Press Release from WIFOL on their position on USM’s current crisis: USM grossly mismanaged

The board and the leadership of the University of St. Martin continue to mismanage the finances of the institution even though a Chief Financial Officer, Kenneth Nolan Jr., was recently hired to manage the finances of the university.  

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Although Mr. Nolan was appointed to help improve the financial situation, and the university raised over a million dollars in recent fundraising activities, the financial situation has not improved; rather it has deteriorated. To date, the current employees of USM have not received their salaries for the month of April, and neither has the university lived up to its financial obligations to former employees. Employees are particularly irate that there appears to be some form favoritism, as some employees have received checks while the majority of staff and faculty have not been paid their salaries. The employees are also upset and feel insulted that a meeting was not yet called or a commonsensical reason given for the nonpayment of April’s salary.

WIFOL disputes the claims in the Daily Herald article of May 5, in which the USM president is cited as having met with the employees on Tuesday, May 4. According to what the employees were told by the president, she would meet with them on Wednesday immediately after her meeting with government that morning. Up to Wednesday afternoon, the meeting had not taken place.

While USM president Josianne Fleming Artsen attributes the financial woes to low student enrollment and overstaffing, WIFOL contends that the situation is caused by direct mismanagement of USM’s finances, particularly in the last two years. For example, USM has spent over NAF 120,000.00 on a dean for one year; over NAF 180,000.00 on a CFO for a year and a half; over NAF 144,000.00 on a librarian for a year and a half. These salaries are in addition to other perks such as housing allowance, transportation and travel allowance, insurance for them and their spouses, subscription allowance, conference allowances, etc. Moreover, the previous accreditation officer (now dean) received NAF 3,000.00 monthly from USM in addition to her civil servant’s salary package. According USM board and president, at the time, these persons were necessary to the accreditation process. However, everyone at USM knew that USM was nowhere near ready for this stage of the accreditation process, as financial sustainability was a key ingredient to an accreditation application.

USM also spent funds on unnecessary purchases such as beamers, oversized office desks for student use in the classroom (the majority of which are still not assembled and packed away in a classroom), and just as recently as March, unnecessary, expensive server software. These are just some examples of the mismanagement of USM’s finances.

Where WIFOL agrees with USM’s president is in the area of overstaffing because USM brought in three US personnel—two of whom are retirees—to do the work that could have been carried out by local professionals. The amount of money spent on these professionals has never equated to the amount spent on local personnel with the same qualifications. Furthermore, the new leadership at USM cut back on key money-making programs that have kept USM afloat over the years and other income-generating activities, while being tunnel-visioned and ignorant of USM and St. Martin’s reality.

In the past year alone, a number of consultants and staff have come up with strategies for improving the financial picture—both in the short and long terms. However, none of these strategies seemed to have been taken into consideration by the leadership as there is no evidence of any of them being implemented.

Given the mismanagement of the University of St. Martin in the past few years, WIFOL is calling on the USM board, President, CFO, and Dean to do the honorable thing and resign, paving the way for the university to move forward.