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Don’t let pandemic disguise mismanagement

Medaille College is a small, liberal arts college in Buffalo, NY. Last month, Medaille’s faculty assembly condemned the Board’s decision to allow the president to suspend board policies regarding faculty employment, governance, and academic oversight for six months. Faculty members say the president asked for the suspension to disguise mismanagement.

According to the faculty, president Kenneth Macur used the COVID-19 pandemic to invoke an “act of God” clause in their contract. Medaille’s 79 faculty members fear that he will eliminate faculty positions and cut programs arbitrarily.

According to the faculty, Medaille is facing a multi-million-dollar budget deficit. The deficit arose from Macur’s mismanagement of the college – not from the pandemic. The faculty believe that Macur will use the opportunity to fire faculty members and cut programs to make up the budget shortfall.

The Medaille faculty make a good point. COVID-19 will certainly impact educational institutions negatively. But mismanagement is a very distinct problem from COVID-19. The pandemic may provide opportunities to cut budgets, eliminate programs and fire employees, but those moves will not correct mismanagement and chronic overspending. They will merely disguise them.

Institutions must react to the financial realities of COVID-19. But trustees must not attribute the effects of mismanagement to the pandemic. Over time, bad management will do far more damage to an institution than the pandemic will. The WCC Board must also remember that the public does not elect trustees to dispense advice. The public expects trustees to actively engage in the oversight of our communal investment. After all, elected trustees are the taxpayers’ last line of defense against mismanagement.

Photo Credit: Tim Ereneta , via Flickr