Monday, May 28, 2012

Harrisburg University swirling the drain, senior administration flee. American Old West museum to be built on 10th floor.

Most of you in the Harrisburg University community probably know by now that HU President Mel Schiavelli has resigned his position and taken a job as a VP at a community college. You've probably figured out that moving from the president of a university to a VP of a community college is not an upward move. A VP at Northern Virginia Community College makes about half the salary that Schiavelli was paid at Harrisburg University. His reason for leaving? “It’s time for me to think about my own retirement planning since HU does not offer any retirement benefits.”

Schiavelli isn't the only administrator to leave this month:  
The VP of Alumni Relations, Ryan Riley has also decided to leave. The May 2012 graduation was the last event he planned for Harrisburg University.

Harrisburg University's Associate VP of Human Resources has decided to pursue a career helping people and small businesses reach their goals. This leaves Harrisburg University without a single employee in the HR department. This apparently does not concern anyone on the Board of Trustees. You might be thinking to yourself, how does a university remain operational without an HR department? Because that's what I'm thinking.

The university also recently lost:
The Director of Assessment, a senior faculty member, the staff accountant and the grant writer.

It seems that Harrisburg University is not just hemorrhaging students, they are now losing key employees at an alarming rate.

Could it be that they see the writing on the wall? 
The Patriot-News recently broke the story that Harrisburg University is indeed in some hot water financially. The University has been borrowing money from Dauphin County to cover operating expenses and to make its bond payments. The university has already defaulted on one loan. Additionally, the university is being sued by the Harrisburg Parking Authority for failure to pay as promised. In other words, if  Dauphin County hadn't given Harrisburg University money, the school would be out of business. How far do the good people of Harrisburg, Dauphin County and Pennsylvania have to carry Harrisburg University, a private institution? The city, state, country, and even the financially strapped Harrisburg School District have all given Harrisburg University millions of dollars. The result of all this co-operation? 150 graduates, a nice building and millions and millions of $ of debt that the University can't repay. [Edit: 5/31: Roxbury News deserves the credit for breaking the story about the HU loans and missed bond payment.]

Harrisburg University has squandered it's money on ridiculous crap like plasma displays in the lobby, $100K hamster balls, month long vacations recruiting trips to China, and exorbitant salaries. They should have been concentrating on building strong academic programs in line with their mission instead. Strong programs attract and retain students, build a solid reputation and produce quality graduates. Harrisburg University needed(s) strong qualified leadership to keep it lean and mean through it's genesis.

So who did the Board of Trustees decide should lead the university out of this mess? 
Well, in their tradition of being complete fucking idiots, they appointed Eric Darr to lead the University out of its financial emergency and academic boondoggle. Of course Darr is directly and largely responsible for the mess in the first place, but there is no sense in attempting to apply logic to decisions by the Board of Trustees. Darr is grossly under qualified to be a provost, and even more so to be a college president. I guess we shouldn't be surprised considering this is the same Board of Trustees that let ex-mayor Stephen Reed be a faculty member (even though he has no college degree) and allowed him to be an actual Trustee too. I for one am looking forward to the Harrisburg University of the American Old West. Anyhow, I digress.

Here are the bios from other local college presidents:

John J. Sygielski, HACC

Lex O. McMillan III, Albright College

Carl J. Strikwerda, E-Town College

You'll note that they all have years of experience in academia, and not a single one of them brags about "book chapters" they may have written nor do they brag about running business that no longer exist.

Harrisburg University needs an independent audit of its finances, new leadership and a new Board of Trustees. Probably not gonna' happen though.

Harrisburg University is screwed. 


  1. Eric is just the Interim President, although I assume the Board will give him the job next year. Does anyone really think they will do a nation-wide search? The school is in serious, serious trouble.

  2. So the newspaper starts some investigative reporting and Mel bails out? Nice. At least Mel had the good sense to leave before the shit hits the fan.

  3. Great. A fake bankrupt university run by elitist morons. Just what Harrisburg needs. The good 'ole boys stuff their pockets and run.

  4. Eric charge?! OMG! The Board of Trustees is retarded. Oh wiat Darr already has been fucking up. Situation normal. Never mind.

  5. If each student with a car has to pay 235 for a parking pass and HU can't afford to pay the parking authority back, where the hell is our money going?

    1. Humm that's a very good question. Is that $235 per semester or per year?

    2. Wow am I glad I am out of there. What a mess. When the hell is the board going to get their heads out of their asses and get with the program? Now that "mini mel" is running the show completely the place is doomed. Students should run not walk to the nearest exit.