The faculty Senate is expected to vote April 20 on a proposal to file a freedom of information act request for details on the University’s spending on outside consultants.
Put forth by associate professor of political science Dr. Max Guirguis, the request also would include information on the hiring and firing of consultants and the evaluation process involved.
“We should not be relegated to the realm of instruction to the exclusion of institutional governance,” Guirguis said.
Guirguis began his presentation by stating five questions he intended to address in his presentationl.
“One, what is a FOIA request? Two, what is the information we are requesting? Three, why are we requesting this information? Four, why are we requesting this information under FOIA? And five, does this request become moot now that Dr. Shipley is leaving Shepherd?”
Guirguis stressed that a FOIA request is not a form of attack or criticism.
“A FOIA is a formal request for public records in writing,” Guirguis said. “This is not unusual; the federal government receives between 600,000 to 650,000 requests for public information a year. Are over 600,000 people attacking the government every year? I think not.”
Guirguis further clarified that the information requested in the FOIA, which was constructed by members of the political science department, is regarding funds moved from the University’s Gateway program, which provides students with academic events and free trips to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., from 2008 to 2015, and documents regarding expenditures on consultants from 2010 to 2015.
“We are concerned that funds for the Gateway program have been used for other purposes,” Guirguis said. “We are aware of at least one instance where money was taken out and we don’t know why.”
Guirguis said that in the fiscal year of 2011 Shepherd University spent over $2 million on outside consultants and spent a similar amount in 2012.
“Substantial amounts of money have been used on these consultants, over $4 million in two years,” Guirguis said. “We are told there is no money in the budget for pay raises. I know professors who do not have phones in their office because of the budget cuts. We are told not to print our syllabi because there is no money for copy paper. But we have over $4 million in the budget for outside consultants.”
Guirguis said that the concerns of the faculty extend beyond the Gateway program and consultants.
“Our primary concerns are the lack of transparency and the lack of shared governance,” Guirguis said. “A few years ago, when the faculty Senate asked Dr. Shipley about the substantial spending on consultants, she said, and I quote, “consultants are expensive but we use them because they are necessary and they save us money. But we can’t afford to use all these consultants anymore.”
Guirguis added that this contradictory statement implies that consultants are not necessary after all.
Guirguis said that a senior senator had gone to Shipley asking for information on the money spent on consultants and received a large amount of accounting paperwork that Guirguis deems “useless and inscrutable.” Guirguis also included documents in his presentation from Shipley showcasing different expenditures on outside consultants, highlighting that there was no column for fees spent on the consultants.
“If the president believes these consultants to be such a wonderful investment, why is that investment not shared with us?” he asked.
Guirguis highlighted a conversation in which professor of biology Dr. Carl Bell asked Shipley directly how much money was being spent on consultants and received the reply “as little as possible.”
Guirguis stated that in the process of finding a new director of admissions, a position with a $90,000 salary, administration hired a firm for $120,000 to fill the position temporarily. After years of waiting, full professors received an equity adjustment of $1,000 and yet we can afford to spend an extra $30,000 on consultants as if it’s small change?” asked Guirguis.
“This FOIA request would become moot if it was about a person, but it is not,” said Guirguis in conclusion. “This is about a system in place. It is about structural change and reform. It is about the future, not the past.”