By Nick Lewis
Until June 14, the Community Operations Board of Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for the Arts believed they had the responsibility and power to make decisions involving the center and its personnel, but what they really found out was they have no power at all. If that is the case, then why do they exist?
They also believed the center and its board were examples of a true community partnership, and the board had a real purpose. But now, one can only wonder was it simply a façade to gain their support and the community support that would follow?
After a successful inaugural season, Debra Hoskins, a distinguished alumnus and daughter of EKU, was abruptly removed from her position. The EKU administration pulled the rug out from underneath the board in Glasser-like fashion. What an embarrassment to the community, the board and the university.
Board chair Dr. Bob Rogow, dean of EKU’s College of Business and Technology, informed the board on June 14, (two days after Hoskins was removed) that she was no longer at the helm. No reasons or opportunity for discussion was allowed. “Get over it,” was the attitude of the day. It was time to move on to make sure the second season was successful.
I’m sure shock and dismay permeated the room that day. It was a black day in the Black Box. How ironic?
Hoskins’ swift removal was reminiscent of how former EKU basketball coach Travis Ford was treated and terminated by former EKU President Joanne Glasser. It was quick and swift with a “Don’t ask questions mentality.” It was like a nasty divorce, and this one may be no different. It could get messy before it’s completely resolved and that would be an embarrassment for all concerned. One can only wonder what’s changed since Glasser left.
At the board meeting on June 18, I saw disappointment on the board members’ faces. It was a like a funeral. The EKU Center family was trying to cope with the situation for the greater good of the center. The board must now pick up the pieces because the show must go on.
That’s something we all must do no matter how bitter a pill it is to swallow. We may never know the real reason for her departure because of the confidentiality of a likely agreement that was reached, but rumors floating around suggest only minor issues occurred.
However, the Register will be appealing EKU’s denial of our Freedom of Information requests for documents and information related to Hoskins’ departure.
But, her termination and its reason may not be the only cause for concern. How the board was treated and left out of the process is very problematic. That has put a cloud over the EKU administration and the center. Something they don’t need.
Until all issues are resolved and clarified, recruiting a new executive director should be delayed. A new executive director shouldn’t have to walk into the current embarrassing situation until everything is resolved. What potential candidate would want to do that, and why would the board and EKU administration want that to occur?
The success of the center next year and beyond depends on having the right person to bring in impressive acts the community will want to support. The center also needs the right person who can interact with the local and regional business community to generate the corporate sponsorships necessary for the center’s financial successor.
What is as equally important is to have the community operations board and the university administration resolve their differences and form a true partnership so the next executive director will have a fair chance to succeed.
Let’s move on and look forward to the upcoming season because it’s important that the community continues to support the center. I understand 11 acts are confirmed, and approximately nine more may be booked. The schedule is impressive. Hoskins was working hard to bring in top-notch entertainment to the center, and we can thank her for that.
I wrote in my previous column that I had met with Hoskins on June 4, while she was still employed, and she gave me a peek at what was in store for the second season. I promised her I wouldn’t steal her thunder; however, she is no longer there and I have no problem sharing what is in store for season two.
Besides, we need to put a positive spin on that dark cloud hanging over the center at this time, and what better way to do than letting you know some of the acts. Some of the dates are not finalized, but based on my meeting with Hoskins … here we go!
As it stands now, Al Green will grace the stage with his soulful songs on Sept. 21. He has the date on his website. All you ladies get ready to scream when Michael Bolton belts out one of his love songs in season two. For folks who like a little country, come out and see the ever-popular Vince Gill perform. Next spring in April, Celtic Woman will dazzle us with their Irish beauty and melodies as part of their North American Tour. Richmond is listed on their website. If you like something from Broadway, then the musical “A Chorus Line” should take care of that.
As you can see, it’s going to be an exciting season. Come on out and enjoy. As you watch the performances next season, just remember who put Richmond and the EKU Center for the Arts on the map.
I know I’m ready to once again throw my head back, kick my heels up and shout! What about you?