Appalachian State University

BOONE — Appalachian State University’s Faculty Senate is forming an ad hoc committee to research the meaning behind shared governance among faculty and administrators, as well as the history of the practice at the university.

Faculty senators Oct. 19 charged the committee with identifying best practices of shared governance and evaluating practices at the university. Faculty Senate Chair Michael Behrent said he hopes the committee finds an actual definition of shared governance with an added benefit of improving the relationship between faculty and administrators.

Faculty Senator Mike Hambourger —an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry — said he think all parties believe in the idea of shared governance, but have different understandings of what that means.

The resolution follows a few months of faculty senators expressing concern about a perceived lack of engagement with the group from administrators and App State’s Board of Trustees. Interim Provost Heather Norris, through a statement delivered by Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Jacqui Bergman, said she was pleased that Faculty Senate was embarking on a study of shared governance.

“It is my sincere hope that through this work that we will together develop a healthier, more productive meeting process that will build and sustain shared governance and collegial relationships for years to come,” Norris said in her statement.

App State Board of Trustees Chair Scott Lampe and member Carole Wilson each spoke during the Oct. 19 meeting. Their presence follows a Sept. 25 meeting in which 21 faculty members flooded the emails of trustees members to express concern about a lack of shared governance. Lampe told the faculty senators that he wanted to open a dialogue with the group to at least get a conversation started. He then went through a list of questions he had received from the Faculty Senate regarding topics such as the handling of operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the enrollment size of the university and university budgets and finances.

Lampe said that everything the university has done since the beginning of the pandemic has been to try to make the best of a bad situation.

“We are past the point of perfect answers,” Lampe said. “There are no good answers; there are no totally right answers. There are choices, and each of those choices have positive and negative ramifications.”

Lampe said the two pressing issues for App State has been the amount of in-person classes versus online courses, and how many students are living on campus versus those living off campus. According to Lampe, of the university’s approximate 20,000 students, roughly 5,000 live in residence halls and the larger majority generally live in apartments in the Boone area.

“Our options are limited by the decisions that these adults make about where to live and how to conduct themselves that are outside of the purview of what the university can do,” Lampe said.

Lampe also said that he has seen no evidence that if the university had chosen to have classes 100 percent online, that a good number of the students living off campus would not have came to Boone. He added that there has not been any virus transmission in classrooms, and that he’s been disappointed in the amount of in-person classes the university is holding. Lampe had hoped 70-80 percent of classes would have been in person.

“We’ve gone in the opposite direction,” Lampe said. “There’s more and more online classes being delivered day to day from a combination of students who have gone home for various reasons or don’t want to go to class for various reasons, and faculty members at the same time. There’s been a shift you all are probably aware of and may have even participated in toward more online.”

Faculty Senator Pete Soule — a professor in the Department of Geography and Planning — said he would like to see evidence that students would have still came to Boone if classes were all online. He also asked what evidence supported the claim that no COVID-19 transmission was happening in classrooms. Lampe said the classroom transmission information had been told to him, and he was under the impression that it was a determination that was made by AppHealthCare during contact tracing procedures.

When it comes to the fall 2020 student enrollment of 20,023, Lampe said the growth is positive for the university for its reputation and budget requests it makes in Raleigh. He said that since North Carolina uses an enrollment growth formula to determine budgets, the quickest and most straightforward way to increase the university’s academic budget is to have growth.

“I don’t see a scenario where this university does not grow,” Lampe said. “Having said that, I also don’t see a scenario where it grows at anywhere close to the rate that the state as a whole and the university system has grown. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country.”

Additionally, Lampe commented that the University of North Carolina system, App State Board of Trustees and App State Faculty Senate each have a budget committee — all of whom have an opinion about what the budget priorities should be.

On behalf of Norris, Bergman said the university’s spring planning group has prepared recommendations for spring class scheduling and how to further enhance student and faculty engagement. The group conducted a survey with faculty and students and plans to present a summary and recommendations — such as how to collaboratively work with students on self care and mental wellbeing — to administrators soon.

