Home Money Opinion: OU shouldn’t finance McDavis’ McMansion

Opinion: OU shouldn’t finance McDavis’ McMansion

7 min read

Ohio University president Dr. Roderick J. McDavis and First Lady Deborah McDavis will soon relocate to a new home. The change in location will cost the university $1.2 million. During a time where students are struggling to get by financially especially with rising tuition, the McDavis family gets a new home.

The moving situation is occurring because of an infestation of bats in the couple’s current home. The president and first lady have to live on-campus in their home as stated in their contract. Now the new home will be off-campus, so why does the university have to finance this? They shouldn’t be financing this. The Board of Trustees raised McDavis salary last August to $465,000 with an additional $85,000 bonus. The real kicker is Deborah McDavis is on salary at Ohio University as well. She makes $30,900 a year after a 3 percent raise in 2013.

A household income of $580,900, can easily finance a new home off-campus. The whole issue with bats will change the contract situation in general, as McDavis will not be living on-campus. So why doesn’t OU change their policy on providing housing for presidents of the university? Maybe they think he is God?

This incident comes after the Board of Trustees raised tuition 1.5 percent, housing 2.5 percent and meal plans 1 percent last June. Some students of Ohio University find themselves dropping out each semester due to the cost of tuition. It is very often a student might hear of a peer being unable to return due to the cost of tuition.

The situation is quite shocking seeing that the university is relocating the family after a bat issue that could be fixed with a simple call to any individual who has a Bat Conservation International certification. Yes, this certificate is a real thing. Getting rid of bats is actually a five-step process for a trained professional. No bats would be harmed in the process of the professionals doing their job. It would be only a two step process for OU, involving making a phone call and cutting a check. That check would probably not cost the university $1.2 million.

Following the news of the new home, McDavis emailed students and staff an outline of his annual Presidents Report for 2014. The 19-page report outlined Ohio University accomplishments from 2014. I personally find it ironic that the report came out right after the announcement of the new home. The report detailed many accomplishments for the university last year. The report coming out after the announcement shows that OU is trying to justify their actions of making this decision.

While tuition increases consistently for incoming students at Ohio University, student loan debt impacts 64 percent of the student body. The task for students financing college is a struggle now more than anytime in the school’s 211 year history. First generation college students are very dependent upon loans. Even if a student is lucky enough to obtain a degree, they are still met with the struggles of debt upon completion of college. The main reason for raising tuition typically is cuts in state funding. When we are using whatever funding we receive as well as student tuition dollars to finance a home that has no purpose for students, that is not acceptable. If the family used their salaries to finance their own home the school would be able to help eliminate the burden on students that is about to eminence if and when the Board of Trustees raise tuition again.

The policy needs to change for housing presidents. However, the current policy is the president must live on-campus, that is not occurring here. The new home will be an off-campus residence. The couple does not need a home sitting on 2.86 acres of land that includes a pool, four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a finished basement. While some students can’t afford McDonalds, the McDavis family gets a McMansion.

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  1. Michael Powell

    March 26, 2015 at 6:20 PM

    That house costs about 1/8 of what it costs to make the new dorms on south green! Show some love McDavis!


    • Matt Stephens

      March 27, 2015 at 4:43 AM

      Mr. Powell,

      I am unsure of your statistic. However, there is definitely a reason for outrage here. Feel free to write us a letter to the editor if you would like your opinions expressed.

      Matt Stephens


  2. Alfonse

    March 26, 2015 at 8:35 PM

    Edit your article.


    • Matt Stephens

      March 27, 2015 at 4:40 AM

      Mr. Alfonse,

      Can you please be more specific on what editing requires attention.

      Matt Stephens


  3. Dan West

    March 27, 2015 at 2:17 AM

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE The New Political, but you have some facts wrong is your opinion piece.

    First, Ohio University is not buying a house for the president. The OU Foundation has entered into a lease agreement (1.2 million over 10 years) to lease the house with the option to buy. I know this sounds like a technicality, but there are a couple important things to note.

    First, the money students pay for tuition, as well as the money that we get from the State of Ohio goes to Ohio University and not the OU Foundation. Rest assured that your tuition dollars are not going to buy this new house for the president.

    Second, the OU FOUNDATION is renting (leasing a house) at the cost of approximately $120k/year – give or take. Ohio University entered into an agreement to maintain the house – a far cheaper cost than buying or leasing a house. If you are upset, perhaps you should take up your fight with the FOUNDATION.

    Third – and this involves some speculation on my part (I don’t have the facts but bear with me) – we don’t have all the information. So we know Mrs. McDavis hurt her foot and can’t do stairs. And it is probably part of Dr. McDavis’ contract that the University provides him housing. We do know that the University was housing the Dr. & Mrs. McDavis at the OU Inn because Mrs. McDavis can’t climb the stairs to the third floor of the house on campus. It is almost $100/night at the OU Inn – so it seems like the University gets a great deal on only having to pay the MAINTENANCE on a house that the FOUNDATION is renting.

    Fourth – There FOUNDATION has other plans for the house beyond the President living there. The article in the Athens News noted that the Foundation plans on using the property for fundraising and donor events. The must think the investment in the lease (with the option to buy) will pay back more in donations that it will cost. Last time I checked, the Foundation doesn’t just waste money.

