I know many alumni and community members are concerned about the present state of affairs at Missouri Southern State University. I know those of you who have sons or daughters or grandchildren at Southern are concerned. No matter where or when I pause to speak with community members, the recurring question is: “What is going on with the president at Southern?”
I too am gravely concerned, so I must speak up.
I will say up front that I recently received an award for 40 years of distinguished service at MSSU and that I am moving headlong toward retirement, so I assure you that I am not simply some temporarily disgruntled faculty member with an ax to grind.
In fact, I have a history of being the last faculty member to give up on someone, which is why you have not seen my name on the editorial page for the first 40 years of my career. Indeed, for the first nine months of the current president’s time here, and through the first nine months of his blunders, I counseled patience. But the time for pained patience has long passed.
I will not reiterate here the litany of endless public-relations gaffes and ill-conceived and ill-planned management decisions. Those have been well-documented, and most, to the dismay of those of us who love the university, have been made public well beyond the confines of the campus.
As I said, I have been part of Southern for 40 years. In that time, I have seen five presidents come to campus; the first four served the university well. Each of the first four had shortcomings, but each had sufficient redeeming qualities and decision-making skills to balance an occasional miscue. This time is different. The current president simply does not seem to grasp the complexity of university life, simply does not seem to understand that both words and actions have consequences that long reverberate, simply does not seem to understand that you do not build your own case by denigrating your own faculty or your own university’s programs.
Indeed, over the past two years, I and many others have gone from having high hopes for this man, to astonishment, to disbelief, to disgust, to despair. And anyone who tells you that he or she “doesn’t get the sense there is the faculty unrest there was before,” is incredibly, incredibly out of touch.
This man has systematically alienated our best and brightest administrators. The best have all resigned. The lone administrator that remains to prop up the president and to serve as a buffer between him and the faculty and staff, leaves in three months.
I fear that this does not bode well for the short-term or for Southern’s future.
If the current president leaves soon, then perhaps the damage to Southern will only be long-lasting. If he serves for another year, some of the damage is sure to be irreparable.
Board members, please do not dupe yourselves into thinking that “listening sessions” on Sundays and business as usual the other six days of the week will make things all right. It will not. Do not dupe yourselves into thinking that campus-wide unrest is simply a matter of faculty, staff and students being unable to cope with difficult financial times. Money has been tight at Missouri Southern since its inception. We know how to deal with lean times and hard choices, especially in a world where times are hard for everybody.
Community members, do not buy into the ruse that the current president’s woes are the result of a campus community that cannot deal with belt-tightening. We understand reality. We understand sacrifice for the greater good. Sadly, the current administration has demonstrated over and over that its main strength is not wise choices in a time of exceptional fiscal exigencies. No, its strength seems to come from choices that are often penny-wise and tons unwise. And beware of anyone who would hide behind the cloak of “saving the day” in hard times. Lord knows that if Southern is to thrive in the really hard times coming, we must have a leader that we respect, that we can trust, that we can believe in.
So, as someone who has witnessed over the past two years his treasured family, the community’s treasured university, steadily reduced in standing among alumni, current students, faculty, staff, community and board members, I call on the board, indeed, I call on the current president, to make the difficult choice and do the right thing for the good of all involved — including for the good of the current president, and let me assure you, I have no personal animosity toward this man.
Let us put an end to the charades. Let us put an end to this madness.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
MSSU professor criticizes Speck, situation at university in open letter
In this open letter to the community, initially printed in the Sunday Joplin Globe, Missouri Southern State University professor George Greenlee criticized President Bruce Speck and commented on the ongoing problems at the university: