One of Its Most Respected and Idealistic Faculty Members:
Overzealous Penn State Ethics Panel Overreacts by Wrongly Firing Emmanuil Kaidanov
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Penn State became infamous for failing to take prompt action against a staff member of its football program a few years ago. But now it deserves to become even more infamous for allegedly wrongfully firing one of its most respected and idealistic faculty members. It gets even uglier when one discovers that the head coach they fired, Emmanuil Kaidanov, is the most successful head coach in the history of NCAA fencing, and known to be extremely popular, ethical, and loyal to the university and its students for 31 years, bringing fame and glory to the university and lifelong appreciation for the positive influence he has had on his team members.
Kaidanov is a legend for building up a fencing program at Penn State that, in his 31 years at the helm, has amassed a phenomenal, and phenomenally consistent, combined record of 795-77 (91.16% winning record); 403-36 Men’s record (92% winning record) and 392-41 Women’s record (91% winning record), 12 NCAA National Championships; finishes in the top 3 at the conclusion of 25 out of 29 seasons. It has only been getting better! This year, for the first and only time in history, an American is the world champion in foil, and this American is on Kaidanov’s team.
The statistics go on and on, but what is almost as amazing is how Coach Kaidanov remains so widely admired and appreciated for having mentored his fencers, raised their spirits, uplifted their values, built their characters, and encouraged their work ethic.
So what was the “crime” for which Coach Kaidanov was fired, allegedly without a moment’s warning, without a fair hearing, without a probationary period, and without an opportunity to appeal? He supposedly retaliated against a staff assistant who had made an anonymous phone call accusing somebody on one of his teams of possessing marijuana. The accused student had immediately volunteered to take a drug test, and was cleared of any such accusation; “it wasn’t even close.” So what was the “retaliation”?
The coach had a discussion with his staff assistant in which he told her that he felt she should have reported the allegation to him first. The coach claims he issued no name calling, no threats, and no intimidation of any kind. He claims he did not make any recommendation of any action to be taken against his staff assistant, nor was any retaliation actually taken against her, directly or even indirectly; he only had this one discussion with this assistant on this topic, kept her on in her position, and did not even know at the time of this discussion that the phone call of the report of suspicious activity had been anonymous. The incontrovertible fact is that his staff assistant was never penalized or fired, so this fundamental fact seems to withstand any possible justification for firing the head coach on the grounds of retaliation.
Twice, the Coach was summoned to a meeting without having been even told of its agenda or been given an opportunity to hire counsel or to hear from witnesses, let alone to cross examine them or even to look them in the eye. At the second meeting, some questions were posed to him, and allegedly from the same piece of paper, he was told he was fired, in a predetermined manner more reminiscent of Nazi Germany than of the state where the liberty bell once rang, and he was given instructions as to how to end his 31-year career in fewer than 31 minutes. The irony is that if there was any retaliation in this case, it may have been against Coach Kaidanov for exercising his freedom of speech on earlier occasions, allegedly causing him to be fired for some alleged trumped-up charges instead.
Many people familiar with this apparent travesty of justice and lack of due process, let alone simple decency and common sense, are appalled at the un-American way the university has allegedly treated one of its most legendary heroes who left the Soviet Union to leave the post-Stalinist world behind him, only to be subjected to such outrageous treatment. It’s a no-brainer that as many people as possible should:
- urge the university to reinstate Head Coach Kaidanov immediately,
- demand that he should then be given a fair hearing if such a hearing would be deemed necessary at that point,
- demand a formal apology, and some compensation for the humiliation that has been imposed on him,
- urge the university to take appropriate actions against the people responsible for the alleged perversion of justice;
- urge the university to make sure it can never happen again,
- contact members of the press and Penn State supporters and alumni to publicize this travesty and to encourage the above suggestions; and
- sign the petition.