A View from the Cheap Seats – Scandal spooks State supporters

The N&O touched briefly on a subject I’ve been curious about for a while: How the recent events revolving around State’s leadership have affected its revenue stream from donors.

“If NCSU can afford to give Mary Easley an $80,000 salary increase, it no longer needs my support.”

Beyond the obvious issues of inadequate accountability and the even more inept management by our “leadership,” this quote resonates to the recent trending of State away from its commitment as a land-grant institution to play “an active and vital role in improving the quality of life for the citizens of North Carolina, the nation and the world,” towards, instead, a major player in the big business that is the modern university.

I understand the inherent need for growth and progress, especially through multi-million dollar corporate partnerships in research, and this isn’t an argument to the contrary. But since I graduated in 2001, it just seems to me that this progress has been realized at the expense of tradition and the increasing alienation of State’s cultural foundation, which is disconcerting.

Many of us give what we can, when we can. After all, beyond the sports, we’re intimately vested in the success of State as an institution, because so much of our identities and personalities – personal and professional – were borne from our student experience at State – the best years of our lives, right?

As a university, I firmly believe that State’s ascent towards being among the premier science, engineering and technology institutions is imminent, and I’m very proud of that. But there’s no pride in being world- or nationally-renowned if it stems from the abandonment of those of us that still say “State” without preceding it with “NC” and still wonder why Tuffy needed a makeover just so we can market a “better” product to some guy in Kansas.

I’m ecstatic that State as a university has big plans on the horizon, but hopefully we’ll find a leadership group that can achieve those goals without forfeiting our identity.

Alpha Entry
From the realm of ‘great minds think alike’ – Alpha Wolf was penning some comments on this very topic as LRM posted his entry. So, it makes sense to put merge these comments into the same entry here.

Rank and file NC State contributors are none too happy about the shenanigans recently brought to light, and some are voting with their checkbooks, according the the News and Observer today:

For three decades, James Arthur was perfectly pleased to send an annual donation to N.C. State, the university that granted him three degrees.

But last year he began reading about Mary Easley, her pay raise and the university’s handling of the matter.

And he put the checkbook away.

“If NCSU can afford to give Mary Easley an $80,000 salary increase, it no longer needs my support,” he wrote in an e-mail early this year to the head of NCSU’s annual giving initiative. “That the chancellor of NCSU would give such a rich reward to the wife of a sitting governor has lowered my respect for the chancellor and, sadly, for the school as well.”

School officials said in the article that while receipts for this year are steady, new commitments have dropped. They blame the shaky economic conditions more than the Easley situation.

“There’s really no way to measure cause and effect,” [Nevin Kessler, NCSU’s vice chancellor for university advancement] said, referring to the Easley saga and its potential impact on fundraising. “That isn’t to say we don’t have an issue and have to rebuild confidence and trust.”

Actually, there is a way to measure cause and effect and it is done every day in corporate America through the use of controlled focus groups that provide accurate statistical analysis for executives to use in decisioning. What Nevin Kessler is not saying is that NC State has not undertaken those metrics, either now or presumably in the past. Such an exercise would be useful to create a baseline to identify shifts in opinion and motivation. In fact, the school teaches how to use these techniques in the College of Management.

In my opinion, this is part and parcel of the ivory tower mentality that hounds NC State from top to bottom. We see it here in the case of the possibility that the Mary Easley issue has potentially affected donations — something that could only get worse if the Easley scandal leads to indictments and trials. We also see it within subsets of the Athletics Department, including the Sports Information Department that is best described as a fiefdom where tribute is to be given to the queen or banishment will soon follow.

Until NC State matures into a modern organization with modern managers who make use of the very tools they are teaching to their students, it will not live up to its vast potential.

About LRM

Charter member of the Lunatic Fringe and a fan, loyal to a fault.

General NC State Administration

33 Responses to A View from the Cheap Seats – Scandal spooks State supporters

  1. WolftownVA81 07/01/2009 at 12:35 PM #

    Another quote from the story “People who say they’re not going to give anymore, they need to go the other way,” said Pomeranz, who lives in Cary. They need to continue giving, and say ‘act better!'”

