Friday, August 16, 2013

EKU President Benson Addresses Faculty, Staff at First Convocation

This from EKU News:
In a Convocation address punctuated by numerous rounds of applause from faculty and staff, new Eastern Kentucky University President Michael T. Benson shared a vision for the campus today that encompassed his commitment to what he called the three P’s: people, places and programs.

President Benson at Convocation photoBenson, who assumed the EKU presidency Aug. 1 after serving the past seven years as president of Southern Utah University, said Eastern’s “most important capital asset is the people who work here. The most important thing will be to take care of you and appreciate the role that every one of you plays.”

Eastern’s 12th president then announced a salary increase of 2.5 percent for all University employees, effective Oct. 1, only the second across-the-board raise in five years. “This is a start on our part to say ‘thank you for what you do for the institution.’”

Benson added that salary issues related to compression and equity will be addressed “in a holistic way” and outlined a process for the establishment of a merit pool.

He also noted that the University is reducing the number of vice presidents from six to five and that those five will include a vice president for student success and a vice president for university relations and branding.

“First and foremost, a university is about teaching,” Benson said, “and we’re going to put as much as we can into that primary focus.

As part of an effort to keep communication lines open and gather input from faculty and staff, Benson announced the establishment of an online “suggestion box” at

“This is not to suggest we are bereft of ideas or lack imagination,” he said. “This is the first phase in a larger campus-wide initiative to elicit more input. I’m going to try my best to create a respectful environment where everyone feels free to speak.”

In talking about the importance of place, Benson said, “We’re going to start doing things that beautify the campus.” He announced a $250,000 gift from Ron and Sherrie Lou Noel (whose earlier gift enabled the establishment of the Ron and Sherrie Lou Noel Studio for Academic Creativity) to go toward the addition of a “reading porch” to the John Grant Crabbe Main Library and unveiled preliminary designs for a “pedestrian mall” between the Library and Weaver Building.

The University’s top capital construction priority remains Phase 2 of the New Science Building, followed by a new facility for the College of Education.

As for programs, Benson said: “The things we do well we do really, really well. We can’t be everything for everybody. We will have to make some hard choices going forward.”

He indicated that process will “take some time” and require further input from the campus community.

In closing, Benson told faculty and staff: “There is a lot expected of me. There is a lot expected of you. There’s no better feeling than meeting or exceeding expectations. Nobody is going to outwork me, nobody is going to outwork the President’s Council, and nobody is going to outwork our faculty and staff. We’re going to achieve some great things at Eastern Kentucky University.”

To view the entire presentation, visit

Fall classes begin at EKU on Monday, Aug. 19.


Anonymous said...

From a philosophical perspective, it is interesting to look at the fanfare, good wishes, messages of support, and applause that usher in a new college president. New presidents seem to be very formulaic in their innaugural addresses. In almost each speech the president assures his/her constituency that s/he will carry on that particular school's tradition of "academic excellence." The challenges a particular institution faces are seldom acknowledged in the first speech, but the commitment to research and inquiry are always championed. In the early days of the fledgling presidency, skeptics are admonished to give the new president a chance. I'm certain this was said of Transylvania's outgoing president when the first critics began to question...

I wish President Benson the best. If the truth be told, he will probably be superior to such forgettable presidents as Kustra and Glasser, but I'm unconvinced that he will be taking to heart, much less sharing with his constituents, the negative messages that might appear in his on-line "suggestion box."

As I'm a student of higher education, I'd welcome any feedback on the idea of an on-line "suggestion box." Is this a Benson first, or has this been used by other university presidents? Since most presidents have their email address clearly marked on their homepage, I wonder why one feels the need for such a device.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, it is good to have a president finally at least giving us some direction. With all due respect to Dr. Whitlock, he punted along time ago. Didn't see any leadership whatsoever once he annouced his retirement and during the "reallocation" hysteria.

Anonymous said...

So true. Whitlock was a disappointment in his last year.

Anonymous said...

a disappointment in his last year? everything he did wrong before that only caught up with him.

going back to the bad old "bleed maroon" days was a last ditch effort to keep EKU in the 1970s and 80s.

thank goodness they found a forward thinking Leader -- something this place hasn't had for a LONG time.

Just hope the forces of EKU's old power structure don't derail him or his efforts.

Anonymous said...

It is a balance. Glasser tried to make the school into something it could never be and anyone who got in the way left or "returned to their true passion of teaching". Nothing ever seemed to get traction accept making sure she was getting a good photo-op and framing everything in terms liability and legalese. Folks embraced Whitlock because he decreased anxiety with the balm of a romanticized past which equally was not sustainable under changing 21st century conditions.
I keep hearing that past neglect and oversight by folks who shouldn't have been making decisions has created dug a whole for new folks who claim to have to untangle the knots before they can start to move forward.

I guess we will just have to see how it all plays out. Hopefully new folks will stay the course and bailout and as mentioned, old guard will be pushed aside along with the counterproductive operational parameters they imposed on us the last decade.

Anonymous said...

Very well said! Will Mr. Benson be able to stem the rising pay inequity/inversion among faculty and the resulting low morale?

Hopefully so, but putting the issue off until July is not a good start.

In the meantime, I'll be dusting off the old CV and looking for greener, fairer pastures...