Trustee Lowery asks questions of administration

One purpose of the university’s Board of Trustees should be to question the administration, says Trustee Don Lowery.

Weeks after the board held its annual election and a new chairman was selected, conversations continue between trustees and SIU President Glenn Poshard about issues that arose after the election. One of those issues is whether the board should be involved in day-to-day operations at the university. Lowery said Tuesday that asking questions related to daily operation is important.

One question Lowery posed related to SIU’s administrators’ housing allowance within their contracts.

Poshard, Chancellor Rita Cheng and SIU Edwardsville Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift each receive $27,500 to hold events in their homes that would benefit the university.

The question Lowery said he has asked is whether they’re using it for its intended purpose.

He said he thinks Cheng has had one event and Poshard has held none, while Vandergriff has held about eight events.

Lowery said he asked the question originally because he was concerned about liability extending to the homes of administrators when they’re having university-related events. But after asking about the allowance, he said he was concerned about whether the cost was necessary.

When he made a comment about the allowance at a meeting once, he said Poshard responded he was saved the university money by not holding events because it would cost the university for catering.

Although Poshard was unable to comment Tuesday in response to Lowery’s comments, he released a statement in regards to both Lowery and Herrin’s remarks in recent weeks.

“I have thoroughly and factually answered the erroneous charges by Mr. Herrin and Mr. Lowery,” Poshard said in an email.  “Despite their accusations, the facts remain the same. They can say whatever they wish. I have a university to run and I intend to concentrate my efforts on my job.”

The trustee voiced his concern about the allowance and other issues, on a radio show April 4. Following the show, Lowery said, Poshard sent out a nine-page email to trustee members concerning Lowery’s comments.

Lowery said Poshard stated in the email that he held several events, not at his home but at the Stone Center.

“The housing allowance doesn’t pay for events at the Stone Center,” Lowery said.

Although Lowery has received some of the answers he looks for, he said he thinks some administrators don’t want the trustees to ask questions.

“But how can I be an effective board member if I don’t ask questions?” he said.

Board Trustee Marquita Wiley said she doesn’t know enough about the housing allowance to have an opinion, but she said she has heard that administrators at other institutions may have a housing allowance without having to hold such events.

The housing allowance isn’t the only question Lowery has raised.

Lowery said he has concerns about the university’s new housing plan, which entails tearing down aging campus housing units and replacing them with new buildings.

Lowery said the combination of student housing filled to 85 percent of its capacity and the push for more online classes and programs makes the plan untimely.

The trustee’s questions have not gone entirely unanswered. After Lowery and former board chairman Roger Herrin spoke in reference to Poshard and the board in the week after the election, where Herrin was not re-elected as chair,  Poshard held a press conference that addressed issues that had been raised.

After Lowery spoke on the radio program, Poshard sent the email to trustees and the program hosts, according to the trustee.

A concern Lowery said he and former chairman Roger Herrin had when they took their positions on the board in 2011 was how the executive committee is able to approve items. Lowery said before Herrin and he joined the board, Poshard could bring items to the executive committee of the board and have them approve the items over the phone.

Lowery said later that year, a rule was made that made it mandatory for at least two of the three executive committee members to meet in person. On Monday, the executive committee met to approve items, including the approval of the salary and appointment of the head coach for men’s basketball.

Lowery said he thinks Poshard arranged for the new board chairman, John Simmons, as well as the other executive committee members, Mark Hinrichs and Ed Hightower, to be appointed to their positions. Because of that, Lowery said, he thinks Poshard will be able to have items passed without questioning by the full board.

“He wanted them because they’re more favorable to support everything he does,” he said. “So in the near future at least, we’re going to see him doing pretty much everything he wants to do without the board as a unit stopping him.”

Lowery said as individual members, though, the trustees can speak up.

Although Poshard was unable to comment Tuesday in response to Lowery’s comments, he released a statement in regards to both Lowery and Herrin’s remarks in recent weeks.

“I have thoroughly and factually answered the erroneous charges by Mr. Herrin and Mr. Lowery,” Poshard stated.  “Despite their accusations, the facts remain the same. They can say whatever they wish. I have a university to run and I intend to concentrate my efforts on my job.”

 

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