Apr 15, 2016 | Comments 2
Although I grew up in Central Florida, all my roots are in South Georgia. The phrase, “Let’s go home,” meant a trip in a 1954 Ford to South Georgia. To this day, when I think of “home,” I think of two locations: one in Central Florida where I actually grew up and one in South Georgia where I spent my summers and where both my paternal and maternal roots grow deep in the sandy, gray soil of cotton and tobacco fields.
I grew up listening to fantastic stories about both sides of my family. All the stories were true, and those stories not true, well, they should have been.
One of the stories was about a great-great-grandfather and mother who just before they died decided to come clean with their 14 children. So, they called the tribe together and confessed they never married, thus informing the children they were illegitimate. Loving mama and daddy, the children forgave their parents immediately. Then the old man said, “Well, there’s more. The reason we didn’t get married is because we’re brother and sister.”
The story was told for the truth — a part of our family lore. To this day, I do not know whether the story is true or false. I fear it is true. We have a goodly number of first cousins who married each other!
Below is a copy of the most recent communication to come out of King Kooistra’s office.
Faculty and Staff,
As you are keenly aware, Erskine faces a number of critical issues as we seek to stimulate growth and establish lasting financial stability. Over the course of the past year, I came to the conclusion that in order to devote the necessary time and attention to these issues, I needed additional help. I have had to change my original approach to meeting this need.
I am pleased to tell you that I have asked Cliff Smith to help me by adjusting his duties to serve as Vice President for Communications and Strategic Initiatives. Cliff’s primary role will now be to assist me with a variety of administrative and executive priorities, special projects, and initiatives, as well as serving as liaison with internal and external constituencies, including trustees, faculty, and administrative offices.
While he will remain strategically involved in the work of the Communications office, Cliff will be reassigning many of his daily tasks to others in that office.
Please give Cliff your full support and cooperation as he assists me in this capacity.
Well, is King Kooistra now in the throes of desperation?
In January, King Kooistra hired Rob Gustafson to be his VP for Administration. That is, he found an outsider who could bring new eyes and ears to the goings on in Due West. However, once Gustafson found out what was actually taking place and informed Kooistra, the king was not pleased. Gustafson’s findings did not coincide with the king’s narrative. Gustafson, realizing he was persona non grata, turned in his keys. Obviously, the financial spider’s web woven by CFO and insider Greg Haselden is more palatable to King Kooistra than the narrative of outsider Rob Gustafson who brought new eyes and ears to the little Kingdom of Due West.
Not to have roots in Erskine and Due West, it has not taken long for King Kooistra to co-opt the infamous ways of Due West. One of the Erskine ways is to make sure leadership is maintained in a small circle. It is called “institutional incest.” Institutional incest often occurs in times of desperation. It is a defense mechanism.
Cliff Smith is safe. He is a part of the dysfunctional, institutional family. He is one of the signers of the April 22, 2014 document which came out of the “Cabinet Meeting with Trustee Leadership” (http://www.arptalk.org/cabinet-meeting-with-trustee-leadership-2014-04-22/). Remember this document proposes a plan to “steal” Erskine from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. The geniuses behind this plan are former board Chairman David Conner and former Acting President Brad Christie. Remember also the unwieldiness of the board to even bring up and discuss this plan (and the rejection of a number of other miscalculations by Conner and Christie) brought about Conner’s sudden resignation from both his chairmanship and the board at the May 28, 2014 board meeting (http://www.arptalk.org/2014/06/03/hooray-for-bill-cain/).
What is a Vice President for Communications and Strategic Initiatives? Is this King Kooistra attempting to replace outsider Rob Gustafson with a compliant insider? Indeed, the choice of Cliff Smith brings nothing new to the table — no new eyes or ears to put on the Erskine mess and suggest new directions. If this is not institutional incest, what is it? Also, is it not an act of desperation to close the leadership circle?
Certainly, this is as messed up as one of my South Georgia family reunions! Smith becomes a toady for King Kooistra to control. Does Smith realize he is being used? Does Smith realize the king has little regard for him?
I know King Kooistra’s feelings about Smith. When I asked Kooistra to unblock ARPTalk from the Erskine server, he told me he did not know how to do it. When I suggested he walk down the hall from his Belk Hall office to the office of his communications officer Cliff Smith and direct him to unblock ARPTalk, Kooistra said, “He doesn’t know how to do that! That’s beyond his competency. You know more about computers than he does.”
Good grief! I was shocked by such poppycock! I was amazed King Kooistra was willing to lie to my face! I was amazed at the manner he was willing to nay-say a member of his leadership team! I was amazed at the ease with which he threw one of his VPs under the bus!
There are many such stories coming out of Due West of Kooistra speaking ill of Smith — and others. I think it is referred to as “being Kooistranized.”
Well, if Smith is so incompetent, why did King Kooistra put him in charge of so much? Is he desperate? Has the Rob Gustafson experience made Kooistra so xenophobic he is unwilling to consider the findings of an objective outsider? Incestuous organizations are wary of an outsider’s perspective. Incestuous organizations delight in sheeple; they do not embrace an outsider with a differing viewpoint or a new direction. Incestuous organizations thrive on sycophants.
Good heavens, this is worse than one of my South Georgia family reunions. Administrative incestuousness at Erskine is celebrated and has brought forth the conjoined quadruplets of Kooistra, Haselden, Christie, and Smith. If this were more incestuous it would be a sandwich at my family reunion. It is a monster of one body and four heads speaking in different directions, shouting the same lines: “It’s all the fault of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church! Only football will save us!”
Don’t Know What Else to Do
The ineptness King Kooistra brings to the presidency of Erskine College is astounding. He came to us with such promise, and has been such a disappointment.
