Faculty, staff challenge Regents’ vote

Senate files open records request

Murray State staff and faculty have begun to discuss concerns with the Board of Regents decision to not renew President Randy Dunn’s contract.

STAFF REACTION

Staff Congress President John Young issued a statement March 19 – four days after the controversial vote – addressing the congress’ disappointment with the Board of Regents.

Young said he spoke with more than half of the members of Staff Congress following the conclusion of the Board of Regents meeting on March 15. Each had contacted him with concerns.

The first issue concerned the staff survey – a part of Dunn’s comprehensive evaluation – of 2011, which gave Dunn high approval ratings. Staff Congress also passed a resolution late last year expressing its support of the president.

Young said the staff at Murray State has benefited well from Dunn’s shared governance policy.

The second issue Young’s statement addressed was a general concern with the manner in which the board operated in their voting process.

“While the board is free to act as it sees fit within the statutes under which it is legally required to operate, one is left to wonder why material that had been given to the (ad-hoc contract review) committee and which had been reported in various media outlets, three examples being the Faculty Senate Resolution, the Staff Congress Resolution and the letter from 27 area Public School Superintendents, as well as other materials the committee was to gather were not presented before a vote was taken,” Young wrote.

Young concluded his statement by saying the general feeling was one of disappointment in Dunn’s contract not being extended and further expressed concern regarding the actions taken by the Board of Regents.

Board of Regents Chairman Constantine Curris replied to Young’s letter Monday.

Curris stated in his response that he wanted to acknowledge receiving and reading Young’s statement and hoped the information he provided would help in answering the issues that were raised.

“The Ad-Hoc Contract Committee followed the procedures approved by the board at its Dec. 2012 meeting,” Curris wrote. “The committee did its research and collected important information by which each Regent could form his or her judgment as to whether the president’s contract should be extended.”

In the resolution that formed that ad-hoc committee, however, the members were supposed to use the March 15 meeting to present the statistical information it had collected on Dunn’s performance to the full board. The information was never shared publicly.

Curris said the committee made no recommendation in the draft report.

The draft report first covered Murray State’s progress between 2006-12, which represented Dunn’s tenure at the University.

The data covered three areas of Murray’s future: academic standing, student enrollment and financial health.

Data from Murray State’s sister institutions was analyzed to see how institutions compared.

Curris said he understood Young and other members of Staff Congress were disappointed by the outcome of the vote.

“It was a difficult decision for the board, and not one that any member relished,” Curris wrote. “Nevertheless, I am convinced that each Regent made a conscientious decision based on facts on his or her judgment as to what was in the best interest of the University in the years ahead.”

Curris ended his statement by thanking John Young for all the work he and the Staff Congress do at Murray State.

 

FACULTY REACTION

The Faculty Senate held their own special meeting Tuesday to discuss the issues raised by both the Board of Regent’s vote to not renew President Dunn’s contract and the resigning of their Faculty Regent Jack Rose.

Kevin Binfield, president of the Faculty Senate, opened the meeting by stressing the importance of maintaining and creating a better chain of communication with the Board of Regents and the president.

Binfield said he did not think the Faculty Senate and the Board of Regents had reached a point where communications had broken down, but rather they had never been opened up.

He said within the first 24 hours of learning the board would not be renewing Dunn’s contract he received approximately 36 emails from faculty senators expressing their desire to somehow reverse the board’s decision and if necessary pass a vote of no confidence in the Board of Regents.

Binfield advised the Faculty Senate to not act so hastily and aggressively against the board without first having all the facts.

A vote was called during the meeting concerning if they should request the report of the University’s performance under Dunn which was recently compiled by an ad-hoc committee, upon which the decision to not renew Dunn’s contract was partially based, and which is considered to be open record.

Faculty Senator Ann Beck said the Senate should pay attention to the tone and language used of any letter to the board so as not to alienate themselves from them.

“We need to try and keep our relationship and tone as positive as we can so we can try and build a spirit of cooperation,” she said.

The vote passed in favor of the request which will be sent to the Board of Regents after revisions are made to the letter.

The next order of business addressed was whether to request greater inclusion in the forthcoming search for a new University president and for the Board of Regents, specifically Curris, to share with the Faculty Senate their plans.

Faculty senators discussed how such a request may seem to express their approval of the board’s action concerning Dunn’s contract and their pressing need for representation in the Board of Regents as discussion on these topics may already have begun.

This vote failed to pass by one vote and although Binfield voted against addressing the Board of Regent with these requests, he said he wished to examine the matter again at a later date at which time he would vote in favor.

The Faculty Senate solidified their plans of holding elections for a new Faculty Regent on April 15 and 16, with the deadline for applicants being Tuesday. So far only one applicant has applied, Renee Fister, professor of Science, Engineering and Technology.

Both Staff Congress and Faculty Senate have expressed desires to engage in further conversation with the Board of Regents.

Story by Ben Manhanke and Rebecca Walter, Staff writers.