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Marshall faculty to vote on confidence in president

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall University faculty will vote on whether they have confidence or not in President Stephen Kopp's leadership "as soon as possible," after a motion for the vote was made and seconded during an emergency Faculty Senate meeting Friday.

The motion cited Kopp's "engagement in communication practices" that undermined the administration's goals of transparency and left the university's faculty departments "in a state of chaos" after he abruptly decided last week to sweep the university's departmental accounts into one central account, Faculty Senate Chairman Eldon Larsen said.

Faculty members could decide on the matter by voting electronically as soon as May 1, Larsen said.

The sweep was part of a new budget model Kopp proposed to the Marshall Board of Governors in an attempt to prepare for a $5 million cutback in state appropriations, he said.

All special revenue accounts totaling more than $5,000 were moved overnight into one consolidated account for administrators to analyze, and from which departments would need to request withdrawals.

Kopp notified employees via email after the money already had been moved. However, Kopp confirmed Friday that the money had been put back into departments' individual accounts.

"A great deal of trust has been damaged," Larsen said. The phrase, 'I'll believe it when I see it' becomes very important."

In an apology to the Board of Governors and members of the Marshall community, Kopp called the move "ill-conceived" and "insensitive."

"The challenge before us remains, and it is not of our doing. But as a community, we need to come together and decide what's best for the university in terms of how we're going to manage our affairs in a more limited financial resource environment. That is the challenge," he said during Friday's meeting.

Earlier this week, the Board of Governors voted to table Kopp's proposal for a reorganization of the budget model, which he said would allow for better fiscal management and a more simplified fee structure for students, as well as the creation of a staff compensation pool.

Dozens of Marshall faculty members had questions for Kopp at Friday's two-hour meeting, with many raising suspicions about how he's handled the budget and complaining about a lack of collaboration with staff members from several departments.

"Nobody gets an education as quickly as someone who carries a cat by its tail, and we are that cat," Joseph Wyatt, a psychology professor who's been teaching at Marshall for more than 30 years, told Kopp on Friday.

Wyatt said Kopp has promoted a mentality for the school's administration to overlook the faculty. Still, he acknowledged that faculty members campus-wide have had trust issues with Marshall administrators that predate Kopp's term as president.

A few faculty members who stood up at Friday's meeting alluded to Kopp's salary when they talked about the potential for budget cuts. Kopp made more than $347,000 in 2012, and his contract is set to increase his salary to $430,000, effective July 2014.

"I'm not going to disclose my personal finances," Kopp said. However, he did disclose that he and his wife gave $40,000 this year to nonprofit organizations, including The Marshall University Foundation. "I feel we're very generous. If I took a 10 percent pay cut, I would be able to do less for [the foundation.]"

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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