In an interview with the Bullet in her office yesterday afternoon, President Judy Hample addressed her presidency, resignation and recent events.
She began with one important caveat:
I cannot speak on why I am leaving or what I am going to do after.
Were you asked to resign?
No, absolutely not.
Were there any health problems that played a role in the last 18 months or your resignation?
Everyone knows about my surgery that I had in December. I had 17 abdominal hernias that were a result of a surgery I had had 18 years earlier. I was very sick then. I won’t speak to that issue as it relates to my resignation.
Do you have any plans for your final three months here?
I will continue to do my job as I have been doing. I am what is called a lame duck. Once people know that you are leaving, they treat you as though you are already gone, but as far as I am concerned, as far as the Board of Visitors is concerned, I am the president until June 30.
Hample explained that she will continue with the Strategic Plan, national accreditation and budget issues. She then discussed the community’s reaction to some of these decisions.
Have I made everyone happy? No. But, everyone hasn’t made me happy either. That is not what administration is about. Have I been as visible as all the students would like? No, but I have also traveled to meet with alumni and donors more in the 18 months than past presidents have in six or seven years combined; all this in 18 months. And, if it sounds like I am bragging, I am not. I am really just accounting for my behavior, and I believe in accountability. People are going to say what they are going to say and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.
Some people think you did not do an adequate job raising funds for the university. What do you think?
I came in toward the end of the Capital Campaign. We finished the Capital Campaign six months prior to its deadline. We were over $3 million ahead of our goal. I traveled on 27 trips to meet with alumni and donors in my first year, which is an unprecedented amount of travel for a new president. I think most people don’t know what was done.
It was recently reported that a complaint was made to the Division of State Internal Audit about bookshelves you purchased for $28,000. What is your response to this?
The bookshelves were purchased not for me, but for the president’s residence. It was part of the ongoing upkeep and repair of Brompton. You can’t rush out to Wal-Mart and buy bookshelves that you just sit in there. The bookcases needed to be both constructed to fit the space and they needed to be appropriately styled to accommodate the nature of the home. One other important thing is that the Board of Visitors did not need to approve that purchase. It went through the appropriate procurement process.
What were the goals for your recent trip to Egypt?
This is part of the University President’s Travel Club, and it is a program that has been in place for more than a decade. I didn’t start it. In fact, I didn’t travel on the trip last year that went to South Africa because I was having surgery. It takes alumni and other special guests who pay. And, we spend concentrated amounts of time with individuals on the trip, many of whom are our major donors.
Do you feel that the goals you had on that trip were accomplished?
We laid a great foundation. We won’t know for a few months whether all of those goals were accomplished.
Did you feel that you were justified with your actions on the safety walk in September?
Absolutely. I participated personally because students expressed their unhappiness to me directly about previous safety walks and the fact that our blue-light system had not functioned as it was supposed to. I was determined to find out what the problem was because I am very much a problem-solution person. There is a problem, and we want to fix it. Somewhere in the chain of command, someone neglected to tell the campus police that there was a safety walk and there was going to be a test of the blue-light system. It is unfortunate that this happened, but it is not my responsibility to tell every member of the university staff. That is why you have a chain of command. [The campus police] thought it was a real test. The cue was supposed to be when I told them that Judy Hample is calling, which is what I did. That was supposed to be the signal. And you will recall from the time that we did the test that the blue-light system did not work effectively. They had difficulty identifying exactly where we were, what location we were at, and it took a considerable amount of time to get there. My sole purpose was the concern for the safety of the students and campus. I believe that our campus police are very concerned about the issue as well. We are all concerned about campus safety. There are a lot of people who work here, and it was an oversight.
Do you think this event impacted your tenure?
It has nothing to do with my resigning, absolutely not. It has impacted me personally because I have gotten a lot of unnecessary negative publicity about it and continue to get it. Reasonable people understand why I did the test; I did it in my professional capacity as president. It is just one more issue that people who do not like me use to beat me up about. I am used to it.
What about the denial of phone records requested by the Bullet under the Freedom of Information Act related to the safety walk?
Our legal council advised us of that. Ultimately we have to do what our legal council tells us to do. Those records were all gathered by our campus police, and they are under certain obligations based on state law. Their records are subject to a broader legal set of parameters. The attorney general’s office, which is the source of our legal council, said we don’t have the right to turn these things over. It is not Judy Hample denying these. It is not Rick Hurley denying these. It is not even our campus police denying these.
Was there a criminal investigation due to this incident?
There was no crime committed and there has been no criminal investigation.
How do you expect the university to follow through with the Strategic Plan in your absence?
The course is laid out. If the next leader wants to step in and follow that course, it is achievable. It is a road map that includes the strategic, tactical and financial goals. As of now, the Board has been very clear that they are going to stay on course. It will take strong leadership to do this. I say this because, one of the major ways to plan is to internally reallocate resources. That doesn’t make you popular. I have done some of that already and the new president will have to do more of that. In the face of not getting new money from the state, it is the only way to get it done.
How do you feel about leaving without seeing this plan come through?
Obviously, that is a personal choice I had to make. For the personal reasons that are driving me to resign, that is a higher priority right now.
What has been your favorite part of working here at UMW?
It is the sense of community here that exists, a community of scholars. The thing that I appreciate the most about this institution is the extent to which our faculty extend themselves personally and professionally to work with our students. We have some exceptionally talented students here. At the end of the day, that is what a liberal arts institution ought to do. Mary Washington does it extremely well. That is what I will miss.
-Jessica Masulli and Anne Elder compiled this report.