President Benson Addresses Faculty, Staff at First Convocation

President Benson at Convocation photo

In a Convocation address punctuated by numerous rounds of applause from faculty and staff, new Eastern Kentucky University President Michael T. Benson shared a vision for the campus today that encompassed his commitment to what he called the three P’s: people, places and programs.

Benson, who assumed the EKU presidency Aug. 1 after serving the past seven years as president of Southern Utah University, said Eastern’s “most important capital asset is the people who work here. The most important thing will be to take care of you and appreciate the role that every one of you plays.”

Eastern’s 12th president then announced a salary increase of 2.5 percent for all University employees, effective Oct. 1, only the second across-the-board raise in five years. “This is a start on our part to say ‘thank you for what you do for the institution.’”

Benson added that salary issues related to compression and equity will be addressed “in a holistic way” and outlined a process for the establishment of a merit pool.

He also noted that the University is reducing the number of vice presidents from six to five and that those five will include a vice president for student success and a vice president for university relations and branding.

“First and foremost, a university is about teaching,” Benson said, “and we’re going to put as much as we can into that primary focus.

As part of an effort to keep communication lines open and gather input from faculty and staff, Benson announced the establishment of an online “suggestion box” at president.eku.edu/suggestions.

“This is not to suggest we are bereft of ideas or lack imagination,” he said. “This is the first phase in a larger campus-wide initiative to elicit more input. I’m going to try my best to create a respectful environment where everyone feels free to speak.”

In talking about the importance of place, Benson said, “We’re going to start doing things that beautify the campus.” He announced a $250,000 gift from Ron and Sherrie Lou Noel (whose earlier gift enabled the establishment of the Ron and Sherrie Lou Noel Studio for Academic Creativity) to go toward the addition of a “reading porch” to the John Grant Crabbe Main Library and unveiled preliminary designs for a “pedestrian mall” between the Library and Weaver Building.

The University’s top capital construction priority remains Phase 2 of the New Science Building, followed by a new facility for the College of Education.

As for programs, Benson said: “The things we do well we do really, really well. We can’t be everything for everybody. We will have to make some hard choices going forward.”

He indicated that process will “take some time” and require further input from the campus community.

In closing, Benson told faculty and staff: “There is a lot expected of me. There is a lot expected of you. There’s no better feeling than meeting or exceeding expectations. Nobody is going to outwork me, nobody is going to outwork the President’s Council, and nobody is going to outwork our faculty and staff. We’re going to achieve some great things at Eastern Kentucky University.”

To view the entire presentation, visit video.eku.edu/fall-convocation-2013.

Fall classes begin at EKU on Monday, Aug. 19.

Published on August 14, 2013