Monday, 14 September 2015 12:17

Photo Raises Concerns Over Possible UA Name Change

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There's been a lot of back-and-forth as to whether or not the University of Akron is changing its official name. Northeast Ohio Media Group published a story last week about the University of Akron Women's Committee who were upset with the new band uniforms that no longer feature the word "Akron" or the letter "A". The committee is concerned that it could be the next step in the direction of a name change.

UA officials responded, stating that "Z" is unique, and helps UA with its marketing. But concerns only grew when NEOMG published a photo of a slide that was reportedly shown by university officials at presentations. It showed three different logos -- with the business name as "The Ohio Tech University."

University officials are once again working to clear up any confusion or rumors circulating the web.

In an email, UA spokesman Wayne Hill says the slide referenced in NEOMG's story was introduced several months ago when the university was exploring "a name change as part of strategic planning conversations." But he says the name change was "considered and then discarded." That's when UA decided to move forward with rebranding the university as "Ohio's Polytechnic University."

Also -- there are currently no active trademarks related to a possible name change, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) online database. But there are trademark files related to updating the university's logo to include "Ohio's Polytechnic University" -- which is currently being used on the university's website and in publications.

The most recent logo/design was issued on September 3rd -- which featured UA's mascot, Zippy, who appears to be wearing the athletic logo "Z" on his shirt instead of the letter "A."

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Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office

Friday, 11 September 2015 17:46

UA Women's Committee: Where's "Akron"?

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The University of Akron Women's Committee is upset about UA's marching band uniforms - which are missing the word "Akron" and the letter "A".

And committee president Louise Harvey says that kind of change could be a sign that the University of Akron will indeed change its name at some point.

Harvey says the Committee donated $11,000 for some new band raincoats and bags...which don't have name Akron or "A" on them either.

"We are very unhappy to learn that the name 'The University of Akron', and not even the word Akron," Harvey tells WAKR.net, "is anywhere on the new uniforms, or the raincoats we purchased, or on the carrying bags."

The new uniforms feature the same "Z" logo adopted by the athletics department.

The women's committee sent a letter to UA president Scott Scarborough, Gov. Kasich and state education officials decrying the changes, and the rebranding of the University of Akron as "Ohio's Polytechnic University".

Harvey says she's concerned that a full name change is still in UA's future.

In a statement, UA Vice President for Advancement Lawrence Burns says:

"Using the 'Z' on the band uniforms – just as is being done on the football uniforms – along with the well-recognized 'Zips' and the blue and gold uniform colors, helps leverage our branding and marketing efforts, as no other school is using the 'Z'."

"We believe that the distinctive positioning of the University as 'Ohio's Polytechnic University' – not a name change, but a way to showcase its many strengths – encompasses the breadth and depth of the University and embraces its heritage of providing opportunities for generations of students to pursue the American Dream."

Burns says the university appreciates the Women's Committee's support over many years.

Tuesday, 08 September 2015 11:35

UA Uses Video To Explain Polytechnic

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The University of Akron has been using the brand "Ohio's Polytechnic University" since May...but now, the university is reading a more extensive campaign.

UA president Scott Scarborough, in a letter to the university community, says the new branding's link to the university catches on with people when explained individually.

But he says that process "is too slow" and that the new campaign needs to reach many to explain what makes UA different.

The campaign starts with a two-minute video Scarborough says will be the "first brush stroke" painting the larger polytechnic experience at UA.

The new video is posted on a website named "AreYouOutThere.com" and uses the tagline "The Power of Many". 

No relief for the University of Akron and its president Scott Scarborough with a new YouTube video that uses paper sack puppets in a parody of Scarborough and others. The video was uploaded by a group that calls itself Graduates over Greed.

As of 6:00 this morning, the video was well on the way to nearly 3,500 views; the group also has a Facebook page. The now-famous antique olive jar that decorates the Scarborough bedroom makes the cut. There were a couple of violinists outside a recent board of trustees meeting that are also part of the joke. 

ADVANCE NOTICE -- some of the language in the video clip may not be welcome with the kids listening.

 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015 13:32

UA Protesters: "Akron Is Scarred"

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Ode to an Antique Olive Jar:

"O Olive Jar! You are empty while I am sad. 

