Reader's Forum

The Athens News’ Feb. 26 story “Where is Ohio University CFO Deb Shaffer? Nobody will say” was unfounded rumor disguised as community journalism.

This sort of sensationalist conjecture stirs unfair animosity and can cause unjust damage to the reputation of our university, the success of which is vital not only to the students we serve but also to the county’s financial infrastructure and local businesses.

I would like to start by telling your readers the truth about Deb Shaffer, who has my unequivocal support and the support of the University’s Board of Trustees. Among my leadership team, Senior Vice President Shaffer is regarded as a trusted and respected colleague, revered for her knowledge, experience and capability. She always has the best interest of the University at the center of her decision-making and is well respected nationally as a leader in higher education.

Your inference that Senior Vice President Shaffer is in some way absent or disengaged, with zero proof and extensive support to the contrary, is both unethical and intentionally destructive to the University and the community your newspaper serves.

Your claim that Senior Vice President Shaffer was central in authorizing University layoffs misstates the reality of decision-making at the institution. As we respond to revenue realities, recommendations are brought forward by Vice Presidents for their respective areas of oversight, discussed by my full leadership team, and approved by me as the President. I receive many recommendations, and the ultimate call on which recommendations to move forward is mine. Senior Vice President Shaffer’s area of oversight is the Division of Administration and Finance, which is one of several University divisions. She does not make specific employee reduction recommendations in other areas, nor does she own final decisions related to reductions.

Along with Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs, Senior Vice President Shaffer chairs the Budget Planning Council – an advisory body that is a key component of the established governance mechanisms of Ohio University. The Budget Planning Council is charged with serving an advisory role to the President regarding current and multi-year budget issues and long-term financial policies. The co-chairs communicate the Budget Planning Council’s advisory recommendations to the me as President.

As the final authority for University business, our Board of Trustees plays a significant role in financial decisions made at the institutional level. They have demonstrated great trust and respect for Senior Vice President Shaffer and the broad and deep expertise she brings to our institution during a challenging time for OHIO and for our industry. She has a wealth of institutional knowledge, which serves us well and provides continuity that is vital to the institution’s long-term sustainability.

While leaders at the institution — both our executives and many incredibly talented faculty and staff — continue to work tirelessly to deliver a life-changing education to our students and to design and build a sustainable future for our University, the Athens News has been busy looking for every opportunity to fuel the kind of misinformation and innuendo that fights against progress. In your quest to find someone to blame during one of the most challenging years of our century, you have concocted fiction about one of our institution’s most effective and dedicated leaders. This community deserves better.

Editor’s note: The Athens NEWS did not concoct “fiction” in our reporting; we carefully outlined information obtained through public records and cited our sources. Our goal, regardless of the topic, is the pursuit of truth. That’s the only agenda we have. As for Nellis’ critique of our ethics, we firmly stand by our reporting method of contacting a person’s network for verification, an exceedingly common practice among journalists. Shaffer is responsible to the public. Students who pay tuition, along with taxpayers, have a right to know whether a high-ranking university official lives within the state of the public institution she serves, a central question Nellis fails to address in his forum. We won’t be intimidated by Nellis’ attempt to undermine our credibility.

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