Metcalf claims miss mark, lack context

As a reply to Ben Metcalf, I read your letter to the editor (“Student expresses dismay for Hodge’s handling of finances,” Nov. 18, 2008) today about the deceased faculty member. I can only presume that the person you refer to is Bruce Olson, a long-time faculty member in the Department of Finance. We have been putting together a memorial for him in the department and a tribute to him appears on the Farmer School of Business Web site.

In your letter you quote a faculty member who indicated that the department would not be able to send flowers. On the morning after the news of his passing was announced, one of the department secretaries was unsure how to pay for the flowers. Her comments might have been misinterpreted by a faculty member and could have been the source of this false rumor. In reality, the department could send flowers for him through some accounts but not others. The College of Business, through the dean’s office, has sent flowers on behalf of his colleagues. However, his family requests that instead of flowers, contributions could be made to a new fund set up in his honor. This award will be made to an outstanding student in finance and will be called the “Bruce H. Olson Outstanding Achievement Award in Finance.” Contributions to this award can be made online at www.Forloveandhonor.org/givetobruceolsonaward.

I think this is a terrific way to remember all that Olsen has done for students over his lifetime. I have been passing on this information to all the many students that had “Doc ‘O'” in class over the years. There has been an outpouring of goodwill and condolences over his passing. I don’t know who told you this information, but there are the facts. Perhaps, the faculty member who told you this did not know all the facts, and was misled by the comments noted above. I can assure you that while the financial issues Miami University faces are real, no one would begrudge a simple gesture of this type, and certainly not President David Hodge. If you want to talk to me about this I would be happy to meet with you. I think once you see the full story you may change your mind about the events.

Steve B. WyattProfessor and ChairDepartment of FinanceFarmer School of Businesswyattsb@muohio.edu

Administration must buckle down during crisis

First, I would like to say that this is not an apology for my letter to the editor published in The Miami Student (“Student expresses dismay for Hodge’s handling of finances,” Nov. 18, 2008). Although I recognize that I was out of line in the anger I expressed, I stand behind my statement that the administration must take a truly evaluative look at what it is becoming. I also believe the anger which I conveyed was necessary to stir the needed response. The following is a further explanation of the outrage that I expressed.

Bruce Olson, professor of finance, was the catalyst for my first letter. The loss of an outstanding professor and human being, coupled with what was deemed an inadequate response of the administration by a frustrated faculty member (to remain unnamed), sparked my dismay. In response to my first letter, his colleagues had nothing but sterling remarks regarding the late Olson.

“Olson taught at Miami University for nearly 40 years; he was the consummate professor, dedicated first to his students. Bruce had my respect and admiration,” said a friend and colleague.

Another concerned professor who offered his advice and perspective (especially on cooling my approach) told me of the outstanding connection Olson had to both his students and Miami. Olson was dedicated not only in the classroom, but also took a truly interactive stance in the lives and careers of his pupils.

My own Miami experience has shown me how truly influential these educators can be. While in Luxembourg I had the privilege of studying under Ekkehard Stiller, dean of MUDEC. I cannot begin to express to those of you who haven’t met him the energy and enthusiasm for education with which he infects those around him. For those of you who have met him-you know exactly what I’m talking about.

That is the Miami I fear we will undoubtedly lose if we continue this trend of decreasing faculty and increasing class size. That’s why I was so angry to hear of administrative pay raises and wasteful spending while the administration continues to tell us that the budget is overstretched.

In order to be fair, I also received e-mails from the administration, both defending themselves and their response in regards to the passing of Olson.

“I can assure you that while the financial issues that Miami faces are real, no one would begrudge a simple gesture of this type, and certainly not President David Hodge,” said Steve B. Wyatt, professor and chair in the department of finance. I truly hope that this is the case and that both my initial source and I were misguided.

Miami has set up a donation fund in Olson’s honor. This award will be made to an outstanding student in finance and will be called the “Bruce H. Olson Outstanding Achievement Award in Finance,” and contributions to this award can be made online at www.forloveandhonor.org/givetobruceolsonaward.

Regarding Miami’s administration and the financial straits we keep hearing about, I would like to reiterate excerpts of a letter Hodge was sent after first being granted the role of president.

In an uncited letter to the presidential selection committee:

“As Miami University searches for its next president those who most influence that selection would do well to consider the experiences of highly successful leaders.

“Select a person with the ability to think strategically and the judgment to know what value to deliver. Where I once lived, we had a men’s store, Hack’s. When Hack retired he sold his business to a man who had spent his entire career with JC Penney’s. Within a short while Hack’s took on a different look-presentation of merchandise became crowded, quality cheapened. It looked like another Penney’s. Long-time customers who gladly paid a bit more for the quality and service Hack gave them started shopping elsewhere. Find a leader who fully appreciates what the constituent served values and is willing to pay for. It would be very sad if parents began asking themselves, ‘Why should we send our sons and daughters to Miami when they can experience the same quality in Columbus for much less expense?'”

If we cannot recognize that Miami is losing its niche as a fully integrated academic institution we will shortly realize that we have simply become a red brick branch campus of The Ohio State University. When administration is willing to accept more money, more perks and kickbacks at the expense of professorships, class sizes increase, personal interaction with faculty is diminished (or simply made impossible) and the value of the university as a whole is lessened.

Continuing with the letter to the selection committee came a cautionary example of how our leaders must not lose sight of those they have been charged with leading:

“Please choose a president who respects and treats decently those who do the everyday work that goes on. During World War II, General Dwight Eisenhower came upon a group of junior officers who were dining sumptuously while their men waited for their evening mess. The incident outraged Ike. The General scolded the officers, ordering them not eat before their men are fed. Never underestimate the harm that always comes from a leader’s self-centeredness and wastefulness. When people at the lower echelons of an organization are told that budgets are overstretched and cutbacks are needed, while they see those at the top spending extravagantly and taking for themselves all they can get-their snouts deep in the feed trough-they resent it.”

I truly believe things here in Oxford need to be stirred up. Value must be placed on the educators our administration is beginning to lose sight of. Miami is a fant
astic university, but it is only as good as the people it is made up of. I wish to maintain the legacy of Miami’s greatness for all of those who have passed through, and all of those to come.

I would like to thank all of you who responded to my first letter-on both sides of the coin. Your added perspective and opinions have replenished my faith in this institution. All is not yet lost.

Ben Metcalfmetcalba@muohio.edu

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