Written by John Face
November 2, 2022
As Hazel Lias was dealing with the trauma of a December 12, 2021, incident with the then President Mat Johnson of Albion College getting in her face yelling and telling her to deal with an incident, she had no idea what he was talking about. Johnson and his cabinet had a plan, that was tell the public an entirely different story. Meeting in the days after the event involving Lias the entire cabinet had the plan, which simply was getting Johnson’s version out.
In the days after this event Keena Williams, then an employee at the college and a member of Johnsons cabinet and Ashley Woodson, another member of his cabinet would arrive at Hazel Lias front door to comfort her and offer her support if she needed it. During the visit they were asked about the laptop computer that they brought, and the reply was that they would be willing to help her write a response to the situation. Lias refused the offer and would hold a tell all press conference in the days following that told an entirely different story than what Johnson was sharing.
Johnson would ultimately go to the press and tell a story and basically, he was calling Lias a liar. The internal email below is from Kelly Finn then the Chief of Staff for Johnson. It is worth a read again just to see what was happening at Albion College.
There is no secret that Johnson has the desire to return to Albion College and that he, according to several sources is in contact with current Interim President Joe Calvaruso. City Watch has heard from several sources that Johnson has contact with Williams’s campaign as well.
Voting on November 8th is important, voting for Vicky Garcia-Snyder as Mayor will be critical.
Kelly Finn Email
Dec 16, (2021)
Dear Board of Trustees,
I am writing to clarify the events over the last few days and to provide context for all of you.
The events began last Friday when a small group of students (about 30) assembled on the Quad to protest the way the College had handled a student m3qental health issue. That issue led to the student being advised that they should take a medical leave to seek the care we were unable to provide. Leroy handled the issue expertly. However, the student claimed she was mistreated by the College and misrepresented what took place which led to a demonstration on campus. We made the decision that Dr J would not attend the demonstration and hold space for Leroy to lead as VP of Student Development. Dr J did not attend.
Three off-campus individuals came to the demonstration after having publicized it in the community. Those three individuals were:
- Morris Arvoy, a former employee of the college who was involuntarily separated from the College when Bob was hired or thereabouts. He has been one of the members of the community agitating on social media.
- John Face, a local blogger who has been providing misinformation for months.
- Maurice Barry, a member of the Black community who often interacts with students.
As reported by Leroy and Ashley, who stood outside with students for over two hours, the three individuals from off campus were contributing to the escalation of the demonstration in a variety of ways. The escalation became so caustic that Leroy was personally attacked. That evening and over the weekend, Dr J reached out to Leroy to support him. Late Sunday he wrote Dr J a long text expressing his appreciation for the support and sharing that over the weekend he had considered resigning because of the attack on him. He finished that message saying he was now in a better place and looking forward to the Cabinet retreat that we were heading into on Monday and Tuesday.
On Monday at the Cabinet retreat, Dr J made space for Leroy to share about how he felt with the team. We processed it together as a Cabinet for about 45 minutes or so. He said he felt affirmed by the support. We lightly discussed as a team that there needed to be a more proactive approach to managing the off-campus participants but moved into the retreat proper. Dr J discussed privately with Leroy and Keena and me the possibility of banning them from campus. We all agreed to think on it for a few days as we were away at the retreat anyway.
On Tuesday we all came home from the retreat in the evening. Dr J went directly to the basketball game to say a few words about Jeff Weedman’s generous gift and the dedication of the game. After the halftime events, Hazel Lias approached Dr J and asked about the t-shirts that were made for the game. A limited number were made and they had all been given out. He retrieved the one that was designated for him from the bleachers and held it up, handing it to her. As he did, he asked her for help with addressing Maurice’s part on Friday explaining that he didn’t want to overreact. Hazel had offered to Dr J to call on her for help at any time and he was trying to ask for her help. She said to him that she would take care of it and they parted ways on what he thought was a positive interaction. Joe and Donna Calvaruso witnessed the interaction.
Nevertheless, his words, actions, and perhaps tone offended Hazel. She reached out to Marc and told him so. Marc informed us of that on Wednesday morning and Dr J asked for his help and guidance as well as Keena’s with making amends. Dr J also texted an apology to Hazel immediately. She responded and asked for a one-on-one. Dr J apologized in that meeting and she said she accepted the apology and forgave him.
Today, at 6 am Hazel called Dr J to assure him she did not have anything to do with the social media reports, that she will do her best to correct the record that he never touched her, and that she will tell anyone that she has forgiven him. She also asked that we share the same with anyone who asks.
We met with the Cabinet this morning and we discussed the situation. Marc is very upset by it as he has familial and other connections to Hazel. At one point he excused himself from the meeting. Keena explained to the cabinet that because of community expectations Marc may feel he has to leave Albion because of his responsibility to support Hazel even though she has accepted the apology. Dr J asked the team to step forward as a team and work together on this as Dr J cannot lead the response because of the role he played and the issues being litigated in public.
We met as a team after our earlier conversation, talked through the issues and agreed to work together with the best interest of the College in mind. At the same time, Keena and Ashley met with Hazel to discuss the issue and a shared way forward in relation to the situation in this community that this creates. Keena and Ashley will lead our response related to the community.
Susie and I will work with Mike to determine what our response from a communications perspective should be. We will bring in outside consultation as needed. While Dr J is deeply concerned with resolving this situation appropriately, he and the team have all agreed that he cannot be the public face and voice of these efforts given his involvement. I will work closely with the Board and Cabinet to ensure our shared strategy reflects the Board’s vision and in close consultation with Mathew.
I am happy to talk with anyone who would like more information.