Sunday, March 22, 2009

Getting Help from the Academic Pooh-bahs, My Old Chums

Dr. J. Bernard Machen
Office of the President
University of Florida
226 Tigert Hall
PO Box 11350
Gainesville, FL 33611

Dear Dr. Machen:

Dr. James Hamilton got his Ph.D. at the University of Florida.

That he did I find disturbing. Such persons’ extracting Ph.D.s from Florida’s flagship university does not reflect the care the university should show in awarding this highest academic degree.

When Dr. Hamilton acted assistant superintendent at the Hillsborough County School Board, his email revealed that he did not know the difference between “your” and “you’re.” A piece of his writing instructing new board members on how to conduct themselves featured slapdash grammar and punctuation, lack of structure, and entire absence of rhetorical felicity. These deficiencies do not assure that his writing comes up to that the University of Florida should accept in its doctoral recipients.

Citizens have a right and a duty to question this situation.

Dr. Clayton Wilcox, who just departed Pinellas County School system as superintendent, got the Pinellas job soon after completing his doctorate at NOVA. Dr. Wilcox apparently didn’t know how bad his thesis was and gave a copy to a St. Petersburg Times reporter who passed it on to me. It was so ill done that I wrote the NOVA president and inquired how NOVA could award a doctorate for such slovenly work. The NOVA president didn’t answer me of course. You can view my corrections of Dr. Wilcox’s NOVA thesis here:

I believe a forensics of Dr. Hamilton’s unassisted writing would show a marked difference compared to that of the thesis that he submitted for his University-of-Florida doctorate. I believe that he bought and paid for that thesis. The committee that did not detect the fraud was asleep at the switch or, worse, on the take.

Such slipshod oversight of a Ph.D. candidate’s terminal thesis means the state's most prestigious university cooperates in loosing Ph.D.s who don't know grammar and punctuation much less other refinements of literacy. These scholars manqué head like lemmings to the education state bureaucracy. Presiding over the budget from their administrative perches, they bloat their salaries and perquisites and degrade Florida’s public education. Education of the state’s students does not concern these poorly educated administrators nor the political board members.

They are interested in turning the administration of school systems into rackets in which these scholars manqué extract from the budget hypertrophied salaries and other giveaways including the payoffs revealed in the Erwin case of the early 90’s. These greedy administrators’ take comes before a penny gets to the schools. The board wants not excellence in education but blow-up of personal éclat to preen around town at the pile-up of luncheons and galas that characterize the activities of the political class.

Such administrative and board specimens lower the intellectual status of Florida's state school system with negative results for its students.

The state network of K12 bureaucrats indulge in incestuous hiring practices that assure the habitués of the system never go outside the K12 administrative good ol’ boy network to advertise for talent. That system shows in the state-board clients Dr. Hamilton assembled with a phone call. They gave him the job with no advertising is my assessment. This hiring entropy guarantees the dumbing-down of the K12 bureaucrat hordes. Yet logos plastered everywhere say “We are an equal-employment-opportunity employer.” That false, ubiquitous legend appears throughout school board and administration buildings. It does in Hillsborough County. Every piece of board stationery bears the legend to which practice gives the lie.

These fallacious logos have not prevented the board’s allowing Hillsborough County Superintendent Elia to turn the school system into a jobs program for buddies, sycophants, and kin. The superintendent does not advertise her patronage jobs. She hands them out. The board agrees to these unfair appointments; they roll by complicit board members on the consent agenda. Board members punch the green lights for them to sail by unquestioned. I have heard a board member question one of the Elia patronage appointments: a no-bid contract to a recently retired administrator. That a former administrator got a no-bid contract did not disturb the rest of the board. What rankled them was that a new board member ignored buddy money politics and questioned the fairness of the award. Veteran board members jumped on her for being disloyal to the staff. That experience quelled this board member, and she has since remained silent and dutifully complicit with the administration...

The only thing I have seen the Hillsborough County board get exercised about is the diminution of its travel funds, on which one board member spent $50,000 in single year while poor children in the county can’t afford supplies to participate in class work unless their ill-paid teachers buy the supplies as they often do.

Retired, double-dipping Dr. Hamilton has signed up a number of Florida school districts for his lobbying firm. They hired him despite his marginal literacy and poor ethical conduct while in the Hillsborough County administration. This included helping to torture under Superintendent Dr. Earl Lennard’s tutelage one Mr. Erwin until he finally departed the schools.

Mr. Erwin’s infraction was that he had discovered widespread graft, theft, and board-remunerated shoddy contractor building practices. Mr. Erwin insisted that the administration and board put a stop to these criminal behaviors. He gave up after a two-year onslaught of harassment led by the superintendent and condoned by the board to shut him up. Mr. Erwin filed a Whistleblower law suit, won it, and departed with a $165,000 settlement taxpayers, ponied up to pay for the board’s and administration’s criminal behavior. Only taxpayers got punished; none of the crooks did. This legacy means that the administration and school board of Hillsborough County think that crooked behavior is just another management option and still engage in it.

