Phi Beta Cons

A Failure to Communicate

How did La Salle's board and president neglect a basic responsibility?

In a recent commentary posted on the web site of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, ACTA president Anne Neal described the complex duties of boards of trustees of colleges and universities.

Certainly, one of the most important duties of a board is the periodic selection of a new college president, and this process offers the opportunity to attract an individual who can work seamlessly with the board to guide the institution during times of rapid change and uncertainty.

Which brings us to the situation at La Salle University in Philadelphia. Last week, new La Salle president Colleen Hanycz announced that a 16 percent decline in freshmen enrollments had led to a $12 million budget shortfall, a full 9 percent of its operating budget.  

President Hanycz informed the university community that 23 staff positions were being eliminated, and that further changes (although not necessarily layoffs) were in store.

So far, so understandable. But what really stopped me cold was her statement that, in office for just two months and having just accepted the position over the winter, she was not aware of the extent of La Salle’s financial difficulty

As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer:  “I knew that La Salle needed to make some changes, but I don’t think anyone knew the extent … ,” Hancyz said. “It was not something I anticipated fully.”

Something went terribly wrong here. Did the board members not understand La Salle’s true financial situation? If they did not, they were guilty of a fundamental failure of fiduciary responsibility.

If the board knew it, perhaps they failed to share it with the new president as a presidential candidate.  Or perhaps Hanycz failed to probe deeply enough from her side. If either of these is true, we have a fundamental failure in the vetting process.

Finally, was President Hanycz aware of the situation and is now trying to deflect responsibility? If so, we have another issue for the board to address.

No matter how you look at it, there was a fundamental failure somewhere along the line, and such a “surprise” should never happen if the board and administration are working together, eyes wide open, and planning carefully for all eventualities.

Vic Brown had a thirty-year career in the chemical industry with FMC Corporation, where he held senior positions and worked internationally in sales, marketing, manufacturing, information technology and procurement.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Netflix Debuts Its Obama Manifesto

This week’s widespread media blitz heralding Netflix’s broadcast of its first Obama-endorsed presentation, American Factory, was more than synchronicity. It felt as though U.S. publicists and journalists collectively exhaled their relief at finally regaining the bully pulpit. Reviews of American Factory, a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Capital versus Tucker Carlson

Advertisers do not advertise on Tucker Carlson’s show to endorse the views of Tucker Carlson. They advertise on his show for the same reason they advertise elsewhere: a captive audience — in Tucker’s case, the second-largest one in cable news — might spare thirty seconds of attention that will, they hope, ... Read More
Natural Law

Are Your Sexual Preferences Transphobic?

Last year, a study exploring “transgender exclusion from the world of dating” was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Of nearly 1,000 participants, the overwhelming majority, 87.5 percent, irrespective of their sexual preference, said they would not consider dating a trans person, ... Read More