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Performance Evaluation of President Benson

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When the EKU Board of Regents set out in 2013 to attract the University’s 13th president, it declared that it was seeking an innovative and visionary leader with demonstrated abilities in budgetary and financial management, one who was committed to academic excellence, diversity and fundraising, and accomplished in interpersonal communications and human relations, including success in the external political environment.

Recent surveys of EKU faculty, staff and external stakeholders confirmed general satisfaction with the performance of President Michel Benson, particularly his representation of the University around the state, as he enters his sixth year at the helm.

The faculty survey obtained a strong 55 percent return – typical response rates for internal surveys range from 30 to 40 percent. Since it was decided to poll every faculty member rather than conduct a random sample, the results cannot be generalized, but the strong response produced useful information.

Overall, 55 percent of faculty and 69 percent of staff rated President Benson as effective or very effective. Both groups scored the president most highly on governmental relations, meeting the ongoing commitments of the University’s Strategic Plan, exhibiting integrity and compassion, offering vision, effective communications, visibility, personal relations, and maintaining a safe campus.

The surveys suggested opportunities for improvement in the areas of maintaining positive morale, delegating authority to appropriate individuals, evaluating performance, obtaining and distributing resources for personnel development, and offering competitive salaries. Since 2013, $15.3 million have been added to the total faculty and staff payroll, including various across-the-board and equity raises, plus the attendant fringe benefits. Unfortunately, increases in faculty and staff spending power were somewhat offset by rising benefit costs as the University grappled with continued declines in state appropriations and resulting budget cuts.

In a separate survey, 100 percent of external stakeholders rated President Benson as either effective or very effective.

President Benson’s tenure has been distinguished by a comprehensive campus revitalization initiative designed to transform the living and learning experience of EKU students. In the last two years alone, the University has opened the second phase of its Science Building, three new residence halls, a new dining hall and a parking garage, among other improvements, generally financed by innovative public-private partnerships. In late 2019, the University will open a new recreation center and a renovated student union, both financed by a Student Senate-approved student fee.

Other recent accomplishments include record levels of private support, a very successful national re-accreditation, a doubling of the four-year graduation rate and improvements in freshman retention, and near-record enrollments.

President Benson’s new book, co-authored with former colleague Hal Boyd, is titled “College for the Commonwealth: A Case for Higher Education in American Democracy” and will be available October 22.

After an open discussion of the evaluation, the Board approved the following statement: “The Board thanks President Benson for furthering the lives of EKU students and for sustaining the mission and values of the University. We appreciate his great work, his leadership and his impact on students. President Benson has a talent for personal relations, and that contributes greatly to mission of the University and to our development efforts.”

The Board also said in its statement that it is “encouraging the president to look for opportunities to raise faculty and staff salaries to competitive and equitable levels.”

Published on September 24, 2018

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