March 19, 2009
JACKSON -- Mississippi University for Women''s ability to get private-sector contributions could be restricted if state lawmakers enact a House-passed ban against the school sharing office space and funds with the MUW Foundation.
"The academic achievement of our students is always our primary goal, and I would not want the language in the house bill to jeopardize that objective," MUW President Claudia Limbert said in a statement she issued Wednesday.
The foundation is MUW''s fund-raising arm.
"The MUW Foundation has been a key partner in the university''s success for many years and remains an important component of our success today," Limbert said.
However, the state House of Representatives passed a budget bill last week that includes a clause saying MUW can''t receive state money if it spends "any public funds under its control to provide office space, utilities, salaries, fringe benefits or other material support" for the MUW Foundation.
Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, said this was tucked into the bill because of legislators'' ire at the MUW Foundation declining to provide them details about its finances.
"It was brought about because the W has refused to provide certain information on the foundation," Chism said.
The MUW Foundation is a university-affiliated group that raises private funds to supplement the money MUW gets from the state Legislature, student tuition and other sources of revenues. It''s privately incorporated and governed by a board of alumni and other university supporters.
The foundation accepts donations on behalf of the university to be spent under Limbert''s direction.
The restriction against MUW and its foundation is in a funding bill for the general support of Mississippi''s eight universities. The Senate declined to agree with the House''s version of Senate Bill 3221, sending it to a committee of legislative negotiators.
MUW Vice President Nora Miller said the House-passed restriction could force the foundation''s office off campus and ban university Vice President Gary Bouse from also serving as MUW Foundation president. The MUW Foundation office is housed in the university''s Welty administration building.
"Having (the MUW Foundation restriction) like that would be inconvenient," said Miller, who manages the university''s finances.
Bouse -- who oversees the university''s fundraising and public relations -- spends much of his time working for the private foundation, Miller said.
Limbert and alumni have been embroiled in a long-running feud largely linked to questions about how the MUW Foundation handles its money. Alums have complained they''re not getting enough information about the foundation''s expenditures.
Stressing that the MUW Foundation is private, Bouse has declined to make public certain information about its finances but has provided public reports.
"Other, more detailed information, is held confidentially to ensure, among other things, that personal information of donors will be held in the strictest confidence," he said last year.
"They hold that pretty close," Miller said of the foundation''s private information.
She noted other universities have similar arrangements with their foundations like MUW. However, the House bill only restricts MUW''s financial affiliation with its foundation.
Chism said the House picked on MUW because it wasn''t forthcoming with lawmakers'' request for information about the foundation.
"They''re just making more enemies," he said of MUW officials.
The Legislature''s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee has requested information, but it''s been difficult clarifying and gathering what it wants, said MUW Foundation Chairman Eddie Betcher.
"We are disappointed and shocked that PEER took the extraordinary measure of amending a pending appropriations bill in the Mississippi Legislature to prohibit MUW from providing any future material support, such as office space, utilities, etc. to the Foundation," Betcher said in a statement he issued today.
"This ''remedy'' is one of several tactics PEER has exercised to politically influence its access to documents. While the Foundation considers this a "fishing expedition" instigated by disgruntled alumnae who have offered no proof of wrongdoing, we have already supplied PEER relevant information."
Byrd commented at 3/19/2009 1:54:00 PM:
"We are disappointed and shocked that PEER took the extraordinary measure..." --- so do you think that might be akin to how the alumni felt when the "W" Administration took the "extraordinary measure" they did against the Alumnae Association?
WhatGoesAround commented at 3/19/2009 2:09:00 PM:
Methinks Limbert and her little cronies might just be dislodged from their self-proclaimed "Top Dog" status. Run puppies, run!
Jekyll Man commented at 3/19/2009 2:24:00 PM:
If a private entity is affiliated and acting in concert with and with funding from a public institution, it has a responsibility to provide the public information when requested. While it is important to protect the anonymity of donors at times - when facing questions about their fiduciary responsibilities, the Foundation must open up. When people clam up, it is because there is something they don't want made public.
Either: a)major donors have created conflicts of interest that the Foundation/Limbert don't want exposed; b)the Foundation is funding things it shouldn't; c) someone invested and lost something they shouldn't have; d) the books are so poorly kept that no one can figure anything out; or e) all of the above.
Susanna commented at 3/19/2009 2:30:00 PM:
Follow the money...always follow the money.
SarahSmile:) commented at 3/19/2009 2:44:00 PM:
I have not really understood much about the war between Limbert and The Alums but I am starting to see Limbert as General William Tecumseh Sherman and MUW as Atlanta! Of course we all know how that one ended!