    Universities are complex institutions that must manage multiple constituencies and revenue streams. Compensation packages for administrators are also complex documents.

    Taking a step back, Ohio University remains one of the few institutions in the state that is not struggling financially and we owe a lot of that to our current administration.

    I so appreciate the work that you and your colleagues are doing at the New Political. Just be sure you clearly understand the complexities of a situation before you pass judgement on it.


    Dan West
    Athens, OH


    • Matt Stephens

      March 27, 2015 at 4:38 AM

      Dr. West,

      First of all, thank you for your feedback. For your first point you discussed how the money is going to the OU Foundation, which is correct. That information is highlighted under my link in the opinion piece reported on by Austin Linfante of the New Political. However, the OU Foundation gives that money to OU in the form of a gift. Once it is received by OU the money belongs to Ohio University. The foundation’s website, which is still apart of OU’s website states, “Gifts from generous donors have provided for scholarships and financial aid packages, research and faculty development, capital expansion and renovations, technology upgrades and lab equipment, library acquisitions, and vital unrestricted support that has allowed Ohio University to meet unexpected challenges.” Once that money has been given to Ohio University it now belongs to them and has a direct affect on students and our staff. ‘Unexpected challenges’ are not a bat situation that can be easily resolved. The money that is being donated typically for the students’ financial aid and scholarships. When that money is used for McDavis it is taking away from students in that respect. When student’s tuition increases and this occurs that is unacceptable. That money comes off as it belongs to the foundation but once it is in the hands of the OU it is not the foundations money any longer. It would be the same as receiving Christmas money. The Christmas money doesn’t belong to the individual who gave it to the individual after the individual receives it. It would belong to a new recipient.

      As for your second point the agreement is a lease-to-own agreement. The property will most likely be owned outright after time (unless we are wasting more money for no reason). OU has agreed to maintain the home because they are using the donated funds for the president of Ohio for the future. The agreement is not between McDavis and the foundation it is between OU and the foundation as the property will be set to belong to Ohio University. The money belongs to what OU’s website originally stated was for and unexpected challenges do not coordinate to something that could be fixed with a phone call.

      For your third point the foundations funds are going to the university, as the property will eventually be owned outright. OU has always provided housing and that is the point of my article that needs to change. OU will still be providing that housing because the funds are being donated to Ohio University, as they will most likely eventually own the property outright not the foundation. As for the stair situation that is unfortunate for her. I hope she feels better. However, she makes a salary and can finance her housing situation. That issue is not the student’s tuition dollars problem. Bats are not that difficult to deal with. The university could easily resolve this issue and it would not cost our fabulous alumnus $1.2 million in donation money that eventually belongs OU. The foundation is not renting the property they are working to have OU eventually own the property.

      To your fourth point, donor events can take part on campus. We have a beautiful campus and plenty of meeting locations. The residence is removed from campus in the first place. If the university is trying to raise money they can use plenty of locations that are close to the students they are attempting to benefit. However, if this money is coming from donors and the goal is to raise money it would be illogical to waste $1.2 million on a place for those individuals to meet in the first place. That is not their motive here. The motive is to make the first couple happy. They have plenty of capital to finance their own home. Another point to leave you with, Mrs. McDavis is OU’s first, first lady as she is the first individual married to a president to not donate her salary back to OU. Everyone else before her has donated the funds back to our community.

      I respect your opinions and I respect you as an educator, you’re awesome. Students of OU are outraged and they rightfully should be. If we did research of our alumni, I imagine it would be hard to find anyone who receives a $1.2 million home with no cost to them especially with that high of a salary.

      Matt Stephens


    • Bernhard Debatin

      March 31, 2015 at 2:31 AM

      ” And it is probably part of Dr. McDavis’ contract that the University provides him housing.” —
      Housing on campus, that is.


  4. Dan West

    March 28, 2015 at 5:37 AM

    Matt – I, too, appreciate the work you do. And please know that I do not mean to belittle or downgrade anyone’s feeling on this issue. I just want to be sure that everyone on both sides of the issue has all of the details before they jump to conclusions.

    While your suggestions to the OU Foundation are worth consideration, I feel that Foundation must think that this investment will yield a strong financial return. Courting large ticket donors is a delicate and difficult task.

    Perhaps, together, we could visit with the Foundation to ask for their perspective on this. As I teach in my class, guessing at the motiviations of others in a conflict amounts to little more than groupthink. Having as much information as possible aids in resolving conflict.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and reasoned response to my letter. You could have flamed me (am I using that correctly?) but instead you entered into discourse. Thank you. It meant a lot.

    Peace and blessings,

    Dan West
    Athens, OH


    • Kaleb Carter

      April 6, 2015 at 2:09 AM

      This is the most respectful exchange that I’ve seen in a comments section in some time! Haha.


    • Matt Stephens

      April 6, 2015 at 2:52 AM

      Dr. West,

      I appreciate this communication and your feedback. I would personally be willing to reach out to the foundation. However, I do not think they would like to discuss the issue as they have had no PR response following the protest of hundreds of students alongside faculty.

      Matt Stephens
      [email protected]


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