I cannot afford to fill thee with expensive imported olives."

The poem, written by University of Akron graduate and retired educator Wendy Duke, was intended to symbolize the feeling of disgust that many are attaching to an $556 decorative olive jar recently purchased for the university-owned presidential residence.

Duke and dozens of others waited nearly two hours outside the doors of room 339 inside the Student Union. UA Board of Trustees were scheduled to meet in a public session around 9 a.m. The nearly two-hour wait was plenty of time for protesters to voice their opinions and express their concerns surrounding UA's recent budget cuts, including the elimination of 213 jobs. 

28-year veteran English professor Antonia Forster made it very clear why she showed up.

"Generalized rage about the way the university is being destroyed by this attitude that money is the only thing that matters," said Forster.

People like Forster are mad about the elimination of staff and proposed reconfiguration of the UA Press, EJ Thomas Hall and the hiring of an inexperienced company to provide success coaches to students.

"The faculty is being treated like morons and lied to all the time and each time one lie gets pointed out, they come up with another one," said Forster. "There's a pattern of getting rid of all the people who know how to do things and replacing them with cheap people who don't know what they're doing."

Kristie Kern and her 10-year-old son, Kenton, were also in attendance outside the board of trustees meeting, using their violins as a way to express their concerns and present a symbolic message to represent the changes and job cuts at EJ Thomas Hall. Kern's husband, Kevin, is a UA history professor and also a member of the UA Press board.

"We, most especially, are upset about the situation with EJ Thomas Hall," said Kern. "This is why we brought our violins, my son and I, to represent the loss of performance opportunities at EJ Thomas."

Olive Protest2 Amani

But much of the attention was placed on the support offered for president Scott Scarborough, drawing snickers from people who were hoping to hear the opposite.While it was business as usual inside room 339 as UA board of trustees.

"We believe Dr. Scott Scarborough has appropriately and effectively addressed the issues presented to him," said Pavloff, who was then interrupted by the crowd's laughter. reconvened following an executive session Wednesday morning, Scarborough and Board Chairman Jonathon Pavloff did admit to making mistakes -- saying the administration could have done a better job delivering the message.

The board of trustees did not hear or answer questions from the public.

Previous Coverage:

Olive Jar Discussion Continues

Scott Scarborough: Unplugged

Eliminate UA Football: Not So Simple

UA President's House Repairs Cost More Than It's Worth

UA Planning To Cut Jobs, Baseball Program

 

 

Thursday, 06 August 2015 15:56

Scott Scarborough: Unplugged

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The University of Akron is offering a more detailed explanation about its budget crisis that has dominated social and traditional media the last couple of weeks.

The university's method to fill a $60 million two-year hole is well-publicized but offering insight to media and the community has been reactive and sporadic until today. UA President Dr. Scott Scarborough agreed to answer our questions. Just hours after the exclusive conversation, the university began spreading the link to a new page on its website that is dedicated to giving a different take to some media reports.

The interview is mainly about the budget but also focuses on some specific criticisms, including that $556 olive jar that sets somewhere in the newly renovated home that Scarborough (or any UA president) is required to live.

 

Here's a synopsis of some of the topics we discussed:

Road to recent budget deficit: UA was spending more than it could afford; enrollment has been declining, which Scarborough says is a trend in the Midwest; state budget cuts and recession are factors.

Confidence in plan: Scarborough is confident and says it's difficult to protray optimism in the days after eliminating jobs but he says right-sizing the budget will allow UA to thrive.

Mistakes: The fee hike but mainly in the way they went about it. Scarborough says invoices went out before UA told anyone it was coming; he says it could be revisited.

Communication: Scarborough defends some of UA's communication strategy but admits that it fell short in some areas, too.

Program Cuts: EJ Thomas, Multicultural Center, Off Campus Student Services and UA Press are among the biggest losers; Scarborough explains how they can survive, including hiring some people.  Yes, UA may actually create some new posititions related to the ones that were just eliminated.

Athletics: Following some calls to partially dismantle or eliminate football may not be prudent; he explains the many variables.