    I’d have to strongly disagree. I vote with my wallet not only in an election; but, in the amount of my church tithe or any other donation to a charity. I ask myself is the money being spent as I was promised? Are the managers responsible with my donation? Is the overhead reasonable? If the answers to those question aren’t to my liking, guess what, the flow of money stops. Same with my University. That sends the strongest message I can send. Emails and letters can and are ignored or answered with a form letter. However, a lack of funds will get someone’s attention. When we have new leadership who have demonstrated they can be good stewards of my money, then I will resume my donations. To do otherwise would be irresponsible on my part and facilitate behavior that is not consistant with good public service. Unfortunately, our academic/athletic “leadership” have demonstrated over and over that they have difficulty making hard choices to do the right thing.

  2. ldr of the pk 75 07/01/2009 at 1:09 PM #

    I haven’t been able to support the University, financially, in a number of years due to an unfortunate bankruptcy.Still work on a committee to provide scholarships to students from our county headed to NC State. However, there does seem to be something to the statement. I was at State in the late 60′ early 70’s. My father was there in the late 30’s and early 40’s. We both worked with and supported the Alumni Assoc. You just had a feeling that there were better stewards of the money back then, I think. It seemed our “leaders” were more ethical and down to earth. Perhaps not, but that is always arguable no matter who’s in charge.

    The money given the University by the Alumni Assoc. probably pales in comparison to that which comes from the legislature. And politics rules the day it seems. The rub to me seems that in days past, more discretion and common sense might have been used. Particularly if a tax supported school, were making decisions in an economic time like we now find ourselves.

    That such highly educated and well placed people as the Easley’s, Oblinger’s, etc, etc, would do what has been done, at this time, shows an absolute disregard for what is right and ethical. It is what seems to be the norm these days for those bellied up to the public trough. It is no wonder that the average guy out here will think that his support doesn’t matter.

    Need more money? Beat the taxpayers, even in a year of budget shortfall.”We’ll make it up somehow”, they’ll say. Look at every facet of Government down to the smallest committee in the smallest town. The creative fees (taxes) etc, just perpetuate the lack of guts to tighten up in tough times.

    Back to the question posed, if I had any real money for the charity of our University, I’d have to think long and hard about giving it. And, people with money to donate aren’t dumb. Ask the United Way in the Charlotte area. They are looking to give to the person, place, institution, cause, or whatever, where their money will do the most good and produce the best return. It is hard for the average Joe to send money into a “hole” that after it passes through a number of filters, is hard to trace what it has been used for. “Joe” may have been taken for a fool once too often.

    That is sad for a great University.

  3. old13 07/01/2009 at 1:37 PM #

    I stopped giving to anything related to NCSU a few years ago when it became evident that Foulup should have been fired then. Of course, as we have had recently confirmed by events in Raleigh, Foulup is only a symptom of the disease that has now been exposed. In any case, I would hope that after the dust settles a new Chancellor/BOT will set aggressive criteria, evaluate Foulup and others on the basis of goals achieved and overall performance, and act accordingly after the results are in. But, then, I’ve been wrong before.

  4. packalum44 07/01/2009 at 3:05 PM #

    Ironic thing is…NC State needs all the money it can get to be competitive in attracting top management.

    I sound like a broken record but NC State needs a larger endowment. If you want to give to something that can not be “wasted”, give to the endowment. It sits in a trust perpetually and the interest earned is used to supplement salaries among other things. UNC consistently outbids NC State on many of our talented professors in business and science.

    If you are disillusioned with management, set aside your regular donation in a separate savings account and accumulate it until you feel comfortable giving again.

    Or give to your favorite college. I give to the accounting (ACC) department as it is top notch and is the BEST in NC. The professors in ACC (and the College of Management) are incredible. I have witnessed their talent and work-ethic first hand. The last thing they need is for donations to cut off because of foolish behavior they had no control over.

  5. thekind 07/01/2009 at 3:38 PM #

    Get rid of Fowl-up and fundraising will go up.

  6. bradleyb123 07/01/2009 at 3:57 PM #

    packalum44, you couldn’t be more right about the endowment. Carolina’s endowment is almost FIVE TIMES that of NC State.

    Carolina’s is $2.35 BILLION (source: http://giving.unc.edu/development/endow.htm)

    NC State’s is $535 MILLION (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_State_University)

    To further put this into perspective, DAVIDSON’S endowment is $512 million (no source, just going by memory on this one).

    And we wonder why we don’t pay our coaches any better…

  7. StateFans 07/01/2009 at 4:22 PM #

    ^ That doesn’t make any sense.

  8. BJD95 07/01/2009 at 5:09 PM #

    Money talks, bullshit walks.

