“Today is ‘Juneteenth,’” Dr. Carey Stronach states in the small, crowded blue room of the Rayburn House Office building on Monday, June 19 at the “Survivors of the Academy Luncheon.” “The day that slavery ended, 151 years ago.”
“I bring this up,” Stronach, 65, continues, “because, recently, certain freedoms have been violated at Virginia State University (VSU).” The caucasian Dr. Stronach, who has been a physics professor at VSU for forty years, recently retired two years early from the historically black college because he was sick of the “mistreatment of the faculty and staff by a highly politicized administration.”
Along with a host of others, Stronach, a conservative, is frustrated with the liberal administration at VSU and their underhanded tactics. “A long list of conservative Republican faculty members have been fired,” Stronach says, referring in particular to former VSU sociology professor Dr. Jean Cobbs, who was fired following an unsatisfactory performance rating due to a long string of absences on unpaid leave that she accumulated when caring for her dying husband. The African-American Dr. Cobbs worked at VSU for over thirty years and single-handedly developed their social work program from scratch. She always received excellent reviews from students, until 1993 when a new—and current—president of VSU was elected: Eddie N. Moore. Upon Moore’s arrival, Cobbs was suddenly treated differently—material in her office was often thrown in the garbage and she was the only one in her department not given a computer. The harassment escalated when Cobbs rode the Republican float during the homecoming parad, and she was fired shortly afterwards.
“[Moore’s] goal was for the sociology program to lose its credibility, so that he could blame it on Cobbs,” Stronach says of the university president’s vendetta against the former sociology professor. “What’s going on at VSU is not academically sound,” he says.
Stronach, who describes himself as libertarian, is President of the Virginia Association of Scholars (VAS) and a member of the American Association of University Professors. He was also targeted by the VSU administration. Slowly and systematically, they overloaded Stronach’s teaching schedule without extra pay, killed his research team by firing two of his co-workers and purposely lost a $335,000 grant. “Now that the Air Force took back their grant, there is very specialized equipment sitting in the lab, unused,” Stronach says. “It’s a waste of federal funds.”
Because of the rescinded Air Force grant, VSU no longer has a master’s program in Physics. “The programs that we worked so hard to develop are now gone,” Stronach says.
On top of everything else, the VSU administration changed the grade of a student in Stronach’s General Physics class from a “D” to an “A” without first consulting Stronach, who would not have authorized the drastic improvement. Stronach says that the student obviously forged grades and comments on his tests in order to improve his grade in the class. When Stronach refused to change the student’s grade after seeing the “crude forgeries,” the student went straight to the department chair. “All I had to say about the situation was totally ignored,” Stronach says. “This student should not, under any circumstances, get a degree in engineering.”
As Stronach finishes up his spirited speech concerning the undue injustices towards conservative-minded faculty at VSU, it is evident that the whole matter both enrages and saddens him. Stronach, a firm believer in honest good work and determination, is frustrated with the ugly political turn that the VSU administration has taken over the past decade. Concluding his speech by reminding the audience that he is the president of VAS, Stronach says with conviction, “We stand for quality in academics. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Katherine Duncan is an intern at Accuracy in Media, Accuracy in Academia’s parent group.