On April 26th, 2007, I received a letter from Dean of the Faculty William Wagner concerning the decision to not renew the contract of Coach Ralph White. Wagner assured us, in his letter, that despite our having “communicated very convincingly and even movingly [our] high regard” for Coach White, these concerns were largely irrelevant to the process. In fact, Wagner went on to claim that the firing process had “has adhered to the College’s highest standards” and that the College’s reasons for being close-lipped had to due with “Williams’ deep, principled commitment to personnel ethics and law.”

As reported in the Record on May 2nd, 2007 (“Coach Appeals for Contract Renewal”), and also discussed here, on EphBlog, the major reasons being put forward for White’s dismissal are a) his online masters from Rochville University and b) inadvertent violation of the College’s visa policy in assistance of a refugee from Benin.

Frankly, we find these claims to be broadly unsupported and factually untrue.

First, Coach White was informed, at the end of his first contract, that he needed to complete his masters. He attempted to go to MCLA for the last few credits, but was informed that they had expired and he’d have to start over. At this point, he approached Harry Sheehy, the Athletic Director, (Michelle Burgher, then an assistant coach, was present for the conversation) about taking an online diploma that would give him credit for the courses he had already completed. Sheehy gave him approval for this course of action. It is difficult for us to understand how Coach White could be held responsible for a decision that his direct supervisor approved.

Second, Coach White has been accused of violating College policy by arranging a second job, at Stop & Shop, for a man from Benin working as an assistant track coach. Antoine Agbra was hired with the full knowledge and consent of the College, and helped in recruiting potential students from Africa. However, because of medical expenses associated with Agbra’s small children, the Williams stipend proved inadequate, and Coach White helped Agbra find a part time position. This unabashed generosity, even if complicated by an innocent misunderstanding about the second job, hardly amounts to a firing offense.

Given that the college has largely refused to comment on this situation, we are left with these two enunciated–and roundly debunked–reasons and a good deal of conjecture. Some have postulated that the College was embarrassed by Coach White’s advocacy for the resurfacing of the outdoor track. Others have pointed to political disputes within the athletic department. However, none of this aligns, in any way, with the Colleges “highest standards,” and as such, hardly outweighs “moving” testimonials penned by current and former athletes and colleagues. We, and the College community, deserve a good deal better.

Respectfully,

Aidan

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