By Bill Robinson
Eastern Kentucky University “has not been managed efficiently for many years” and needs “a change agent” as its next president.
Harry Moberly, a former state representative and university administrator, expressed that view Monday night as representatives of the firm contracted by the EKU regents to assist it in selecting a new president conducted a community forum.
Moberly served in the legislature for 31 years and was Eastern’s executive vice president for the last three years of his employment with the university.
The president who follows Dr. Doug Whitlock when his retirement takes effect July 31 will find an institution with many assets and “unlimited potential” but one that also ranks “very low” in all performance indicators tracked by the Kentucky Council on Post-secondary Education, Moberly said.
Recruitment and retention of students, along with their graduation rates, are among those indicators.
Eastern’s enrollment is “way down” compared to Kentucky’s other state institutions, Moberly said, “because we have not recruited properly.”
Lack of enrollment growth has led to less tuition income, which has compounded the fall in state aid to the university that others who spoke before Moberly said would be a challenge for the next president.
Just prior to Moberly’s remarks, Jason Marion, an assistant professor in the environmental health sciences department, said the university should be prepared to pay the next president a large salary but also impose a high level of accountability.
Moberly said the regents should write accountability requirements based on the state higher education council’s into the new president’s contract. If goals are not met, then the president should leave, he said.
Responding to the remarks of more than one speaker about the decline in state aid, Moberly said Eastern had not been a good steward of the state funds it has received, based as on its performance indicators.
“We do not have strategic budgeting here that holds anybody accountable for any results,” he said, glancing at board of regents members Malcom Frisbee and Steven Fulkerson and addressing them by their first names.
Frisbee, a biology professor, is the board’s faculty representative, while Fulkerson represents non-teaching staff.
The next president is going to find a university with silo-based budgeting instead of strategic budgeting, Moberly said. That means each university unit does its own budgeting and does not have to coordinate the others as they should, he explained.
“That has gone on for years, and nobody on the board, including these two gentlemen here,” Moberly said, again looking at Frisbee and Fulkerson, and others on the board have not “done a thing about it.”
The university has not shifted faculty positions away departments that don’t need them to others that do, he said, “because we want everybody to be happy and don’t want to make anybody mad.
Some of the reforms he put in place while he served as EKU’s executive vice president “disappeared as soon as I left,” Moberly said.
About 25 people attended the forum.
Some speakers noted the absence of elected local officials, which one said was a symptom of what he called a poor town-and-gown relationship that both the next president and local leaders needed to address.
Mendi Goble, executive director of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, was present, but no elected officials appeared to be in attendance.
In addition to Moberly, former state senator Ed Worley, a member of the regents-appointed search committee, also attended.
The two search-firm representatives also conducted open meetings on campus Tuesday.
Bill Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 624-6690.