Several years ago, state Sen.Kathy Stein was asked what kept her going in her tough political fights.
Not skipping a beat, she replied: "sense of humor."
Now that I am an elected trustee of the University of Kentucky, I think I'll need some of that.
On Oct. 7, the Herald-Leader editorial blasted UK Vice President of Human Resources Kim Wilson for essentially telling me to get a permission slip from the chair of the Board of Trustees in response to my inquiry about how many administrators UK has.
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The newspaper stated that the denial of information was against the law and said: "A trait of almost any troubled institution is concentrating control of information among the few. It breeds distrust and invites corruption."
But funny how, before blasting the UK bureaucratic intransigence, the editorial killed the messenger of good governance at UK: me. In its first lines, it said that my email to faculty on the issue "seems mean-spirited and misdirected."
Just kidding, right? Otherwise, the claim would be accompanied by supporting facts and a suggestion of alternatives, just like the newspaper furnished while nailing the UK bureaucracy. The readers certainly deserved an explanation of the context and of the knowledge that the recipients of my emails on UK's faculty already had. Otherwise, the editorial was simply furnishing those who want trustees to practice governance by ignorance with the silly excuse that I don't deserve any answers: I am bad.
The editorial board clearly erred when saying that I asked faculty about firing Wilson. No, I actually asked the faculty to guide me as to whether I should continue to demand the public information and whether I could propose returning the human resources vice presidential position to a directorship.
Many of us on campus know the curious history of the creation of this particular vice presidency (and its grand increase in pay) and that it serves as a salient example of the bureaucratic lard plaguing UK. To give readers an idea, one professor wrote to me: "In 1979, when I was hired as full professor, I got $32,000 salary. President (Otis) Singletary was making $83,000. The university was run by four top officers. Now we have probably 13 vice presidents and the provost office, and I am sure that the administration is a large part of the school budget."
Alas, even as a UK trustee, I apparently am not allowed to find out how large our administration is. All I know is that as a full professor at the top of my productivity, I am paid $64,000, while Wilson — one of the proliferating administrators who don't seem to make faculty jobs any easier — is paid $181,000.
Hence, UK faculty and staff, who do the actual work here, see an odd correlation. The more bureaucrats with grand salaries we get, the deeper UK falls in the national rankings.
Can't we reverse this by asking, say, Wilson — under whose aegis more than one non-supervisory position was reclassified downward — to take her own medicine? These are lean times.
Besides, more than 300 UK professors braved the risks of retaliation by taking part in my poll and supported my approach; only 11 opposed.
Still, at the time of this writing, I — one of the UK trustees responsible to all Kentucky taxpayers for the entire university — had not been given the public information I requested three weeks ago.
Worse, some power holders are suddenly trying to centralize the dispensing of UK data. Do they care that such ill-advised centralization would eliminate the possibility of trustees finding discrepancies, which is the core of any effective audit and oversight?
This would only make shaping, restriction and ultimately distortion of the information (and of the real state of affairs at UK) more likely, inviting malfeasance. Perhaps Kentucky politicians who claim they stand for good governance would care to note the controversy and prove that they mean what they say?
As the electoral landslide with which I recently won my trusteeship confirms, I do represent UK faculty aspirations. Those aspirations, not unlike any other taxpayers', include finding and relieving our taxpayer-owned institution of the work-stifling, tuition-gobbling administrative bloat.
Now, after the denial of information, I have a greater suspicion that the UK bureaucracy doesn't want us to know its actual size and the costs it inflicts. But it's high time for better governance at UK. Too many people demand it.