When news broke last fall that members of the MSU Board of Trustees had spent more than $100,000 on travel and entertainment expenses, we were outraged to discover trustees had so frivolously spent university funds.
As a majority of the board voted to increase tuition last year, seeing trustees spend funds toward the end of their term, renting limousines and staying in hotel suites on the university’s dime was extremely concerning.
But the university’s recent move to limit unnecessary spending by putting restrictions on international trips, event and ticket availability, hotel costs and limousine rentals is a step in the right direction.
In 2012, Trustee Faylene Owen took a trip with her husband to Germany to see the MSU men’s basketball team play Connecticut at the Ramstein air base. Her expenses totaled $26,319, which included accommodations such as a limousine, cash stipends and a hotel room costing $1,275 per night, according to a previous article in The State News.
Former trustee Melanie Foster also took a trip abroad to South Africa with her husband in 2012, which totaled $20,011, according to more than 700 pages of travel expense documents obtained by The State News. She later cut MSU a check for $14,000 to cover her husband’s portion of the trip, the report said.
To put things into perspective, a year at MSU for an in-state student costs approximately $21,764, and a three-credit course costs $1,286.25.
The new directive strictly regulates trustees actions when they travel on the university’s dime. We support the concepts of the new plan, for the most part.
Trustees should be limited from traveling on the university’s check in their last three months of office. It’s a waste to send a trustee around the world on an expensive trip to attend workshops and alumni dinners when the trustee won’t be representing the university much longer.
Limiting the hotel costs by only reimbursing each trustee for the price of a standard hotel room also will encourage trustees to be more reasonable about their travel expenses, forcing them to pay for any hotel upgrades out of their own pockets.
As for the restriction of limousine rentals on MSU’s dime, it seems obvious that while students are struggling to pay tuition, a trustee wouldn’t be putting university dollars toward such an unnecessary expense.
It’s a slap in the face to students who will graduate with loan debt to hear their trustees, who are supposed to be advocating for them, have justified such obviously unnecessary expenses.
Even though some of the expenses reported in the past have been rather extravagant, it also is worth noting the university seems to be tightening the reigns on such spending. The new directive states trustees will not be reimbursed for meals that have business purposes, such as dinners with potential donors. We hope this will curb wasteful spending and push trustees to target potential donors more wisely.
Finally, all international travel plans are required to be discussed with administrators and approved by board chairman Joel Ferguson. This check hopefully will encourage trustees to focus more on being cautious with MSU’s money and advocate for university donations and better alumni relations in the most financially responsible way.