Wright State Trustees: unsafe at any speed
Usually, when a Board of Trustees misplaces over $130M, gets caught in a federal investigation of wrong doing over running an illegal trade in scientist with H1B visas (where multiple trustees or their companies were benefiting) and they still can’t explain after a $300K audit where the money went, they would get a pink slip. But, for some reason our lame duck governor John Kasich has no interest in fixing the mess he made picking this board.
We’ll start out with the number one problem, enrollment has dropped 10% this fall. Normally, when a company has a big drop in sales, the first thing you look into is why, and how to fix it. The why is pretty easy: Donald Trump shut down their pipeline of international students which has been keeping the university fat and happy (especially since they were working their indentured H1B servitude/modern day tech slavery operation on the side) and the second part comes from the bad press and inevitable looming strike. The new president and the inept board are still claiming a strike won’t happen, yet, the AAUP is dead set on it.
Let me ask you a simple question? Would you buy a ticket to the Broadway show Hamilton at full price, with the knowledge that there is a 50-50 chance that you will have to leave the show half-way through, and not know when you will be able to finish? Of course not, yet this is what they are asking of students.
The failure of the President and the Board to clear contract negotiations over the summer is grounds for termination. It’s inept. It’s risking everything. And what are we fighting over? Two things: Health care and tenure.
Let’s start with tenure. It isn’t going away, and this board isn’t in a position of strength to force this question at all. They should be wanting to grant tenure like the way they want to grant certificates, associates degrees and every other hare brained scheme they have to get students, because, once a faculty member has tenure, the odds of them leaving is a lot less. And leaving is something a lot of them are considering after the last 5 years of incompetence. Turnover is one of the clearest indicators of a shitty work environment and bad management. The flow of talent out of Wright State should be the number two concern after marketing. And maybe it should actually be number one, because without great teachers, what the hell are they selling out there? So, tenure is not something to be arguing about.
If you want a summary of what this board is up against, you don’t have any farther to go than a James Bond villain, Dr. No. Actually, this Dr. No is a she, with an Irish accent, and you probably don’t want to play her in Jeopardy on Colonial American history.
This was at the Trustee’s meeting on Oct. 18, 2018 when she showed up along with Marvel villain, Dr. Doom, (sorry, I can’t resist- Dr. Travis Doom- head of the faculty senate and a well loved computer science professor), and told the board that they don’t have any super powers.
Of course, the fact that this board was meeting in one of their prime boondoggles, the former HQ of Wright Patt Credit Union, a building the board bought through an illegally crafted shell corporation, “Double Bowler” to benefit both board of Trustees President Doug Fecher, and also Wright State benefactor Bob Mills, who Fecher paid back by buying the old CSC building that was an anchor on Mills bottom line. That transaction alone should have put some folks in prison, but, this was the age of incompetence in Ohio-
where basketball coaches got to keep their jobs because their star player liked them, and football coaches got to have horrible records and keep their jobs ( dang, Ty Lue got fired and then Hue Jackson, all this last weekend, maybe somethings going to change at Wright State too?).
This board has already shown what it thinks is important. D-1 Basketball, where no students go to games, and the university doubled the pay of the coach, despite being in a fiscal disaster, and STEM, certificates, and associates degrees… because, well, that’s really not our job, but, we’re too stupid to do our job, so look, squirrel!
What’s even better about meeting in the WPCU HQ- is that the board sits, quite literally, in the dark, hence the horrible video. It’s fitting. They are in the dark. The room was used for some kind of master planning exercise. One of those “groupthink” our way to mediocrity favored by Daytonians where it takes a herd to be heard. Around the room, on the managers offices, with their windows covered with post-its, are various themes for figuring out the Wright way out of the mess.
Here are some of the “war room” names:
- Alumni and Advancement
- Community Partnerships
- Student Life
- Imagination and Entrepreneurship
There are more- but, never is there a room with “Marketing.” Imagine that.
Now, since the last post, there have been two meetings of the mindless wonders called Trustees. First was the Oct. 18th meeting, where the faculty showed up in force. The outcome of that according to the Dayton Daily news- was that they sold two buildings for $2.3M.
One was the Kettering Center- a fiasco of a building downtown that WSU hasn’t been able to figure out what to do with for the last dozen years. It’s right across from Riverscape, and next to the Engineers center and ugly as sin. It’s also full of asbestos- making renovation and repurposing expensive. That building was sold for a million to KC Dayton Partners, LLC- which could be anyone. It’s not listed as an LLC in Ohio at the Secretary of States office.
