Oakland U. announces intention to hire new president

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Oakland University plans to seek its seventh president and not renew the three-year contract of President George Hynd, officials announced Thursday.

“President George Hynd was exactly the transition leader we needed at the helm the last few years,” Chair Richard L. DeVore said in a statement.

“As president, he has worked hard to bring stability to Oakland University following a period of fragmented leadership. George’s presidency brought a calm demeanor to Oakland and as a result, the university has again begun to make significant strides as one of the top universities in the state.”

Hynd, who was chosen president in July 2014, took office in August 2015, weathered a few controversies, including a trip with trustees to Florida to court big donors, which officials say will no longer take place.

Hynd said that when he negotiated his contract with Oakland, he had the expectation that it would be a three-year contract.

“I feel very confident about the things we accomplished and will accomplish in the next 11 months,” Hynd said in an interview.

Hynd, 68, will serve until his contract expires Aug. 14, 2017.

Hynd earned a $400,000 salary after joining OU from the College of Charleston, where he served as provost and executive vice president. He has since earned a $20,000 bonus but will not be given deferred compensation. A severance was not discussed, Hynd added.

OU’s sixth president succeeded Betty Youngblood, who was appointed interim president by the OU Board of Trustees after the unusually long 18-year tenure of former OU President Gary Russi. Russi retired suddenly in June 2013, announcing it on the same day as the firing of his wife, Beckie Francis, who was the university’s basketball coach.

During Hynd’s tenure, OU imposed Michigan’s largest tuition increase for public schools in 2015 when the board of trustees hiked costs by 8.48 percent across the board, increasing tuition from $11,460 to $12,431 in 2015-16. At the time, the hike was attributed to declines in state funding and Hynd said it could start a broader conversation about state funding to public universities. Instead, lawmakers last summer penalized Oakland, along with EMU, for exceeding the cap.

DeVore defended that decision, saying the board voted 8-0 in favor of the move, which helped generate much-needed revenue and put Oakland in the middle of tuition among the state’s public universities.

But soon after, six of the eight board of trustees joined him and development officials to present to big donors, alumni and faculty in Bonita Springs, Florida. The $150,000 trip came soon after Oakland increased tuition by 8.48 percent, DeVore said.

While the practice occurred before Hynd, DeVore said development officials and the president will continue to meet with donors, like other universities customarily do. But trustees will no longer go to such events out of state.

Also on Hynd’s watch, he was criticized by the university’s faculty for the hiring of Scott 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.

“He has turned out to be an absolutely wonderful hire,” Hynd said. “He is doing a great job.”

OU on Thursday hailed Hynd’s performance during his term. The university was ranked by Forbes as a top university, fourth in Michigan. He led an initiative in Pontiac to cultivate economic development and higher education with its school, which he expects to continue.

Hynd, who lives in the OU president’s house with his wife, said he has many opportunities for the future, including serving on the faculty in the psychology department.

Officials said they will launch a national search for the next president of the school, where 20,212 students are enrolled.