols and that best financial practices are adhered to throughout our university operations.”
What does that mean?
Our professors – the ones on your payroll – have taught us to use more specific language than that. What protocols? What practices? Who is being diligent?
Do these principles also apply to the UB Foundation?
For years, UB professors and The Spectrum have been begging you to explain how the foundation spends UB money – $1 billion to be exact. And for years, you have rebuffed them.
A few weeks ago, UBF Chairman Francis M. Letro denied Faculty Senate Chair Philip Glick’s request to add faculty and student members to the foundation’s board of trustees. You and Letro believe UBF is transparent enough.
Again, we don’t know what you mean. Why won’t you show some of that integrity you talk about and open the books? Why not allow UB faculty and a student onto the board if there is nothing to hide? Why won’t you stop condoning secrecy in your staff?
Last year, it took your staff eight months to get us the athletic budget – even after we filed a Freedom of Information request. It took six months to get the law school budget and when we wanted statistics on the incoming freshman class, your staff made us file a Freedom of Information request again.
Almost every time we make requests for basic information, we are directed to your press spokesman or to your Records Management officer. We are asking for factual information that should be readily available.
We have a sour taste in our mouth and you aren’t helping us get rid of it. We aren’t making up stories or trying to look for conspiracies. Our job is to report and when you put up so many blocks, it makes us feel you are hiding something.
We want to believe you. We want to trust you. But you and your staff are making it hard.
The editorial board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org