The other building they sold, at a fire sale price to a real estate investment group out of Solon, a suburb of Cleveland, was part of the “Research Park” in Kettering that took perfectly good farmland and turned it into an oasis of tax abatement in Kettering. Reynolds and Reynolds abandoned downtown Dayton to move their campus there, Kodak/Scitex built a plant, and Community Blood Center and Tissue Services sank a ton of money out there too. Woolpert, a government contractor, helped create this mecca, yet, moved out of Dayton and directly across the street from this “oasis” so they could be in Beavercreek where there is no income tax. Smart. This was supposed to be the silicon valley of Dayton, with partners of the University of Dayton, Wright State and… well, Kettering, who is now buying back the land, because this oasis never really reached its potential. This was the STEM incubator, and was supposed to help put Wright State on the map. Instead, we’re on the map for asking to host a presidential debate then backing out. One other holding out by Research Park connected to Wright State is the STEM charter school- which has been another project that has benefited WSU donor Bob Mills. It’s currently adding an expansion- using his “Synergy Building Systems” company once again as the general contractor.
And, while the building has been on the tax rolls listed between $4M and $3M – they sold it for $1.3M. One has to wonder how this price came about, how potential bidders were notified, etc. Selling things at 70% off isn’t that hard. 54,612 sq feet of offices- 3 acres of land, built in 1985, sounds like a great deal for someone but not Wright State. Sounds like a much better deal than what “Double Bowler” paid for the building they were holding the meeting in which went for somewhere north of $4M for 63,849 square feet. But, then again, the board president wasn’t making money off this deal (that we know of). The big difference is that the Research Park building actually had tenants…
They heard from the Mission Vision twins again, but, I stepped out to hear and film the faculty press conference. I’ll have to review it and get back to you on their progress. It’s highly doubtful that this lipstick on the pig will do anything to bring students back or instill faith upon the heathen faculty. A much quicker way to change perception would be to clean sweep the board except for the student trustees and new Trustee Bruce Langos. Yes, that’s me who you hear calling for Fecher and Bridges to resign. I think the audience was in too much of a state of shock to react- but a faculty speaker came up to me later and thanked me for it.
Fast forward to the finance committee meeting in the same empty building, still in the dark, last Friday. Fecher sat in, even though he’s not a finance committee member. This time, a much smaller audience, as the committee sits and listens to staff tell them that they are now working on their first 3 year plan. Nevermind that this board never asked for a three year plan before- or noticed the money flying out the door over five years. All is great and grand, as long as the faculty don’t strike and force yet another 10% to not enroll in the Winter- effectively blowing the whole thing out of the water.
Again- no mention of marketing, other than approving spending $53,508 with Ruffalo Noel Levitz LLC to try to entice high school students to enroll, and wasting $76,235 with The Ohlmann Group of Dayton for “professional services to obtain traditional media space (print, broadcast, outdoor, direct mail), as well as digital media e.g. email, online social (Facebook, Twitter) and other digital media advertising services.” Remember- no marketing plan, yet- willing to spend money, hmmm. Readers of this blog will also recognize the Ohlmann Group as the agency of record for one of the other failure school boards- Dayton Public. And, wouldn’t you know it- they are also the agency of Board President Doug Fecher’s company, Wright Patt Credit Union. You should be seeing a pattern- or maybe you need a refresher?
There was a lot of discussion over the cost of health care, with Wright State being self-insured, but working through Anthem. The real question true “disrupters” would be asking is why doesn’t WSU turn the WPCU offices into a mini-public hospital for the school of medicine and compete directly with the duopoly of Kettering Health and Premier Health by offering cut rate, direct to consumer pricing care by the people who teach the rest of them how to deliver health care? By the time you take the cost of paying Anthem to be the middle man, and do all the negotiation of bullshit rates with the duopoly- you could be providing true community service and fixing health care in “Raider Country.” And, stop supplying cut rate interns to the people who are screwing you and all of us too.
But, we don’t have true disrupters or deep thinkers on the board. We have idiots. Because for the last half hour they were in a tizzy over online learning. They wanted more, higher quality, and kept talking like they could compete online- where they are a click away from Stanford, MIT, Harvard and others- and they can barely keep the doors open at Wright State.
As Tom Peters said in “In Search of Excellence” – “stick to the knitting” and Wright State’s knitting is basic degrees for white kids in a nine county or so area- where EVERYONE with a high school diploma gets in. If you’ve forgotten this, go back and read “The Fall of Wright State” and come back here.
You’ll never compete with online education with the overhead of that campus weighing you down. There are basic, fundamental strengths that Wright State does have, or could exploit- but that would require people with a bit more marketing brainpower than these fools seem to be able to access. Hint- the accessible/disability services was one of your core strengths- get back to it. Second hint: The military ed part- you’re on the right track- but, your execution sucks. The rest, you’ll have to pay me, but, the idea of being an innovator in shaking up health care is a powerful one, especially since it’s the number one issue on voters minds in the upcoming midterms. Get busy on this- and forget about screwing your faculty- it won’t work. They are smarter than you- and they have the likes of Dr. No and Dr. Doom, and you’ve got Doug Feckless. I mean, Fecher.
And, stop meeting in the dark. It’s embarrassing.
For those of you who are students of consumer safety history- “Unsafe at any speed” was the book that pushed Ralph Nader to the forefront of automotive safety. What we have here is the Trustees that crashed the university known as Wright State from a high flying success into the ground. Until they’ve been removed- Wright State will continue to be at risk.
Sometimes you have to take a sick University out back and shoot it.