By ZEYNAB DAY
President Michael Benson kicked off this year’s annual Convocation before a packed Brock Auditorium by showcasing his sense of humor, ideas about leadership and plans for moving Eastern forward.
Benson, who officially took office Aug. 1, also unveiled a series of changes to the university which included a new university logo. Here are some of the other changes:
- a 2.5 percent pay increase for faculty and staff
- an online suggestion box
- a series of future construction projects, including a pedestrian mall between Weaver Building and the Crabbe Library
- Benson’s address was reminiscent of former President Doug Whitlock’s conversational and light-hearted style. Benson held up an applause sign jokingly saying he has asked his staff to follow him around campus with it.
“You never take yourself too seriously,” Benson said.
He opened by recognizing Eastern’s 45 new faculty and 59 new institutional staff, a list he is a part of as a professor of government. Benson also announced he would be co-lecturing a class in the spring semester with Rep. Andy Barr on Congress and the U.S. Presidency.
“I hope that is a signal to all of you just how much my administration will value what we do as our primary function-that is teaching.” Benson said.
Benson encouraged everyone to use the president’s suggestion box online, where anyone can leave comments and suggestions either anonymously or with his or her name.
“I am going to create on campus a respectful environment where everyone feels free to speak,” Benson said. “We can disagree with each other without being disagreeable.”
The site was online immediately following the convocation and can be accessed at www.president.eku.edu/suggestions.
“This feedback page is the first step, we hope, to a larger campus-wide discussion about what we can do collectively to improve the university,” Benson said.
In explaining his goals for the university, Benson introduced what he referred to as his three P’s: people, place and programs.
“What is our greatest asset?” Benson asked. “I would argue it is the people that work here.”
Benson announced schedule breaks including scheduled days off for Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break where campus will be closed for staff, faculty and students. Off days include Nov. 27 through 29, Dec. 23 through Jan. 2 and March 10 through 14.
Benson addressed salary issues with what he called a “three-pronged approach.”
The first prong addressed what he called salary disparities created when new staff or faculty are hired at a higher rate than existing staff in the same position due to demand. Benson said his administration plans to review peer averages and devise a plan to address the disparities.
For the second prong, Benson said the university would review and reintroduce a merit system, which would reward deserving faculty and staff. Benson said he hoped to have the plan rolled out by July 1, 2014.
Benson was greeted with applause when he unveiled the last of his proposals: a 2.5 percent pay increase for all faculty and staff to be implemented on Oct. 1 [see related article on A1].
The audience began to buzz when Benson kicked the old logo to the curb and unveiled a new logo for Eastern. The logo is still in the works, but it can be seen on Eastern’s newly revamped website. Benson said Eastern’s athletic logo served as inspiration for creating what he called a more “forward-thinking” logo.
The new logo also will appear on Eastern’s newly designed license plate, which once purchased, staff may use in lieu of the $60 parking permit. A percentage of proceeds would be slated to go into an Eastern Kentucky University scholarship fund.
Several audience members applauded and cheered when Benson unveiled the concept illustration for the “Noel Reading Porch.” The new construction project will build upon the Crabbe Library’s back porch, overlooking the walkway between McGregor Hall and the Combs Building. The Noel family, who also helped fund the Noel Studio, contributed $250,000 this summer to help fund the project.
“We want to create, outdoors, one of those really cool, vibrant, hip spots like we have inside the Noel Studio,” Benson said.
Benson closed by addressing expectations set by a new presidency.
“You have my pledge today that nobody’s going to outwork me, nobody’s going to outwork our president’s council. I hope nobody outworks our faculty and staff,” Benson said. “And we are going to achieve some great things at Eastern Kentucky University.”