Success Coaches: Scarborough explains why he okayed a committee recommendation to hire TrustNavigator to provide success coaching rather than a company that has actually done it before.

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 06:32

UA Defends Decision To Hire Trust Navigator

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The University of Akron is defending its decision to hire an outside company to provide student success coaches in the midst of a projected $60 million shortfall. Associate Vice President of Student Success Stacey Moore was part of the committee that recommended approving an $843,000 contract with Trust Navigator, a company with no prior experience working with a success coaching program. 

campus archesTrust Navigator was picked over InsideTrack, a nationally recognized program with around 15 years of experience. UA officials were impressed with InsideTrack's record, but the univeristy wanted to team up with a local program that would provide on-campus resources. Despite Trust Navigator's lack of student coaching experience, the university was interested with the company's goals -- including hiring UA graduates and working directly with students on campus. Moore said there's already research that proves direct and consistent contact with students improves retention. And that's what she said Trust Navigator is offering.

"We're not flying blind on Trust Navigator, even though they don't have a proven track record in higher education," Moore said. "It is attractive to us that they're hiring our own graduates, recent alumni. That means they're contributing to our student success after graduation."

Moore said tackling a program, like the one offered by Trust Navigator, on their own would require more money, more time and create a larger, more permanent risk.

"Keep in mind that this is a pilot [program], so we also want the ability to watch it, judge if it's successful and if it's not, then we can move outside of our contract pretty quickly, in a way that would not be as easy if we hired a whole set of people internally," said Moore. 

Moore estimates that it would have cost UA about $1.3 million, possibly more, to launch the program on their own. While InsideTrack would have cost the university around $1.66 million, Moore said one of the major disadvantages with the program would be the lack of on-campus coaching to provide face-to-face communication with students.

As for Trust Navigator's lack of prior experience in higher education, Moore continued to reiterate the fact that the university has the ability to terminate the contract at any time if they're not happy with the service. That's something Moore said wouldn't be easy if they hired their own staff. 

The program doesn't replace the role of advisors or counselors at the university. Moore said it's a service that adds a more personal coaching method that students can utilize both in and out of the classroom.

Moore admits that the committee didn't take a look at Trust Navigator's website before picking the company to launch the program at the university, but she says they focused on the responses to the request for proposal that was released in late June. Despite the university's recent budget cuts, including eliminating 213 jobs, Moore believes the process of making investments remains crucial.

"As challenging as it is, and we are certainly living the challenge of difficult fiscal times, if you fail to invest in anything, then I don't know how you move forward."

UA plans to take the lead on the project and oversee how Trust Navigator coaches are trained before meeting with students. 

Previous Coverage: 

InsideTrack: "We Had 8 Business Days To Respond"

REPORT: Trust Navigator Questions Building

Who -- Or What -- Is Trust Navigator?

UA Trustees Agree To Cut Jobs, Rescind Course Fee

 

 

Sunday, 02 August 2015 10:49

REPORT: Trust Navigator Questions Building

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With just six employees, no prior clients and no experience in higher education, the University of Akron picked Trust Navigator, LLC to bring "student success coaches" to the campus over a firm that has worked with more than a million students.There are questions surrounding whether TrustNavigator is the right fit for a university that is currently under a microscope after announcing a projected $60 million budget shortfall --- but some of those questions have now been answered after the Devil Strip's Chris Horne examined UA's request for proposal (RFP) seeking success coaches. 
 
Just over a week ago, on Monday, July 27, 2015 the University Board of Trustees approved an $843,000 contract with the newly launched program -- the same day the trustees also approved eliminating 213 jobs, including more than 50 jobs in the Department of Student Success. The University claims it will save $15 million dollars because of the workforce reductions to help meet the challenge of a $40 million to $60 million dollar deficit depending on various reports.
 
Trust Navigator and InsideTrack were the only companies to respond to UA's RFP -- and there are obvious differences between the two. RFP's were due July 7, 2015 meaning there was less than three weeks for review by the Administration and eventually Trustees.
 
