BOT meeting addresses rumors and approves negotiations

“I for one am convinced that Oakland is headed in the right direction,” said Jacqueline Long, chair of Oakland University’s board of trustees.

Long opened Monday’s meeting by addressing unidentified “rumors” and allowing board members to continue the discussion.

No one offered an explanation of what the “rumors” were, but board members took turns defending the board’s role and President Gary Russi’s performance.

Trustee Richard Flynn said he “didn’t take this position to be a yes person,” adding that the board “encourages communication and collaboration.”

Trustee Monica Emerson said she was proud to be on a board that “doesn’t just go along to get along,” adding that Russi is “accessible, ready to listen and have his ideas challenged” and that people have the right to disagree with the board, but not diminish it.

Ann Nicholson, who’s been a trustee for 15 years, said that “it hasn’t been total perfection,” but “we’re very fortunate to have a president that believes in planning.”

“It seems we may argue and disagree a lot,” said trustee Dennis Pawley, “but that type of banter that goes back and forth is really a strength.” Pawley stressed that issues can be attacked, but never the individual.

Referring to an e-mail sent to the AAUP mailing list, Vice Chair Henry Baskin said he “will not tolerate anonymous criticism,” asking dissenters to raise their hand and make themselves known. The e-mail, signed by communication and journalism professor Shea Howell and physics professor David Garfinkle, stated the group’s intention to organize a vote of no confidence regarding Russi’s leadership. The attached documents, however, were written by a small anonymous group of faculty.

“I don’t know who’s in the audience to tell me that this board isn’t doing its job,” Baskin said.

Russi was present but did not join in the discussion.

The board went on to approve agreements between OU and several campus associations. They approved tentative three-year collective bargaining agreements with the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, OU Campus Maintenance and Trade, and OU Professional Support Association. Flynn abstained from voting on the OUCMT and OUPSA agreements, citing a conflict of interest.

With the exception of Baskin, who abstained from voting until he sees an actual contract, the board approved the recommendation of the Christman Company to contract the Human Health Building.

The board also approved negotiations for the Pepsi Bottling Group to be OU’s exclusive beverage supplier for another 10 years.

After the regular agenda items were discussed, Joel Russell, chemistry professor and former AAUP president, addressed the board.

Russell said that the 9 percent tuition increase ,combined with the unexpected 4.1 percent enrollment increase, has led to a large surplus in the 2009-10 budget, and that the board should be focused on decreasing the student tuition rate.

“(The board) should do something to reduce this burden on our students when you have funds to do it,” Russell said.

After Russell spoke, there was no further discussion and the meeting was adjourned.