A Theft in the Family
Sister radio stations KTRH/740 AM and KLOL/101 FM have had their share of colorful internal flaps over the past few years. There was the recent HPD investigation into KTRH management's forged endorsements of award checks to station staffers, and a few years ago there was the in-house probe of an unknown (presumed) male who urinated on newsroom walls in the wee-wee hours. But those episodes pale by comparison with a sizzling memo fired off by KLOL manager Kathy Stinehour last week in the wake of the theft of the master videotape of the station's Stevens and Pruett-hosted Holiday Ball. The theft, complained Stinehour, derailed a $100,000 project "at great expense, due to the fact that a member of our own professional family lifted the tape."
The thought of such perfidy caused Stinehour to shift into rhetorical overdrive, asking, "What kind of place is this? Do we care so little about station property? How dare ANYBODY think it is their right to take anything that belongs to either station? Must we create a police state where every door must be locked and we can't trust each other?"
Stinehour then directly addressed the unknown thief. "You are out there somewhere. I want you to know the major problem you are causing for the people who busted their ass on this project .E I intend to make a concerted effort to find out who you are and see that you are terminated for cause. Know also that a po-lice report has been filed and the HPD is investigat-ing. Don't even think about copying that tape." And finally, Stinehour reached a full screech: "This is positively unconscionable. People who rob their employer rob all of us."
A grand jury recently declined to investigate the complaints of former staffers that KTRH management had taken their award checks from the Houston Press Club, cashed them under forged endorsements and deposited the money in a station fund. With that episode in mind, Stinehour's missive on the latest disappearance from the stations led one ex-employee to observe: "I guess employers who rob their employees rob only the employees."
The Poet's RReturn
With an administrative Ebola epidemic finally burning itself out at the University of Houston (the most recent casualties being UH System honchos Ed Whalen and Dell Felder), the school's history department got more unsettling news from up top last week. Its least favorite graduate student, Russian migr Fabian Vaksman, has been given a new lease on academic life by recently named campus provost John Ivancevich. Vaksman, an alumnus of Moscow University, had waged a marathon legal fight against the school over his dismissal from the history graduate program in the early eighties after failing to complete department requirements. Until Ivancevich's action, Vaksman's career at UH appeared to be, pardon the pun, history.
Vaksman achieved campus celebrity of a sort by penning an epic snuff poem entitled RRacist, in which he fictionally visited all sorts of mayhem upon thinly disguised portrayals of the professors who threw him out of the graduate program. One particularly pungent excerpt chronicled a disturbed student gunman's attack on a faculty meeting in which five professors were slain: "He dropped the bag on the floor / while pulling out the gun, / and fired ... / Cattling screamed and fell on his face, / a large puddle of blood forming around him ... / His stomach was ripped open ... / His brains scattered / painting the hallway ... / reflecting the corrupt, unfocused, / scatterbrain state they were in / in the original shape ...."
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Beowulf it's not, and personnel in the history department find it incomprehensible that Vaksman's continued association with the university was not court-ordered, but rather the result of a voluntary decision by Ivancevich. A court had reinstated Vaksman after his original dismissal, explains department chairman Tom O'Brien, and gave the student two and a half years to complete his dissertation. He failed to complete the work in that time and was notified by the department he would have to retake his graduate comprehensive exams. He was given three opportunities to take the tests, says O'Brien, and failed to do so. "We were prepared to tell him he was no longer a member of the program," explains the chairman, who is wary of Vaksman after receiving memos and faxes that he considers violent and obscene from the grad student.
"I feel that Fabian has been treated fairly by the department and by the university, and that essentially the process was coming to an end," says O'Brien. Ivancevich felt differently, and after undertaking a review of the case, reached an agreement with Vaksman. It calls for the student to be given a $10,000 assistantship somewhere in the School of Humanities and Arts, though not necessarily in the history department. A committee of five academics will be set up to work with Vaksman, with members to be drawn from a list recommended by the student. UH spokeswoman Fran Howell says Ivancevich believed Vaksman deserved one more chance and "feels it's an acceptable risk. He's betting this guy wants an education, and we don't want to stand in the way of that education."
One history professor sees things a bit differently. "It's an example of incredibly poor and insensitive administration," says the professor, "which makes one wonder about this so-called improvement we've had around here [from the mass ouster of UH topsiders]."
The Insider can be reached by dialing 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax).