Departing V.P. faults University leadership

Brett Martin

When Sue Markham, the associate vice president for Facilities Management, informed the Board of Regents she would resign in June, she said it was for personal reasons. But in the same letter, she wrote that she could no longer continue at the University “without fundamental change in the institution itself.”
“I believe we have placed people in leadership positions who are inadequately prepared to deal with the complexity of our problems,” Markham wrote. “It is my feeling that there is no real sense of accountable leadership and management oversight even by minimal higher education standards. …”
Markham, who announced she was resigning to spend more time with her husband and children, said in a May 13 letter to her staff that she had been recruited in 1990 to bring financial accountability and modern management practices to facilities in addition to managing the steam plant. But she wrote in a separate letter to the Board of Regents — bearing the same date — that not enough has been accomplished.
The University needs a Board of Regents that is committed to change and understands that its role is to support the institution, Markham wrote, and “most importantly, we need a Board that is fully prepared to hold the Administration accountable for results, and if the results are not forthcoming, to change the Administration.”
Reaction to Markham’s comments among the regents was varied.
“I have the greatest admiration for Sue,” said Regent H. Bryan Neel. Neel said Facilities Management has improved greatly under Markham’s direction. “The board has been pressing hard for a change agenda — constructive change.”
Neel said it is the slow pace of change that frustrates people. He called Markham’s memo a “supportive letter.”
Regents Chairman Thomas Reagan declined to comment, saying that he wanted an opportunity to speak with Markham before voicing an opinion.
Regent Jean Keffeler also would not comment on Markham’s letter but said, “She has every right to express her concern.”
In her letter, Markham said that some of the University’s best leaders have either left or are in the process of leaving, having been publicly humiliated, criticized and “disregarded by a long-standing culture that devalues good management.”
One of those named in the letter as an effective administrator who was driven out was former Dean for the College of Liberal Arts Julia Davis. Davis agreed with Markham and said the University needs a change of leaders. Moreover, she said, new leadership will come only with the help of Gov. Arne Carlson and the regents.
The University has serious problems and not enough money to take care of them, Davis said, adding that the “underlying problem is one of resources.”
Facilities Management is responsible for maintaining and managing the physical assets of the University. The department faces a $1 billion backlog in deferred facilities renewal and a continuing shortfall in building maintenance funds.
“I have considerable confidence in the demonstrated expertise of Facilities Management staff to assist us in addressing this long-standing problem and ensuring proper facilities stewardship of this institution,” said Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations JoAnne Jackson in a prepared statement acknowledging Markham’s resignation. “Sue Markham has provided strong leadership in restructuring and modernizing our facilities services.”
Robert Schenkel, director of operations for Facilities Management, has been named acting associate vice president until a permanent replacement is found.
Jackson has asked treasurer Roger Paschke to chair a search committee for Markham’s replacement. The committee is expected to have a candidate named within 90 days.