Chapman message criticizes Board, faculty

E-mails exchanged between University President Bruce Speck and one of three finalists for a top administrative post shed light on their relationship during the search last fall and November’s no-confidence vote.

Dr. Brian Chapman, a professor of biology and marine biology at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, was selected as a finalist for the vice president for academic affairs post in October. He later withdrew from consideration, citing a “poisoned” atmosphere at Missouri Southern, and the search was eventually declared a failure.

That search has since been reopened, and Chapman invited back as a candidate.

According to e-mail correspondence between Speck and Chapman obtained by The Chart through a freedom of information request, Chapman informed Speck of an opening for president at another university on the same day he made his withdrawal official.

Chapman forwarded an e-mail to Speck concerning an opening at Spalding University in Kentucky on Nov. 6, four days after faculty at Southern voted no-confidence in Speck’s leadership.

“You might want to consider this,” Chapman wrote to Speck.

“Letter regarding my withdrawal of candidacy from the VPAA position will follow,” he added.

The Chart – through director of university relations and marketing Rod Surber – asked Speck if he had applied for the position at Spalding. He replied – through Surber – and said “no comment” and referred all further questions to Spalding.

More than two hours later, Chapman e-mailed Speck asking to be removed from consideration for the post. In that message, he said he couldn’t convince himself he would be effective in the position due to “the attitudes and outlooks that seem to be prevalent on campus.”

Chapman also blamed Southern’s Board of Governors and faculty members for problems facing the University.

“It became clear that most of the issues that MSSU now faces appear to be related to past actions of the Board of Governors,” Chapman wrote.

Chapman also said Speck had done everything expected of the president of a modern university, and that he had never heard of faculty responding with a no-confidence vote.

“It is apparent that many faculty members at MSSU seem to be out of touch with the realities of university budgets in times of financial stress,” he later added. “Most disconcerting to me was the lack of response from the Board of Governors.”

In closing, Chapman expressed regret he would not be able to work with Speck.

“I know that I would enjoy working with you on both personal and professional levels,” he said.

According to the documents provided, Speck never responded to the message. The e-mails from Nov. 6 were just two of many, however.

The day of the faculty vote on confidence in Speck, Chapman wrote early in the morning and said, “My thoughts will be with you today. I hope all goes well.”

The subject line of that e-mail read: “BEST WISHES FOR TODAY – AND – MY VISIT.”

In early August Chapman wrote Speck and said he had met him years earlier when Speck interviewed for president at West Texas A&M University, and that he had enjoyed the time the two spent together. He also said the result of that search had been decided in advance by the chancellor and a board member.

“Many of us knew that you would make an excellent President and I was happy to learn, just recently, that you were now the CEO at Missouri Southern,” Chapman said.

“If I am fortunate enough to be selected for an interview at MSSU, I would look forward to talking with you again,” he later added.

Speck responded to the message a day later, and said he had been impressed by Chapman’s participation when applying at West Texas. He also said the VPAA search at Southern was not predetermined.

“I think your depth of experience as a VP will serve you well in the rankings,” Speck said. “We really do hope to get someone here by January, so we’ll be moving quickly.”

New search

Candidates for round two of the search should visit campus in May, according to interim vice president for academic affairs Brad Kleindl. Kleindl said last week that Speck has had conversations with Chapman, and that he received the highest evaluation from the search committee last fall. Speck chaired that committee, but will not participate in the new search, which will be chaired by Kleindl and Board member Charles McGinty. Speck declined an interview request about his decision to reopen the search, and he declined a second interview request about his decision to invite Chapman back. Speck – through Surber – referred all questions to McGinty.

Other finalists

The records request turned over e-mail correspondence with the other finalists for the vice president position, Dr. Charles Cullum and Dr. Peter Johnstone.

Cullum sent four messages to Speck between Sept. 21 and Nov. 2, with topics ranging from updating contact information for references to thanks for being named a finalist and being brought to campus.

There is one message included from Johnstone, announcing his withdrawal from the search on Nov. 15.

“Please  accept this e-mail as notification to you that I no longer wish to be considered a candidate for the VPAA position at MSSU,” he wrote.

“Please convey my thanks to the search committee for the opportunity to interview,” he added.