I was appointed to the Murray State?University Board of Regents in 2004 and served for six years. Dr. Randy Dunn was selected as president of Murray State in 2006 during my time of service.
Several board members voted against Dunn as president of Murray State, and I was one of them. I believed that the best interest of Murray State was not being considered and that our board was lacking in wisdom and transparency. He was certainly not the choice of the faculty, and there were unconventional means used by some members of the board during the selection process. I met with Dunn after his arrival, and we discussed integrity and character. I promised my support if I believed he was doing what was in the best interest of Murray State.
Immediately after my first Board of Regents meeting, I realized with shock and disappointment that the board I was a member of, along with a previous administration, was motivated by politics, personal vendettas and hidden agendas. My questions were not acceptable. I was told by three different board members that I could be “ostracized by this board,” if I continued to ask questions. I was ashamed of this way of doing business and wanted our new president to lead by example.
I was honored to represent fellow Kentucky taxpayers, and felt responsible to them to use my time and ability to move Murray State forward. President Dunn assured me that he intended to earn the respect of the Murray State community. We did not always agree, but I believe Dunn has always had the best interest of Murray State in the forefront, not himself or any faction. He has earned the respect from the University community, as evidenced by public support for him during these past weeks.
Because of recent actions, it is clear that this board is slipping back into old ways of conducting business. Personal agendas have no place in a state-supported institution. Our students, faculty and staff deserve better. The nonrenewal of Dunn’s contract has led me to review how Murray State has fared under the leadership of Dunn. I learned from my father many years ago to “check the record.” I have checked Dunn’s record, and it is excellent.
During Dunn’s presidency, the enrollment decline has been reversed, yielding student growth of 8.1 percent over the last four years. We are at our all time highest enrollment at 10,832 students. Online enrollment increased 108.8 percent between fall 2007 and the fall 2012 semesters.
Murray State boasts the second highest graduation rate for public universities in the Commonwealth, second only to the University of Kentucky.
Murray State has experienced record fundraising. The Hold Thy Banner High-Campaign for the Students of Murray State University exceeded the goal of $60 million within the public three-year timeframe, raising in excess of $71 million. Almost half of these dollars have been committed to student scholarships. Murray State also received the largest naming gift in its history of $3 million for the CFSB Center.
Murray State has been ranked 22 consecutive years by US?News and World Report as a top tier university in academic quality.
Dunn has shown strong commitment to our geographical region as evidenced by a letter of support written in February 2013 by 27 area public school superintendents in support of his presidency. Murray State’s Regional Outreach Program, initiated in 2008, has provided grants to organizations and individuals broadly enriching educational outcomes to students in the west Kentucky region. Programs include Junior Achievement, Science Guy, Opera in the Schools, Construction Career Day and Shakespeare in the Schools. In addition, the Racer Academy provides high school students dual enrollment/dual-credit opportunities across our region and state.
Dunn has led Murray State to join with Paducah leadership to provide a regional campus that not only better serves students in the McCracken County area, but addresses critical educational needs which have long been identified.
Murray State was the first public institution in the world to be recognized as a Safe Community by the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Community Safety, in December 2012.
Murray State has been selected for three years as a Great College to Work For by The Chronicle of Higher Education, including designation for “Confidence in Senior Leadership,” in the second year listing (2011).
The President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion developed Murray State’s Diversity Plan in response to policy changes at the state level. The University’s Affirmative Action Plan was revised under President Dunn’s leadership for the first time in more than 20 years.
These are a few of the significant accomplishments that have transpired at Murray State under the leadership of Dunn. These listed accomplishments have happened not only because we have an intelligent president with vision and integrity.
They have occurred in large part because of Dunn’s shared governance policy. The success of Dunn’s leadership style has been evidenced by the support of the Faculty Senate and Staff Congress. During my time on the board, it was my belief (and still is) that our faculty and staff are the foundation of our institution. Dr. Dunn’s leadership has created an environment that is conducive for the University community to work together to meet the needs of all students.
The Staff Congress, the elected-governing body of the staff, wrote a letter of support and recommendation for Dunn 11 months into his presidency in 2007. In 2012, another resolution was passed expressing its support of the president and recognizing his support of the staff. The Staff Congress voted in March 2013 to issue a proclamation supporting the extension of Dr. Dunn’s contract.
A unanimously approved resolution was submitted to the Board of Regents in November 2012 from the Murray State Faculty Senate. It stated, “The Faculty Senate has confidence in Dunn’s leadership; and therefore be it resolved that the Faculty Senate respectfully requests the board to clarify Dunn’s future employment status with the University.” There was an additional resolution passed March 5, 2013, thanking Dunn for involving faculty in the successful budget review, which identified nearly $6 million in savings.
I want to thank faculty and staff members for speaking against what they believe to be an injustice to Murray State and its students. They are aware that the words they write and speak could have financial or other repercussions for them in years to come. I thank and respect the four board members who voted to renew the contract of a president with an outstanding record.
Letter from Vickie Travis, non-student from Murray, Ky.