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The Blue & Gray Press | December 15, 2017

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Staff Editorial: After Hample Tempest, UMW Should Question Recent String of Hires

“Hurricane Hample” was indeed a force to be reckoned with.
She swept in, taking UMW by storm with blustery new hires and a gale of fundraising activities, all the while forming relationships with faculty, staff and students that can most easily be described as tempestuous.

Not to mention the unfortunate gust of ill-will that spirited away former Vice President of Student Affairs Bernard Chirico, followed quickly by a nasty nor’easter of nepotism which left Khalil Yazdi, former vice president for information technology and institutional research, on our doorstep. But more on that later.

Indeed, the damage left in the wake of Hample’s resignation has been immense. Already jokes are made about UMW’s inability to keep a president. The oft-repeated “Four Presidents in Four Years!” has become the go-to cheer for students that are either flabbergasted or downright angry with our institution’s hiring prowess.

Most students we know agree that when Hample is gone, our problems go with her. As unsatisfied with her administration as many may be, the overall consensus seems to be that her negative impact on our campus effectively ended April 1.

But this assumption might need some work.

While it’s obvious that former President Hample no longer wields any hiring or firing power, the fact remains that at one time, she did. And those new hires, unlike Hample, are here to stay.

Ascribing to an ‘apple-doesn’t-fall-far-from-the-tree’ mentality is problematic. Indicting newly-hired administration simply on the basis of who hired them would be unfair.

However, it may do us some good, at the very least, to ask a question or two.

For instance, we should inquire about the aforementioned Khalil Yazdi, hired by Hample as UMW’s Chief Information Officer in August 2008. As reported in the Bullet last week, Yazdi worked for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education before taking a position here.

You know—the same state system of higher education that Judy Hample governed before taking the top job at UMW.

So when Yazdi was audited last December for possibly giving preferential treatment to software companies vying for UMW contracts, Hample’s dismissal of the charges hardly seemed surprising.

One poster on the Bullet’s online story about the audit agreed: “I’m guessing Hample is just protecting Yazdi because they worked together under the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.”

Such a possibility hardly seems illogical, given Hample’s penchant for secrecy. If you’ve read the Bullet in the past few months, you’ve quickly realized Hample is nothing if not evasive. But the issue at hand doesn’t have to do with Hample.

At least, not directly. Sure, many have taken issue with Hample’s handling of events. However, looking at the issue another way, one must ask: Now that Hample is effectively gone, what are we to think of the people she hired? The people she vouched for, consulted with and, in Yazdi’s case, worked alongside?

We’ve already seen issues arise with one of Hample’s hires, as evidenced not just by an internal audit, but by Acting President and UMW savior Rick Hurley’s recent decision to demote Yazdi from his vice presidential position.

With a single demotion, the floodgates of professional criticism are sure to open up. But a witch hunt is not what we need right now. UMW needs sound and steady leadership, not to create scapegoats, but instead to pose legitimate questions concerning the people Hample chose to employ during her short tenure here.

Yazdi’s questionable practices may only be the tip of the iceberg, or merely an aberration in a line of otherwise positive hires during Hample’s presidency. It will take a thoughtful and conscientious president to uncover what truly lies beneath. But the questions must be asked.

This Friday, our Board of Visitors will be making their decision regarding a new president.  “Hurricane Hample” has indeed passed, the tides have receded, and we are now left with the vestiges of her only lasting legacy: the individuals she hired for positions of influence and power here at UMW.

Let us hope that our new president, whoever it is, is able to weather the storm.