ST. LOUIS (AP) — When it comes to raising money from proud graduates, most college alumni associations can be counted on to ask their members for help.
But after a Missouri chiropractic college booted its alumni association off campus this summer amid an escalating feud with school leaders, the not-so-proud graduates are instead collecting money for a possible lawsuit against their alma mater.
“The crux of the problem is we asked questions and we were evicted from campus,” said Kim Hartmann, erstwhile alumni director at Logan University in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield.
The alumni organization was ordered to leave campus after the group raised questions about school finances and took a vote of no confidence in the school’s board of trustees. For now, Hartmann works in a small office nearby.
Alan Epstein, a past alumni association president who practices in New Jersey, said Monday the graduates’ grievances include concerns over excessive presidential pay. Former school president George Goodman, who retired last year, earned nearly $800,000 annually in salary and benefits and had three relatives on the university’s payroll: his wife, son and daughter-in-law.
“It’s unfortunate, but there are powers that be who don’t have the school’s best interests at heart,” said Epstein, a 1993 graduate. “If we don’t speak up, then no one will.”
Goodman was president for 20 years and spent more than four decades on campus. After signaling his planned resignation, he challenged the school’s decision to fire him in early February — less than two months before his departure date — and sought more than $550,000 from an arbitration panel. Alumni leaders said the school has settled Goodman’s claim for more than $1 million.
School spokeswoman Jennifer Reed said “the decision to end the practice of providing the association with free office space on campus was based on a view that it was not the best vehicle for helping Logan provide support for our alumni and maintain relationships with them.”
“No single factor alone led to this decision,” she added. Reed also noted that independent audits “have consistently given us high marks for financial health.”
New school president Clay McDonald told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week that the school’s rapport with its official alumni group had grown “really destructive.”
He noted in a June open letter to faculty, staff and students that the school, also known as Logan College of Chiropractic, has more than 8,000 alumni, while its alumni association counts fewer than 400 members.
Alumni leaders said their requests to meet with school trustees have been repeatedly rebuffed. They criticized the board’s delay in naming an alumni representative to the governing board and said trustees failed to respond to a detailed set of written questions, instead citing “potential and ongoing litigation.”
Hartmann said she was given less than 10 minutes to clear out her office.
The nonprofit school is one of 14 stand-alone chiropractic colleges in the country. A 2012 report by The Chronicle of Higher Education found that presidential pay at those schools accounted for 2 percent of the colleges’ budgets, a rate five times as high as those found among private colleges with much larger budgets.
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