Trust Navigator has a website which is largely in-progress and lists a few employees, no clients or events. InsideTrack has a more developed website, lists more leadership team members and includes links to stories from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Among those listed as references by Trust Navigator are E. Gordon Gee, the president of West Virginia University, and James E. Bennett, Chief of Stafff to the president of Cleveland State University. InsideTrack declined to provide a list of references until the final step of the due diligence process to "maintain the goodwill of existing clients." InsideTrack also noted it's attorney was working with existing clients to approve release of their names due to confidentiality agreements due to the "quick turnaround time for the RFP." 
 
InsideTrack is a for-profit San Fransico-based company, founded in 2000 which employs more than 300 individuals across the country. It was named one of the "10 most innovative companies in education" by Fast Company. The company reports working with more than a million students "across every type of higher education institution in the country" and discusses its program that provides a mobile app to connect students directly to university and career resources.On the other end, Trust Navigator, a Cleveland-based company, listed no prior clients or higher educational experience. They currently employ only six individuals with plans of hiring 20 success coaches to serve around 4,000 students. They did note that it would be a "heavy workload and most probably stretching the limit of burnout risk."

According to the proposal, Trust Navigator expects that over 75 percent of their success coaches will be UA alumni -- but that's not guaranteed. While that may have been an important element to UA officials, that was just one of 15 factors in the evaluation used to grade the companies. InsideTrack did not make any promises to hire UA graduates. 
 
Research and citations were included in InsideTrack's proposal to show evidence of success and the company's growth within a 15 year period. Trust Navigator was unable to provide similar results because they have yet to officially launch their program.
 
InsideTrack's standard outreach program for 4,000 students was nearly double the cost of Trust Navigator, with a price tag of $1.66 million. That factor alone was weighted 10 times more than any other criteria that was graded based on UA's 1200 point scale.
 
Trust Navigator outscored InsideTrack on 9 out of the 15 criteria analyzed by UA officials. Final score: Trust Navigator - 680. InsideTrack - 360. Or, put another way, a company with no track record had double the evaluation score than a company with 15 years experience and a national track record.
 
If in fact cost and hiring a local company that employs UA graduates were deciding factors, the question still remains as to how the university can afford the financial risk of working with a pilot program with no prior experience or proven results?
 
Previous Coverage: 
 
Saturday, 01 August 2015 09:28

UA President's House Repairs Cost More Than It's Worth

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One phase of budget cuts at the University of Akron is over, at least as far as a statement from University President Dr. Scott Scarborough is concerned. He acknowledges the pain caused but has noted the situation was dire with a massive $60 million dollar defecit first identified. The furor over belt-tightening, however, is getting more fuel to the fire over costs renovating the President's residence.

By contract, the University President is required to live in the home at 465 Burning Tree Drive, purchased in 1999 at a cost of $850,000 in a neighborhood marked by large homes and wealthy neighbors. The University maintained the home needed repairs and renovations left behind after Dr. Luis Proenza's departure after 15 years in the home, and also cited allergies suffered by Scarborough's family that prevented them from fully moving in. The family had been staying at a local hotel at a reported cost of $25,000 while repairs and renovations were being made. The Scarborough's moved into the home in January, according to the report.

The family provided their own furniture for their living quarters on the second floor of the home; the first floor is used for entertaining and meetings and more public use.

The new report from Northeast Ohio Media Group shows the costs of repairing the home -- with a property valuation now listed at just over $733,000 dollars -- is actually $950,000, more than the home is worth. The report notes some of the work includes renovations and repairs from University of Akron construction employees who were part of layoffs proposed by the Administration and approved by the Board of Trustees earlier this week in decisions that sidelined 161 employees and abolished 213 positions from the University's budget.  

Among the items going into renovations: a modernized first floor bathroom at a cost of $40,000 and more than $141.000 for furnishings and decorations including window treatments.

In contrast, a report by student media at Kent State University in November 2014 compared the various perks other colleges and universities provided their Presidents. Kent State's Beverly Warren lives in a home built by her predecessor, Dr. Lester Lefton, and KSU pays an annual lease of $56,000 annually on a deal extending to 2033. Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, who was a finalist for the Akron job but criticized by faculty for not having a doctorate, lives in Pollock House, an 1863 mansion gifted to the University in 1950. 

