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October 14, 1996 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-10-14

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 14, 1996 - 5A

tawsuit halts search
for violating OMA

Ex-Howard president tops pay list

Continued from Page 1A
Ows apply to presidential searches.
"We're not trying to stop the search.
We're really arguing about what form
the search will be in," said Jonathan
owe, the newspapers' attorney.
McGruder said the newspapers
depided to file the lawsuit because they
were concerned about the way the final
phOse of the search was progressing. In
addition, he said they were fearful
4$but the decision-making role of
"There is a history of attempts to
circumvent the open meetings and
open records laws," McGruder said.
"We were concerned the same kind of
pattern was emerging and decided to
sue to force the process into the open."
A 1993 Michigan Supreme Court
ruling against the University in Booth
NpWspapers Inc. vs. University of
Michigan Board of Regents said that
e_1987-88 presidential search violat-
d the state's Open Meetings Act and
Freedom of Information Act because it
was held primarily in secret.
The ruling included a permanent
injunction preventing the board "from
future violations of the OMA and
FOIA in connection with the selection
of future university presidents."

The suit states that PSAC activities
were "in violation of the open deci-
sion, open deliberation, and open
interview requirements of the OMA."
Furthermore, the case states that if
the board chooses to follow the advi-
sory committee's recommendations, it
will violate state law because "the
public will never know the specifics of
how the PSAC reached those decisions
and will thus be cheated of any oppor-
tunity to monitor the fairness and qual-
ity of the reduction decisions."'

The Washington Post
Jenifer, who abruptly quit as president
of Howard University in 1994, left
with a severance payment of more than
$676,000, bringing his total compen-
sation to $800,318 and making him the
highest-paid president of a private col-
lege or university that academic year,
according to a new survey.
The annual survey, conducted by the
Chronicle of Higher Education and
published in its Oct. 18 editions,
sparked angry reaction at Howard
University, where Jenifer had engen-
dered intense faculty criticism, and
where financial troubles forced the
layoff of 400 workers several months
after his departure.
The Chronicle collects data from
federal tax returns filed by 479 of the
nation's larger and better-known pri-
vate colleges. Although the documents
do not provide complete compensation
figures, they are the best source avail-
able for such information.
The report said that after Jenifer, the
highest-paid president was William
Richardson of Johns Hopkins
University. His total compensation was
$631,063, partly because of a "special

final payment" of $250,000 given
when he retired in 1995.
Jenifer's resignation came just one
day before the Howard University
Board of Trustees was to vote on
whether to ask him to leave, and at a
time when the university was being
criticized for allowing on-campus
speakers who made anti-Semitic and
racist remarks. However, the exact rea-
sons behind the board's plans - or
Jenifer's resignation -- have never
been publicly revealed.
"It's appalling; it's absolutely
appalling," Richard Thornell, head of
the Howard Faculty Senate, said of the
severance payment approved by the
Board of Trustees. "The board owes an
explanation to the university commu-
nity immediately. Otherwise, its action
is indefensible. ... And I think that at
least a portion of this money should be
returned to the university."
Jenifer, now president of the
University of Texas at Dallas, would
not return phone calls to discuss his
severance payment.
Alan Hermesch, Howard spokesper-
son, said the severance package was
negotiated when Jenifer came to
Howard in 1990 and was part of his

contract. "We respect his privacy, and
furthermore, it is standard for the uni-
versity not to discuss personnel mat-
ters," he said.
Wayman Smith, chair of the board at
the time of Jenifer's tenure, did not
return phone calls. The Rev. Thaddeus
Garrett Jr., current chairman of the
Board of Trustees, said he did not
know what happened, since he was not
head of the panel then.
Howard, the nation's only compre-
hensive, historically black university,
has been criticized before for handing
out large severance payments. An
investigation by the Department of
Education's inspector general in
December 1994 concluded that five
outgoing Howard administrators
received severance payments totaling
more than $2 million.
That report discussed a severance
deal for Jenifer, saying he left the

school with a $380,000 payment for
severance and consulting fees. It was
unclear why that report and the
Chronicle survey had different figures
for Jenifer's severance.
According to the Chronicle, the
Howard tax return was unusual,
because the compensation it reported
was for calendar year 1994, and mosot
schools report compensation for fisca.
years. Howard's 1994-95 tax return
was the first to reveal Jenifer's sever-
ance payment of $676,980. It also
reported that he had been paid a salary
of $113,818 and benefits of $9,520for
the portion of 1994 that he workedat
Howard before leaving.
Howard University gets about 5
percent of its non-hospital funding
from Congress, but it is legally str{-
tured as a private university and thus
was included in the Chronicle's sur-


