MUNCIE, Indiana — The Faculty Council at Ball State University has named a committee to propose statutory and contractual reforms in response to the secrecy surrounding President Paul Ferguson’s apparently forced resignation.

Ferguson resigned his position last month after asking the school’s board of trustees for a two-month sabbatical to be followed by his departure, according to school officials. No reason for his resignation has been made public. Ferguson was president of the University of Maine for three years before taking the job at Ball State in 2014.

No one is questioning the board’s authority to dismiss a president, but when the resignation or firing of a president requires the expenditure of more than $500,000 in taxpayer funds, the public has a right to know why, said Dom Caristi, a telecommunications professor at Ball State who introduced a resolution last week at a council meeting.

“Nobody wonders why a football coach gets fired; it’s pretty obvious,” he said in an interview. “And yet we don’t have any information yet on why this [resignation] has occurred.”

Though Ferguson has been relieved of his duties, his severance agreement gives him two months of paid sabbatical leave followed by 12 months of base salary totaling another $450,000. The severance agreement between the board and Ferguson includes confidentiality and mutual nondisparagement clauses.

“If he took another job or wanted to go fishing that would be public, or if his wife had six months to live, they could have listed personal reasons,” said urban planning professor Bruce Frankel, whose suspicions include “they discovered something … so embarrassing that it would supposedly damage the university, so everybody agreed to the hush money.”

Because tax dollars are involved, the public deserves to know why Ferguson is entitled to that severance package, Caristi said.

“To be clear, the money in the general fund comes from multiple sources, including state appropriations, student tuition and fees, gifts, grants, contracted services and sales, and other miscellaneous sources,” Ball State spokesperson Joan Todd told The Star Press. “Additionally, it might be helpful to know that the university already budgeted Dr. Ferguson’s salary for the year.”

Caristi last week presented the Faculty Council a draft resolution whose “immediate goal is disclosure about the instant case. But it also asks that three of the nine-member board of trustees be elected by alumni, which would require a new state law, and that the board “be directed not to enter into a contract with a prospective president that includes nondisclosure agreements where taxpayer dollars are expended.”

Under current law, the governor appoints the nine board members, two of whom are nominated by the Alumni Council, one of whom is a student nominated by the university and one of whom is nominated by the Ball family.

“I think the governor has way too much influence for the amount of money they provide the university,” said Frankel.

State appropriations used to make up a majority of Ball State’s budget. Now tuition makes up the majority.

The draft resolution states in part that, when Ball State’s trustees signed a contract with Ferguson, they should never have agreed to forfeit the taxpayers’ right to know how their money is being spent, and that rumors, speculation and lack of information are harming Ball State’s reputation.

Associate professor of animation Andy Beane, acting chair of the Faculty Council, appointed Caristi, Frankel and Karen Kessler, an associate professor of theater, to form a committee to continue drafting the resolution, which is expected to be acted on at the council’s March 4 meeting.

For more on this story, visit The Star Press.

The Bangor Daily News added the reference to Ferguson’s tenure at UMaine to this report.