  9. LRM 07/01/2009 at 5:12 PM #

    I’m not sure endowments are linked in any way to coaches’ salaries.

    But the point about contributing to endowments is still valid. It’s chic for Ivy League alums to donate to their school’s endowment, when in fact, if they were truly wanting to make a noticeable contribution somehwere, they’d give to a smaller school’s endowment instead. Harvard and Yale have endowment funds worth billions; as I understand it, only a small percentage of an endowment can be used each year, so this is still a tremendous amount of money for a university.

    The fact remains, in this economy, I’m not giving my money to anyone I don’t trust will be a good steward of it, and that includes State.

  10. ldr of the pk 75 07/01/2009 at 5:31 PM #

    ^Ironic thing is…NC State needs all the money it can get to be competitive in attracting top management.

    ^Carolina’s endowment is almost FIVE TIMES that of NC State.

    Both correct. Heck, Harvard’s endowment is something like $30 billion? The points are important, that money does do good things for the university. And, when our University has been around 200+ Years our endowment will be much larger as well.

    However, the same type fools that set up the Mary Easley position were University officials who could just as well use endowment money to fund her position, unless I’m missing something. And, they slid back into their former positions within their schools.

    An enormous amount of trust has been lost, much as has been the case in the aforementioned United Way scandal in Charlotte. That trust won’t come back overnight, it will have to be earned. Part of that earning process will be cutting out the cancer that plagues these organizations. You have to cut these wrongdoers out, not fold them back in the mix and act like all is well. You can fold them back in, and the University will move on. But, trust will not follow it, nor will meaningful contributions that are sorely needed for the good parts of the University.

    By the way, I notice in todays paper that Ms Easley is thinking of contesting her removal and lack of severence. Stick to your guns Dr Woodward, bring back the faith and trust expected of our University.

  11. Classof89 07/01/2009 at 5:33 PM #

    I was called by one of their student callers the other week asking me about paying off my annual fund pledge prior to end of fiscal year. I informed her I was extremely disappointed in what had happened, and was going to suspend any further payments, pending appointment of a new chancellor, in order to see if NC State was going to make a good choice or another politically-based, non-merit based decision. I get the feeling she had heard a lot of that sort of sentiment, because she really didn’t argue too much.

  12. 61Packer 07/01/2009 at 7:28 PM #

    It seems the Mary Easley situation is the one on the minds of those who’re closing or considering closing their wallets to NCSU right now, but Mary Easley is now off the NCSU payroll. To the best of my knowledge, two of those who were responsible for Mary Easley’s hiring in the first place, Mr. Nielsen and Mr. Oblinger, not only are still on the NCSU payroll, but at salaries way above what they will be making when they RETURN to work (oh, the agony of being out of work).

    Can I quit sending in money to the Wolfpack Club and still receive my LTR seats and parking?

  13. LRM 07/01/2009 at 8:15 PM #

    Good luck. LTRs are the perfect racket.

  14. howlie 07/01/2009 at 8:31 PM #

    Nice article & insights LRM.

  15. McPete 07/01/2009 at 9:15 PM #

    about Harvard and Yale’s endowments, they have two of the largest in the country. and they have to. somewhere around 40% of their annual expenses are paid by the endowment. for state run universities, its like 5%. the extremely high tuition doesn’t come close to paying its bills and salaries; they need the endowments more than anyone else. and those two schools lost billions in the past year. harvard is facing lots of cutbacks for the upcoming year.

  16. Gene 07/01/2009 at 9:56 PM #

    I did some diggin on where NCSU’s endowment ranks and we’re around 130th in the nation.

    Wake Forest and the University of Richmond both have endowments two to three times the size of ours.

    A lot of good can be done with a larger endowment to make NCSU more competitive.

    One focus of the new Chancellor should be to work on getting more contributions for the endowment and get to at least a billion dollars.

  17. tractor57 07/02/2009 at 3:14 AM #

    Bottom line – no money from me until there is significant evidence that my contributions will be used to advance the university rather than enrich political hacks and their spouses.

  18. McCallum 07/02/2009 at 7:25 AM #

    Endowment money is not used to pay coaches as a general rule unless the gift specifically determines as much.

    Do not get so hung up on the endowment numbers. How many business majors, ag ed majors, or engineering majors from State does it take to equal one John Edwards from unc?