It seems Limbert is so caught up in the War that she is destoying everything in her path!
Why does she still have a JOB???? In the future who ever it is that hires a new president should consider an Alum or at least a Southerner who understands, Respects and cares about the Institute he/she is hired to PROTECT!
Did anyone ever get any REAL answers about that Stanford Girl that was on the Foundation Board?
wgrad73 commented at 3/19/2009 2:51:00 PM:
Gary Bouse is wrong when he says the MUW Foundation is private. It is a public entity. Its tax filings can be found on line. What cannot be found -- or extracted from the Foundation -- are how the Foundation has invested the money, what sort of returns (losses)have been earned, how the money is spent and WHY admin officials are being so secretive. Jekyll Man is right -- they have something to hide. Time to get it out in the open and run Limbert out of town.
wgrad95 commented at 3/19/2009 3:47:00 PM:
What a rediculous clause! Thank goodness the Senate seems to have more sense that the House of (non)Representatives. If you add a stipulation like that one, it should include ALL state-funded universities and not just MUW.
allisfair commented at 3/19/2009 4:58:00 PM:
wgrad95 is right: this should apply to all universities. Just like the IHL policy requiring affiliation agreements with Alum Associations and Foundations should have been applied equally to all universities instead of straddling the W's original and historic Alumnae Association with a punitive agreement while the other university associations received fair agreements. The clause itself is neither rediculous nor ridiculous - it's a sound clause that should be applied across the board to ensure a proper working relationship between a university and its supporting foundation.
XNavyChic commented at 3/19/2009 6:12:00 PM:
There wouldn't be a need for such a clause if all the universities (MUW specifically) did not try to tap dance a fine line between public and private. This seems to be specifically targeted at MUW because of the blantant refusal to open the books and offer full disclosure of the Foundation monies. I'm betting that you don't find this problem at Ole Miss, or MSU, or Southern and I'm absolutely positive that the alums of those universities would not let them get away with it. If they can get a chancellor canned over flowers - come on! Once again, unfortunately MUW seems to be a special case and is not allowed to garner the same treatment expected at the big boy universities. Glad to see that people are beginning to track the smoke to the source of the fire and it's billowing out of Welty Hall...
XNavyChic commented at 3/19/2009 6:17:00 PM:
"Once again, unfortunately MUW seems to be a special case and is not allowed to garner the same treatment expected at the big boy universities." And by this statement I meant MUW alums are not afforded the same respect and treatment that alums at the other state sponsored schools garner. Not in a million years would any chancellor get away with disaffiliating the Alumnae Association of Ole Miss. Anyone who believes that can buy my paradise, beach front property at the North Pole. You can charge it to the MUW Foundation.
Wstudent commented at 3/20/2009 4:06:00 AM:
So basically it seems like someone just wants to destroy our school. And bit by bit it's happening. Look around. I love THE W, I just hope it's around for me to come back as an alum.
jiminywren commented at 3/20/2009 8:37:00 AM:
Uh...hello, Dr. Bouse. It is not the names of your protected donors that inquiring minds want to know. WHO is giving is not the issue. The question is what is being done with the monies the foundation is responsible for. How much is the foundation spending on lawyers, consultants, and public relations firms. Are monies donated by alums to support faculty and academic programs and provide scholarships to students being used instead to fund changing the name of the university. Foundation Boards have a fiduciary responsibility to be careful stewards of the resources they oversee. The MUW foundation in abandoning all vestiges of transparency and accountability, has lost its credibility. If they continue to defy the legislative investigation committee they will end up losing a lot more than credibility.If there is nothing to hide there, let the sunshine in.
agreewithwhatgoesaround commented at 3/20/2009 10:21:00 AM:
I definitely agree with several of the responders. It seems that MUW higherups think that they are above the law and can do whatever they want to with money and with people. You cannot play with people's lives or money and get away with it forever. Sooner or later you will have to answer for it.
FollowThe$$$$ commented at 3/20/2009 10:31:00 AM:
Get a grip, Betcher! Have you noticed that your lame attempts at villifying alumnae/i aren't flipping working anymore?!?! I'm soooo sure that PEER was just sitting around with nothing to do, so they decided to "pick on" the W Foundation. Lord forbid that it had something to do with numerous people in numerous places and positions asking numerous questions about the transparency of the Foundation accounts - and hitting a brick wall every. single. time. You are NOT a victim: people who have put money into their beloved university's Foundation have EVERY right to know what you people are doing with their hard-earned dollars. Pull out the Coleman lantern and light it up, buddy. It's time for you to shine a light on it!!
