Friday, August 23, 2013

University of Arkansas sacks John Diamond, top university relations official. He cites differences on 'transparency'

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 2:25 PM

JOHN DIAMOND: Leaving UA.
  • JOHN DIAMOND: Leaving UA.
Chris Wyrick,
vice chancellor for university advancement at the University of Arkansas, announced today that John Diamond, associate vice chancellor for university relations in his division, would leave UA at the end of September.

Roy Cordell, senior director of creative services, will serve as interim associate vice chancellor while a national search is made for a replacement.

The brief announcement made no mention of Diamond's future plans. He was  in the news recently as a finalist for a similar job at the University of Iowa, but didn't land that job.

Diamond came from the University of  Maine in 2010. He served as a chief spokesman for the university. But he also ranked high in a controversial division. Wyrick replaced Brad Choate as head of university advancement after a multi-million dollar budget deficit was discovered in Choate's operation. The division's budget officer also resigned.

Diamond hadn't figured prominently in reporting on the Choate mess, except as a spokesman for periodic reports on audit updates and making responses to information requests on what had happened. He got a terse sendoff in Wyrick's terse prepared remarks:

"I am deeply grateful to Roy for stepping in at this critical moment and providing leadership and expertise as we move toward the public phase of Campaign Arkansas,” Wyrick said. “Roy is highly regarded across campus and by the university relations staff in particular. I wish Mr. Diamond the best in future endeavors and thank him for his service to the UA."

The university's website described Diamond's job this way:

The associate vice chancellor for university relations is the senior administrative position in the office and the university’s chief communications officer, reporting to the vice chancellor for university advancement. This position is responsible for the development and implementation of strategies to increase public understanding of and support for the university and its programs and goals.

UPDATE: I think it's safe to call this a sacking. I got this note from Diamond in response to an e-mail:

I learned of this action in a text message from Chris Wyrick at 11:28 this morning. I believe it's the result of strong philosophical and material differences over what it means to be a transparent and publicly accountable university. My wife and I love Northwest Arkansas and the U of A. We need some time to process this news before saying anything more. I hope you and others understand.

Cordell said he couldn't provide any more information. There was no answer at a number provided for another UA official in charge of "strategic communication." Calls to Wyrick were transferred to university relations. In my first call there a receptionist was unable to find anyone immediately who'd take a question.

Transparency? I have to agree with Diamond. Fayetteville, you have a problem.

Noted by Arkansas Business: Diamond was credited for influencing the widely praised speech by Athletic Director Jeff Long after the firing of football coach Bobby Petrino. The UA won a PR crisis management award for the effort.

UPDATE: Mark Rushing, in strategic communications, has gotten back to me. I've sent along a number of questions up the chain of command. (Not sure where that stops. Wyrick? David Gearheart? Jeff Long? Razorback Foundation?)

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