To President David Hopkins and the Wright State University Board of Trustees:
In light of what has been happening at our University, the weekly e-mails we receive from President Hopkins paint a picture that bears little resemblance to reality. The former Provost has been on paid leave for nearly a year. Now we are told there is a major budget crisis. Yet, thus far and in typical fashion, the administration has directed the deans to plan for an 8% budget cut but otherwise has not shared any substantive information.
If the administration had bothered to share financial information in a meaningful way, perhaps the alleged crisis could have been averted. Instead, the administration spent years talking about budgetary transparency and MDA (and our magnificent salt barn!) All the while, apparently none of the extraordinarily well-paid administrators was minding the store and the Board was paying no attention. Year after year, now-departed Vice President Polatajko delivered a dog and pony show in his annual budgetary presentation to the Board, reported that we were spending money on new initiatives, and gave no hint that a budgetary storm was coming. What has been the return, monetary or otherwise, on our new initiatives? Apparently, not enough to offset the supposed financial crisis that has prompted the administration to ask the Deans to submit plans for 8% cuts in their colleges.
Several million dollars have been budgeted on a branding campaign. The administration disseminated a new logo, realized it looked like the logo for a local recycling company, and withdrew it. Of course, branding is supposed to be about more than just a logo. But have there been any tangible returns on our investment? We are confident that Wright State’s reputation is at a long-time low, branding campaign notwithstanding.
Millions have been spent on a consultant, and that in turn prompted the Ohio Speaker of the House — one of our alumni no less — to announce publicly that House members should use caution when dealing with Wright State. Clearly there were negative returns for that expenditure.
Millions are spent subsidizing intercollegiate athletics, when there is no evidence that students come to Wright State for athletics. In fact, in a recent survey, playing sports was the least significant reported factor in recruitment of students. Of course, the real test would be to ask our students whether they would rather have their tuition decreased by $500 a year or keep intercollegiate athletics. Meanwhile, the administration routinely allows intercollegiate athletics to overrun its already swollen budget. If that is not bad enough, a million dollars was spent building a football field so that a few male students would have a fancy venue for their games when 58% of our students are female. To top it off, the Athletic Director was allowed to fire the men’s basketball coach, who had two years left on his contract. So now we will be paying someone else for two years for doing absolutely nothing!
Millions have been spent on stipends, which is not surprising since WSU has over thirty individuals whose title includes president or provost (e.g., vice president, associate provost) and over forty whose title includes dean, many receiving stipends in addition to their base salaries. Why do we need so many administrators, and why do many of these individuals receive stipends when they are already among the highest paid employees at the University?
The administration and the Board have taken on a multimillion dollar liability to hold a Presidential debate at Wright State. If the massive funding needed does not materialize, how many employees will have to be furloughed? How many students won’t be able to take the classes they need to graduate?
Meanwhile, faculty and students — the heart of the University — suffer the consequences for these gross failures of leadership. Even more troubling than the firing of the basketball coach, the former Provost sits at home collecting a very substantial salary, and we still don’t know whether the reasons for his suspension are only apparent misdeeds, or will actually be subject to prosecution as federal felonies, or something in between. All the while we raise tuition, and our students go deeper and deeper into debt. We admit students who we know have virtually no chance of academic success but take their money anyway, while offering almost no need-based scholarships. Our most distinguished faculty are awarded modest raises and ordered to stop printing handouts that might help those students.
It is time to come clean with the University community before we are forced to redesign our logo again to show the Wright Flyer crashing into the ground.
Very soon, you will receive recommendations from us regarding cuts in expenditures that can be made without imperiling the academic core of the University.
But in the meantime, we have questions.
Who is responsible for the alleged financial crisis, and will anyone be held accountable? What is its real magnitude? What are its causes? Is the alleged shortfall due to overly optimistic estimates of revenue, or is it simply the result of out of control expenses?
Even if the reported financial problems are due in part to continuing reductions in state support, why have the problems been allowed to accumulate to the point where planning for an 8% reduction in the college budgets is suddenly necessary?
How much has Wright State spent investigating the H-1B visa scandal? The investigation by the administration has dragged on for more than a year while the University’s reputation has been dragged through the mud.
Why is Wright State one of only two state universities whose audits for 2015 have yet to be posted on the Ohio Auditor’s website?
