Haenicke Returns To WMU

August 18, 2006
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KALAMAZOO — The search for a new president at WesternMichiganUniversity will start immediately, following a special meeting of the board of trustees at which President Judith Bailey’s contract was terminated and former President Diether Haenicke was tapped to serve as interim.

Cheryl Roland, director of university news, said the meeting was called after negotiations for Bailey’s resignation were unsuccessful.

“Those negotiations had reached an impasse, so they felt that it was necessary to take the step of holding a meeting and deciding whether or not to terminate the contract,” she said.

Roland said members of the university community were still getting used to the upheaval, but the transition is being made easier by the return of Haenicke, who served as president from 1985 to 1998. He also taught in the foreign language department following his tenure as president. Haenicke retired in 2004 but has remained in the area and active with the university.

“I think one of the very positive things that grew out of (Tuesday) was the board’s decision to appoint Dr. Haenicke,” she said. “There is a sense that he really knows the institution inside and out.”

As the Kalamazoo community tries to deal with the sudden news of Bailey’s termination, others across the state also are trying to come to terms with it.

“It came as a surprise,” said Michael Boulus, executive director of the President’s Council for the state universities of Michigan. “I think the office of presidency is becoming tougher and tougher generally across the nation.”

While Bailey had her five-year contract extended to 2009 by the board back in December, with statements about the progress she had made on several fronts, Roland said Chairman James Holden of the Board of Trustees stated during the board meeting that much has happened since then.

Bailey, who became the seventh president of Western in 2003, told the trustees during the meeting that she still felt she was the person to lead the university, according to a statement. She was officially terminated for unsatisfactory performance and breach of contract.

Since December, enrollment at WesternMichiganUniversity has fallen again, as it has for three years. At the July 14 board meeting, a general fund operating budget of $295 million was passed for the 2006-07 year that called for about $7 million in budget cuts as well as a per semester tuition increase of $175 for full time students, according to statements from the university.

With difficult financial and economic decisions to be made, Boulus said the choices are not always easy and sometimes cost people their jobs.

While he said the tenure as a university president is about four or five years on average, Boulus said he does not often see them terminated. Despite the difficult times, Boulus said, he does not believe that WesternMichiganUniversity will have difficulty filling its top space.

“This is a desirable state to want to work in, because each institution has its own autonomy,” he said.

With most searches taking six months to a year, Boulus agreed with Roland, saying the university is lucky to have one of its “most revered” presidents coming back to serve as interim.

“I think, hopefully, that will give the institute and campus a little time to heal and move forward.”    

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