Good Old Boys

For appearances' sake, John Carroll dumps the honky.

Interfuse Lime Spider, 207 S. Main Street, Akron 9 p.m. Saturday, August 6; $5, 330-762-2350
In 1987, admissions officer Ronald Oleksiak founded John Carroll's first office of minority affairs. During his tenure, minority enrollment increased, Oleksiak received stellar job reviews, and he was even named vice president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities Conference of Multicultural Affairs -- though the title was much too long to fit on his business card.

But in 1998, Father Edward Glynn became the school's president. He wondered aloud why an "old white" guy was running the minority recruitment office, and why so many old white guys were running the university in general. At age 67, Glynn had apparently lost track of his own pigmentation.

According to a reverse discrimination suit filed by Oleksiak, Glynn decided to get rid of him in 2002. He was summoned to a meeting with one of the university's top dogs and told to sign a pre-written retirement letter if he wished to receive full benefits. Seven months later, John Carroll announced Oleksiak's replacement: a 29-year-old black female.

In the subsequent court case, Glynn denied making comments about Oleksiak's race and age. Though "it is certainly possible" that he may have said something like that, it would have been "in a larger context," and what he was really talking about was the university as a whole.

Oleksiak lost the initial battle, but won the appeal. A new trial was set for July. But before they could get to round 2, the two parties settled for an undisclosed amount. (Neither side returned Punch's calls.)

Ironically, while the percentage of minority enrollment at John Carroll increased under Oleksiak, it took a dive under his successor.

Not to worry. In the realm of higher education, looks are all that matters.

Quietly saving lives
When NitroMed came out with a new drug that specifically targeted black people, critics were quick to squawk the usual racial politics, claiming the pharmaceutical company was preying on minorities.

Dr. Steven Nissen disagreed. The Cleveland Clinic medical director chaired the FDA panel that recommended approval of BiDil, the first pill aimed exclusively at one race. He pointed to the science: A study found the pill reduced the risk of mortality by 43 percent in black patients who suffered from heart failure. "Frankly, I was thrilled," he says.

Then he found out how much it cost.

BiDil could run as much as $10.80 a day -- or nearly $4,000 a year. "A drug only can help people if they can afford it," Nissen says.

NitroMed officials say they have a charity program. Poor patients who don't have insurance will get the medicine for free, says marketing director B.J. Jones. Those who make more than three times the federal poverty level -- adding up to $28,710 a year for a single person -- can get the medicine for $25 a month. All they have to do is fill out one piece of paper.

So how is the generous drug company telling thousands of patients about this great deal? Advertising? Church fliers? Naah.

Jones says the company is only telling doctors. In a few months, if you're lucky, it may even put out a brochure. "We're depending upon the doctors for everything," Jones says.

Good luck.

Irony & Arshinkoff
Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff has never been one to pick his battles or his paramours wisely. Last month, the Akron Zoo mailed out free tickets to more than 1,000 community leaders as thanks for their support. Arshinkoff didn't find the gesture amusing.

He returned his two complimentary $8 tickets along with a letter accusing zoo President Pat Simmons of an ethics violation. "As a board member who sits in judgment of Akron Zoo filings, your tickets may be considered an illegal gratuity," he wrote.

The irony was delicious, as deep guys like to say, since Arshinkoff treats Republican coffers like his own personal trust fund. And given the load of GOP scandals statewide, it was akin to a crack whore lecturing on safe sex.

According to the Ohio Ethics Commission, public officials are allowed to accept small gifts like an "inexpensive entertainment activity" -- i.e., an $8 visit to the zoo. They aren't allowed to receive items of "substantial value" -- like, say, the free Audi Arshinkoff got from Republican sugar daddies.

Strongsville shakedown
In May, when Strongsville officials wanted to fix the suburb's sewer system, they sent threatening letters to hundreds of homeowners, telling them to fix their pipes by September 30 or risk going to jail or paying a hefty fine.

It appears that someone had been boning up on their Soviet Bloc government theory.

But the bully approach isn't striking fear into these residents. Beth Krivanek, who is fighting the city's demands, says few people have made the repairs, which cost about $3,000 a pop. And a group of 40 'Villers recently filed a lawsuit against the city, hoping to avoid making repairs altogether. They say the city needs to come up with a more equitable solution.

"All of a sudden, they send you a letter saying they're going to throw you in jail?" Krivanek asks. "They're just not willing to work with us."

Psycho prevention
There are a lot of psychos out there. So Don Myers of Parma Heights, considered the Beirut of the southwestern suburbs, created a T-shirt to keep them at bay. It carries the simple words "Maybe I'm Packin'" with a picture of a handgun.

Myers says the shirts sold like hotcakes at a recent gun show at the Berea fairgrounds. He plans to take them on the road to shows in West Virginia and Indiana, though it's unknown whether anyone in either state can read.

"Women think it's cute," says the retired boxing promoter. "The guys think it's necessary. It goes good at parties or biker week."

After all, if a hoodlum has a choice between robbing you or your friend in the Dave Matthews Band shirt, it's an obvious call. "Nobody picks on gun nuts," says Myers.

To test the shirt's powers, Punch sent a correspondent to East Cleveland. We're still waiting for word on his whereabouts.

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