Source: Google Maps

 

 

Friday, 31 July 2015 05:32

Who -- Or What -- Is Trust Navigator?

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As the University of Akron eliminated more than 213 jobs this week including over 50 jobs in its Department of Student Success, board of trustees also approved a move to spend $843,000 on a company that would provide "success coaches" for students.

But details on the company delivering those "coaches" are limited with the exception of a single article on the website FreshWaterCleveland.com published last month or the company's own website. Trust Navigator searches respond with links directly to the company's website or background on some of the key staff listed by the company.

On Monday, board of trustees approved plans to enter an agreement with Trust Navigator, LLC, a not-for-profit organization based out of Mayfield Heights, to provide coaches to work "closely with this fall’s incoming freshman class." The package of layoffs approved by Trustees included deep cuts in the existing "student success" bureaucracy at the University.

According to Trust Navigator's website, the coaches are "assigned to a student until graduation" focusing on "academic success and retention." While those goals are in line with UA's mission to focus on student success, there is little known about Trust Navigator's prior clients or experience in the educational field. In examining the Trust Navigator website there are no references to existing clients or events. WAKR.net reached out to UA officials for comment, but our request was acknowledged by a University spokesperson who noted key individuals who could answer any inquiry were on vacation and would not be available until next week. WAKR has requested copies of documents presented to the University of Akron Board of Trustees outlining the student success agreement and the contact between the firm and University as well as other documents which may provide other information about Trust Navigator's experience.

TrustNavigatorPostcardTrust Navigator's website does include some information regarding the past experience of those directly involved in the organization, including Trust Navigator's Chief Ambassador, Tom Roulston. He's listed as the “ideas man” behind the company with "30 years of entrepreneurial experience." Roulston currently runs two companies, Roulston Buyside Research and Thomas Roulston Investment Partners.

Rob Reho, Chief Operations Ambassador, has more than 32 years of "experience in marketing and operations management." According to the company's website, Reho graduated from the University of Akron with a bachelor’s degree in Business and Organizational Communications and completed his MBA at Kent State University. He serves as the interim General Manager for Flohr Machine and is the owner of Executive Marketing Plus.Reho returned our calls but was unable to provide additional information, explaining he was also on vacation this week but would be in a position to provide more background next week.

In the position of Communications and Curriculum Ambassador, the first staffer recognized on the website, Grace Roulston, is listed as a graduate from Ohio University with a Major in Communications and a Minor in Film Studies. According to the website, she worked in marketing for Save Local Now, a startup company where she gained "experience working with entrepreneurs and getting to learn about a variety of small businesses." The website was revised Thursday afternoon to list Anna Zeller instead of Roulston in the position of "Chief Envoy Ambassador" with a qualification listing her college career at Allegheny College and the University of Akron where she also played on the women's soccer team. A graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Major in History and a Minor in Art history, Zeller "...accepted the opportunity to work at Trust Navigator and help other college students maximize their educational experience' according to the website.

Details in regards to Trust Navigator's history is limited, but a quick search revealed that in a 2005 revised disclosure form, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) listed Trust Navigator, LLC as an investment adviser --- but is now listed as "NOT currently registered and is NOT filing reports with the SEC or any state." Kenneth A. Louard, former director of operations and chief counsel with the Cleveland Browns, and Tom Roulston were listed in the SEC filing as managing partners.

Louard is currently the director of business development at Grain Management, LLC in Sarasota, Florida.WAKR.net searched for more information on Louard; there were three LinkedIn profiles for a Ken or Kenneth Louard and all appear to be of the same person with business interests in northeast Ohio and affiliation with an investment and equity firm in Sarasota, Florida. In one, the Harvard Business School educated Louard is listed as the owner of Trust Navigator, LLC. A more comprehensive listing shows Louard as a Director of Grain Management LLC of Sarasota since August 2012. Grain Management is listed as a private equity firm specializing in media and communications sectors with two flagship funds managing "...a number of the country’s leading academic institutions, endowments, and public pension funds." Louard's LinkedIn resume also includes more than seven years with the Cleveland Browns serving as Director of Operations and Chief Counsel and as partner for more than three years with the Cleveland-based law firm of Gonzalez, Saggio and Harlan.

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