JOPLIN, Mo. —
The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors on Thursday night voted unanimously to renew President Bruce Speck’s contract through June 30, 2015.
Board chairwoman Sherry Buchanan said she and the rest of the board are “very proud” of the work Speck and his administration have done during the past year.
“Dr. Speck has met the board’s expectations during a very difficult year for the university and the Joplin community,” Buchanan said in a prepared statement.
Those difficulties, she said in an interview with the media later Thursday night, included a decline in state funding and a decrease in student enrollment, which was attributed to the May 22, 2011, tornado. She praised Speck for his “tough decisions,” such as not giving pay raises and eliminating or not filling positions on campus when finances were tight.
The board — minus member Chuck Surface, who was absent — met for nearly an hour in a closed session after its regularly scheduled meeting.
Speck was not available for comment after the announcement to the media by Buchanan. The remaining board members also were unavailable for comment.
Buchanan said the details of Speck’s contract, including his $180,000 annual salary, remain unchanged.
She said that in making its decision, the board interviewed community leaders, Missouri Southern faculty and staff members, and employees who report directly to Speck. It also considered written evaluations of Speck from individual board members and from those who work directly under the president, she said.
“The board believes Dr. Speck understands trends in higher education and the needs of MSSU’s students, and that he sees opportunities for the university to serve its constituents even more effectively,” Buchanan said.
In other business, the board reaffirmed its commitment to across-the-board pay raises for faculty and staff members should the necessary funding become available from the state.
“If additional money comes our way, salary increases are our first priority,” Buchanan said.
Board members last month approved a $72.4 million balanced budget based on a $1.7 million reduction in state funding. That amount had been cut from Missouri Southern in a proposal by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Legislators later restored that amount and added $300,000 more for the university. If Nixon signs that version of the budget, the university would receive an extra $2 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
Some board members remained cautious Thursday about the possibility of receiving the additional funds or increasing salaries.
Board member Rod Anderson said that “factors beyond our control,” such as whether state revenue declines, increases or stays flat, could ultimately determine whether the $2 million materializes even if the budget is approved.
“Just because the governor signs a piece of paper doesn’t mean the check’s in the mail,” he said.
Board member Lynn Ewing questioned how pay raises, if approved, would be maintained in future years’ budgets, particularly if funding from the state remains steady or decreases.
“We’re relying on the check from grandmother from Christmas once again, and when grandma dies and quits sending the Christmas checks, what are we going to do?” he said. “I know how important it (a university-wide pay raise) is, and I know it has to be done, but I have real concerns about how we are going to do it.”
As of Thursday night, Nixon had not yet taken action on the budget.
THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS will not meet in July. It will meet next on Aug. 17.