Image-obsessed Levy botched athletic firings

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By Robyn Doolittle


We won’t know for sure until Wednesday circulation, but judging by the empty racks around campus, Ryerson Hates You may have been the most popular issue of the year. Surprising, considering the Eye’s annual magazine has garnered limited attention from readers in the past.

Yet this year, no matter where I turned someone was either clutching the mag, talking about a story or sharing their own “hates you” anecdote. As the cover tagline proclaims, it’s the university we love (to hate). And truly, it seems everyone loved it – well almost.

Our meeting with President Sheldon Levy didn’t go as smoothly this week. Apparently, he saw the cover, decided it was stupid, and didn’t bother to read the issue. What a shame since it contains 40 pages of genuine student concerns. But then again, Levy — the media darling that he is  — has always tried to avoid bad press.

His attempt at damage control during the Summer of Somerville backfired when major media outlets blasted the university for being spineless.

Most recently, there’s been murmurs throughout the athletic community proclaiming that a year of negative media coverage in both The Eyeopener and Ryersonian is partly responsible — if not entirely responsible — for the surprise firing of former athletic director, David Dubois and interuniversity sports manager Terry Haggerty. Particularly the Eye, which broke stories such as possible racial profiling by security officials at an anti-racism basketball tournament, drove “the final nail in the coffin for Terry and Dave,” as one insider put it.

It’d be nice to think we have that much power. Alas, administrative officials assure us our stories had nothing to do with the dual pink slips, but the stories certainly didn’t help. Especially with Levy calling the shots.

This is a man who since the day his presidency was announced has been fixated on image. He was first introduced to Ryerson on the cover of The Ryersonian straddling his motorcycle.

Unlike his predecessor, Levy offers reporters coffee at meetings, and makes idle chit-chat before the interviews begin. Even after proclaiming he didn’t intend to read the magazine, Levy launched into a speech defending student press. Heck, he’s won me over.

The story you’re reading now may very well be the first critical piece done on the president since he arrived. Hopefully he’ll read it.

Because if image is what Levy is worried about, letting go of Dubois and Haggerty — before the athletic banquet, at the height of recruitment season, without giving them the dignity of forced retirement (especially Haggerty, who has been a pillar of athletics for a quarter century) — was the wrong decision. Is change good? Yes. Will athletics flourish under new leadership? Perhaps, who knows at this point. But one thing is widely agreed upon; this reshuffle of athletic management will set the program back by at least three years. This is based on looks alone. Ryerson looks unorganized, disheveled and like it needs to go elsewhere for a plan of action.

Ryerson may hate us, but we don’t hate it. And the last thing we want is the post-secondary community murmuring in their own hallways about what a joke Rye High has made of itself. One, for putting the breaks on a growing athletic program, and two, for not giving the proper respect to two good men who loved this school — and despite everything, I’m sure still do.

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