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(5) comments

Lampe, to his credit, spoke to the faculty, but he said some very very disturbing things. He clearly has no idea what he is doing, what universities are all about, or how they should operate. It's good that he left the bubble of Everts and Forte and Norris, who are equally unqualified to run a university. The utter disfunction among the top leadership and BOT clearly shows their incompetence. So hopefully he is willing to listen and learn because based on his comments, he has a lot to learn.

For instance, the most disturbing comments were about athletics and academics. It was disturbing because he revealed a complete lack of knowledge or commitment to the actual purpose of the university. He doesn't even get the basics. Specifically, Lampe actually tried to justify the $24m annual subsidy to athletics (that covers a $24m annual operating loss) by saying academics is subsidized too.....really? (palm to face) Seriously, how can the chair of the BOT say something so uniformed and misguided? How does he not know that his statement is contrary to any basic understanding of higher education (not to mention economics)? He may care about the university, but this comment shows his ideas about the operations and aspirations of the university are extremely damaging.

First lesson for Lampe: Academics is a public good that serves the state by positively impacting all facets of the state—economic growth, income tax receipts, better health outcomes, less demand on criminal justice system and social services, more civic engagement, etc. Studies clearly show the benefits that NC receives from each college graduate far exceeds the amount of state funds spent to subsidize that person’s education. It’s a high positive rate of return on the investment. In short, higher education is a public good that warrants a subsidy, which is why it’s enshrined in the state constitution. This is a basic lesson from an entry level economics course.

Second lesson for Lampe: Athletics is NOT part of the university mission, it is NOT a public good that serves the state, the vast majority of patrons are NOT students. Athletics is not a public good that serves a greater good. It’s private entertainment that serves the patrons. And the patrons are overwhelmingly NOT students. There is NO logical or economic justification for a subsidy. NONE. For most entertainment, the patrons pay for the cost of their entertainment. Not in this case. Lampe and the university leadership force students and taxpayers to chip in $25+million every year to cover the operating loss of athletics. Given $25+million constitutes 62% of total expenditures, the actual patrons are paying for only about 38% of the actual cost of their entertainment.

Sadly, most students live on student loans, many face food insecurity, and the vast majority are not interested in athletics. But the university forces them to pay $18+million every year in mandatory student fees that allow athletics to live well beyond their means and well beyond what the actual market would allow. It’s an extremely regressive socialist entertainment program. And it’s the least cost-effective PR campaign ever. Just imagine, instead of spending $25+m on gold toilets in the athletics complex, flying long distances to play teams like Louisiana Monroe, and paying coaches’ and athletic personnel salaries that reach $1m.....instead, that $25+m was directed at addressing the outdated academic spaces/buildings, shortage of faculty office space, fixing broken elevators, providing travel abroad opportunities for all students, or even reducing student loan debt by lowering the cost of attending by 15% (yes, 15% of the cost of attendance goes to subsidize athletics).

And don’t try to say “it’s how other places fund athletics”. That’s a childish defense, but it’s also untrue. NC State doesn’t use any university funds for athletics. Many schools do not have student fees, or very low fees. The size of the operating loss of Appalachian athletics is NOT normal. Appalachian’s subsidy is one of the largest in the country. Yes, you heard that correctly--the operating loss of Appalachian athletics is among the largest in the country. And on a per student basis, the burden of this subsidy pushes it near the top. And it's not normal for the athletics budget to increase 5 times faster than the academic budget. No this is not normal or good for the university. Lampe gets credit for showing up, but he has a lot to learn and a lot to do.

The fiscal and academic irresponsibility of this leadership is stunning.

The current state of Appalachian and its leadership is a complete failure. Lampe simply revealed how deep the problems run. The BOT, Everts, Norris etc. are in a bubble that's created a norm of backward priorities that are killing Appalachian. So, I must mention another disturbing thing that Lampe said. He stated that we should embrace our identity as an athletics oriented university. Again, the chair of the BOT making that statement is truly disturbing and reveals he should not be leading a university. Let’s review what he is asking us to embrace:

1. Just to remind people, people are appointed to the BOT because they donate a lot of money. They get a position of influence because they buy it, not because they have any knowledge or expertise in higher education. And just look at how the BOT members have chosen to donate to Appalachian—mostly they give to athletics, not academics. So Lampe is asking us to adopt his preference for athletics when those preferences are contrary to the mission of the university. No thank you.