A second example of Dr. Hamilton’s untoward ethics was his insisting on the hiring of then protégé Connie Mileto, kindergarten teacher, to job of government-relations officer in Tallahassee. The administration passed over other candidates of more appropriate education and training. Also shoddy ethics also was Dr. Hamilton’s accepting a job last year created for him at the end of his departure into retirement by Superintendent Elia for $140,000 a year. She attached his name to the position before it appeared in the employment log and did away with the job when Dr. Hamilton left about $70,000 into the contract. One infers that this featherbedding job on the taxpayers’ dime gave him leisure to sit in his replacement’s office and cold-call school districts to assemble his client list.

This louche ethical behavior coincides with Dr. Hamilton’s faking writing his thesis at Gainsville I submit.

That you are a dentist surprises me, sir. I would have never envisioned a dentist as the president of Florida’s most prestigious university. But nothing prevents a dentist from augmenting his academic luster to act president of the state’s premier university by reading the classics. Lincoln read himself to sleep every night with Shakespeare. And there is also an advantage to a citizen of a UF dentist president. It makes possible the consulting of him on the mysteries of teeth as markers of antiquity in fossils if one is a paleontology fan as am I. Teeth are big in paleontology. There are knock-down-drag-out fights on mammalian teeth in scholarly journals. Recall that the Piltdown man’s undoing was his teeth didn’t match his skull. I bore my dentist to death about pale ontological-teeth mysteries every time I go into his office. I can now add you to my list of recruits to educate me on the lore of fossil teeth. .

On Dr. Hamilton’s case: If you can't it back, which would be best, I suggest that Dr. Hamilton's case demands that you insure academic rigor in the thesis committees. They should turn loose no more marginally literate Dr. Hamiltons to stroll out of the University of Florida with ill-gotten degrees. To my mind NOVA’s status of known diploma mill ranks better than a state university revered as a center of scholarship’s allowing a man of Dr. Hamilton’s writing deficiency to exit with a Ph.D.

Pray look to this matter, sir. The school’s reputation is in jeopardy if many more Dr. Hamiltons exit the university with Ph.D.s they did not compose because they cannot write the English language.


Lee Drury De Cesare
15316 Gulf Boulevard 802
Madeira Beach, FL 33708;

All Members Florida Board of Governors
Governor Crist
Commissioner Smith
All Members Hillsborough County School Board


Dear Ms. Machen:

I was delighted to read in your online biography that you are a nurse. So am I. I hold licenseses in three states and reciprocity in the others. I let my license go into abeyance reluctantly years after I started teaching college English. But I know I can take just one renewal seminar and am back on the wards again. It was always a good feeling to know that no matter where I was in the United States, I could walk into the nearest hospital and get a job. Nurses are always in short supply. I think that's a measure of how special the career is.

I nursed for fifteen years before I decided I was tired of seeing people die and brushing false teeth. I started taking course work at Columbia University to get a literature degree with four little children under five hanging on my skirts.

But I still acted float nurse on occasion at the local hospital because we were poor and needed the money to buy the children shoes.

Your biography says you were the first in your family to graduate from college. I am not sure that is true of my Georgia family, but going to college in my generation was rare in the farming families that make up my Georgia clan. The boys, of course, were favored over the daughters. I note with pleasure when I go back each year to the family reunion that many of the young people are going to college.

Seeing your biography and picture reminded me of my writing to the wife of the CEO of Xerox years ago. I had founded the local chapter of NOW, and we got a lot of sexual-harassment complaints. A young woman and her male friend came to my office saying that sexism was rampant in the Xerox local office and asked me to help. Title VII had ensured that young women finally had access to jobs as sales reps, but too many of the men thought the women should not do their jobs but serve as in-house prostitutes.

I called up the local manager of Xerox and told him that sexual harrassment was gross and violated Title VII. He gave me a jocular "Little Lady" brush-off and said, in effect, that “boys will be boys.”

I knew how hard a Title VII charge was to process and how long it took, so I decided to take a shortcut and write to Mr. Xerox CEO. I just knew a woman would be as appalled as I was at this behavior.

I poured out the whole story to the lady.

Lo! Xerox shot a team of lawyers down to Tampa. The lawyer squad fired several of the satyrs, sent a few to Coventry, and gave the lot a lecture on equal employment opportunity and non-sexist behavior.

Years later the mother of a young woman who was of the group harassed came up to me in the vegetable department of Winn Dixie and thanked me for my help to her child. She said her daughter had done well in the company after the central-office intervention and moved to another company and up the ladder of success.

I don’t know if you can do anything to cure the problem I outline to Dr. Machen. It’s like a nurse getting her license without knowing how to give an injection or getting oxygen set up for a cyanotic patient. I have been married for 52 years and can usually get in a word or two to my husband about things that concern me. And he listens because I am a nurse. Everybody has great respect for nurses.

Welcome to Florida. It is fine horse country in the middle of the state especially around Ocala I believe. I wouldn’t ride a horse under any circumstances because I would be scared to try. But I am proud that you do. I am always glad to hear about women’s achieving in any area of life.


Lee Drury De Cesare

15316 Gulf Boulevard 802

Madeira Beach, FL 33708

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