AgreeWithY''all commented at 3/20/2009 10:41:00 AM:
To Jekyll Man *** My vote is for Choice "E". You sound like you might know what you're talking about! ;)
To XNavyChic *** You better believe one of the bigger schools wouldn't have let this go on so long. Shoot, I'd love to see the president of Ole Miss or MSU try and treat their alumni the way W alums have been done! H*** NAW!
analyzer commented at 3/20/2009 12:00:00 PM:
The W has long held that the Foundation is not affiliated with the University -- including when the Alumnae Association (not then disaffiliated) sought information. The company line was that the Foundation was a separate entity and that it was not subject to, for example, the Mississippi Business Records Act of 1983. However, while the administration was saying that out of the right side of its mouth, out of the left side it was entering the Alumnae Association office and taking Alumnae Association property (personal and intellectual) out and locking up the office. I have always thought, considering that these two entities had virtually the same relationship to the W, that to treat one radically different than the way the other was treated was probably state action which would support a cause of action.
JekyllMan commented at 3/20/2009 1:44:00 PM:
To AgreeWithY"all: If people in High Places would actually read, listen, & think for themselves instead of towing party lines and following the sheep directly in front on them, they might figure out that something is rotten in the State of MUW!
I have been appalled for years at the treatment of MUW when compared to my Alma Maters (1 in MS, 1 not). While not an alumae/i, I know many - and know this - you never poke the sleeping bear! The Foundation & W Admin have done their best to fumigate the alumnae/i and have found that just like kudzu, it only comes back stronger. Go get'em ladies (and the few smart men)!
Kim Kimbrough commented at 3/20/2009 2:00:00 PM:
People who are not doing anything wrong have nothing to hide. People who are engaged in wrongdoing try to hide it by taking measures such as declining to provide details about finances when asked.
The House measure was based purely on the fact that it is not a refusal at Ole Miss, Mississippi State, THE University of Southern Mississippi, Delta State, Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State to provide the Legislature with the requested information - the REFUSAL is from MUW's Foundation.
While it is a private foundation, there is legal precedent from several states, South Carolina being one, that can be cited as to why MUW's private foundation is subject to abide by public policy and law. For example, South Carolina FOIA applies to all "public bodies."
Clemson University, as a state university, is clearly subject to FOIA. But FOIA also applies to private entities, which are "supported in whole or in part by or expending public funds." The South Carolina Supreme Court has held that private foundations affiliated with public universities, such as the Clemson University Foundation, are public bodies within the meaning of FOIA. (http://www.clemson.edu/administration/ogc/freedom_of_info2.html)
If need be, someone can always bring suit against MUW's Foundation and use this legal precedent to make the case but the Mississippi House, being wise, took the proper measure and is doing what voters put Representatives in their positions to do - honor a public trust and protect fiduciary interests of Mississippi taxpayers. And claiming some donors need anonymity is fine. The foundation staff can blackout those names and still provide the requested information.
Even Forest Gump could understand what's going on here. Stupid is as stupid does, Dr. Limbert, Ms. Miller and Mr. Bouse.
Sandra74 commented at 3/20/2009 2:20:00 PM:
Claudia Limbert has been a disaster and we all just need to face it. I am sure that she is a very nice individual (I have only met her once and she smiled and was nice), but she is not up to the task of leading a university. No offense to the IHL Board and search committee who hired her, but that was a bad decision. The time has come to cut the losses, terminate her, and try to save MUW, if it is not too late.
Lindsey commented at 3/20/2009 2:28:00 PM:
Where there is smoke, there is fire. Is the IHL board hiding their collective heads in the sand? Is there no one with courage to do the right thing? Is it always about the lawyers? When will someone say "enough, it is time to be open and honest and deal with this above the table?" It appears that all the advice Ms. Limbert gets is attorneys and p.r. firms attempting to get more billable hours. COME ON, FOLKS. We need a leader.
journalismgrad commented at 3/20/2009 2:59:00 PM:
"The Legislature's Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee has requested information, but it's been difficult clarifying and gathering what it wants, said MUW Foundation Chairman Eddie Betcher." Come on! If all the other University foundations can do so and you cannot, then it's time for new leadership in more places than the Presidency of The W. It's sad when the students and faculty are smarter than the Administration.
WhatGoesAround commented at 3/20/2009 4:28:00 PM:
"Where there is smoke, there is fire."
And, in this case, mirrors as well. I think they have gotten tripped up in their own magic act!
Resign commented at 3/20/2009 4:41:00 PM:
President Limbert at this point needs to resign along with Bouse and Miller. The summer is coming and a clean up team needs to head in there. I used to think the alums were perhaps looking for a drum to beat but have certainly jumped that fence. I am shocked that any leader would let this escalate to this point. Simple solution -- Limbert and team resigns and an appointed and fair person does a term position in there and opens up the books. MUW certainly has enough credible retired judges.
