The EMU President's House (again): It's No One's Fault, Apparently

See this article in the Ann Arbor News,“EMU not likely to be punished.” It’s a sort of “good news/bad news” piece, in my opinion. The good news is it is unlikely that the students, faculty, staff, and other folks at EMU who were victimized by this stupid house project will suffer punishment from the state in terms of funding cuts and the like. According to the article, “auditing officials said it is a difficult statute to enforce because universities receive state appropriations in a lump sum and control how they are distributed.

“‘It is a violation of the statute, but pragmatically, it’s difficult to track because appropriation funds may not be distinguished from any other revenue source once in the university’s hands,’ said Michael Becker, an administrator with the Auditor General’s Office.”

That’s good because the fear was that the state would use this as an excuse to slash our budget. Now it looks like they’ll need a different excuse (like the fact that Michigan is running a billion dollar deficit that has to be closed by October or something like that).

The bad news is that, apparently, the house debacle was no one’s fault. In a press conference on Tuesday, hillip Incarnati, chairman of the EMU Board of Regents basically said that no wrong-doing happened, he wishes the board had been better informed, but they weren’t and that’s that. And Incarnati also insists that Kirkpatrick’s resignation had nothing to do with the house:

“Asked if Kirkpatrick should have been fired due to the findings in the audit, Incarnati said he didn’t think that was appropriate. ‘What would you discharge someone for?’ Incarnati asked. ‘There was no violation of policy, and there was no usurping of authority.

“‘One might argue that from a board standpoint we would have liked to have known those alternative funds. Does that give rise to a termination?

“‘My opinion is that it does not, particularly when you look at all the other good that the university (experienced) during Dr. Kirkpatrick’s four years as university president.'”

Oh, another little tidbit from the article that I think is nice. The EMU administrative-types have been saying categorically since Tuesday that no student funds were used to pay for the house project. And yet as the newspaper article put it, “the audit states unequivocally: ‘The University House project did require the use of operating revenues, which are derived from student tuition and fees and state appropriations.’ About $3.7 million of the $5.3 million came from student tuition, fees and the state, according to the audit.”

So, just in case you’re keeping score with this, let me sum up:

* Kirkpatrick blows into town four years ago, and while everyone says he had nothing to do with the decision, suddenly the most important building project on EMU’s campus (and seemingly in the history of the institution) becomes this stupid house.

* This house cost WAY more money than the institution could afford even in the best of times, plus it is stupid-looking, grandiose and gaudy and bloated, a classless boob of a building behind a Walgreens off of the main drag through the county.

* It appears that it just sorta “happened.” It isn’t Kirkpatrick’s fault because the board of regents initiated the project, but it isn’t the board of regents fault because they were simply not informed of the cost over-runs.

Obviously, that’s a crock, and I think the fact that Incarnati is unwilling to take responsibility or even assign responsibility says a lot about him.

My only hope is that this passage from the article is also true:

“The audit will prompt a renewed push for a resolution calling on the eight EMU regents to resign, said Rep. Paul Gieleghem, D-Clinton Township, who introduced it last spring. The resolution was referred to the House Committee on Higher Education, and Tuesday Gieleghem submitted a written request to the chairman to take up the issue, he said.

“Gieleghem said he was against any effort to withhold state money from EMU. ‘It would be more of a penalty to students rather than resting it on the shoulders of the management team who should take responsibility for their bad judgment. That’s the regents.'”

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