I know there’s been a lot of posts here lately about that and I also know that millions of my regular readers don’t really care about it or EMU politics all that much, but I have to post this entry and link to a HUGE article in the Sunday Ann Arbor News about all this. A few quotes from the article:
* The episode has scarred Eastern, said Peter Fletcher, an Ypsilanti booster and Republican Party activist. He blames departing President Samuel Kirkpatrick and the Board of Regents, who were all appointed by then-Gov. John Engler, a Republican.
“Instead of achieving great things for the university, (Kirkpatrick) has brought absolute public humiliation and disgrace. The university appears to be out of control financially. While classrooms and dormitories are falling apart and there’s public safety at stake, they built this palatial mansion for the presidents. Their priorities are completely scrambled. It’s the Marie Antoinette mind-set: Let them eat cake,” Fletcher said.
(Jeesh, I’m even agreeing with a Republican! That’s just how bad this has all gotten…)
* When it first began discussing the project, EMU administrators and regents emphasized that no tuition dollars or state money would be used. They were firm in their pledge that tuition would not increase because of the house.
The state audit showed, however, that about $3.7 million was taken from EMU’s operating revenues – which include student tuition and fees. The audit noted that EMU tuition increased in annual rates of up to 22 percent during the years the house was being built.
* From the beginning, Kirkpatrick distanced himself from the project, saying it was the regents’ decision to build it.
But an investigation by The News showed Kirkpatrick and his wife, Pam, were deeply involved in many decisions – selecting appliances, paint colors, the finish on hardware and hinges and the security and sound system.
An internal memo documents 22 change orders made by the Kirkpatricks during construction.
* Kirkpatrick surprised the university community last month when he announced his resignation. He and Incarnati each said neither the house nor the audit played a role in his exit.
Yet Kirkpatrick is leaving to take an unpaid job at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in Washington. The one-year position as senior fellow has no benefits, housing or other incentives, said Heather Berg, the group’s spokeswoman. Kirkpatrick said he wanted to follow his interests in working with urban universities.
When Kirkpatrick resigned, the university press release said he would get about $470,000. But the agreement, which the university refused to release until The News filed a Freedom of Information Act request, shows the package will cost the school more than $514,000.
It includes two years of salary and benefits; heath care coverage through 2008; a $25,000 lump-sum payment; and $44,400 in bonuses Kirkpatrick would have received if he had remained at Eastern. Kirkpatrick and the board also agreed not to criticize each other, under terms of the agreement.
* In the end, said David Rutledge, a Democrat in the 54th House race, said regents should shoulder the blame. “This was a comedy of errors. This is the type of thing that happens when you do not put people with leadership skills in leadership positions,” he said.
The News also has a useful “EMU said/the audit or The News said” feature here.