Woodward: ‘Transparency’ best in ‘Colbygate’ scandal

College replies: ‘Nothing more’ to say
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  November 14, 2012

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STUDENTS SEEK EXPERT HELP With the Colby administration stonewalling on the issue of whether Bob Diamond should be allowed to remain on the board, protests gather strength.

Referring mischievously to "Colbygate," legendary Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward told Colby College officials at a November 11 speech at the liberal-arts institution to adopt "transparency" in handling the Bob Diamond scandal. In the 1970s, Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate story that brought down President Richard Nixon.

Woodward spoke in Waterville after accepting Colby's annual Elijah Parish Lovejoy award, named after a 19th-century alumnus and martyr for press freedom. It is given to prominent journalists for courageous reporting.

Woodward lived up to an award for bravery. Speaking to nearly 500 people at an evening convocation in Lorimer Chapel — including the college's president and many faculty, administrators, and students — he answered a question about Colby's much-criticized approach to the Diamond affair by telling officials they should be open to questions: "It's okay to let people in and see what happens."

"Transparency is a good thing," he said. "It works."

Colby's management of the scandal had been protested that afternoon by 35 student and Occupy Augusta activists outside the college's Diamond Building. In demonstrations over several months, protesters have called for Diamond, the disgraced former CEO of giant, London-based Barclays Bank, to be removed as chairman of the college's board of trustees.

Student protesters have asked for a full airing of the issue at Colby, including a campus-wide forum to discuss it.

Good-naturedly gazing down at Colby president William "Bro" Adams, Woodward said: "I think the president is a man of transparency" and noted Adams "absolutely" agreed on that point — although, after Woodward later used the word "Colbygate," he remarked of Adams: "He's not smiling."

Transparency is "a good message for all of us," commented student protest leader Shelby O'Neill after the speech. "The spirit of Watergate is the spirit of what we're doing — holding people in power accountable — and something we should emulate."

Diamond, an American and Colby graduate, has given millions to the college, including endowing a professorship as well as the Diamond Building. Colby's trustees and administrators have strongly supported him despite his being forced from Barclays last summer after it was revealed the bank had engaged in helping rig interest rates that may have defrauded millions of people and businesses around the world. (See "Banking Scandal Taints Colby Board Chairman," by Lance Tapley, July 13.) Barclays has also been involved in money-laundering and other scandals.

A protester, Colby alumna Jody Spear, asked Woodward if it was in the best interest of the college to allow Diamond's largesse to have influence on Colby's academic departments.

"Keep up the heat," Woodward replied. "Get information. Do it in a civilized and very aggressive way."

But Colby has kept a lid on information. At the last trustees meeting, at the campus on October 20, security guards kept reporters as well as protesters 75 yards from the building where the meeting took place, and the administration wouldn't make Diamond or other trustees available to speak with the press. (See "Colby Students Join Diamond Protests," by Lance Tapley, October 26.)

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