WKU hires Emslie, Baylis’ partners

Jonathan Lintner

WKU has hired two of its vice presidents’ partners after President Gary Ransdell waived the search process for a pair of new administrative positions.

Merrall Price, partner of Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, will be an associate dean of the University College. Leslie Baylis, wife of Gordon Baylis, vice president for Research, will be assistant director of the Honors College.

Separate search waivers for the two were requested by the Honors College and University College on Dec. 17, 2010, according to documents obtained by the Herald through the Kentucky Open Records Act.

WKU’s Board of Regents unanimously approved all action items at its Jan. 21 quarterly meeting, including Price and Leslie Baylis’ hirings.

Price will earn $96,000 a year, and Leslie Baylis will earn $82,000, according to agenda materials for the meeting. The two start work on July 1.

Ransdell said that at no time, though, did Emslie or Gordon Baylis put pressure on WKU to hire their partners.

“Most of it was at my initiation,” Ransdell said. “My motives were to make this a welcome and inviting place for the provost and the new vice president for research.”

Searches can be waived only by Ransdell, who, along with Emslie and directors of the University College and Honors College, signed off on the waivers.

The waivers were justified in similarly worded letters by Dennis George, dean of the University College, and Craig Cobane, executive director of the Honors College.

Gordon Baylis said he didn’t play a part in his wife’s discussions with WKU, adding that he hasn’t felt as though it’s affected his work at the university.

“I have felt very comfortable and very welcome,” he said. “No one’s made me feel uncomfortable about anything, quite frankly.”

Emslie was out of the office this week and unavailable for comment.

Tony Glisson, director of Human Resources, said there are now 116 married couples who work at WKU. Employees aren’t forced to disclose a partnership, so Glisson couldn’t speculate on how many of those relationships exist among employees.

He said other than through casual awareness, the only way WKU would become aware of a partner relationship is through benefits enrollment, which no partners have disclosed.

In addition to administrative duties, Price receives associate professor rank in interdisciplinary studies and Leslie Baylis in psychology. Both will be tenured.

Price comes to WKU as a tenured associate professor at Oklahoma State University, where she’s also director of Graduate Studies in the department of English. She’s also held jobs at the University of Alabama Huntsville and Cornell University.

Leslie Baylis is now a tenured research associate professor in psychology at the University of South Carolina. Her other work experience includes positions at Presbyterian College and the University of Oxford in England.

Ransdell compared the new hirings to bringing in spouses of professors — except in this case, he said Price and Leslie Baylis come with credentials worthy of administrative roles.

“Everyone seemed pleased with the combinations of dynamics that could be addressed by that,” Ransdell said. “I think we made a thoughtful decision in regards to these two scholars.”

Ransdell announced in March more than $2.3 million in budget cuts, with the largest chunk — $1,476,127 — coming from the division of Academic Affairs.

That won’t stop Price and Leslie Baylis from earning almost six figures.

Price and Leslie Baylis will be paid with recurring 2010-2011 contingency money, said Mike Dale, associate vice president for academic budgets and administration.

Dale said 75 percent of Leslie Baylis’ $82,000 salary comes from reallocated contingency money from the Honors College and 25 percent comes from the psychology department. Price’s $96,000 will be paid in full from recurring contingency money set aside to support staffing in University College.

Gordon Baylis and Emslie, both vice presidents, are recent hires themselves, having both started at WKU within the past year. Vice presidents are members of WKU’s administrative council and report directly to Ransdell.

The two most notably conducted a listening tour this past fall that eventually led to a restructuring of the division of Academic Affairs, which was made official at last Friday’s Board of Regents meeting.