OUSC brings Florida trip petition to President Hynd

Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC) brought a petition against February’s Board of Trustees retreat and Winter College to OU President George Hynd.

Zack Thomas, OUSC president, and Anders Engnell, OUSC vice president, launched the online petition on June 8. It racked up 1,442 signatures by the Aug. 15 meeting, which was attended by Hynd, Thomas, Engnell and Vice President for Student Affairs Glenn McIntosh.

The petition was created in response to an article published in the Detroit Free Press that said the total cost of the retreat and Winter College was around $155,000. Signers demanded that the university spend less money on trips like this.

While the petition was more heavily focused on the amount of money spent, Thomas was also concerned that the Board held an informal meeting in Bonita Springs, Fla., out of reach for most of the campus community. The meeting was part of the Board retreat, which took place on Feb. 3 and 4.

From Feb. 5-6, the trip continued with Winter College, an event that donors attend to interact with administration and faculty.

OU paid for travel, food and hotel costs for trustees and everyone who attended Winter College. According to the Free Press, more than $2.7 million in “asks” were made of attendees.

Many, including Thomas, were also upset about how the money was spent at Winter College – the Free Press cited travel to and from the airport, $40 dinners and alcohol.

Thomas said Hynd was receptive to the petition and OUSC’s concerns for more transparency. Before the petition was presented, Hynd released this statement, according to OU Communications and Marketing (UCM):

“New leadership in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations undertook a review of engagement activities in preparation of an acceleration of major gift fund raising efforts at OU.  Based on this, our regional engagement in Florida, historically referred to as Winter College, will occur in a new format in 2017.  This format will be more efficient in reaching more donors with fewer staff in more geographic areas.  No retreats are expected to occur connected with these fund raising and engagement events.”

According to a statement released by UCM, Hynd meets with OUSC representatives on a monthly basis.

Thomas said he and Engnell will present the petition to the Board of Trustees. The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 24.