9/13/2019, 6 a.m.
Presidential dishonesty is going on and, no, it’s not President Trump.
It has come to public attention that Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao has passed off as his own an op-ed column supporting the $1.5 billion Coliseum replacement and Downtown redevelopment project.
His op-ed, which was published earlier this year in Richmond’s daily newspaper, actually was ghostwritten by Jeff Kelley, a public relations consultant working for the company that is pushing the costly project.
In published reports, Mr. Kelley also acknowledged writing another op-ed piece published last year by the daily newspaper that was signed by Virginia Union University President Hakim J. Lucas and Virginia State University President Makola M. Abdullah.
We find this distasteful and academically dishonest for these college presidents to have outside sources who have a stake in the project to pen these public persuasion pieces that the presidents are passing off as their own. It calls into question the integrity of all three of the presidents.
Certainly in academic circles, any student discovered to have had someone else write a term paper for him or her would fail the course. That the president of VCU, VUU and VSU did so is a disgrace to themselves and their universities.
It also loudly signals to Richmond residents and voters the extent of the well-financed and well-oiled lobby machine of Dominion Energy CEO Thomas F. Farrell II, the mastermind behind the Downtown project. Those involved with Navy Hill Development Corp. appear willing to go to any lengths to push this needless project over on Richmond City Council and the voters who will pay for it in the long run.
We believe the university presidents owe the public an apology and that they should step back from these deliberations. That includes Dr. Lucas taking himself out of consideration to serve on the commission City Council is appointing to dissect the development plan.
We also point out that a column about the development project published in this week’s edition of the Richmond Free Press does not suffer from integrity issues. It was written by the Rev. Ben Campbell, pastor emeritus of Richmond Hill, and Dr. John Moeser, professor emeritus at VCU. Both authors proudly put their names to their jointly written column and stand by their work.