Design college denies Decatur will depart for top finance job at Akron
(Note: The is the second post about former Ohio University administrator Bill Decatur’s potential return to Ohio. Read the first post here.)
A spokeswoman at the Rhode Island School of Design has emphatically denied that Bill Decatur will be at any other university next fall.
Decatur arrived at RISD in January – becoming the college’s vice president for finance and administration and leaving a similar job at Ohio University. Two weeks ago, the University of Akron announced Decatur was one of two finalists for the same position there – fueling speculation that he could be on the road back to Ohio just eight months after leaving OU without a top finance officer as the university attempted to implement a $13.75 million budget cut.
“We will not be releasing a statement (about Decatur potentially leaving),” said Jaime Marland, RISD’s director of media relations said on Monday. “Bill’s not going anywhere.”
At the very least, Decatur will be going to Akron for a campus visit if he hasn’t already. The Akron Beacon-Journal reported July 5 that on-site interviews would take place “over the next two weeks.” Officials at Akron have not return repeated phone calls request confirmation that those visits have taken place.
If Decatur were to leave RISD for Akron, it would again raise speculation as to why, exactly, he was in such a hurry to get out of OU (announcing his departure a month into Fall Quarter). At the time, Decatur told The Post, “My wife and I have always wanted to live in New England.”
His positions at OU and RISD (and presumtively the Akron position as well) are nearly identical. The main difference being that in his current position Decatur is RISD’s second in command (as executive vice president). At OU he was third in command.
Decatur was given the title “senior” vice president at OU in 2007, elevating him into the top-tier of administrators with President Roderick McDavis and then-Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl. He oversaw both the finance and administration units, co-chaired (with Krendl) the heavily influential Budget Planning Council and managed a variety of departments (human resources, budget planning, shared services, safety and risk management facilities, among others).
According to RISD’s Administrative Organizational Chart (June 2010), Decatur currently oversees information technology, budget planning and analysis, retail and dining, shared and business services, risk and property management and public safety.
Decatur also sits on the President’s Advisory Council at RISD.
Decatur’s salary at RISD is most likely comparable to what he made at OU (RISD has previously refused to release his salary information). At OU, he made $245,725 a year (plus benefits including an $800 monthly car allowance). According to RISD’s 2008 990 tax form, Decatur’s predecessor W. Arnold Yasinski earned $236,627 (plus $38,747 in benefits).
But, despite the spokeswoman’s insistence that Decatur is staying in Rhode Island, the trend among the school’s top dogs has been exodus.
The Providence Journal reported last August that RISD President John Maeda’s first year in office was marked by a series of high-profile departures.
…over the past 12 months, the school has experienced a steady exodus of staff, including its chief academic officer, its top budget official and the heads of its institutional planning and communications departments.
The list of departing administrators also includes the school’s director of continuing education, its director of student life and the head of its graphic services department.
In all, more than a half-dozen senior administrators have left RISD over the past year, a period that coincides with the departure of longtime school president Roger Mandle, and the arrival of a new leader: 43-year-old MIT professor and high-tech guru John Maeda.
Interestingly, the article goes on to list Decatur’s predecessor as one of the most suprising of all of the departures. As is the standard among education administrators, Yasinski did not return the Journal’s request for comment on why he was leaving RISD.
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list is that of W. Arnold Yasinski. Though little known outside RISD, Yasinski was a major force on campus, where he was vice president of finance and administration for five years.
In particular, Yasinski played a key role in recent efforts to deal with the steep drop in RISD’s endowment.
Earlier this year, the school reported that its endowment had dropped 30 percent since the start of the recession, from $375 million at the end of 2007 to $250 million as of May 1. In response, school officials have implemented an array of cost-cutting measures, ranging from staff layoffs and early retirements to closing the RISD Museum for the month of August.
So where does this leave us?
What we know is that Decatur left one school with massive budget concerns (More than $20 million worth of cuts during the last two fiscal years, most likely with more to come. Not to mention the fact that OU’s primary budget planner left this summer) and now may do the same to yet another.
It remains to be seen if Decatur will be offered the Akron job. But if he comes back to Ohio this fall he’ll have just as many fans at RISD as he does in Athens: very, very few.