The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents, at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Sept. 24, accepted an evaluation by faculty, staff and external stakeholders of President Michael Benson.
In separate surveys, the majority of each group, including 100 percent of external stakeholders, rated Benson as effective or very effective.
After an open discussion of the evaluation, the Board approved the following statement: “The Board thanks President Benson for furthering the lives of EKU students and for sustaining the mission and values of the University. We appreciate his great work, his leadership and his impact on students. President Benson has a talent for personal relations, and that contributes greatly to the mission of the University and to our development efforts.”
The Board also said in its statement that it is “encouraging the president to look for opportunities to raise faculty and staff salaries to competitive and equitable levels.”
Faculty and staff scored Benson most highly on governmental relations, meeting the ongoing commitments of the University’s Strategic Plan, exhibiting integrity and compassion, offering vision, effective communications, visibility, personal relations, and maintaining a safe campus.
The surveys suggested opportunities for improvement in the areas of maintaining positive morale, delegating authority to appropriate individuals, evaluating performance, obtaining and distributing resources for personnel development, and offering competitive salaries. Since 2013, $15.3 million have been added to the total faculty and staff payroll, including various across-the-board and equity raises, plus the attendant fringe benefits. Ultimately, increases in faculty and staff spending power were somewhat offset by rising benefit costs as the University grappled with continued declines in state appropriations and resulting budget cuts.
Benson’s tenure has been distinguished by a comprehensive campus revitalization initiative designed to transform the living and learning experience of EKU students. In the last two years alone, the University has opened the second phase of its Science Building, three new residence halls, a new dining hall and a parking garage, among other improvements, generally financed by innovative public-private partnerships. In late 2019, the University will open a new recreation center and a renovated student union, both financed by a Student Senate-approved student fee.
Other recent accomplishments include record levels of private support, a very successful national re-accreditation, a doubling in the past eight years of the four-year graduation rate, improvements in freshman retention, and near-record enrollments.
Board Chair Craig Turner, who chaired the search committee that selected Benson in 2013, said: “We are fortunate to have him. We made the right decision.”
Board member Nancy Collins, who joined the Board in 2009, said she remembers well how much the decision weighed on her five years ago. “I’m thankful you’re at the helm of EKU during these very difficult times.”
Regent Laura Babbage, who joined the Board earlier this year, said Benson “embodies” the University’s mission statement.
In response to the evaluation and additional positive comments from other Board members, Benson admitted he was “embarrassed,” adding that he wished his “parents were present to hear all this nice stuff.” He was then quick to add that he intends to use the results of the evaluation to perform even better in his position.
In other business, the Board:
- welcomed newly elected Student Regent Ryan Wiggins, a senior political science major from Georgetown.
- approved Staff Emeritus distinction for retired administrator Shelley Park, who served the University for 36 years, lastly as executive director of retention and graduation.
- heard various reports related to the 2018-19 budget, the Budget Advisory Committee Implementation Team, diversity efforts at the University, demographics of the new freshman class, the Board Innovation Fund, various summer camps, among other topics.