If you are confused about what took place regarding the naming of a new president at Northern Michigan University last week, join what we believe is a very large and growing crowd.
At about 12.30 p.m. Thursday, an announcement was made that Dr. Les Wong was leaving NMU after eight years to be the next president of San Franciso State University. At about the same time, a press release declaring that David Haynes, a former NMU lobbyist and current on-campus counsellor, had been named the 14th president of NMU was passed out.
This was a surprise to us because The Mining Journal staffed recent board meetings and there had been no conversations about a Haynes appointment. It seems the decision came during an informal Executive Committee gathering last Wednesday conducted on the telephone with no media present.
The Board of Trustees can have conversations with each other during closed sessions but they can not deliberate and make any decisions including the naming of a new president without an official meeting of the board.
Now, add to the equation that at least two trustees from the board were caught off guard by the announcement, which is unsettling when one considers its significance.
On Friday, NMU Board Chairman Brian Cloyd corrected Thursday's press release, stating that Haynes was not, in fact, the 14th president of the university. Now, it seems, Haynes is interim president with a two-year term.
Keep in mind, all this has taken place without a full board meeting to discuss the issues.
Did NMU's legal counsel notify the board that they had potentially violated the Open Meetings Act and they should try to fix things? Did Cloyd realize he made a mistake? Did the two Board of Trustees members that were not included in the decision to appoint Haynes do something behind the scenes to force a public discussion?
If you're confused, we don't blame you because we are, too. What is clear is that mistakes were made and at a minimum, this entire affair is a huge embarrassment for the NMU Board of Trustees and its chairman. It also throws the appointment of Haynes in question.
At least one decision made makes sense and that is that a special board meeting was called for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room 602 of the Cohodas Buildings. This will give all board members a chance to voice their opinion on what took place and try to start making sense of what happened.
Once that happens, the university can start moving forward.
As far as the mess itself, some have questioned why Cloyd would do something as ham handed as this.?We've certainly wondered about it.
Certainly, it's no secret that he and Haynes enjoy much personal and professional history. Haynes was, after all, a lobbyist for Steelcase Inc., which is the firm that Cloyd serves as vice president of Global Community Relations. And their families, including children, go back many years together.
That said, we still don't get the "why" part of all of this, when it easily could have been handled, as these things usually are, in a deliberate, considered manner.
We trust that NMU's legal counsel and the remaining board will pay close attention to what takes place at the meeting Tuesday. They need to get clear direction from counsel about the Open Meetings Act and insure they were in compliance with all aspects. The board must emerge from the session with a clear sense of not only where they've been, but where they're going and how they're going to get there.
We encourage the public and NMU faculty to attend this meeting and share their concerns. Former NMU board chairman Karl Weber suggested the faculty and community should have been consulted and included in the process of the naming of a new president. That's a conclusion we couldn't agree with more.
NMU has been an outstanding, respected part of our community and this issue should not reflect poorly on its staff and administration.
The onus for this public relations fiasco falls directly on the shoulders of the board chairman and other trustees involved in this matter. We are thankful that at least two trustees want things to be done publicly with full transparency.