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As a loyal graduate of Rhodes College (formerly Southwestern at Memphis), the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett (Rhodes, ’94) to the SCOTUS brings not just conflict, but a catharsis to alma mater community. It also reflects my recent, personal experiences with Rhodes President Marjorie Haas and some administrators. A disturbing undercurrent to Haas’ embrace of the nomination is this: Rhodes College has gone to great lengths to erase its progressive history and reputation that arose in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

Rhodes College has gone to great lengths to erase its progressive history and reputation that arose in the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

Having a notorious graduate rise to the SCOTUS to fulfill the judicial agenda of her mentor Antonin Scalia, and enable the political agenda of Donald Trump, would sign and seal that deal for Rhodes College and our nation. A lot of important judicial history and precedent, which safeguards basic human rights, transparency in government and women’s healthcare rights would be destroyed, if she is elevated. Reading how Haas gushed about “the diversity of opinions” reeked of Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” equivocation, as if we are talking about the Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower. The formerly honorable Republican Party has been subsumed by Trump’s Cult of Personality Disorder. It stopped being the “party of Lincoln” when Andrew Johnson succeeded him. It stopped being the Party of Ike when Reagan was elected, if not Nixon.

Fellow Rhodes grad, Justice Abe Fortas (Rhodes ’30) is rolling over in his grave, knowing the nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a female clone of Scalia. She is a product of People of Praise (POP), a Catholic schism that arose in the aftermath of Vatican II, which behaves more like an Evangelical cult than the Catholic Church. Her father is the “head” of the Biloxi, MS chapter, so the family ties and tradition with POP run deep. It was not unfair of Senator Diane Feinstein to comment that this woman exudes dogma, considering the dogmatic nature of the cult. Sorry, but “it is what it is.”

Peyton Nalle Rhodes was a physics professor, who rose to a great tenure as college president, and was an “Eisenhower conservative.” I had a nice friendship with him through Col. David Likes, my International Studies professor and faculty mentor. I was talking to them at one of the Colonel’s house parties, a few days after I got back from the 1975 NCAA D-III cross-country nationals. I said, "You know Dr. Rhodes, they should rename the college after you to give us more distinction. There were so many Southwesterns at that meet, we were invisible." They both chuckled a little, and had another drink. The school made the name change in 1984.

President Marjorie Haas, VP for Development Jenna Goodloe Wade and Alumni Director Tracy Patterson have led to way for Rhodes College to totally forsake its liberal and progressive tradition, and embrace disturbing Fascist elements into the college's agenda, which they call “conservatism.” They have taken great pains to bury the history of the college in the 1970’s, which brought such great leaders as Daniel Ellsberg, David Halberstam, Allen Ginsburg, James Dickey and others as enriching speakers.

Their zealous (I mean that) support and promotion Barrett as t-Rump’s next SCOTUS nominee amply illustrates this radical change in direction. My personal experience also illuminates this dynamic. For critiquing the job performance of Patterson as alumni relations director; and offering a variety suggestions to enrich student life, athletic recruiting and admissions recommendations, I have been banished from the campus!

In February I was invited to a Rhodes networking event in SF, sent my RSVP and showed up. I was looking forward to meeting President Haas to discuss the history, and defeat the defamation about me she bought into. I was met at the door by Wade who with a (“Mike Pence-Half Dead Smile”, borrowing from Mary Trump) said, "You have to leave; Marjorie doesn’t want you here.” I said, “How can Marjorie know that; she never met me.” When we went into the lobby to talk, a tall young Republican man accompanied her for security. Wade told me I was a bad boy and should be ashamed of myself for being H. Scott Prosterman.

As with much of America, Rhodes College has been subsumed and by Trump’s Fascist MAGA agenda. Their Security Director can’t keep the campus safe (117 security incidents in the last year for which they have records) despite the presence of over 200 internet based security cameras in all buildings and outdoors!

But he used them to follow me around campus on my visits! I was told by a friend, “Oh, and they didn’t like you walking around campus smoking dope.” I plead GUILTY to smoking part of a joint in the Fisher Gardens during an emotional visit in 2018. NO ONE was around except one of the 200 internet based security cameras.

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The Campus Security Director conveyed in letter and a series of phone calls that I was banished from campus and “the women’s dorms” in particular. He was afraid I might “mate” with a young female student, and sully the WASPy gene pool they so urgently safeguard.

He also said, “We would never admit any student-athlete you might recommend for admission, and you are not authorized to present yourself as a representative of Rhodes College. We are rich enough, and don’t need any petty cash you might raise.”

I wanted to ask President Haas if she actually authorized the security director to send that letter on her behalf, with his 8th grade composition skills, but Wade wouldn’t let me in the room.

Barrett’s nomination calls to mind the wrongful forced resignation of Justice Abe Fortas (Rhodes ’30) in 1969. Fortas had been the lead counsel in the landmark Gideon vs. Wainwright case, which set the precedent for right to counsel when facing any criminal charges. He was LBJ’s confidante and personal counsel, and helped him get elected as Senator from Texas in 1948.

He defended victims of the McCarthy madness, and was forced to resign from SCOTUS because Strom Thurmond initiated a witch hunt over nothing, when he was nominated to become Chief Justice. Justice Fortas had accepted $15,000 in speaking fees from American University, but the fee was paid by a private donor. (Scandalous, isn’t it?). And because he had consistently voted in favor of 1st Amendment defendants over obscenity charges.

Thurmond made an issue of the materials the SCOTUS evaluated in making the rulings, trying to infer that Justice Abe kept a private porn collection in his office. J. Edgar Hoover made an issue over a retainer Fortas received from Louis Wolfson, who was convicted of SEC violations, AFTER Fortas had returned the money and dissociated with Wolfson.

For all this, one of America’s greatest jurists was denied the Chief Justice seat, and forced to resign over nothing, while we got William Rehnquist instead. Fortas was faced with a sham of an impeachment hearing, led by Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, new AG John Mitchell, and resigned under pressure. That makes Abe Fortas a good witch.

Now come today’s Republicans, refusing to give a hearing to a qualified and valid nominee in Merrick Garland. And they’re REFUSING to conduct any other business before the election, other than trying to install a deeply unqualified ideologue, handmaiden zombie, who is more draconian and dystopian than her mentor Scalia.

Abe Fortas was a GREAT reflection on Rhodes College when it was a small, unknown, conservative Presbyterian college. Rhodes earned a reputation as a great, progressive liberal arts college beginning in the early 1970’s when they stopped mandatory chapel services, and made other progressive curriculum and student life decisions.

scott prosterman

It was a GREAT place to get an education in the 1970’s. The current president, a Jewish woman, now exalts in Barrett’s nomination as a “continuation of the tradition of excellence,” as if pointing to “very fine people on both sides.” This is no time for equivocation.

H. Scott Prosterman
Rhodes College 1977

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