Marvalene Hughes says she not her successor, Hamid Shirvani is responsible for many of the major building projects completed over the past decade at California State University, Stanislaus.
Shirvani says he not his predecessor, Hughes deserves the credit, which he takes without reservation.
Their battle of monumental egos played out in The Bee's Opinions pages last week, and for the life of me, I'm still trying to figure out why.
So are some folks at the university, who question the wisdom and professionalism of airing this snit so publicly.
For sure, the school's leadership wants no part of it.
"Two of our former presidents have chosen to engage in a public discourse over events that occurred many years ago," communications director Dave Tonelli wrote in an email. "While we support their right to do so, the university administration does not feel it's prudent to enter the conversation."
George Petrulakis, chairman of the CSU, Stanislaus, Foundation fund-raising arm, said the organization is focused on meeting the needs of the students and faculty.
(Note to self: Insert 10-foot-pole cliché here.)
So about this brouhaha
Indeed, it is very simple: Hughes started some projects during her time (1994-2005) as the school's president that were completed on Shirvani's watch (2005-12).
There should be plenty of kudos to go around, if credit (not to mention their hefty six-figure salaries) was the only reason they did their jobs while at the university.
That neither touted academic gains during their respective tenures is disappointing.
Under Hughes, Stanislaus graduated 51 percent of its students (charted during a six-year study, 1999-2005) and an average of 80 percent of its freshmen returned for their sophomore year.
"We're the only school on the West Coast in the rankings," Shirvani told me shortly after replacing Hughes in 2005. "We've got to be doing something right."
(Don't tell him, but eight years later, that reads like he was complimenting her.)
Retention peaked at 87 percent under Shirvani in 2010. Straight through four-year graduations fell a bit, but you could argue that the drop-off coincided with the country's economic free-fall.
Instead, Hughes and Shirvani found grounds for an argument, with the argument being about the grounds the bricks, mortar, steel and aesthetics. Hughes' op-ed submission in Tuesday's paper focused on a lengthy list of new buildings and sports facilities that she initiated or completed.
Shirvani countered by claiming stewardship of the science buildings and upgrades and improving athletic facilities.
At ground zero of their words war is the $55 million Nora and Hashem Naraghi Science Building, which broke ground ceremoniously in 2004 with Hughes in power and opened three years later under Shirvani.
Credit where it's due
So who deserves the credit? I called Wendell Naraghi, the Naraghis' son, to settle the issue.
"I don't know why they're beating up on each other," he said. "Both should be happy with what they accomplished."
Yes, Hughes approached his family about participating in the project. And after she departed, yes, Shirvani met with his father, who loved science and was thrilled to kick in $2 million to have the building named for the couple.
"Marvalene Hughes reached out to my parents," Wendell Naraghi said. "Shirvani picked it up from there. My father felt it was a great honor. It was a collaboration of two administrators. They got it done, and all ended well no matter who tries to take the credit."
The real heroes? Neither school president, he said.
"The taxpayers get the credit for it," Wendell Naraghi said. "It's a public university."
So there. Both were right, but don't expect either to concede in this battle of conceit.
An embarrassment? Not to the school, only to themselves.
They need to just chill and appreciate what they've accomplished in their respective careers Hughes in retirement in Modesto after guiding New Orleans' Dillard University back from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and Shirvani, who's a controversial figure in his current gig as chancellor of North Dakota's state university system.
Truce, folks. There's no upside to acting like backsides.
Step back, and maybe even take a Yogi Berra-like approach:
We built buildings together separately.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.