Complaints Raised About Danley, Harris Losing Jobs

At a Monday press conference, the decision to replace two minority athletic department administrators was questioned.

Auburn, Ala.--Friends, university officials and the curious turned out for a press conference at the Auburn University Library on Monday to listen to complaints about two black athletic department employees losing their jobs in a restructuring of the department.

Associate athletic director Stacy Danley and assistant athletic director Eugene Harris, who are black, lost their positions in the restructuring along with assistant athletic director Marvin Julich, who is white.

New athletic director Jay Jacobs announced the changes on Thursday as well as promotions for Meredith Jenkins, David Mines and Virgil Starks. Jacobs said again on Monday that the changes he made last week were to help the athletic department be a more efficient operation.

Jenkins, director of media relations, will take on the role of women's sports administrator.

Mines was promoted from NCAA compliance officer to associate athletic director.

Virgil Starks was promoted to senior associate athletic director from associate athletic director.

Mines and Starks are both black. Jenkins is white.

Jacobs announced that two other athletic department officials, associate athletic director Tim Jackson and compliance director Mark Richards, would be on his leadership team. However, no specific promotions or new titles were mentioned for those two men.

A variety of speakers, including Byron Franklin, who is a member of the university's board of trustees, spoke at the press conference to complain about Danley and Harris losing their jobs. Neither Harris or Danley were in attendance.

Approximately 100 people, including media members, attended the press conference. The Rev. Clifford Jones from Greater Peace Baptist Church in Opelika,a friend of Danley and Harris, started the event with a brief speech about why the press conference was called.

The theme of the event was that the university needs more black administrators throughout the university, not less, and that the athletic director should not have gotten rid of two black administrators in his department.

Byron Franklin is shown at Monday's meeting.

Franklin, who was involved in 2003's Jetgate scandal, said, "It is my responsibility as a board member, particularly as an African-American board member, to absolutely demand that on the issue of diversity a program will be put in place that will change the environment for this institution.

"It is our desire, as men and women of color and as minorities on campus, that we come up with a viable plan. Not just meet. Not just have a prayer talk. Not just march. And not just complain, but to sit down and come up with a plan that will change Auburn University and its environment."

Willie Larkin, president of AU Senate and President of 100 Black Men of Greater Auburn-Opelika, spoke on behalf of Harris and Danley, who are members of his 100 Black Men group.

"When African-Americans are removed from their communities by unnecessary firings, it affects all of us in a very negative way," Larkin said. "I believe this must change."

Larkin said he is calling on university president Ed Richardson to place more emphasis on diversity and added, "We as African-Americans champion excellence, just like everyone else. We don't condone poor work performance, but we must question and object to people being fired or dismissed, black or white, when the justification for the decision is not based on legitimate reasons."

Jacobs, who took over as athletic director in early January, has been meeting with head coaches from all of Auburn's sports teams to get recommendations on ways to improve the athletic department and provide better support for student-athletes in each sport. His first major decision was to eliminate three positions and he said again on Monday he believes he made the correct call.

"When you make hard decisions in any business, particularly when it pertains to an emotional level and things like that, it is a tough day," Jacobs said. "Tough decisions are going to have to be made. There are going to be others that I am sure are going to come up during my tenure, but at the end of the day I have got to do what I think is best for Auburn athletics and Auburn people. Sometimes that is tough decisions and different things come out of that."

Dr. Keenan Grenell, interim provost of multicultural affairs, spoke at the press conference and noted that he is very unhappy that he was not involved in Jacobs' decision to replace Harris and Danley.

He said the fact that Jacobs promoted two black administrators in the reorganization doesn't change his opposition to the move. "There is no gain by promoting two African-American administrators in athletics and eliminating two," he said. He also charged there are "inconsistencies in human resources policies and actions based on race."

Grenell added, "All parties involved with this decision will be held accountable by the African-American community. Last but not least, involve the office of multi-cultural affairs before the fact, not after the fact."

Grenell and Jacobs both said they discussed the restructuring last week after Grenell received a phone call from Harris that Danley lost his job and he had lost his job. Later that day, Jacobs announced his decision on the changes.

"I didn't buy Jay Jacobs' rationale on Thursday, I didn't buy it on Friday and I don't buy it on Monday," Grenell said.

The administrator also said, "Last night I received a call from Charles Steele, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He told me to implore this group, if things at Auburn don't change, and don't change in a hurry, during the first or second week in March that there won't just be a 100,000 people on a re-enactment of Selma to Montgomery march. When they get to Montgomery they are going to spend the night and march to Auburn."

Speakers at the meeting also complained that Auburn could afford to keep Danley and Harris employed because the athletic department is in good shape financially.

Jacobs commented on that issue on Monday, saying, "The context of the question was given about our prior discussion on Friday. I visited with several people and one was alluding to the fact of how much we pay head coaches and what is it you can't afford?

"My answer to that, and it certainly could have been misunderstood, is it is not that we can't afford to have these folks, but being a steward of this department and being as efficient as we can, that is a consideration of this, but my answer to that particular question was that ‘no, we are not here trying to scrape nickels off the bottom of the barrel and that is why we had to make a change in these positions.' Certainly, when you look at the overall scope of what we are trying to do, efficiency-wise and streamlining, human resources and financial resources are two of the things that have to be considered in this business. That is the fact of it."

Jacobs was asked if he was concerned about a lawsuit in the case and said, "We are certainly going to answer any questions anybody has. We are going to do what is right. We are going to tell the truth and treat people the way they want to be treated and try to communicate with you folks and the Auburn people so whatever happens happens. We are going to do what is right at the end of the day."

Jacobs added, "We have got to have the best leadership team we can have to keep this thing moving forward and take it to the level I want to take it to."

When asked if he should have included Dr. Grenell in his decision to eliminate the jobs that Harris and Danley lost, Jacobs said, "I don't think there is standard procedure on a tough decision you have to make like this. I certainly wasn't trying to alienate anyone, but also I knew that I didn't want anybody else having to take ownership of my decisions.

"I was going to do what I thought was best at the end of the day and that is how it is going to be. In light of this we will all get together and look back and think it over. Were there maybe things we could have done better or not? Regardless, the decision that was made was the best decision for Auburn."

Jacobs added, "My motive is pure. We are going to be as efficient as we can be and I can't imagine how it is for those three guys and their families, but it is just business. Just business. It is about what positions we need and those we have to have to provide a better service for our student-athletes and coaches in the most efficient way we can."

President Richardson issued a statement on the issue on Monday that states, "Auburn University remains committed to diversity as a core value of the institution. The university has and continues to work to create and preserve an environment where all people are valued and respected.

"The university has undertaken a significant diversity initiative and has developed a comprehensive plan for Auburn. This plan clearly recognizes the need to attract and retain a highly qualified faculty, staff and student body that reflects the diversity of our society. The diversity plan also acknowledges the call for greater accountability in higher education. We are very pleased with the progress that has and is being made in regard to diversity."

Jacobs also issued a formal statement with the one from Richardson that reads, "The Auburn Athletics Department is committed to diversity and our senior leadership team reflects that. The recent decision to reorganize was made in an effort to streamline and make our athletic department more efficient. These decisions had nothing to do with individuals, rather they were made as part of an effort to provide better and more efficient administration for our athletic programs."


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