The CSU System Board of Governors refused to answer questions from media about former university president Larry Penley’s severance pay, which will total $389,000, after Penley’s separation agreement was released Thursday.
In an emergency faculty council meeting with board chair Doug Jones and interim President Tony Frank to talk about the direction of the university under Frank’s leadership, both officials said the university would keep information surrounding Penley’s departure confidential as a personnel issue.
In his resignation letter to Jones, Penley said, “I believe that my leadership has contributed to significant progress for Colorado State University. But I want to be free to pursue other leadership positions in higher education. This resignation will allow me the flexibility to do so.”
The separation agreement states explicitly in a special clause that no information regarding Penley’s departure besides this statement is to be released.
Penley resigned last week to the shock of students, university officials and state lawmakers. The surprise came after Penley began the semester by committing the university to a number of lofty stretch goals that included becoming carbon neutral by 2020 and substantially increasing student enrollment and faculty numbers.
But Penley, who is on vacation leave and still technically in his position as president, has not yet announced plans to take a job at another institution.
When asked if students should know the reasons for Penley’s severance pay, Jones said, “I’m not going to get into that,” and deferred comment to CSU’s chief spokesperson Brad Bohlander.
Bohlander said, “The system is dealing with questions about that.”
Michelle McKinney, the BOG’s chief spokesperson, said earlier this week that the money would be paid as a “prudent action” to avoid additional legal fees, should Penley decide to renegotiate the severance pay.
She said Thursday that the “Board is extremely pleased with the direction the university is going.”
And Jones echoed McKinney in a statement Thursday, lauding CSU progress over the past five years in the areas of research and state outreach to programs such as 4H and the Colorado State Forest Service. He also thanked Penley for serving the university.
“The Colorado State University System Board of Governors appreciates Larry Penley’s years of service to the institution and has appointed Dr. Tony Frank to lead CSU as interim president,” Jones said in the statement.
The resignation came amid mounting scrutiny of Penley’s administration as campus groups began conducting investigations into large, complicated funding shifts that pushed millions of dollars that could have been allocated to academics into swelling top-level executive budgets.
In Thursday’s meeting, Frank promised faculty a higher level of transparency under his leadership, which may be temporary, citing a lack of communication in recent years between administration and students, faculty and state lawmakers.
Faculty expressed concern at Thursday’s meeting about the new administrative funding lines, which include eight new vice presidential budgets since Penley took the helm five years ago. They asked Frank if, in the event that the university endures cuts in public funding in the near future, he would cut some of the budget lines.
Frank said he would issue a statement Friday from his office regarding that and other budget issues.
News Managing Editor Aaron Hedge and Enterprise Editor J. David McSwane can be reached at email@example.com.