WSU ex­tends leader’s con­tract de­spite ob­jec­tions

3 board mem­bers vote against move in light of MSU’s Nas­sar scan­dal

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY KIM KO­ZLOWSKI The Detroit News

Detroit — Wayne State Univer­sity’s Board of Gover­nors ap­proved a con­tract ex­ten­sion Fri­day for Pres­i­dent M. Roy Wil­son over the ob­jec­tions of three mem­bers who said the pact failed to ad­dress con­cerns aris­ing out of the Larry Nas­sar sex abuse scan­dal at Michi­gan State Univer­sity.

Board chair San­dra Hughes O’Brien and gover­nors Dana Thomp­son and Michael Busuito voted against the ex­ten­sion, which was ap­proved 5-3. The board mem­bers who ap­proved the pact said Wil­son de­served it for his “bold, in­no­va­tive” lead­er­ship.

The three gover­nors who voted no said the ex­ten­sion, which will keep Wil­son at WSU through 2023, should in­clude lan­guage cover­ing malfea­sance in light of how Michi-

gan State han­dled the al­le­ga­tions against Nas­sar, who abused young women for decades.

“I have nu­mer­ous ques­tions re­gard­ing our fail­ure to in­clude per­ti­nent pro­vi­sions that need to be con­sid­ered in or­der to pro­tect the univer­sity — pro­vi­sions en­sur­ing no golden parachutes for acts of malfea­sance like those com­mit­ted at MSU where the pres­i­dent knew or should have known the sit­u­a­tion,” said Hughes O’Brien.

Thomp­son added that she voted against Wil­son’s con­tract ex­ten­sion be­cause of is­sues with the WSU med­i­cal school, par­tic­u­larly the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing ties with the Detroit Med­i­cal Cen­ter, and the hir­ing of con­sul­tants who “are get­ting paid mil­lions of dol­lars but have yielded ques­tion­able re­sults.”

Af­ter lengthy and con­tentious talks, the WSU Physi­cians Group and the DMC agreed this fall to ex­tend their part­ner­ship, un­der which the group’s doc­tors pro­vide med­i­cal ser­vices to seven hospi­tals and other fa­cil­i­ties.

Thomp­son said she didn’t un­der­stand the rush to ex­tend Wil­son’s con­tract since Wil­son’s cur­rent con­tract doesn’t ex­pire un­til 2020.

She wanted time her con­cerns.

She also wanted Wil­son’s con­tract to have pro­vi­sions to avoid what hap­pened at MSU with for­mer Pres­i­dent Lou Anna Si­mon, who re­signed in Jan­uary and has been charged with ly­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors look­ing into the Nas­sar scan­dal.

“She leaves the univer­sity (pres­i­dency) be­cause of this ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion that hap­pened with Nas­sar and she is still get­ting paid hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars when all of these young peo­ple have been abused,” Thomp­son said.

Wil­son said af­ter the meet­ing

to ad­dress

he was not sur­prised at the op­po­si­tion to his ex­ten­sion.

“I have been tack­ling some very, very dif­fi­cult is­sues, and if you do that, you are not go­ing to please ev­ery­one,” he said. “But I try to do what is in the best in­ter­ests of the univer­sity.”

Wil­son added that he has been of­fered op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side of Wayne State.

His cur­rent salary is $548,358 a year.

Un­der the ex­ten­sion, which takes ef­fect when his cur­rent con­tract ends in July 2020, he will re­ceive a base pay raise of $50,000, plus an in­crease of $50,000 in his de­ferred com­pen­sa­tion.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Hughes O’Brien said that all univer­si­ties should learn from Michi­gan State.

“Ev­ery post-Nas­sar con­tract for a pres­i­dent, mov­ing for­ward, should in­clude a pro­vi­sion what is go­ing to hap­pen to a pres­i­dent when they knew or should have known some­thing,” Hughes O’Brien said.

“... We have to be more mind­ful and care­ful with the pub­lic’s money in terms of how we com­pen­sate pres­i­dents who are in­volved in a sit­u­a­tion like this where you knew or should have known,” she said.

But gover­nor David Nicholson, who led the com­mit­tee that has been ex­am­in­ing pro­vi­sions for Wil­son’s con­tract since June, said a wide swath of the univer­sity com­mu­nity had in­put and “ex­cept for the three peo­ple you heard from to­day, they were very en­cour­ag­ing about the pres­i­dent’s job and how he was do­ing and how far he had moved the univer­sity. They en­cour­aged us to lock him up.”

“Los­ing him would have been a real loss for this in­sti­tu­tion,” said Nicholson. “He does an ex­cep­tional job.”

Nicholson said the con­tract in­cludes a malfea­sance pro­vi­sion, but noted that Wil­son aside from be­ing WSU’s pres­i­dent, is a tenured fac­ulty mem­ber.

“As is com­mon with all uni­verto

sity pro­fes­sors, they be­come tenured pro­fes­sor the first day of their first con­tract and Pres­i­dent Wil­son is no ex­cep­tion,” Nicholson said.

“Tak­ing away a union pro­fes­sor­ship is one that would have union im­pli­ca­tions. If there is a malfea­sance is­sue, there is no golden para­chute in re­gards to the pres­i­dent’s role and he doesn’t lose his cur­rent other role as a tenured pro­fes­sor.”

Un­der the res­o­lu­tion the board ap­proved, if Wil­son were asked to leave his post for any rea­son other than moral turpi­tude, he would re­ceive 50 per­cent of one year’s salary.

Board mem­bers who sup­ported Wil­son’s con­tract ex­ten­sion said he has racked up a list of ac­com­plish­ments dur­ing his ten­ure, which be­gan Aug. 1, 2013.

“I feel our pres­i­dent has done an ex­cel­lent job,” said gover­nor Mar­i­lyn Kelly, who served on the com­mit­tee that re­viewed Wil­son’s con­tract ex­ten­sion.

Gover­nor Kim Trent pointed the dou­bling of the black stu­dent grad­u­a­tion rate un­der Wil­son and the school’s suc­cess in se­cur­ing WSU’s largest gift, $40 mil­lion, to con­struct the Mike Il­itch School of Busi­ness, which opened in Au­gust.

Trent also pointed to Wil­son over­see­ing an agree­ment that helped sta­bi­lize the univer­sity’s fi­nances while ex­pand­ing on­cam­pus hous­ing for more than 800 stu­dents, the com­ple­tion of a de­vel­op­ment cam­paign that se­cured more than $750 mil­lion for WSU and an ex­pan­sion of the univer­sity’s re­search port­fo­lio by more than $100 mil­lion.

“For me, this vote is about the an­swer to a ba­sic ques­tion: Has Roy Wil­son per­formed the du­ties of his po­si­tion in such a way that he de­serves an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue to ex­e­cute his vi­sion for the univer­sity with the sup­port of the board?” Trent said. “I be­lieve he has.”

Daniel Mears The Detroit News

The ex­ten­sion will keep M. Roy Wil­son at Wayne State through 2023.

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