Our View

by Mandy Frohling

Ken Birkenholtz, vice president of business and finance, was, in effect, fired. Technically, he wasn’t offered a contract for the next fiscal year. No one knew why. The faculty was shocked, the students were confused and the administration refused to comment. Days later, he was offered a contract. But there wasn’t much more explanation.

Why would an outgoing president, such as President R. Kevin LaGree, terminate the contract of a vice president who, according to several sources, is an open and honest administrator? It doesn’t seem like a nice “how do you do” for the incoming president.

Why was the chair of the board of trustees, Steve Weeber, present when LaGree informed Birkenholtz that his contract was not being renewed? This fact was confirmed by several sources and, though none would say it on the record, it seems a little strange.

Why hasn’t there been any kind of explanation? It’s within the president’s power to offer no more explanation than “It’s a personnel issue,” but that’s not enough to satisfy the faculty. This just doesn’t seem like the Simpson way of doing things.

Coming in the wake of a secretive presidential search, this series of events has made many faculty members uneasy, maybe even leery. Rumors abound, but none can be confirmed or denied. What can be confirmed is this: LaGree is in his last months as president and Weeber is coming to the end of his first two-year stint as chair. Chairs typically serve more than one term. It cannot be denied that Simpson deserves a full explanation of this series of events. If nothing else, it would clear the air and allow everyone to move on. Until then, this will continue to be a topic of intrigue.

Unfortunately, LaGree has repeatedly denied to offer any kind of explanation as to what happened and why. The only other way to quell the rumors is to make it a non-issue. If the key players were no longer key players, many wary minds would be put at ease. In May, the board should look elsewhere for leadership when Weeber’s contract is reviewed.