The Chronicle of Higher Education by Michael Vasquez
July 21, 2017
The warning came in December.
Huntley Johnson, a local attorney known for representing University of Florida athletes who get into trouble, wasn’t happy. His client, a star wide receiver, had been accused of sexual assault, and even though the athlete had been cleared by the university, Mr. Johnson criticized the process.
So he sent the university some demands. In a letter, he requested changes in how sexual-assault cases are handled, including how accused students are treated during an investigation. He also wanted the university to pay nearly $400,000 of the legal fees of the football player, Antonio Callaway.
If those conditions weren’t met, Mr. Johnson wrote, there would be consequences.
“It saddens us to think of the publicity that will be generated,” he told the university, “and the incredible amount of money that will be lost in the pursuit of remedies that should be reached quietly, quickly between the parties.”
A month later, when the university hadn’t complied, Mr. Johnson showed he was a man of his word. He essentially declared war against his own alma mater and launched a barrage of public-records requests. He has filed more than 75 such requests since January.
The thousands of pages of records he obtained reveal numerous unflattering details about the University of Florida, including pornography purchases by a top administrator and improper spending on a new presidential house.
The continuing battle provides a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of one of the nation’s top public-research universities. It’s also a lesson in the disruption and damage that can occur when someone deeply connected to a university goes rogue.
Month after month, the university has been pummeled by negative headlines in The Gainesville Sun, just as Mr. Johnson promised. Is his crusade a form of accountability? Is it vengeance? Maybe it’s both.
A Formidable Opponent
Other colleges, too, have battled similar types of agitators. At the University of Oregon, an economics professor, William T. Harbaugh, files more records requests than any news-media outlet, according to the university’s public-records office. Mr. Harbaugh operates a blog, UOMatters, dedicated to bringing administrators’ misdeeds to light.
In Texas, Wallace L. Hall used his time on the University of Texas system’s Board of Regents to relentlessly investigate the flagship campus in Austin. Mr. Hall, whose term on the board ended this year, helped bring significant problems to light, including an admissions scandal in which students with connections to legislators, regents, or donors were being accepted with questionable academic qualifications.
But Mr. Hall was also accused of being a conservative ideologue focused on removing the flagship’s president, and he was censured by state lawmakers for “behavior unbefitting a nominee for and holder of a state office.” [READ MORE]