Friday, June 13, 2008

Former Pitt Spokesperson Ken Service Writes "Scathing" Criticism of Nordenberg, Pitt Administration

Former Pitt Spokesperson Ken Service has released a new book criticizing Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, his former boss for nearly eight years. The book, titled Child of Light and Bride of Untruth: Inside Nordenberg’s Cathedral and What's Wrong with Oakland was released last week by Penn State University Press. Inside the book, Service writes of a trail of deception which plagued Nordenberg’s major decisions while at the university; most notably, Nordenberg and former and current Athletic Director Steve Pederson’s conspiracy to tear down Pitt Stadium. In his tell-all account of his time at the university, Service said the chancellor’s major motivation in tearing down the stadium was not to modernize the university and attract new football recruits as the duo claimed. Service argues those excuses were merely a front, and that Nordenberg and Pederson really conspired to build the $119 million mega-structure to secretly secure upper campus parking.

The five people who have read the book have characterized it as a scathing attack on the Nordenberg inner circle. Nordenberg has an almost unparalleled reputation for a chancellor in demanding and expecting loyalty from his staff. He’s been reluctant to speak with the press about key university issues, instead arming himself with a team of spokespersons who do the chancellor’s bidding. The book is a rare behind the scenes look at his propaganda machine.

Nordenberg is apparently shocked by Service’s tell-all. It comes as an unexpected blow to the chancellor. He had always thought of Service as one of his closest friends. In Nordenberg’s 2002 press conference announcing Service’s departure, Nordenberg told the University Times that he thought one day he and Service would, “[after retirement] grow old together, learn Italian, walk the streets of South Oakland and reminisce about the good old days while using our newly acquired Italian curse words to describe the current student population and their lack of consideration for the elderly.”

While Nordenberg might be affected by the personal criticisms, his staff is wasting little time trying to discredit Service. Current University Spokesperson John Fedele is defending Nordenberg and his administration, claiming that they don’t believe Service is acting alone.

“This book just doesn’t sound like the Ken we know,” Fedele told KDKA radio host Fred Honsberger. “We believe Ken is being put up to this by rural mid-state publishers who are pushing their own agrarian agenda and attempting to discredit our cosmopolitan institution. It’s a political attack, pure and simple.”

Service rejects Fedele’s claims. He told Pittsburgh Today Live host Kristine Sorensen that he decided to come out with his book when Bigelow Bash was mysteriously canceled last year. Service told that Nordenberg was always “annoyed each April when the thoroughfare was closed, as it caused the Chancellor to take a circuitous route home by going down Fifth Avenue to Bouquet Street and then back down Forbes again. I feel Nordenberg erroneously led students to believe that the SGB’s lack of funding was the root cause. I just couldn’t live with the lie anymore. It is really the students who have suffered without the Bigelow Bash ever since.”

Child of Light and Bride of Untruth will be distributed free to every Penn State Creamery patron who orders a biggie-sized Peachy Paterno skyscraper cone. The book has been banned by the University of Pittsburgh’s Book Center.

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