A full-page advertisement critical of the leadership of Wichita State University, from “Advocates for Integrity, Transparency and Accountability,” appearing in the Wichita Eagle, Sunday June 3, 2018. For the advertisement as it appeared in the newspaper, click here.
This is part of a continuing series of advertisements debating the course of Wichita State University. For previous ads, see:
PAID POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT
WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY, IT’S TIME TO LIFT THE SHADE
A growing number of alumni, faculty, staff and citizens are concerned about decisions being made at Wichita State University. As higher education becomes more complex, transparency, shared governance and civility are just that much more important. The following are some of the concerns that have been gathered from a much longer list:
- When the WSU Administration sold the idea of the YMCA Wellness Center on the Innovation Campus to the Student Government Association, did they explain how many years the student annual commitment of $5 million would apply? Students are going to be paying the full operational costs of the building and likely will have contributed $20 million before the facility is even completed. A 20-year commitment, as an example, would cost students $100 million, 40-years, $200 million. Should student fees be expected to fund Innovation Campus projects of this magnitude? Is there an agreement in place? Where is it? If it exists, who signed it? Can it be adjusted?
When Fairmount Towers, an old but serviceable low-cost residence hall was closed to protect investors in The Flats (a private luxury apartment building on the Innovation Campus that on its own had produced fewer than 50 contracts) four annual bond payments of $875,000 each were left outstanding, totaling $3,500,000. This debt service will have to be covered. What is the source of the payments, now that the student housing fees that previously serviced the debt have been redirected to The Flats? If the debt has been covered, from which pocket did that come from?
The University president has said he is no longer worried about headcount enrollment because “it doesn’t mean much anymore”. Even so, during his tenure, the University has invested a minimum of three million dollars in a multi-year agreement with the Royall and Company enrollment program (headquartered in Richmond, Virginia) for that very purpose, producing little if any discernible results. What is the payment source for this investment?
President Bardo lately has seemed dismissive of the role of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He asked whether anyone would wish the University would be an “elite” liberal arts college, apparently failing to recognize that Liberal Arts and Sciences has provided the foundation for every educated student who has attended since 1895. When did excellence in this college cease to be less important than excellence on the Innovation Campus or elsewhere on the campus? Faculty and staff in Liberal Arts and Sciences feel they have borne the the brunt of budget cuts when state funding has declined, and there has been no noticeable administrative effort to restore academic positions. Is this perception accurate? If so, how can it be justified? The Innovation Campus offers only a small fragment of the education occurring at Wichita State.
Prior administrations utilized the majority of the City of Wichita/Sedgwick County mill levy tax appropriation allocated to WSU for student scholarships. In 2013, 57% of that allocation went toward student support and 32.6% to capital improvements ($800,000 to NIAR and $1.6 million to debt service). The budget for 2018 indicates the elimination of debt service obligations, resulting in $1.6 million in available funds that could have been restored to its original purpose of funding scholarships. Instead, allocations for WSU Innovation Campus increased from $513,036 in 2017 to $2,317,061 for 2018, an increase of 351%. The dollar amount for student support remained the same. Why did this administration choose not to return the mill levy funding back to its original purpose by increasing scholarship funding for students in Sedgwick County?
In 2016, an “Ideas Lab” to be housed in Henrion Hall was announced by the College of Fine Arts and enthusiastically supported by the central administration and WSU Foundation. It was intended to be a collaborative approach for teaching creative industries, using innovative methods and materials. Faculty were very excited about the possibilities, noting there was nothing like it in this region of the country. Representatives from the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation objected because in their view it was too similar to “GoCreate”, a Koch gift located elsewhere on the campus. As a result, even after the earlier public endorsement of the University, the project was canceled. How is putting such control in the hands of Koch good for WSU?
The use of corporate entities, Wichita State University Innovation Alliance and Wichita State Innovation Alliance Investment, Inc., to manage the Innovation Campus obscures the risks undertaken by WSU by investing in commercial entities and letting sub-leases that can create obligations in the form of debt, liability or lost opportunities for decades. The resources committed to these activities belong to WSU. Leases and sub-leases related to these resources should be subject to open records laws. Why are these documents being kept from public scrutiny? Who benefits from this arrangement? Have we built alliances with persons and entities who do not share our founding principles?
Why have conflict of interest issues among executives and representatives of corporations with whom WSU has entered into contracts gone undisclosed until discovered and reported from outside sources? (e.g. According to the Management Review for Wichita State University report to the Kansas Board of Regents, “As Dr. John Tomblin has many roles with the University, WSIA, WSIAIC, The National Institute of Aviation Research (“NIAR”), and personally owned entities, there is an increased risk for conflicts of interest with respect to time, compensation and fiduciary duty. For example, Dr. Tomblin and his wife own 29.33% of Aero Point Technologies, LLC (“Aero Point”). The University owns the rights and intends to exclusively license Aero Point’s technology.” Prior to this finding by BKD, the Conflict of Interest Policy then in place only required Dr. Tomblin to disclose the conflict if his ownership exceeded 35%. What was the rationale for choosing 35% as the threshold for disclosing a conflict of interest? Has a new, more robust and responsible conflict of interest policy been issued?
There is a climate of fear and retribution on campus. The administration has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle personnel issues when staff and faculty members were forced to leave. Settlement was made subject to the signing of a non-disclosure agreement. What gave rise to this demoralizing environment and what is being done to correct it?
This ad was not written by enemies of Wichita State University, but by people who care.
This ad was paid for by
Advocates for Integrity, Transparency and Accountability.
Anne Woods – Treasurer | P.O. Box 8714 | Wichita, KS 67208 | 316-688-1889
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