    State has not historically had big money alumni until the last 25 years. Most, if not all, are still living so it is hard to think State could match a unc, Wake Forest or Duke when they, historically, have been backed by tobacco and textile money. The Doris Duke gift at Duke alone nearly passes the NCSU endowment plus a number of State alumni have gifted land not money.

    Anyone dumb enough to give money to the general fund is not smart enough to know how dumb they are.

    Why give money to a school that treats you like crap when you are there, treats you like crap as an alumni then hires a large number of fools to run the show?

    I give money to my old fraternity and specific degree related scholarships. I make sure the people pulling the strings do not get a taste of my funds.


  19. 66pack 07/02/2009 at 7:29 AM #

    I told alumni asoc. no more contributions to ncsu due to it’s administative incompetence and political connections and corruption,never will i contribute and there will be nothing in my will, which i had planned.

  20. warrior56 07/02/2009 at 9:53 AM #

    This scandal is just icing on the cake. I made a pact to myself when I graduated, I would never donate a dime to NCSU’s endowment, specific colleges, etc. because of the way the Greek Life system was treated during my four years of undergrad. Never have I seen a university treat some its finest young men with so much disregard. NCSU should be ashamed of the way they have essentially disposed of the Fraternity system. I promise, I’m not the only one with these sentiments. I will add, I graduated in 2005, so I may never have a dime to my name. But maybe I will. Either way, they have and are continuing to make a huge mistake. I witnessed over six fraternities with long standing ties to the university and with houses on the court be kicked off. Arguably some by their own doing, but mostly because of the financial stranglehold the University placed on each chapter. It still pisses me off thinking about it.

    SFN: You aren’t the only one who feels this way. You won’t get much argument from me.

  21. highstick 07/02/2009 at 11:56 AM #

    I can remember being chastised on this site a few years ago when I mentioned that I’d cut off my contributions until someone had the guts to start making changes.

    Do I feel vindicated? NO! But, until we get some of that so-called “real change”, I’ve cut mine off. To some extent I feel bad about it because of such positive areas(aka the School of Management and Accounting). Maybe somebody will finally get the message??

  22. WolftownVA81 07/02/2009 at 12:56 PM #

    Packalum44 said “The last thing they need is for donations to cut off because of foolish behavior they had no control over.”

    While I agree in part with this statement, part of me says, don’t the professors participate on the Faculty Senate? Don’t they have a Dean with voice to talk about what’s going on? If these guys don’t come out on record against unethical behavior, in my book, they bear some of the guilt as well. Maybe this is happening but if it has, it sure has been behind the scenes. If the leadership of NCSU is serious about restoring their damaged credibility, they better be making some very public statements about what is going to be different. I find the silence rather deafening.

  23. McCallum 07/02/2009 at 4:14 PM #

    State was raping the crowd at fraternity court way back into the mid-80’s and no doubt before that.

    They wanted to put the Greeks all in one place and keep an eye on them. I was in a non-row fraternity and we were on private property so State had no control over us in the least. One of the greatest blocks on the Greeks system at State was the bland, Stalinist row houses across Western Blvd.

    Of course it did not bother me all that much to see a bunch of slackers from Charlotte get taken to the cleaners either. I enjoyed going before IFC and tearing them apart on their lack of Roberts Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure.


  24. tractor57 07/02/2009 at 7:00 PM #

    As I’ve mentioned here before I will not give a penny to the academic (or athletic) pursuits of my beloved State until the crap is ended. I’m thinking that will be never.

  25. whitefang 07/03/2009 at 7:11 AM #

    We “old guys” that are regular SFN readers have talked for years about the deterioration of the school we “knew” – student life, Greek, athletics, etc even while the university as a whole continued to grow seemingly by leaps and bounds. This “Easley” fiasco is only the latest disappointment I have in my alma mater.
    State needs to realize that sooner or later you’ve got to make your “customers” happy or they will start “shopping” somewhere else. For many alumni that means athletics. Much money is given to all facets of a school – endowments, colleges, etc. when the athletic program is one to be proud of. When State kicked fraternities in the nuts while at the same time condoning and rewarding incompetence in the athletic dept. they lost me as a regular contributor. And when my kids were young I naturally thought they would end up in Raleigh where I spent 4 of the best years of my life. When they were of college age I wasn’t at all disappointed when they chose other schools.
    Still I will be wearing red and screaming at the tv or radio this fall like an old dog that comes back after being kicked.
    By the way McC, John Edwards got his undergrad degree from State.

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