We thought he was an evangelical. Instead, King Kooistra brings to his office mumbling and bungling piffle about grace. We thought he would make his primary task the return of Erskine to her evangelical roots in the bosom of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Instead, King Kooistra turned to the embrace of the secular alums who work to “steal” Erskine from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. He declares his most trusted colleague is Greg Haselden, his Roman Catholic CFO who, in the last fifteen years, directed and oversaw the financial disaster that is Erskine today. (And many in Due West ask, “Is Haselden in charge, or is Kooistra in charge?) A so-called PCA evangelical, King Kooistra has dismantled the Bible Department of a Christian college, he has transferred the responsibilities for teaching Bible courses to Erskine Seminary, and now he proposes getting rid of the seminary by separating the seminary from the college. Watching Kooistra at work in Due West is akin to watching a train wreck and not being able to stop it! We are watching a man who is floundering about in desperation as he drowns — and drowns the institution he leads.
Having yet to raise enough money to balance the budget without transferring monies from Peter to pay Paul or without drawing down the endowment again (and thereby continuing the impoverishment of Erskine), King Kooistra comes up with an expensive plan for football to the glory of God. He even admits to board members he is not sure football will work in Due West. Nevertheless, he presses ahead like a mule with blinders and mutters in desperation, saying, “I don’t know what else to do! What do you suggest?”
Well, Dr. Kooistra, may I be so bold as to make a number of suggestions?
One, football is no messiah. Football is an act of desperation. Football will not save Erskine financially. All the research I have seen indicates football is a drain financially and a distraction academically for a small, private college like Erskine. Indeed, football may be the financial dagger in the heart which bring an end to Erskine.
As I have said, counting on football for Erskine is an act of desperation. Without blushing, King Kooistra admits he has no other plan. It is like he is in a poker game and desperately trying to save the family farm by going for broke. He is drawing to an inside straight flush. Good luck! The odds for success are “about 1.4 thousandth of a per cent” (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=122515). Yes, football is an act of desperation.
Two, why not get smaller? Does the reader remember Winn-Dixie? Once, Winn-Dixie was everywhere in the South. When Winn-Dixie ran into financial difficulties, the folks at Winn-Dixie retreated in order to get healthy again. Today, Winn-Dixie is doing well. Winn-Dixie stores are found in Florida, South Georgia, and South Alabama — and Winn-Dixie is growing again. However, Winn-Dixie had to get smaller first.
Three, why not return to Liberal Arts education? Once, Erskine College offered a real Liberal Arts education and commanded a reputation for academic excellence. Why not attempt to recapture a reputation for academic excellence?
Four, why not return to “Christian?” I am embarrassed to mention the obvious to a PCA minister who once was president of Covenant Seminary and the director of MTW, the agency for foreign missions in the PCA. What is wrong with King Kooistra? It seems he thinks only in terms of money. He trusts football for revenue. What happened to trusting in God? How has a former RTS/Jackson seminary professor missed the obvious? Does he not remember what he taught his students 40 years ago? I do. I sat in one of his classes.
Five, why not listen to the members of the board? Here is a recent list of suggestions from board members:
- Renew the vigor of Erskine’s Liberal Arts and Christian education
- Expand with programs compatible with Liberal Arts purpose, ie. Nursing, Law (paralegal), Business specialties
- Re-figure recruitment strategy; Recruit at Bonclarken, Appalachia, ARP Churches in places where there is a presence of ARPs, etc.
- Reaffirm and implement, with training of faculty, the Christian Philosophy, purpose, and community
- Settle the issue of the Seminary for a long-term success
- Consider a work-study program reducing tuition charged
- Reduce the published tuition rate
- Embrace the ARP Church in a real and humble way to unleash money and students being held back because of perceived uncertainty of educational commitments
- International students
- Focused Recruitment: Christian schools; home schools; music, and
- Joint Bachelor’s/Associate Degree programs.
…from a list sent to Kooistra by board members.
Why is King Kooistra not listening to his trustees? As far as I know (and I am aware of the lay of the land in Due West), no one on the board is particularly zealous for football. King Kooistra asks, “Does anyone have a different plan?” Well, yes, but Paul is not listening! Nor will he! There are blinders on the mule! King Kooistra is in the throes of desperation and listens to no one. He is actually a danger to the well being of Erskine.
By the way, I have one more suggestion: at 74, this task is beyond Kooistra’s reach. He needs to resign and go home to Atlanta.
How about a Comprehensive Presidential Evaluation?
I am aware the board has done an in-house evaluation of King Kooistra (that is, write, “The evaluation was a whitewash!”). However, as far as I know, a comprehensive presidential evaluation has not been done. A comprehensive presidential evaluation is often done with SurveyMonkey. Students, faculty members, subordinates, staff, and board members are surveyed. Then, the survey is followed up with a review by the board. Before launching into the expensive and desperate endeavor of a football program, is it not wise to find out how many are lining up to march in a football parade?
Now, as many of you know, I have identified the petition by the seminary faculty as a vote of no-confidence. Of course, I made an inference. Nevertheless, is there any confidence in King Kooistra’s leadership and his leadership team? And was there not also an issue at the college over no-confidence sometime back? Not many outside of Due West are aware of this. As I understand it, much effort went into squishing the effort and effacing the memory. However, it took place. If a comprehensive evaluation is launched, I suspect it will be interesting to see how few are willing to follow in King Kooistra’s football parade.
At this point, we witness leadership by desperation. King Kooistra surrounds himself with Yes-men, he effervesces xenophobic, he has only one plan to play, and he is unwilling to entertain differing opinions and options.
Someone has made the following observation: you know you have leadership ability when you go out for a walk and a crowd follows. If you go out for a walk and no one follows, well, you are simply out for a walk. I do not think many are willing to follow King Kooistra and his leadership team apart from the heavy hand of compulsion.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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