LongBlueLine commented at 3/20/2009 5:56:00 PM:
I am so proud to be an alumnus of MUW and so saddened that all of this is dragging our school and its good name (long may it live) through the mud. However, do not lay this debacle at the feet of the alumnae. As reported two or three years ago, the initial group of alumnae attempted to raise their concerns quietly and directly with Dr. Limbert. It was then, and is now, the University, under Dr. Limbert's leadership (?), which has attempted to stonewall and hide. Had Dr. Limbert been willing to be open and honest, there would have been no reason for PEER to think about lifting the rug to see what has been swept under it.
XNavyChic commented at 3/20/2009 6:57:00 PM:
"Vocal and disgruntled alumnae, through the MUW Alumnae Association, filed an unsuccessful lawsuit and have now instigated this PEER request in an effort to gain control of MUW. These attempts have succeeded in wasting time, energy and taxpayer dollars, therefore abusing the system and jeopardizing the future well-being of the University."
First and foremost, MUW is in desperate need of a new PR staff. This has to be the most pathetic attempt to cast blame elsewhere that we have witnessed from the W as of yet! The "vocal and disgruntled alumnae" did not have the power to instigate this investigation - that ball only starts rolling if the Legislature sets it in motion.
Secondly, Dr. Betcher, Limbert, Bouse, Mayo, et. al, if the source of this investigation were indeed the result of "three" alumnae, as a direct result of the disaffiliation process that you set in motion, they are no longer allowed to call, or refer to themselves the MUW Alumnae Association.
Lastly, IMO, I would exercise caution when going against PEER. Unlike your battle with the former MUW Alumnae Association, I suspect it's going to sting if you tangle with them. PEER would not be initiating an investigation based off of willy-nilly complaints from a few "disgruntled" alums. Furthermore, by the university's accusations of abusing the system and wasting tax payers dollars, energy and time - you basically have just leveled a charge of fraud, waste, and abuse at the PEER Committee.
Might I remind you that Mississippi State Law grants the PEER Committee with power to assist in AG investigations, recover missappropriated and/or misused funds; prosecute criminal actions, subpoena witnesses and documents... Something tells me that the duck & dodge, smoke & mirrors game that you have engaged in for half a decade is about to come to an end.
Linda Gunter commented at 3/20/2009 7:21:00 PM:
The House bill seems to reflect a poor understanding of the nuances of ethics and public financing by the Legislature. The foundation is private and its right to privacy should not be vacated because support is provided by a state-financed entity; however, taxpayers do have the expectation that every dime expended on the foundation is revealed.
The question that needs to be asked is "What violations of state ethics are occurring while Mr. Bouse, paid to oversee MUW fundraising and public relations, spends most of his time doing the work of the foundation?" In Alabama, a long line of education officials is forming at prisons for such lack of arms-length transactions that usually result in personal enrichment.
The way to get at the private records would seem to an investigation of every dime that Mr. Bouse touched in his dual capacity as state employee and foundation president. Does he get good performance reviews and raises because the MUW Foundation brings in money? Does Dr. Limbert reward him based on his activities in his non-state role? Does Mississippi have a state attorney that is up to the task of answering these questions?
alley36 commented at 3/21/2009 7:12:00 PM:
I wonder how long it will be before the house or senate finally decide that the best course of action is not to rename the University, but to do away with it entirely ... or was that the idea all along when Limbert started?
Anna Gray commented at 3/22/2009 8:59:00 AM:
The IHL board does not have it's head in the sand.
They do not answer to Miss State taxpayers or federal taxpayers. Do we really trust people with taxpayers money who answer to no one? After all they hired Limbert--apparently she has to answer to them. Fire Limbert and abolish the IHL board before the feds decide to get involved. Oh, I forgot, they are already investigating bribery of judges and Katerina. Could the IHL board be next?
jiminywren commented at 3/22/2009 10:14:00 AM:
If Dr. Limbert had a shred of pride or integrity and honor, she would submit her resignation. Presidents of other universities have resigned when facing the consequences of their poor judgment. Nominees for Federal positions resign rather routinely when their past actions and poor judgment are exposed. It is clear that Limbert places her own survival above the interests of the university and the needs of the students and faculty at MUW.
KJ commented at 3/22/2009 11:19:00 PM:
Mmmm...karma tastes like chicken!
1. Local man charged in Holly Hills death COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Council picks 2 CMSD board members COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Drug sting targets Maben, Starkville residents STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY