Cranky calls poison Adelphi

January 26, 1996

In the latest twist in an extraordinary campus row, the wife of the president of Adelphi University in New York state has been accused of making anonymous phone calls to the head of a faculty union that has campaigned for his removal.

Maria Diamondopoulos, whose husband Peter heads Adelphi, probably posed as a series of women to leave the six abusive voice-mail messages for union director Catherine Cleaver, a voice analyst concluded.

Mr Diamondopoulos said the charges were "scurrilous", Newsweek magazine reported. But a war of words has been running at Adelphi since last October, when the faculty voted 131 to 14 to ask him to resign.

One of the telephone messages said: "I thought you were some liberal, radical, Nazi, sort of Karl Marx crap organisation, that's hanging around and destroying universities," it was reported. "I want you out of there, not President Diamandopoulos." A statement by the university board of trustees complained of "baseless and wildly inaccurate claims, many personally defamatory", and "sensational charges and irrelevancies that have been aired in the media".

In an editorial titled "The Plundering of Adelphi" last month, the New York Times urged the trustees to fire Mr Diamondopoulos after a group of faculty members calling themselves the Committee to Save Adelphi released evidence of what they claimed was mismanagement.

In his ten years at Adelphi Mr Diamondopoulos has set out to transform it from a little-known Long Island campus into a prestigious liberal arts centre. But in the process he has become the second-highest salaried president of a United States private college with over half a million dollars a year in total pay and benefits. Prompted by the complaints of professors who say he dipped into university funds to the tune of $1.3 million more than two years to maintain a Manhattan apartment, while enrolment at the university dropped, the New York attorney general's office is investigating Adelphi's finances.

But the president's defenders say that he has dragged Adelphi out of financial debt, academic stagnation and given the campus a facelift while he aggressively built up an endowment and reserves of $42 million. "The real story at Adelphi is the story of a university in the strongest financial and academic condition in its 100-year history. The board of trustees is extremely proud of what the president has been able to achieve both academically and financially," the board said in a statement after reports of the crank phone calls.

"Clearly some feel threatened by the demanding academic standards being instituted by the president and the board as they seek to prepare the students of Adelphi for productive lives in the coming century."

The two sides so far have aired their conflicting claims in the press but court action may not be far off. The university has named five members of the faculty union, including Ms Cleaver, in a defamation law suit, claiming they portrayed Mr Diamondopoulos as a common thief and worse. It was a voice analyst hired by the union in turn that identified Mrs Diamondopoulos's voice with "a high degree of certainty".

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