Nov 092008
 
Authors: Sean Reed

Chalk another one up for the CSU severance fund.

On Thursday, it was announced that President Larry Penley will join the likes of former head football coach Sonny Lubick and former women’s basketball coach Jen Warden as the latest high profile CSU official to continue drawing pay while their tenure serving the university is over. His cut from the university coffers comes to the tune of $389,000 — exactly one year of his salary.

However, Penley’s little bonus is distinct from his counterparts in one very significant way: He wasn’t fired; he resigned.

While it is not particularly troubling for an institution to pay some sort of compensation for a departed administrator, it is troubling that they would still do so if the administrator in question left voluntarily and with no notice and no real cause.

Forgive me for saying it, but the desire to seek work elsewhere (the “reason” Penley stated in his letter of resignation for his departure) is hardly the type of grievance that warrants a six-figure post-employment payoff.

What’s worse, however, is that, as per his contract, Penley isn’t entitled to a dime should he choose to terminate his employment. So what exactly are we paying for here?

This multi-figure resignation bonus is just one of many pieces of the Penley resignation puzzle that just don’t seem to fit.

It’s no stretch to say that his letter of resignation Wednesday came as a bit of surprise to members of the university community, and even those of his direct administrative staff.

When asked for comment, some university vice presidents and Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchinson expressed shock at the statement. Even Interim President Tony Frank went on the record saying he had only heard the news earlier that day.

And who could blame them? By all indications, Penley was sitting pretty after overseeing many successful years at the university.

Since his inauguration in 2004, Penley oversaw a 25 percent increase in student enrollment, a successful campaign for university exposure in the form of the “green” campaign and a record-breaking year for private fundraising.

Adding to the confusion was his recent “State of the University” address, which set many ambitious goals for the university, including a desire to make the university carbon neutral.

The primary focus of his speech was to set plans for “the next five years” at CSU, which, near the beginning of the speech, he referred to as “my next five years.”

Nobody could have guessed his next “five years” would be over just following Election Day. By all accounts, it looked like Penley was planning to stick with us for a while. Of course, that was before this semester happened.

Over the course of the fall, Penley was witness to a variety of events that were less than favorable: increased scrutiny into the shift of university funds to research and administration, the worsening state of the economy, and, most recently, the resignation of his No. 2, John Lincoln.

These factors combined with the fact that Penley’s announcement came just two days after he met with an evaluation committee for an annual meeting to discuss his performance.

Given these recent events, it seems apparent that students aren’t being told something. And in a normal situation, that would be fine.

However, if we’re going to be expected to pay nearly $400,000 for him to look for a new job, we deserve an explanation. And it better be a damn good one.

Students have a right to know why their money’s being thrown away. We’re awaiting our answer.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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