Read excellent op ed in today’s paper by Foundation board members Jim Whaley and Ron Bowes here: http://www.lockhaven.com/opinion/columns/2017/03/lhu-trustees-need-to-examine-direction-school-is-taking-impact-on-the-future/
LHU trustees need to examine direction school is taking, impact on the future
MAR 9, 2017
RON BOWES AND JIM WHALEY
The purpose of this letter is to bring to the attention of the Board of Trustees of Lock Haven University, university students, alumni and all interested parties concerns that impact the future livelihood of Lock Haven University.
As co-chairs of the university’s Capital Campaign, we feel it is our duty and responsibility to report these concerns to the public.
As with any financial endeavor, investment is negatively impacted by uncertainty.
Much of what has been raised thus far to ensure the future of Lock Haven University is in the form of pledges, which can be rescinded if there is negative publicity, or if there is a lack of support and confidence in the direction the university is moving.
We believe recent decisions and actions by the current administration have eroded trust and confidence.
The decision-making and staffing process to propose the elimination or suspension of various athletic sports has alienated a large number of giving alumni.
In fact, LHU Cross Country and Track & Field have the largest number of giving alumni and currently fund over $250,000 in foundation scholarships.
If the cost of sports is the primary criteria for consideration, then the university leadership could have asked the LHU Foundation or the Capital Campaign to raise the necessary funds, or requested recommendations from a representative body of university, alumni, civic leaders and students to explore other possibilities.
Now, instead of effectively communicating a financial need that would have united alumni in a common cause, the LHU leadership has managed to alienate and anger our largest, giving alumni group and is diminishing any hope to garner support.
A letter outlining those concerns and a request for a meeting was sent to LHU President Dr. Michael Fiorentino dated Jan. 27, but was never responded to.
It would also appear that no strategic communication plan was organized to explain the challenge and build a narrative to gain support to address the challenges.
We have since, as Capital Campaign co-chairs, learned of the intent to cut athletics by reading it on social media.
It would appear the staff work and coordination is non-existent, purposefully obtuse, or requires a change in leadership.
Sports, like men’s cross country, women’s swimming and field hockey, all recruit many students.
At a time when enrollment is falling, why would we possibly cut our top-line revenue source?
We would suggest more attention should be invested in growing enrollment by focusing on the department of admissions and asking alumni to help build a recruitment campaign.
Continued support of what draws many students to Lock Haven is essential.
We are also aware of a troubling situation regarding the actions of the administration in regard to a female student-athlete.
It would appear she was allegedly threatened in a closed-door meeting, where she was not allowed to have her coach present or have any representation at the meeting.
She was accused of violation of media policy for expressing her thoughts.
She was suspended from competition for a number of days before a championship meet and unduly stressed.
Review of the policy and her treatment should be conducted by an outside and independent council in order to ensure the policy’s legality and to protect the institution’s reputation and credibility.
We should all ask ourselves: If this were our daughter, would we want her treated this way?
Now we learn that the swimming program will stay on, but the coach was fired.
Details as to why the coach was fired should be shared with the Council of Trustees.
It appears that both coaches and students are fearful that any discussion on these proposed cuts or actions will result in retribution.
We should welcome a healthy discussion that includes representation from key constituencies in and outside of the university.
Let us not forget, our first priority is to teach and mentor students, and these actions seem counter-intuitive to our school’s mission and do not reflect well upon our university.
Any process must be fully transparent and embarked upon using the best of talent we can muster.
Not doing so will exacerbate an already poorly handled situation.
As co-chairs of the Capital Campaign, we strongly recommend that the Board of Trustees commission an outside and independent committee to investigate and report on the above concerns and publicly state if they individually support the proposed cuts to athletics.
The brand and reputation of Lock Haven University are at risk, and any ability to reach our goals of the Capital Campaign to raise millions of dollars is now in jeopardy.
Ron Bowes and Jim Whaley are co-chairs of the Lock Haven University Foundation Capital Campaign.
Here is swim-swam’s report: https://swimswam.com/swim-program-still-alive-coach-joel-blesh-lock-haven/