I was working in the newsroom at 5:02 on Tuesday night when the phone rang.
That land line generally gets calls only from potential advertisers and misdirected callers, so I was surprised to hear the woman on the other end ask for me.
And I was even more surprised to realize the next day that she had called to set up a meeting so that the Senior VP of Student Affairs could issue a face-to-face apology to me.
Charles L. Brown wanted to see me in his office first thing in the morning, his administrative assistant said by phone that evening. I told her I had an interview Wednesday morning and wouldn’t be on campus till 1 p.m. She put me on hold, came back, and said Charles Brown would see me at 1, then.
When I asked what the meeting was regarding, she said she didn’t know and that Brown didn’t say. Knowing he was in the office, I asked her to find out.
Then next thing I knew, Brown himself picked up. “I just wanted to talk to you about all of this that’s been going on,” he claimed. When he added that he and I had not yet discussed recent events, I replied, “I know! You’ve been the most absent in all of this.” Brown said nothing.
But I knew he was being intentionally vague because that’s his signature style of psychological warfare, so I didn’t bother pressing for more details in advance. Despite his reputation for ruling by intimidation, the guy doesn’t scare me. I was excited for our rendezvous, in fact.
The next afternoon, I and UP managing editor Gideon Grudo were out of Brown’s office in seven minutes. As it turns out, all he wanted was to personally retract an unconstitutional order that FAU’s legal department gave me a couple weeks ago.
Student Media Director Marti Harvey told me on June 2 that I “may not meet with him [former UP adviser Michael Koretzky] off campus or on campus for the purpose of advising.” It was a directive she had to relay to me on behalf of the legal department, she said.
I guess FAU’s First Amendment-violating demands have gotten the university too much heat — like press releases or letters from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Student Press Law Center, and Young Americans for Freedom. Because Brown’s meeting yesterday finally nullified that directive — profusely.
He started off like so:
“I just wanted to clarify some things because I’ve not said anything. I’ve been listening, talking, I talk to students, and I just want to clarify this whole thing about advisers, you know, Michael being a volunteer adviser. I don’t mind him being a volunteer adviser. He can be a volunteer adviser, no problem. … I have no problem with that, and I need to clarify that.”
Then, for good measure, he repeated himself almost immediately thereafter:
“I don’t care who you talk to. This is not a battle. This is not about an individual. I support the newspaper. I support the media outlets. I have not said anything to anyone, uh, but I just thought I needed to talk with you. This is not a battle, nothing. He can be your volunteer adviser. I have no problem with that. We have the structure in place, but Marti is the university official adviser for the UP and all of the outlets. She is the person who, she will serve as the interim official adviser, but you can talk to Michael. I have no problem with that. Okay? None whatsoever.”
I think that must be as close to an apology as Brown is capable of getting without uttering the words “I’m sorry.” But I’ll take my victories where I can get them.
To hear more of my exchange with Senior VP of Student Affairs Charles Brown, listen to part of the actual recording at Florida Autocratic University.