The suit's effects
Harrison said it's too early to specu-
late about the lawsuit's duration or the
possibility of settling out of court. He
did acknowledge that the suit could be
a serious roadblock to finishing the
search quickly.
Regents had hoped the selection of a
new president could be completed by
Harrison said Lehman has contacted
at least the top five candidates, two of
which were scheduled for interviews
this week.
"I'm sure he's called all of them to
keep them informed," Harrison said.
John Truscott, spokesperson for
Gov. John Engler, said the lawsuit
could potentially have the greatest
effect on the top five candidates.
"A lot of
times when
you're doing a
'let search like this,
top-notch candi-
dates might
Made it have other
Ioffers as well,'
wo l Truscott said.
"If the search is
#t delayed, they
might take
he another position
Fi if it's offered.
the It's difficult for
everyone all



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In an attempt to avoid another law-
suit, the regents
adopted a
earch plan in " W t
January that
they believed
complied with announces
both the 1993
decision and the past weeD
state's open ce rte
.meetings laws. ce rte
"The regents not condul
this time have
'~erchthat we
believe is in search in
keeping with
the Booth deci- op n,
Sion and the
-requirements of - J
the Open Newspa
=Meetings Act;'
Harrison said.
But the news-
papers disagree and ask in their law-
uit to prohibit the board from follow-
ing its intended procedures until a
'selection process is approved by the
The newspapers also are requesting
that the regents, the advisory commit-
tee and MacKay be required to keep
audio recordings of any closed meet-
ings connected with the search.
Harrison said conflict exists
jbetween the newspapers and the
*, niversity because the two sides inter-
pret the Supreme Court ruling differ-
"What the newspapers seek is a
completely open search. We believe
such a search would be impossible,"
Harrison said. "Instead, we have
attempted to fashion a search in which
the final stages are open, there is
accountability to the public and the
confidentiality of people who were
nominated, but who have not been
'advanced to the final stages, is pre-
Harrison, who said the newspapers'
opinion is based largely on exaggera-
tion, said the University will work to
develop its case until the hearing.
"We'll present to the court in a mea-
sured, rational manner the way in
which we intend to conduct the
search;' Harrison said. "We'll leave
the hyperbole to the newspapers."
Advisory committee
While the suit contends that forming
an advisory committee to initially
screen applicants is in violation of
OMA, the suit does not request that
the committee's activities be voided.
"We are not seeking to invalidate
anything the advisory committee did,"
Rowe said.
The case states that the advisory
committee is not exempt from the law,
which mandates that all discussions
and deliberations be open except for
4 those that are limited to review of per-
sonal matters contained within appli-
The suit says all interviews should
be open under this law, whether con-
ducted by the board, a delegated sub-
committee or an individual.
PSAC, the 12-member advisory
committee of faculty, staff, students
'and an alum, has been working since
March to interview candidates and
narrow the list down to five recom-

At Canterbury House, we start each day with silent meditation and prayer.
join us... if you think you can stand it! Tuesday - Friday, 9:15 - 9:45 A.M.
721 East Huron Street
The big blue house one block east of State St.
The Rev. Matthew Lawrence, Chaplain


8.5x11, 20# white. one-sided
Grade A Notes at Ulrich's Bookstore
Second Floor . 549 E. University .-741-9669


onathan Rowe
pers' attorney

Harrison said
he's not neces-
sarily surprised
the newspapers

chose to sue the
University, but
he did question their late timing, less
than 72 hours before the candidates'
names were to be released.
"I'm disappointed they decided to
sue at such a late hour," Harrison said.
Rowe said the newspapers waited
until now because they had hoped the
final stage of the search would be held
entirely in the open.
"Although some skeptics said
immediately they would violate the
Open Meetings Act again, it was pos-
sible the procedures they were talking
about following would comply with
the law," Rowe said. "What they
announced this past week made it clear
they would not conduct the heart of the
search in the open."
In a written statement released by
the University late Friday, Harrison
questioned whether the newspapers
could unbiasedly report on the search.
"We question whether the news
agencies which have joined in this
lawsuit can fairly report on the story of
the presidential search in the days
ahead," Harrison said. "At minimum,
we believe that it will be awkward for
these agencies to provide unbiased
coverage of events they are themselves

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