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Reform committee forms after Ball State president’s exit

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) – Ball State University officials have named a committee to propose reforms in response to complaints of secrecy surrounding the resignation of school President Paul Ferguson.

Telecommunications professor Dom Caristi introduced the resolution last week at a Faculty Council meeting, saying the public has the right to know why a president leaves, especially when it costs more than $500,000 in taxpayer money.

“Nobody wonders why a football coach gets fired; it’s pretty obvious,” he said in an interview. “And yet we don’t have any information yet on why this (resignation) has occurred.”

Ferguson resigned as the university’s president in late January, after less than 18 months on the job. His severance package, which includes confidentiality and mutual non-disparagement clauses, gives him two months of paid leave, followed by 12 months of base salary, totaling another $450,000, The (Muncie) Star Press ( ) reported.

“If he took another job or wanted to go fishing that would be public, or if his wife had six months to live they could have listed personal reasons,” said urban planning professor Bruce Frankel, adding that he suspects the board of trustees “discovered something . so embarrassing that it would supposedly damage the university, so everybody agreed to the hush money.”

Faculty Council Chairman Andy Beane, an associate professor of animation, appointed Caristi, Frankel and associate professor of theatre Karen Kessler to a committee to continue drafting the resolution.

The draft resolution’s “immediate goal is disclosure about the instant case,” but it also asks that the board of trustees be elected by alumni, which would require a new state law, and that the board “be directed not to enter into a contract with a prospective president that includes non-disclosure agreements where taxpayer dollars are expended.”

Under current state law, the governor appoints all nine members of the board, two of whom are nominated by the Alumni Council, one of whom is a student nominated by the university and one of whom is nominated by the Ball family.

“I think the governor has way too much influence for the amount of money they provide the university,” Frankel said.

Frankel would also like the final draft of the resolution to include a call to change how the university’s presidents are selected.

The council is expected to act on the proposal on March 4.