OU students upset at creation of new executive position

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

After raising tuition more than any other public university in Michigan this year, Oakland University has created and filled a new executive position with a $325,000 salary, sparking outrage among some students.

The board of trustees last week approved the hiring of former Fiat Chrysler executive Scott G. Kunselman as the university’s first chief operating officer to coordinate operations outside academics. The position was filled without posting and interviewing other candidates besides Kunselman, who had been an OU trustee.

The move comes just months after Oakland University hiked tuition 8.48 percent, bypassing the state’s tuition cap. By doing so, OU lost $1.2 million in incentive funding but will bring in an extra $12 million in revenue. In-state students are paying $971 more this year, up from $11,460 to $12,431.

“They’re using $325,000 of our tuition money to pay that guy,” said Taylor McKune, an OU junior from Macomb Township. “I’m really mad about it. They raised tuition and made a new job that is the job of the president.”

Trustee Ron Robinson, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the position, said he is confident in Kunselman’s abilities but doesn’t think the job was necessary.

“Increasing administrative costs are one of the drivers of higher tuition costs,” Robinson said. “I do not agree with public boards voting to appoint one of their members to positions within the entities they govern, particularly when not done through an open search process.”

President George Hynd said he understands the criticisms but added that the position will help him to get out more, promote the university and raise funds to continue the university’s 17-year growth trend.

Other universities have similar executive positions, Hynd said. He added that the university has done national searches for high-level posts at OU that have taken years, but he wanted someone sooner. And Hynd felt like he had the right candidate with Kunselman, whom he called thoughtful, analytical and skilled.

“As time moves forward, our critics and others will realize Mr. Kunselman was the right person for the right job at the right time,” Hynd said. “We will see a return on the investment in Mr. Kunselman’s salary.”

Kunselman, 52, was senior vice president, vehicle safety and regulatory compliance of Fiat Chrysler. He retired after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in July slapped Chrysler with a record $105 million penalty for violating laws in 23 recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles.

Kunselman, who had been an OU trustee since 2012, will begin his job Dec. 1.

“It has been a pleasure to serve Oakland University through my board of trustees position,” Kunselman said in a statement. “I am thrilled to be able to continue my service in an even more direct way as COO and hope that my career experiences thus far will be of benefit to the university’s operations and plans.”