MTU students, faculty react to firing

The Daily Mining Gazette
March 27, 2004

HOUGHTON — There were mixed feelings among Michigan Tech University students Friday following President Curt Tompkins’ dismissal. Most praised his accomplishments while saying the campus was due for a change.

Joseph Niewendorp, a second-year electrical engineering technology student from downstate East Jordan, was among two dozen people listening to the Board of Control meeting via telephone. Niewendorp said he would like to see a new president more engaged with the campus and able to rein in increasing tuition costs.

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“I would like to see the new president to be somewhat more interactive (with students),” he said.

In the Memorial Union Building Friday night, Ariana Jeske, a third-year civil engineering major from Ishpeming, said a campuswide effort is needed to help Tech move past its financial woes. However, she said a new administration probably won’t help students’ finances.

“Either way our tuition gets raised regardless of who’s president,” Jeske said.

Lemayian Kimojino, a fourth-year chemical engineering major from Nairobi, Kenya, said Tompkins was an accessible president, but made some poor financial decisions.

“I just hope the transition will be smooth for the university,” Kimojino said.

Aaron Somero, a third-year accounting major from Houghton, was finishing a round of pool in the billiards room. He said Tompkins likely would have left the university after December’s no-confidence vote by faculty and staff, and the revelation of a $6.2 million tuition miscalculation.

“Tompkins did a great job but we need a fresh start at the university,” Somero said.

University Senate President Robert Keen, also an associate professor in biological sciences, was surprised by the quick sequence of events. But he said interim President Glenn Mroz is a satisfactory choice to lead the university.

“We have excellent students, a superb faculty and staff and the university will continue treading the path of excellence,” Keen said.

He praised Tompkins’ efforts to make the administration more open and accessible to the university community, such as promoting shared governance.

“Above all else, people need to realize that Curt Tompkins opened up this university and made it a far more open institution than in the past 105 years,” Keen said.

Chemical Engineering Professor Bruce Barna, meanwhile, has been critical of Tompkins’ handling of university finances. He said although Tech’s research posture increased under Tompkins’ leadership and many facilities were added, the university could use change to propel it forward.

“He was here for a long time and he did a lot of things,” Barna said. “Turnover can be good.”

Barna praised the selection of Mroz. He said it’s important that the university does a thorough job conducting the search while giving Mroz time to guide it.

Barna, president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said Tompkins’ removal won’t affect unionization efforts and the card drive seeking a collective bargaining vote.

“What we want is a process that’s independent of leadership,” he said.

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