Wilkes president, trustee chairman failed to provide needed leadership Commentary Justin C. Matus
Last Modified: April 19. 2013 12:16PM
AS A member of the Wilkes University faculty, I supported a vote of no confidence in the president, Dr. Tim Gilmour, and the chairman of the board of trustees, Jack Miller.
I know both men and serve on the senior faculty leadership committee, commonly known as the Faculty Affairs Council. Dr. Gilmour has characterized the faculty vote as a statement about a reduction in faculty compensation. To be blunt, nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, I took a pay cut when I first arrived at Wilkes eight years ago, so it has never been about money for me – or for many of my colleagues. The basic issue is the management and leadership of the university. Dr. Gilmour has time and again refused to listen to valid criticisms and ignored sound advice. For example, the university is paying only interest on $54 million in bonds, all of which come due in 2018. This debt is on top of at least another $20 million or more in new debt for the new science building, for which, to his credit, there has been some progress by his fundraising efforts.
The real issue is the day-to-day management style of Dr. Gilmour. Seemingly detached and at times out of touch with his employees, his senior leadership team follows his example by remaining locked in its steel and glass offices on South Main Street, rarely coming out to simply walk around and talk to people. The issue is as much qualitative as it is quantitative.
Dr. Gilmour seemingly has done nothing to address ways to improve operating efficiency or to significantly control spending. He has stated we are sound financially, yet he must cut salaries and benefits – while tuition has consistently increased, enrollments have been stable and salaries remain flat. We have pointed out many areas where spending could be trimmed, such as travel, meals and cell phones for administrators. Most faculty carry and pay for their own cell phones, yet ironically senior cabinet members making two or three times as much need to have their cell phones funded out of the university’s coffers. The issue is not only about the dollars, but the message – the message has been clear to the faculty: We don’t care what you think and we will run the institution as we please, no matter the impact.
Dr. Gilmour has stated there has been transparency and faculty involvement in the budgeting process. Not in my experience. I have asked repeatedly for detailed budget information. I have been given either a simple pie chart with overly simplistic and very, very broad pie slices or told that the information would be provided; but invariably it never comes. Faculty “involvement” consists of limited forums in which faculty are informed of decisions, but faculty never vote on or approve budget decisions.
Finally, there are the habits of what I can only broadly describe as poor form. I find it incredible that Dr. Gilmour preaches austerity while at the same time he grants merit bonuses of approximately $5,000 to senior cabinet level administrators who already are earning salaries in excess of $100,000 a year.
Dr. Gilmour also has failed to mention the cuts affect all of the employees at Wilkes, not only faculty. Many of our maintenance staff, secretaries and assistants make far less than most of us, and they, too, are being asked to bear a significant cut in benefits.
This vote is not about salary, this vote is about leadership – it’s what we want, it’s what we need.
Justin C. Matus is an associate professor in the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre. His email address is [email protected].