A small group of Wright State University students demonstrated on campus Thursday demanding accountability from an administration they say has mishandled funds leading to layoffs, tuition increases, and potential program cuts.
The students chanted “education not administration” while holding signs saying things such as “Cutting faculty hurts students,” and, “Where is our tuition going?”
They marched to the president’s office in University Hall, but WSU spokesman Seth Bauguess said President David Hopkins was traveling out of state.
Vice President for Planning Robert Sweeney met briefly with the students and agreed to meet again on Monday.
The university is struggling to balance its budget, having shed 20 full-time jobs since June. A total of 150 employees have taken voluntary retirement as the school tries to cut $27.7 million over the next two years.
Last week, a former consultant who was the subject of a Dayton Daily News investigation into his contract announced he is suing the university for $4.5 million, alleging breach of contract.
“There is a problem with over-inflation of administration salaries,” said one of the protest organizers, Carly Perkins, a Wright State senior from Fairborn.
The group had 14 individuals holding up signs that spelled out accountability, meant to symbolize that 14 faculty positions are equivalent to Hopkins’ annual salary.
Last year, the university spent $15.2 million more in salaries and wages than was budgeted, according to school documents.
The protesting students would like to see top administrators give back bonuses and part of their salaries to cover budget shortfalls rather than laying off faculty or cutting programs.
They also want to see more transparency.
“We want to see where the money’s gone. We want to know where the cuts are being made … and we want assurances that they aren’t going to cut our faculty. Because they made that promise,” said graduate student Christina Luiggi.
The university responded to the protest with an emailed statement.
“It is important to our university community that students, faculty and staff are engaged in the budget remediation process,” the statement says. “The decisions that have been made have not been easy and future difficult decisions remain. It is important that all voices be heard.”
Students expressed disappointment that Wright State dropped out of hosting the first presidential debate, which will take place Monday, citing rising security costs.
The university had already spent money on debate prep when the decision was made in July. Sweeney was paid a portion of a $60,000 stipend he was promised for work on the debate while two consultants were paid through this week despite stopping work on debate preparations in August. Their contracts were worth $80,000 and $108,000.
“That is so telling that they can divest that much money into something that just ends up falling through the cracks,” Perkins said.