Home Around Town Blue Star
Blue Star

Blue Star


By Scott Sullivan


Know Secrets

Who ‘da thunk Sparty is a woman? Or was? Given issues Michigan (aka Molestation) State University has bungled through lately, the revelation that recent graduate Nicole Niemiec was the Spartan mascot for the last three years was refreshing.

Yes, the big muscular guy in green with the shield who flexes and dances at games was no more a guy than Larry Nassar was a real doctor.

MSU, whatever the acronym stands for, is a great school. It hurts me — a Purdue grad who respects my Spartan friends (OK, grudgingly) — to see academic bureaucrats, now headed by political hack John Engler — disgrace that legacy.

When you play Sparty, like Niemiec, you are sworn to secrecy. Till it’s over, at least. That wouldn’t have been a problem for me. I want nothing about my college years getting out.

One thing I do recall is not being Boilermaker Pete. No, he wasn’t a mixed drink — although he could have been, followed by Re-Pete, for much of the student body. He instead wore a paper-maché head with a block on top and shoulder pads, swung a big hammer and stood like a stiff near the cheerleaders.

The school mascot officially is a train, which has more brains than Pete, but students still vie to be him. However dumb our traditions, we learned to respect them. Purdue was like finishing school; when I got out I was finished.

Once you leave college the shock hits it’s time to grow up. You thought calculus was difficult? Some grads postpone it, stay in school, win advanced degrees and join the administration. These Peter Pan pedagogues are not unique to MSU. They are everywhere.

Which is why I was heartened to read that Engler — who added longtime flak John Truscott to the MSU payroll plus hired a New York firm to monitor media coverage of the Nassar scandal — has created a Risk Management, Ethics and Compliance Office.

Great, more bureaucrats. “The lack of clear accountability for monitoring legal, ethical and regulatory requirements has certainly contributed to some of the university’s recent problems,” said ex-Gov. Engler. “This new office will help maintain the university’s integrity in this crucial set of obligations and develop its culture of compliance.”

“Maintain”? How about start from scratch? “Develop a culture”? That should be easy to gauge and monitor. Who assures these ethicists themselves don’t diddle students? I know; a new office for that too.

How about fewer offices, more humans? Fewer layers of bureaucrats reinventing policies that never worked to begin with, and more people who care about others instead of protecting the institution?

The office will be led by a yet-to-be-named Chief Compliance Officer. Think MSU’s RMECO CCO may be a patronage job?

Finding out Sparty was a woman restores my faith in the school, at least retroactively. Who’s next? As with Boilermaker Pete, no one will know till after. Or is supposed to.

That’s part of college too. There are no secrets when you know secrets. That’s why willful ignorance is essential. Why spoil the anticipation, or disappointment, by finding out?

Universities are supposed to be universal. That means they, as compared to colleges, offer full undergraduate and graduate programs. Folks they take in — and spew out — run the gamut.

MSU’s not alone. The Ohio State University boasts Jeffrey Dahmer and the University of Michigan the Unabomber. Nassar got degrees from U-M and MSU, the beast of both worlds.

PU has had lulus too: popcorn king Orville Redenbacher, pro wrestler Dick the Bruiser … Locally, R.J. Peterson went to Purdue but didn’t graduate; either he left for the war or was the war, I’m not certain.

Remember Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Nixon and Ford until gaffes caught up with him? After telling Watergate snitch John Dean a dirty joke about dogs and skunks having intercourse, Butz — while still a cabinet member — added: “I’ll tell you what the coloreds want. First, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to s#*!”

Dean ratted him out, Butz resigned and became an emeritus dean at PU. His nephew, Dave, was a monster tackle for our football team when it still won games, then played 16 years in the NFL with the concussion-proof head he inherited.

Boilermakers all.