Where are the Trustees? Has the Board exercised its fiduciary responsibility at all? How many Board members have benefited from the issuance of H1-B visas or nepotism?
What is going on at WSRI? We keep seeing statements about the millions in research dollars that WSRI and our consultants are bringing into the University, and yet our Carnegie ranking has dropped and each year the University continues to provide millions of dollars to subsidize WSRI.
And to repeat questions we raised above: What returns have we realized from our new initiatives? From the branding campaign? From our expenditures on consultants? From millions poured into intercollegiate athletics? And why does WSU have so many administrators, and of them why do so many receive stipends in addition to their salaries?
The faculty demand transparency and accountability, now.
On Behalf of the AAUP-WSU Executive Committee
April 8, 2016
To all Bargaining Unit Faculty:
We appreciate the Faculty Senate asking for faculty input into the budget review. Without the creativity and insight of our members, the Administration will likely take the easy way out and resort simply to cutting targets of opportunity to solve the crisis it created.
Unfortunately, the Administration has not provided any firm numbers about the magnitude of the shortfall, which would assist the faculty in providing meaningful input. At the meeting I attended on Wednesday, the Administration has attributed the shortfall to cumulative historical causes, but it has not acknowledged how administrative decision-making has significantly contributed to the deficit. Despite the apparent urgency of the current situation, the Administration has not provided us with a transparent accounting of actual revenues and expenses.
Pursuant to the CBA, the AAUP-WSU will be submitting information requests to ascertain the true magnitude of the problem. We need the Administration to explain how its misplaced priorities landed us in this mess.
The AAUP-WSU remains committed to ensuring that there are no cuts to instruction or faculty scholarship. We call on all members to assist us in protecting our core mission of transforming the lives of our students and the communities we serve.
Thank you for your continued support.
[Marty Kich, President, AAUP-WSU]
April 4, 2016
This past week, the president and the provost met with the deans to present their budget-remediation plan. The key element of the plan seems to be that, as an “exercise,” each college will be asked to identify mechanisms for cutting its budget by up to 8%. I say “seems to be” because the plan has not yet been communicated to the faculty leadership but instead to faculty in several colleges by their deans.
The president and the provost are not scheduled to meet with the faculty leadership until this coming Wednesday, April 6. Since the colleges’ plans, we understand, are due by April 11, this short timeline means at least one of three things will occur: (1) faculty will be participating in reviews of the college budgets before the faculty leadership has the opportunity to take any position on the proposed budget-remediation plan, thereby preempting any meaningfully organized shared governance; (2) if faculty manage to object in any organized way to elements of the proposed plan, meaningful shared governance will still be preempted by the short timeline because we may have time to articulate our objections but not time to provide any further input; or (3) if there is no organized opposition to this plan, faculty acquiescence to it will be implied.
Since these budget issues cannot have come as a sudden surprise to anyone charged with managing the university, we must assume that the short timeline is intended to preempt meaningful input from faculty–to preempt meaningful shared governance.
Moreover, we do not believe that the instructional side of the university ledger is primarily or even largely responsible for the deficits that the university is facing. And we do not accept that the instructional side of the ledger is the only place in which meaningful savings can be realized. We believe, instead, that there are areas other than instruction in which substantial cuts can be made that are large enough to mitigate significantly, if not eliminate, any reductions on the instructional side.
If the university is facing a substantial shortfall, especially one that is likely to persist for any extended period, it is critical that the core mission and the main revenue source of the institution be preserved, even if it is done at the expense of non-instructional initiatives and special interests.
I will be prepared to make some specific recommendations to the administration this Wednesday and then to share them with all of you immediately afterwards. But those initial recommendations will certainly be followed by others as we review the university’s audited financial statements and will therefore be just the beginning of our efforts to ensure that our institutional priorities are not misplaced in the process of addressing the budget issues.
Therefore, we strongly suggest not only that faculty refuse to participate in budget-review “exercises” until the faculty leadership has actually been presented with the plan and has had sufficient time to formulate a response but also that you voice very strenuous opposition to what is a very arbitrarily short timeline for the colleges to submit the results of their budget-review “exercises.” To facilitate your making your voices heard, please visit forums on our chapter’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
[Marty Kich, President, AAUP-WSU]