Genoways stays: UVA's VQR investigation a whitewash?
The same day the Hook published a cover story [Conflicting Tales: The unfolding tragedy at the VQR] on the conflicting tales surrounding what went on at the Virginia Quarterly Review before the July 30 suicide of its managing editor, UVA released an anticipated audit report (with responses written by UVA President Teresa Sullivan) on the magazine's finances and management that presents even more conflicting information.
While editor Ted Genoways and other staff members will not be losing their jobs, unspecified "corrective action" will be taken regarding Genoways' handling of VQR finances, his poor management style, his failure to provide his staff with the information they needed to do their jobs, and his failure to adhere to UVA policies in the treatment of his staff.
While Genoways hasn't yet responded to the Hook for comment, he told the New York Times that the report lacked "a clear statement of the facts."
“I suppose they don’t want to state my innocence too plainly, because it makes their actions – cleaning out my office, canceling the winter issue – look panicked and ill-considered,” Genoways told the Times. “But I think moving on will require greater honesty.”
The report concludes that while complaints were received about Genoways' management of the magazine, no "specific allegations of bullying or harassment" were made before Morrissey's death. However, as the report later recommends, "the current structure for receiving employee complaints needs to be re-evaluated by the University."
In addition, what was revealed about the inner workings of the magazine has prompted the creation of a University-wide "task force" to "strengthen the institution’s policies and structure with regard to acceptable workplace conduct," which includes "developing a structure within Human Resources in which employee complaints about their supervisors can be taken, registered, and followed up."
Essentially, the report appears to have ignored the numerous complaints made after Morrissey's death, as well as charges of harassment made by one former VQR staff member, 30-plus-year veteran Candace Pugh, in 2005. However, as UVA spokesperson Carol Wood points out, the audit report covers operations at the magazine only during the last two years.
The report did cite reports of Genoways "not being courteous or respectful with some contributors and colleagues," and "problems with certain employees" in the past, but concluded that no reports "ever seemed to rise to the level of a serious, on-going concern." However, that conclusion appears to conflict with comments made by Genoways himself, who has said that office tensions since the beginning of the year had "grown poisonous," and that he hadn't known until recently "how severe" the complaints that his staff had lodged against him before he took leave in June for a fellowship had become.
The report also concludes that it is "sometimes difficult to define where the line gets crossed between a tough manager and an unreasonable one," but, as already mentioned, recommends that the University take "corrective action" with regard to Genoways concerning his financial dealings (including $2,000 in VQR funds used to subsidize the publishing of his own poetry, numerous undocumented credit card purchases, and careless spending of the magazine's endowment) and management style. Sullivan did not specify what kind of correction action would be taken, saying only that it was a personnel issue that would be handled confidentially.
The report makes no mention of VQR development manager Alana Levinson-Labrosse, the daughter of major UVA donor Frank Levinson (and a major donor herself), whose hiring was exempt from standard UVA posting and search requirements, and who had little or no fundraising experience. In addition, documents obtained by the Hook show that Frank Levinson "tentatively" planned to commit $150,000 to the VQR. In fact, a reliable source says he had already cut a check to the VQR in July for $75,000. According to those same documents, Levinson-Labrosse planned to use the $1.5 million she'd committed to UVA's Young Writer's Workshop to help the VQR.
And while the report finds that that "UVA personnel responded to employee concerns in accordance with institutional policies and procedures," it cites flawed oversight of VQR's operations and later recommends that the University give HR personnel more authority to enforce UVA policy and intervene when employee complaints arise.
In September, Genoways told the Hook that the "real problem" concerning continued financing of the VQR was the falling stock market between 2007 and 2009, which affected the magazine's invested endowment payouts. However, while the audit report says that "some decreases" in the endowment were caused by the economy, it alleges that financial strain was "largely the result" of Genoways having spent $475,000 from the principal amount of an estimated $800,000 "rainy day" fund established by former editor Staige Blackford (which was created from savings Blackford had accumulated over the 28 years he served as editor) between 2006 and 2009.
Genoways has said he was told to "spend down" that endowment, but UVA's Wood has said the University was unaware of such a directive, and that it was not consistent with UVA policy. As for the management of VQR's finances, the audit report is pretty clear: "The investment funds arguably were not spent in a judicious manner with regard for the needs of the future. There was more of a focus on generating new investment funds than on being frugal with the current funds."
However, while the report criticizes Genoways for not being frugal, there's no questioning the University's decision to approve a $170,000 compensation package for the editor. By comparison, only four high-ranking faculty in the English Department make the same or more that Genoways, and among the Pulitzer, National Book Award, and and MacArthur Fellowship winners in the University's Creative Writing program, Genoways makes as much as the highest paid faculty members. Typically, editors of University literary magazines are faculty members as well, though that hasn't been the case historically at the VQR. For example, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is currently looking for a new editor for Prairie Schooner, a highly regarded literary magazine, who is expected to teach undergraduate and graduate classes in the English department as well. Here at UVA, The Hedgehog Review, a tri-quarterly "intellectual" journal published through the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, is co-edited by two current faculty members with a combined base salary of $125,000.
"There are a number of details still to be worked out with individual employees," Wood says in the aftermath of the audit report's release. "Employees will be given the time they need to decide whether they wish to remain with VQR or pursue other options."
For remaining VQR staffers Shelia McMillen and Molly Minturn, who've been unequivocal in their condemnation of Genoways' leadership and his treatment of Morrissey, that doesn't present much of a choice.
"I can't see any situation in which Molly [Minturn] and I would work with Ted [Genoways] again," says McMillen, who says she found the audit report "extremely disappointing." McMillen has a storied past with the VQR herself, having been a reader for former editor Blackford for many years (McMillen discovered many writers, including Christopher Tilghman, who now teaches in UVA's creative writing program) and was the co-editor, with late UVA prof George Garrett, of one of only two VQR anthologies, Eric Clapton's Lover and Other Stones from the Virginia Quarterly Review (University Press of Virginia, 1990).
"The University will help me find another job," says McMillen. "I just hope it's not editing the newsletter of the Department of Plastic Surgery."