- Power Struggle Ensues Between HSU and University Center as President Tom Jackson Looks to Outsource Dining Services to For-Profit Company
- HSU Accuses University Center of Violating Its Operating Agreement, Gives Auxiliary 90 Days to Fix ‘Breaches’
The following statement comes from the three faculty representatives on the board of directors for University Center, the nonprofit Humboldt State University auxiliary organization that manages student dining, CenterArts and Center Activities, among other programs. One of the signees, Professor Steven Martin, read the statement to the University Senate on Tuesday.
By now we assume everyone has seen that last week the HSU administration triggered the termination clause of the operating agreement between campus and the University Center. We just wanted to clarify a few things.
The UC has had a decades-long business relationship with the Community Pool under the past three university Presidents, and the Pool provides direct benefit to HSU students in the form of jobs and trainings.
Everything the University Center did with respect to the line of credit we extended to the Arcata Community Pool was done above board and in public. It was discussed at a public Board meeting last fall; it was sent to the Finance committee for further analysis and consideration; the Finance Committee, chaired by the University’s own Controller, recommended we approve the line of credit; and it was discussed and approved at the following Board meeting. Both university administrators on the UC Board, the Controller (who as Finance Committee Chair recommended it), and the President’s designee on the Board, voted to approve it.
Although the Community Pool ended up using some of that line of credit for operating expenses instead of capital improvements, which was what our agreement with them called for, that was something that they did, not something the University Center did. And the only reason they did that was because they used their own reserves to pay for the capital improvements, hoping not to have to use any of the line of credit from the UC.
Had the state sent them the grant money on time that they were awarded, they wouldn’t have had to use the line of credit at all. They’ve already paid back $75,000 of the $150,000 they borrowed, and the rest will be paid back shortly, as soon as the grant from the state arrives in a month or so.
It’s ironic that the administration would react this way to what amounts to a very small procedural error, given their own repeated failure to follow policy and process. For example: terminating the UC’s Executive Director without consulting the Board; appointing an Interim Executive Director without consulting the Board; having Aladdin Food Services operate on campus for a month without a contract and without consulting the Board; hiring an outside consultant for a program review of the UC without consulting the Board; and failing to consult the University Center Board or the University Space and Facilities Advisory Committee or the City of Eureka or the State Lands Commission before moving staff from the Advancement Foundation and the Alumni Association into the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center in violation of that facility’s lease agreement.
The relationship between the President and the Board deteriorated as a direct result of these actions. For the administration to pull the termination trigger on our operating agreement over such small infractions as those outlined in the President’s memo is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito.
Even though the CSU Trustees delegate strong powers to campus presidents, in a collaborative and consultative environment, such issues would be collegially pointed out and corrected. For example, the President could have simply stated to the Board that the management agreement between the Pool and the UC, although seemingly fine under the previous three presidents, is not fine under his administration, so the UC should begin to work to end that agreement.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves in an environment where authority seems to outweigh collaboration. A memo was sent to the UC, at the same time as to the media and the public, of a termination of contract notice. We can’t help but wonder if there were ulterior reasons to motivate such a disproportionate response.
Hopefully the UC can resolve the issues pointed out in the termination notice to the President’s satisfaction within the provided 90-day window. We also hope that the University Center, its Board, and the President can build a trusting collaborative relationship where we can work together in achieving what we all agree is best for HSU and students.
Dr. Steven Martin, Professor and Faculty representative on the University Center Board of Directors
Dr. Armeda Reitzel, Professor and Faculty representative on the University Center Board of Directors
Dr. Mark Rizzardi, Professor and Faculty representative on the University Center Board of Directors