University of West Florida president Judy Bense will remain in that office, through the end of next year.
The school’s Board of Trustees approved an 18-month extension of Bense’ contract during its meeting at the Emerald Coast Campus in Fort Walton Beach. Mort O’Sullivan served as acting chairman.
“Our committee, in looking at and considering the extension of the contract, we saw information for comparable arrangements that exist in the state university system,” said O’Sullivan. “And felt comfortable that we were acting in line with practices that were common in our state.”
Under the extension, Bense’s annual salary remains the same: $200,000 from the state and another $110,000 from the UWF Foundation. After leaving the presidency, the Foundation will pay her $800,000 over three years. That retirement package drew fire from Trustee Bob Jones.
“I support Dr. Bense,” said Jones. “And I support her continuing in her term as president. But I cannot support the extension of this contract as is written.”
Bense has also been at odds with the UWF Faculty Senate, mostly over the start of the Argonaut football program. In the past few months, the senate has passed three resolutions: no-confidence; an 18-month moratorium on football facility construction, which Bense agreed to stop for a year, and not renewing her contract.
“Concerning to me are members of the greater public who have gotten some wrong-headed impression that faculty don’t support football, which isn’t true,” said Richard Hough, president of the faculty senate and the faculty representative on the BOT. He says the back-and-forth has created the image, for many, of a “rousing group of malcontents” which he says damages the school.
“To suggest that faculty are cavalier in things that they do or issues that they raise,” Hough said. “(We) simply sought answers, got answers, and are moving on in support of Dr. Bense and the administration.”
“I’m happy, I’m eager to tie up some things that aren’t done,” said Dr. Bense. “And to give the university and Board of Trustees the best opportunity of all to search for and find the next president.”
Going forward for the next 21 months, including the three months left on her original contract, Bense says there are several goals she wants to meet between now and then.
“To make sure that we reaffirm our accreditation as an institution,” Bense said. “Second goal is to re-strategize our improvement methods in base-funding metrics. The third this is I want to make sure football happens. The fourth is to make sure the best possible situation, in which to select the new president.”
On January 1st, 2017, Bense says she’ll be looking at two options: retirement, or re-joining the UWF faculty as an archeology professor. And there there’s what she calls her “seminal work”: an archeology book she says is roughly 75% complete.
Dr. Judy Bense was appointed interim president in July 2008 when then-President John Cavanaugh resigned to take a job in Pennsylvania. Two years later, she signed a five year contract to remove “interim” from her title.