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The Faculty Senate Responds with Outrage at Plans to Alleviate Budget Shortfalls

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012

Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2012 02:02

Founders Library

Photo Courtesy of Howard University

 

Administrative bonuses totaling more than $1.1 million leave Howard faculty confused and searching for answers. The confusion surfaced after President Ribeau issued a letter to the Howard University community on Feb. 13.

The letter addressed multiple ‘sacrifices' that the University must take in order to maintain operating costs due to Howard's expenses exceeding the available revenue. According to this letter, the cause of this and other financial problems that the University faces stems from "the national economic crisis, rising operational costs, and duplication of services." It goes on to state that part of these sacrifices may include "an employment furlough for all faculty and staff on four to six non-instructional days."

The Office of the Faculty Senate, chaired by Eric Walters, wrote a letter on Feb. 16 sent to both President Ribeau and chairman of the board of trustees Mr. Addison Barry Rand. This letter addresses the budget shortfalls, describing them as a recurring dilemma. The outrage of Howard's faculty began after the discovery of generous bonuses that were awarded to three senior officers and one faculty member/center director of the University in 2010. The bonuses were as follows: Hassan Minor ($522,184), Artis Hampshire-Cowan, Esq. ($302,820), Norma Leftwich, Esq. ($224,050), and Wayne Fredrick, MD ($97,006). The total in bonuses awarded to these four amounted to $1,146,060. This information, as well as a list of University expenditures, comes directly from the Form 990 of the University's Income Tax Return (HU 2010 IRS 990).

According to HU 2009 IRS 990, Howard University did not give any of these four employees or any other faculty members a bonus in the previous fiscal year. The IRS form also lists that the University's net assets increased by 28 percent from the 2009 fiscal year to the 2010 fiscal year (now $607,903,000 as of June 30, 2011).

"I thought that Howard paid bonuses when the University was doing well and met its budget," said Robin Thornhill, assistant dean for student affairs and assessment. "I agree with furloughs if they save jobs, but how do you give both: bonuses and furloughs?"

Faculty described the excessive bonuses to be "an affront to the integrity of the University and a slap in the face to the entire faculty who have been laboring under salary compression for a number of years." The letter goes on to state that these are "egregious acts of blatant disregard when our students and their families are struggling to pay tuition increases."

"We are all very disappointed at what appears to be another case of poor fiscal management," said Candy Shannon, radio, television and film professor and director of the School of Communications tech center. "I could not run my home like this."

The Faculty Senate was surprised to realize that an independent compensation consultant was hired to produce this report. Though this form has the potential to greatly affect the University community, the document was only recently shared with the public. Inadequate funding for graduate students, deteriorated infrastructure that in some cases is blatantly dangerous, and noncompetitive salaries lead the faculty to wonder why the University community is constantly asked to adhere to ‘sacrifices'.

Often the bulk of blame is placed upon President Ribeau, however, the bonuses were not allocated during his time as president of the University. The actions taken, including both the hiring of a consultant and dispersion of bonuses, happened on chairman Rand's watch. The president and the board of trustees has great influence over the negotiations and approvals of such actions as those listed above, however it is the chairman who oversees these decisions. The Faculty Senate discusses that the "awarding of them", (hiring of consultant and dispersion of bonuses), "amounts to moral turpitude and blatant corruption of the ideals, principles and mission under which Howard University has functioned since its inception."

The moral integrity, sensitivity, and sensibility of the board of trustees, the current leadership, and former President Swygert alongside the four employees receiving these generous bonuses is now being questioned. The bonuses were awarded during a time of leadership transition. Many believe that the actions are both "disingenuous and opportunistic."

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