2. Just listen to the the administration. They’ve actually said many times that they must spend money on athletics facilities to attract players and spend money on salaries to retain coaches, while they clearly do not care AT ALL about improving academic facilities to attract students and faculty and certainly not increase pay to retain good faculty. Just look at the huge disparity in athletics and academic facilities. It’s not because athletics pays for them—they live off of university and student fee funding, not their own operating revenue. No, the university decides to direct the money to athletics instead of academics. Is this what Lampe want us to embrace? Ridiculous.

3. Just look at the budget. The BOT and upper administration decided to increase the athletics budget 5 times faster than the academics budget over the past 5 years. The fact is that universities that rely on athletics for their reputation are usually really bad universities, especially mid-level universities that direct their limited funds to athletics instead of academics (yes that’s what Appalachian has been doing). Is this what Lampe is asking us to embrace? Ridiculous.

4. Appalachian took a big big big step down in academic reputation when we left our association with highly regarded, highly ranked institutions like Davidson, Elon, Charleston, William&Mary, etc. to be associated with unranked and unremarkable degree mills like Troy, UL Monroe, Arkansas Little Rock. Can you imagine Dartmouth leaving their highly regarded peers in the Ivy League to join the not so great universities (outside of Vanderbilt) in the Southeastern Conference? Can you imagine they would make the move when it would add $15m to athletics’ annual operating loss? That would be a bad decision. But that’s exactly what we did. We left highly ranked Davidson and Elon to join degree mills Troy and UL Monroe, and it increased our annual athletics operating loss by $15+m!! Is this what Lampe wants us to embrace? Ridiculous.

5. It's incredibly short-sighted to rely on enrollment growth for revenue. It's unsustainable, particularly because the demographics on the horizon. By moving to the open enrollment approach, we've sacrificed our academic quality and reputation. We've also blown the one lever we had to manage the upcoming drop in HS graduates. Let's think about this....we get funding per student, so you increase enrollment to get more money, which is suppose to be spent on the new students, maintaining the same spending per student. That makes no sense. But you're not spending the enrollment growth money on the students. You're skimming off millions from these funds to pay for athletics and other things, leaving academics and students less funded than before. You are gaming the system to get money for your pet projects. We have plenty of funds on campus--stable funding and stable enrollment. Good leadership can manage a budget. They don't rely on gaming a system to get more money by sacrificing quality. Eventually we will need to manage our current budget better. This enrollment growth game is unsustainable, and simply irresponsible. Are we being asked to embrace sacrificing quality just to get more money that will be wasted on athletics? Ha.

No, we do not embrace the downward trajectory that Appalachian has been on since Everts arrival and the BOTs, Norris’ and Forte’s support. Appalachian use to be a highly respected and selective university that HS students wanted to attend and employers wanted to hire from. It is no longer. The lowering of standards to increase enrollment may offer some extra money, but the decline in quality is destroying the fundamentals that will define long-term success. Appalachian was special, but now it’s just one of many low quality regional comprehensive university with a football team that plays on Wed night. Sorry, we never embraced this direction for the university. It was and remains a complete debacle.

BTW, students give more to athletics every year than any BOT member’s single donation. I propose we put the students’ names on the stadium. They are the athletics program’s biggest booster…’s just they don’t have a choice in the matter. I’m sure they’d rather take out smaller student loans, pay for food, heat, travel, books, and maybe not have to work as much and focus on studying….ah but who would embrace that kind of thinking.

Crazy group thinking? Never heard of it. Faculty is just that. Period. One leader is needed to run the school successfully. More students are not going to be able to make the university better. Are App leaders concerned about helping students get Educated versus Indroctrinated? There is a student level that works to really Educate them. Loading students into Boone just for “budget reasons “ is stupid. Please let on boss run App. Thanks


Your jumble of words makes no sense. What on Earth are you even talking about? The little bit that is halfway comprehensible is hypocritical. You keep saying "one boss" (like some kinda commie...) yet decry the university for bringing students back for "budget reasons."

JFC, the person making that decision you don't like is same person you're saying should be running the whole show!! Which is it?!

[smile]how many bosses are necessary?

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