AT ISSUE: For nearly a year, transparency has remained a major issue on campus.
Geoffrey S. Mearns was named Ball State’s 17th president, and with that responsibility comes a need for a change from the administration.
The university has been without a permanent president for almost a year, and during that time, transparency has remained a major issue among members of the Ball State community.
This is something that Mearns referred to during his speech in Sursa Performance Hall when he referenced the Beneficence Pledge, saying that the university needed “honesty and integrity in order to earn and maintain trust and respect.”
He is aware of the lack of transparency, which stemmed from former President Paul W. Ferguson’s unexpected resignation last year, which created a lack of trust from members of the university and allegations of a scandal. While trustee Rick Hall confirmed that there was no scandal, students wanted more.
Now, one year after that incident, we still only know that the Board of Trustees and Ferguson disagreed on different policies.
Not too long after Ferguson’s resignation, two members of the Board of Trustees, Marianne Glick and Frank Hancock, also submitted their resignation after each spent almost 10 years on the board.
Since then, there have been a few examples of the university attempting to mend that relationship with the students and faculty, but there have also been growing concerns about the administration's lack of overall transparency.
In September, there was a report of a man with a gun on campus and students were given little information of what was going on and if the man was a threat to students and faculty.
The lack of communication was apparent during the incident and while no one was harmed that night, it took nearly two months afterward for the university to release a comprehensive statement.
For us, this serious communication issue cannot stand. Every time our administration conceals university business, the trust among the community decreases.
Our job as journalists is to tell members of the Ball State and Muncie community what is happening on campus, and it becomes very hard at times when there is little to no transparency from our administration.
But even with Interim President Terry King at the helm for 364 days, the university and its administration have done a good job of continuing to move forward with several campus-wide initiatives.
Lower tuition increases, the third largest student body in 20 years, campus master plan, entrepreneurial learning, Academic Excellence Grants and programs like Lunch with a Cop are just a few examples of initiatives that have helped mend trust and continued to move Ball State forward.
Infrastructure updates on campus also remain frequent and on time. The creation of buildings like the Robert G. Hunt Center, Johnson East/West complexes, renovations to John R. Emens Auditorium and an initiative for a new health professions building are a few of the biggest changes the university has seen in the past few years.
With so much good happening on campus, it doesn’t make sense why communication and media access has to be so difficult.
This school year, the students also continue to push Ball State forward. The Student Government Association led Indiana’s universities in the fight against sexual assault, diversity and inclusivity continues to progress on campus and students have taken opportunities to increase relationships with the University Police Department.
Mearns made it clear that he understands where Ball State stands on campus and within the community. We hope that he will continue to push the university in a positive direction, but we also hope he is prepared to rectify an issue that has plagued the university for quite some time.
Mearns understands how the students, faculty and staff feel, which he made apparent during his welcoming speech.
“During the search process, it became clear to me, very clear to me that all of you are proud, indeed, very proud of this university,” he said.
We are proud. Ball State has proud students, top-tier programs and dedicated faculty. We are ready to continue the university’s legacy and move forward toward a more transparent community.
We are ready for a president who is ready to move forward as well, and it seems that Mearns is too.
“I pledge to all of you that I will embrace these values, your values, as the 17th president of Ball State University. Thank you very much for this honor, thank you very much,” Mearns said as he concluded his first public speech as the new president of Ball State University.