Thumbs down to the continuing revelations of wrongdoing by former SIU President Randy Dunn. Dunn was removed from office earlier this year and is no longer affiliated with the university. The former president had previously been cited for improperly hiring Brad Colwell, a former colleague, to a $230,000 per year position. This week, The Southern learned Dunn had also violated university standards by hiring Mark Kolaz, another former colleague, to a post in SIU’s Office of Governmental and public affairs. Over several years, Dunn improperly used search waivers to hire Kolaz without opening the position to other candidates. In addition, Dunn managed to keep the hiring from the scrutiny of the Board of Trustees. While Dunn’s actions are leading to better hiring practices at the university, his actions as president of the system will be remembered as dark days for SIU.
Thumbs up to Southern Illinois University’s men’s and women’s golf programs. Both the men and women won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, making both teams eligible for NCAA tournament play. The women learned Wednesday they will be in action in Washington. The men will learn their postseason destination next week. The golf squads are the first SIU teams this term to advance to postseason play. The women’s team is coached by former Nashville standout Danielle Kaufman while the men are coached by Eldorado’s Justin Fetcho.
Thumbs up to the people of Brookport for their efforts in saving the old Brookport High School gymnasium. The structure is now being used as a community center. The old gymnasium outlived its original purpose when Brookport and Metropolis high schools consolidated to become Massac County High School in 1981. It served the junior high until 2001 when students began attending school at Metropolis. Over the next two decades the old structure fell into disrepair and plans were floated to raze the building. However, the historic structure has been saved and restored thanks to local fundraising efforts. Legendary McKendree University basketball coach Harry Statham, a Brookport native, is one of the primary donors. Too many of these old structures have fallen victim to neglect around Southern Illinois, many in communities that lack community centers.
Thumbs down to the State of Illinois for its indecision on what to do with the Crenshaw House, known locally as “The Old Slave House.” The structure, built in 1837, sits atop a towering hill in Gallatin County. The state purchased the structure in 2001, but has largely neglected it since that time. It has never re-opened to the public under state ownership. The details of what occurred at the Crenshaw House have been debated by historians over the years. It has, however, been identified as a “station” on the Reverse Underground Railroad by the National Parks Service. John Crenshaw, the original owner of the home, is believed to have kidnapped free African Americans to sell them illegally across state lines. After nearly two decades of inactivity, the state has to come up with a plan for the property before it falls into total disrepair. The Crenshaw House is a reminder of a sad part of the state’s history, but it is an important reminder of the evil man is capable of perpetrating.
Thumbs up to the appointment of Josh Gross as manager of the Du Quoin State Fair. A Pinckneyville native, Gross grew up attending the Du Quoin State Fair. At the risk of sounding parochial, it’s a positive to see someone local running their fair. Only someone from this region understands the unique relationship the fair has with Southern Illinois. A local will have a better understanding of the economic benefits Southern Illinois gains from a healthy Du Quoin State Fair. We wish him luck in revitalizing the fair.