I really had not given this latest bit of bad press for Ohio University much thought, until I came across an editorial in my local newspaper that went a little deeper into the situation that raised a little bit more of concern on my part for more than a few reasons.
For starters, I have a son that is a freshman at Ohio University, and he is having a wonderful experience, and my wife and I could not be more proud of him, his accomplishments or everything that the university has been to him at this young point in his college experience. So, it stands to reason that our worry is that at some point this latest incident on or around campus will become a distraction for him. Honestly though, that is not my real concern here as I am so impressed with his focus, but nonetheless it is in the back of my mind as the this story develops.
Looking past the personal concern, I also found it interesting that the Ohio University sought to detract away from some of the substance to this situation by offering up the reasoning that Ohio U. was the eight university in the Mid-American Conference to cut sports over the last eight years.
Now, on the surface, the dropping of four sports programs, women’s lacrosse, mens swimming and both mens indoor and outdoor track teams seems to be nothing more than a simple budget cutting reality move that all universities face at one time or another. Quite frankly, this probably wouldn’t even be an issue if Ohio U. had not spent the batter part of the last year or so defending itself against issues involving misconduct of football players, allegations of plagiarism and highly controversial finger pointing issue of computer systems that were somewhat lacking the security measure necessary to protect sensitive information.
As I said though, the editorial in my local paper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, from February 6th raised some additional bullet points that looked past the convenient and easy excuse the university had offered to explain the cuts. My goal is restate, and then comment on some of these items after having looked into them a bit further.
Lets start with the faculty criticisms of President Roderick McDavis. Last June, these harsh assessments of president McDavis led to a “no confidence” result, which alarmingly, and without any reason I could find, led to a raise in pay, but no bonus to be achieved. I guess that part was the punishment, otherwise this just doesn’t make any sense at all. I mean, most working environments I know of don’t in essence reward poor performance. Trustee Greg Browning did to his credit publicly state that McDavis needed to work on communication skills. I at some point would like to find detail on this statement and the thought behind it, because the ability of an university president to communicate vision, goals and direction to not only students, but supporters of their institution is vital to its financial well being. Case and point, my wife and I are beginning to be solicited by various fund raising groups already and are a bit leery about contributing to any of them without knowing for certain funds would be managed and allocated properly. This certainly is not a statement against any of the volunteers inside or out of the university who donate their valuable time to raise needed funds, but more of a concern about the overall leadership within the university itself.
A genuine opportunity was missed here to have all interested parties become “part of the solution, and not be part of the problem.” From the University’s perspective the opportunity was to open honest lines of communication and demonstrate that the opinions of those involved with university thoughts and ideas really do matter. I mean is it so hard to believe that someone besides the leadership of the university may have an idea other that the cutting of programs that would address the departments deficit?
From alumni, student, parent and supporter’s standpoint, just another reason to buy into, believe in or sadly trust the leadership of the university. The discussions about this will not be happening where they should, in public forums where everyone feels the satisfaction of being heard and respected for their opinions.
What can be done, well I wish I could say from I have found I have the answer, but there is harsh reality to consider here as well, sometimes budgets face tough decisions, and I honestly can’t say if this was the best solution to this problem. I do know that budget issues are a gradual process so the suggestion that I would make to the leadership at Ohio University would be this. If this particular decision must stand as is, then begin the process of establishing a “board of review” of these types of financial decisions that would include qualified alumni, parents, and even current students that could review all information and offer perhaps an alternative to a painful cut. I have always been a believer that sometimes those closest to a situation need to take that step back, and let a fresh pair of eyes have a look see at a problem just for new perspective if nothing else.
As I said at the top of this commentary, my wife and I are proud OU parents, but at this point, the pride is solely is with our son and his start on his own, how the university regains our commitment is a different story we will be keeping an eye on.