Friday, October 10, 2008

John Fry: The fraying of town and gown relationships

The controversy between The Rail Road Action And Advisory Committee (TRRAAC), a citizen organization, and Franklin & Marshall College over the relocation of the Norfolk & Southern railroad yard, is further evidence of the increasing estrangement between the college and the community.

The Intelligencer Journal reports on Oct. 10 "Fry said he called a representative from Donnelley and asked if, hypothetically, some of the land could be sold and used as a rail yard. He said a representative of the company told him no."

On its face, let alone that it comes from Fry, one has to question whether Donnelley would react differently if the request came from government officials and sufficient funds were offered. And there also is the possibility of a taking via the government's right of eminent domain.

F & M had long been a source of pride and its presidents held in high esteem until recently. A look at some of Fry's high handed actions since becoming president explains his and the college's estrangement in recent years:

1) Fry was a member of the Board of the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority and its assistant treasurer when millions upon millions of funds from the Hotel Room Tax were apparently expended on consultants without contracts and proper oversight.

2) Fry arranged for the passing lane on Harrisburg Pike to be eliminated for a block, thus potentially clogging a mile of traffic and impeding emergency vehicles.

3) Fry watched while F & M Security threw to the ground Lancaster Post news editor Ron Harper when he was peaceably standing across the road from Fry's residence, an episode partly caught on video. Fry has yet to apologize although trespassing charges again Harper were immediately dropped.

4) Fry's residing in the heart of School Lane Hills in a home owned by F & M has enabled its private security force to gain dual police jurisdiction over much of the community to the alarm of many.

5) Fry's response to media requests for information have often been brazen and self serving to the point of absurdity. (Example: The possible removal of the pedestrian overpass is to make things safer!)

6) Fry's handling of the legitimate concerns by School Lane Hills residents are considered devious at best if not downright dishonorable by many observers.

The railroad yard relocation to the site of an asbestos dump is a very serious issue and requires a full review by PennDOT and the state and federal environmental authorities. That is all that TRRAAC is requesting.

F & M's Board of Trustees needs to reflect on how much more damage to its reputation they are going to sustain by retaining John Fry as its president.