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Richard Whitt focuses his investigative lens on recent goings-on at the University of Georgia, and in so doing writes a bigger story concerning "a sea change in how America supports its institutions of higher education."
Behind the Hedges examines Michael Adams's tumultuous career as president of Georgia's flagship university, a tenure marked by intrigue and backroom deals. Adams has clashed with the most powerful and popular figures in the state, been accused of misspending university money, and thrust himself into campus athletics with disastrous results. Yet his remarkable skills at manipulating public opinion and his close relationships with wealthy and politically powerful people have allowed him to survive.
Whitt probes the relationships among key players in the power struggle and explores the growing importance of private funding to public institutions of higher learning and the influence of nonprofit foundations that raise and manage huge private endowments.
The controversy at Georgia exploded into the public consciousness after Adams did not renew the contract of legendary football coach Vince Doley as athletics director. Dooley felt he had been treated unfairly and said so. Thousands agreed and petitioned the Board of Regents. Wealthy alumni and big contributors to the University of Georgia Foundation were already upset over Adams's spending practices and unleashed a campaign to oust him.
But thanks to Governor Sonny Perdue, who backed Adams but feigned neutrality in the affair, the critics were outmaneuvered at every turn. In a move unprecedented in Georgia, if not in all academia, the Board of Regents cut ties with the foundation, which now sits on over a half-billion dollars but is without any official relationship to the university.