JOPLIN, Mo. —
Despite the unexplained absence of the Missouri Southern State University president and mounting speculation about his employment status, the university’s governing board remained silent Monday about his future there.
Sherry Buchanan, chairwoman of the Board of Governors, said Monday that the board has taken no formal action related to President Bruce Speck, whose evaluation normally is completed in June each year.
She wouldn’t comment on speculation and rumors that have sprouted in the past two weeks on campus and on online social media — for example, whether Speck had resigned from his position, whether he had been fired by the board, or whether he is still employed by the university.
“Until the board takes action, I can’t say anything,” Buchanan said.
Speck has been unavailable for interviews for the past week and a half, and a university spokeswoman told the Globe last week that he would be out for “a few weeks.” She said on Monday that he remained out of the office.
Buchanan confirmed that at the board’s most recent closed meeting on May 31, it discussed Speck’s evaluation, but she declined to specify where board members were in those steps. She said another closed meeting could be scheduled before the board’s regular monthly meeting next week.
Board members have met numerous times in closed-door sessions in the past three months to work on Speck’s evaluation, which is to include information taken from items such as the annual survey of the faculty; written surveys from and in-person interviews with each board member, and those who report directly to Speck; and an assessment of Speck’s performance goals and objectives that the board has set for him.
After filing an open-records request with the university, the Globe reviewed the employment documents of both the president and his assistant, which is a newly created administrative position to be filled by the retiring president of Crowder College.
Speck’s current contract is dated Aug. 30, 2012, which follows his last evaluation by the board in June 2012, and extends until June 30, 2015. He is paid an annual salary of $185,400.
He also receives a monthly housing allowance of $3,333.33 if he does not live in a university-provided residence, as long as he maintains liability insurance; a monthly vehicle allowance of $1,200; health insurance under the plans offered to MSSU employees; reimbursement for university-related activities such as travel or entertaining guests; and membership in service organizations, including country clubs.
The president’s responsibilities, as outlined in the contract, cover the areas of:
• Fundraising, development and public/alumni relations.
• Institutional, faculty and educational leadership.
• Long-range planning; budget formulation; and supervision of buildings, grounds and equipment.
• Student recruitment and services, as well as faculty recruitment.
• Appointing, supervising, promoting and dismissing staff members.
• Recommending rules and procedures.
• Representing MSSU to the state and federal governments.
• Preserving and promoting academic integrity and excellence.
According to his contract, Speck is accountable to the Board of Governors. The contract also stipulates that the board will operate at the “policy level” and leave the internal management of MSSU to Speck.
The contract can be terminated under several circumstances, such as death, disability or retirement. Under termination by mutual consent, the president would continue to receive his base salary and health insurance for six additional months if the board initiated termination. If the president initiated termination in this scenario, he would not receive any salary or benefits beyond the date of termination.
Termination also could occur for “just cause,” which includes:
• A deliberate or serious violation of the contract or refusal to perform the duties outlined in the contract, not remedied after a written notice from the chair of the board.
• A conviction or guilty plea on a felony or a charge involving moral turpitude.
• Misconduct that results in MSSU incurring financial or legal liability.
• Prolonged absence without the board’s consent.
• Insubordination or misrepresentation of facts to the board.
Alan Marble, who announced his retirement as president of Crowder College last month, will begin as the interim special assistant to the president on July 1. The newly created position is partly funded for the coming fiscal year, which also begins July 1, by the Missouri Southern Foundation. Continuation of the position will be dependent on fundraising to be able to fund it, according to employment documents.
According to the university, the position is classified as “full-time exempt,” which means that it does not require a contract, as faculty positions do. A letter confirming Marble’s employment lists his annual salary at $125,000.
According to employment documents, the position’s duties include:
• Performing a variety of special assignments designated by the president.
• Serving as liaison to community colleges and other constituencies.
• Performing fundraising tasks.
• Supporting the president on institutional matters, such as project planning, strategic initiatives and communications.
Marble’s current salary at Crowder College, where he has worked for 27 years, is about $150,000, according to a spokeswoman. The Globe’s efforts to reach Marble for comment Monday were unsuccessful.
THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS is next scheduled to meet on Thursday, June 20.