Allen West and wife wade into embarrassing fight with students on Facebook

OPINION - The chances of West showing up on FAU’s campus to dish out a beatdown are pretty slim...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Former Congressman Allen West wants to kick butt; I get that.

No self-respecting man will stand idly by as his better half and, in this case Florida Atlantic University trustee Angela Graham-West, gets hassled by a bunch of rowdy college students protesting their football stadium is named after a firm that runs for-profit prisons.

So, when Mrs. West alleged she was harassed by unidentified student protesters at her job and more recently during a board of trustees meeting, it didn’t take long for her dutiful husband to respond. “…if Angela calls and tells me of one more incident, you will face me, the side of me that you do not want to see,” Mr. West said last week in a Facebook post.

West ‘threats’ create FAU firestorm

FAU hasn’t been the same since. West’s warning prompted one of the student protesters to file a police report, accusing him of making threats on Facebook. The next day, the university president’s office reported an anonymous call from a man who threatened to “come down and get” the student. Other lewd, threatening and anti-Semitic emails followed, including one listing the student’s home address and information about her parents.

Already wracked by a slew of controversies, from naming the stadium after the GEO Group to a class assignment to test the power of religious symbols by challenging students step on paper with the word ‘Jesus’ on it, the last thing the school needs is an appearance by the Tea Party favorite. Who really needs to show up is his wife, Angela Graham-West.

On paper, the 53-year-old university trustee has all the credentials befitting a gubernatorial appointee. Besides her current job as a financial advisor at Raymond James and Associates, Inc., she’s worked as a consultant with several big-name companies, including AT&T, Bristol Myers Squibb and Home Depot. She’s an educator, having worked as an assistant professor and international research fellow at Kansas State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and a Ph.D in education.

Conservative soul-mates

In reality, Graham-West is her husband’s soul-mate. The two have been married for almost 24 years, have two children and share a conservative ideological outlook. If there is any truth to the adage that behind every good man, there’s a strong woman, she is it.

While she remains comfortable outside of the spotlight, Graham-West isn’t shy about expressing her opinions. In a February blog post entitled, “File This Under Conservatives Uninvited,” she bemoans Fordham University for barring conservative Ann Coulter from speaking at the school while extending a warm greeting to Peter Singer, a well-known animal rights activist she says had promoted the extinction of the human race to benefit the planet.

She didn’t mince any words either during the 2012 congressional campaign in which West was defeated by political newcomer Democrat Patrick Murphy. Commenting on her husband’s Allen West Republic blog, she took an NAACP spokesman to task for failing to criticize a Murphy campaign ad she said depicted her husband in a stereotypical light.

An academic embarrassment

The NAACP official denied seeing anything wrong with the spot, which only prompted Graham-West to quote Booker T. Washington in describing how irrelevant the civil rights organization had become.

“There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public,” she wrote, quoting the famed black educator who founded Tuskegee Institute. “Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays.”

Graham-West now finds herself as one of the 13 individuals who must somehow guide a troubled state university from academic embarrassment back to the business of higher education.

Unfortunately, she is in the midst of an ongoing dispute with the student protesters of the “Stop Owlcartaz Coalition,” both trading barbs accusing each other of deceit, intimidation and harassment in separate he-said, she-said accounts of their encounters.

Adult supervision is required

The chances of West showing up on FAU’s campus to dish out a beatdown are pretty slim. The threat sounds more like the successful bluster-strategy many political observers have come accustomed to as West busily raises money. This year alone, he’s managed to raise $479,000, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Who initially acted rude or who first felt threatened, pales in comparison to the more important task of the university community coming together and finding a way to restore academic proficiency.

Simply put, FAU could use some adult supervision. It would be encouraging if the students stepped up to the role, but that responsibility seems more fitting for the grown-ups, like Graham-West who are in a unique position to provide it.

Doug Lyons is an editorial writer and columnist for the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale. Follow Doug on Twitter at @DouginFlorida.