Are you enjoying the summer of mosquitoes, Donald Trump and chaos on the University of Akron campus?
Thought so. There are, however, two rays of hope. The mosquitoes will move out with the season. And the public will tire of Trump’s hysterical comedy routine.
Unfortunately, the UA chaos is another matter that could become the face of its new polytechnic brand around the land..
The workout on the school’s budget deficit could hardly have been handled in a more ham-handed manner and raises serious questions about the competence of the school’s president (Toledo was the last stop in his checkered career). And what about the passive engagement of the Board of Trustees in dealing with budgets and other University matters.
Nothing demonstrates this dismal lack of awareness than the original plan to tack on $50 per credit hour for higher-end courses. The idea raised a helluva stink on the campus as a disguised tuition increase and was withdrawn with the word from the administration that it had discovered a $4 million increase in its money from the state. Did it take weeks to “discover” it? Or had the administration merely found a convenient way to calm the outrage? If so, more competent budgetary watchdogs are desperately needed.
As for the $60 million debt. The red ink didn’t start flowing yesterday. Former Akron Mayor Roy Ray recalls that as UA’s vice president of finance (2002-2007) he made a thorough examination of the debt and raised red flags to the administration.
He advised then-President Luis Proenza that the situation was worrisome and should be given priority before building a new football stadium. (He was later eased out of his job) .
“They didn’t want to hear it ,” Ray says today. He says today’s reported debt could be on the conservative side and may be as high as $80 million.
But as the dust settles, isn’t it fair to ask about the Board’s involvement in heading off – disaster? Trustees are political appointees, often with no more than incidental academic acumen, who are periodically on the campus in joyful tail-wagging silence. They prefer the title without the attention to their academic obligation. Faculty and students are abstract business metrics.
Much of the power resides in the president that the trustees hire, who then go back to their day jobs. Of the many boards that I’ve witnessed over the years, the current one is one of the weakest, avoiding the slightest discontent with the CEO. If it were not, the school wouldn’t be in such a mess.
As former Judge and UA board member Jane Bond told me, Proenza fed the board with feel-good stuff – a form of “soma”, the Brave New World’s happy pill – and simply went along with it. But look how that has taken down the institution and integral part of the community after it ratified the destruction of the soul of E.J. Thomas Hall for the Performing Arts. Will the name be changed to E.J. Thomas Hall for the Performing Techies? Another field house for the football team? I tried to get some trustee feedback, but my calls weren’t returned.
Pop Quiz: When did university presidents, for better or worse, become Gods?
Second question: When will the Beacon Journal’s editorial writers finally acknowledge that a gravely mishandled situation is unfolding on a stretch of land within walking distance of the paper’s offices?