Differing views on Wilberforce’s future

That was the same year the Rev. Floyd Flake resigned as president of the school after being brought in more than five years earlier to rescue the school from previous fiscal troubles.

In his last year, while the school recorded a multimillion dollar losses, Flake was paid $340,100 in salary and other compensation.

“If I bring in $14 million, and (cost) $210,000 a year, my salary seems worth it,” Flake told the Daily News editorial board just before his resignation in 2008.

Flake was often absent from campus during his presidency, resulting in a no-confidence vote by the Wilberforce University Faculty Association preceding his departure.

The Wilberforce University Board of Trustees then appointed Provost Patricia Hardaway as president. She immediately began to cut spending and slashing salaries, including her own, which fell from more than $200,000 as provost to $130,270.

Financial philosophy

Hardaway has said she’s eliminated much of the university’s operating deficit, but declined to specify how much money the school would lose this year. “We are embarking on a culture of financial stewardship,” she said.

The university met its enrollment goals last year and more than doubled its $800,000 fundraising goal — raising more than $1.9 million, Hardaway said. Nearly, $500,000 of that came from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, with which the school is affiliated.

Hardaway has hired a new leadership team she believes will improve the school’s fiscal condition by slowly growing the school’s enrollment and increasing alumni giving from 3 percent to 15 or 20 percent.

“This university was in a serious need of a different way of doing business,” she said. “I think we are at a place when we can turn our attention to things that can sustain us.”

But like her predecessor Flake, Hardaway has divided support for her leadership direction. Trustees support her, but the faculty union and alumni association have taken “no-confidence” votes in her as president. Neither believes she is taking the right steps to ensure the university’s survival.

Union’s stand

Leaders of the faculty union worry the university will continue to decline because it doesn’t have the resources to attract new students as the competition for black students continues to grow.

“We are not even competitive among (historically black colleges and universities),” said Richard Deering, outgoing union president.

Union officials also say facilities are deteriorating, professors often buy their own classroom supplies and enrollment continues to shrink with only 150 new freshmen enrolled last fall, far less than the university’s goal of 250 students.

“We are at a tipping point,” Deering said.

Faculty argue some of the fiscal cuts Hardaway has made are unsustainable and, in one case, against the law. Payments into professors’ retirement plans have been suspended and paychecks were held for three months at the end of last school year.

Hardaway admits bills have “gone unpaid” during the school’s tough financial times. She said the union refused to make salary or other concessions. Paychecks were withheld because there was not enough money, but eventually, “all of the employees were paid,” she said.

Faculty members say the school needs a complete overhaul of the administration and board of trustees if it is to survive.

They believe the university only has a few years to turn itself around. “We are getting to the point we are not economically viable,” Deering said.

President’s reaction

In response, Hardaway argues recent actions, including winning reaccreditation and refinancing $24 million in debt, proves the university has a bright future. “You don’t close a university if you are working very hard to make sure accreditation is reaffirmed,” she said. “We are on the way to rebuilding the school.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2342 or cmagan@DaytonDaily News.com.

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