Why do they do it? Why do institutions such as William Peace University that rely on the good will of alumni and the public stumble so badly when they try to go on the hush-hush about big, attention-getting developments?
Toward the goal of long-term survival, Peace trustees decided in 2011, in a somewhat surprise move, to admit male students and become William Peace University after being Peace College. The institution was founded in 1857 as a school for boys and girls. The Civil War interrupted things, and the Peace Institute evolved into a womens two-year college and then, in the 1990s, into a four-year college.
It has won a reputation in Raleigh as a sound, safe place for education, and its students have been involved in community endeavors for generations. Peace has been a good neighbor.
And perhaps its understandable that, up against the competitive challenges in higher education, the university would decide its time to take a chance. Thus, The News & Observer has reported that the schools trustees voted unanimously to invest nearly two-thirds of the universitys total endowment of $33 million to buy the Seaboard Station retail center neighboring the campus.
It is a holy cow moment
Seaboard Station is now a thriving place, but its owner, Gregory & Parker real estate, has to sell it and Seaboard has been in bankruptcy for more than a year.
Peace needs to explain its strategy to the university community that includes alumni and staff. It also needs to be open in the process with the city of Raleigh. Candor will help build credibility for any deal that is done.
Unfortunately, someone at Peace has decided the better strategy is secrecy, and the university has even gone to the extreme of refusing to release the names of its 18 trustees, something that would be helpful to alumni seeking a fuller explanation of a deal thats going to put a hefty chunk of the universitys endowment on the line in real estate.
And it happens that the university is required, on federal tax forms, to list its trustees. The News & Observer published the 2011-2012 list on Saturday.
So a controversy is building that never should have happened in the first place. The university needs to get past this foolishness, make clear its intentions with the Seaboard property, and move on.