Cleveland in the news, and not in a good way

The Cleveland area has been the scene of an appalling sequence of crimes recently. We had one case of a serial killer Anthony Sowell who preyed on poor women, raping and killing them and burying them on the premises. Then we had the case of Ariel Castro who kidnapped and held captive three women for about a decade, fathering a child with one. Now we have another person accused of being a serial killer too.

Then in the last week, we had a trio of reports that, while they did not have the horrific aspects of those three cases, have damaged the image of leading cultural institutions in the city.

First we had the abrupt resignation of David Franklin, the head of the Cleveland Museum of Art that is one of the premier art museums in the nation. It was revealed that he had been having an affair with a former staffer at the museum who had committed suicide in April of this year. It was he who had found the body and reported it to police but the news came to light just a couple of weeks ago.

(On a side note that shows the danger of local media monopolies, the Plain Dealer was scooped on the story by a local alternative weekly the Cleveland Scene which accused the PD of sitting on the news because its publisher is also on the Board of Trustees of the museum. The details are still murky as to what exactly happened on the night of the woman’s death and more puzzling details are emerging, both in Scene and in the PD.)

Meanwhile within the space of one week, the deans of the two law schools in the city, one at Case Western Reserve University (where I work) and Cleveland State University, which is a few miles down the road, have been accused of abusing their power.

At CWRU a professor who was also an associate dean has filed a lawsuit that accuses the dean of retaliating against him because he reported him for sexual harassment against female faculty members, administrators, and students after he observed some of his behavior and heard about others from the victims. The lawsuit also charges the university for backing the dean and not doing anything to stop the retaliation. An addition to the original court filing says that another law school administrator has come forward saying that he too suffered retribution for making harassment allegations against the dean.

At CSU, the law school dean is accused of retaliating against those professor who were part of a labor bargaining unit by giving them raises of either $0 or $666 (the satanic number representing the Mark of the Beast in the Book of Revelation in the Bible), which was an order of magnitude less than the raises given to the other faculty. They have filed a complaint against the State Employment Relations Board.

Irrespective of whether these last two allegations turn out to have merit or not, I see them as evidence of a disturbing corporatizing trend in universities where senior administrators who were once thought to be colleagues of the faculty and merely the first among equals, now see themselves more as corporate executives and CEOs, viewing faculty and staff as subordinates, and seem to behave accordingly and expect the same kinds of salaries and perks.

Cleveland is a nice place and we enjoy living here. But all these stories are undoubtedly giving it a serious black eye.


  1. Trebuchet says

    If it makes you feel any better, this stuff happens everywhere. You just notice it more when it’s close to home. Here in the Puget Sound regions, we had both Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer — two of the more prolific serial killers in history. And a few years ago the police chief in Tacoma murdered his wife and committed suicide suicide — in front of their children. The investigation was somewhat hampered because the deputy chief, now acting chief, was also the woman with whom he’d been having an affair.

    I’m sure anyone from pretty much any urban area in the country can quickly come up with similar stories.

  2. left0ver1under says

    The only thing that Cleveland as a whole must apologize for is the “rock and roll hall of fame”, which is anything but.

  3. left0ver1under says

    I’m from BC where we had Clifford Robert Olson (serial killer and child molester) and Robert Pickton (serial killer, rapist, cannibal), plus some others (e.g. one targeted tourists with campers).

    Washington’s four main channels (KIRO, KING, KOMO, KCTS) were always broadcast across the border. The Green River Killer was first active in the early 1980s when I was a teen, around the same time as Olson. Ridgway’s story was in the news for more than a decade, and people always wondered why he went silent or slowed down, or if he crossed the border into BC. The explanation after his capture and conviction filled in a lot of blanks.

  4. colnago80 says

    Of course, in the DC area, we had the snipers who killed a number of people in the area. And, of course, my home town had the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, who is still on death row over 20 years after his conviction and the Hillside Stranglers, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono. Not to forget the Red Light Bandit, Caryl Chessman who didn’t kill anybody but was sentence to capital punishment after being convicted under California’s Little Lindbergh act.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    You need to come up with a middle name for Robert Pickton. The rule is: serial killers get three names.

  6. left0ver1under says

    That’s only one of the rules. Serial killers can have two-and-two syllable names: Pickton, Ridgway, Jeffrey Dahmer.

  7. Trebuchet says

    The DC snipers had gone from this Washington (Tacoma) to the other one. And Bianchi was caught in Bellingham. It’s pretty much all over.

  8. flex says

    And in our area we have Detroit.

    ’nuff said.

    In reality, however, I look at all this as generally a good thing. In the sense, that is, that rocks are being lifted and the disgusting creatures living underneath are being exposed. (Although that metaphor needs some work as there are a lot of really interesting things which live under rocks, hidden from the light. (Although, as Dicken’s wrote, “… the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.”))

    We are not Hercules, and we have no rivers Alpheus and Peneus to divert into the Augean Stables of our society, but I am hopeful that the slow trickle provided by the internet will not only help expose the shit but also encourage a multitude of hands to clear it.

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