Dr. Walker refuses Fox 4 interview request
Edison State College president declines interview despite knowing questions
Edison president denying interview request despite knowing questions a month in advance. Video by fox4now.comvideo
FORT MYERS - The president of Edison State College denied a Fox 4 request for an interview, despite being given the questions a month in advance.
"I guess I'm kind of surprised if a person who is president of a college who says there's going to be transparency that he would not in fact speak to the media," said faculty union vice president Marty Ambrose.
Fox 4 does not submit questions in advance to anyone. But we were told that was the only chance we had to get a sit-down interview with college president Dr. Kenneth Walker. So we did in an attempt to get you answers.
But apparently knowing the questions ahead of time wasn't good enough.
"I'm going to provide greater transparency and full disclosure," said Walker publicly back in April.
Many of you still have questions. So on Aug. 25, Fox 4 e-mailed the college's spokesperson eight questions for Walker.
The questions - which you can read below - dealt with salaries, wasteful spending, the nursing program and the way the college is being run.
But almost a month later, on Sept. 16, the college's spokesperson e-mailed us to say "at this time he's declining to do the interview."
Fox 4 showed the list of eight questions to Ambrose.
"I'd certainly like to hear the answers to all of these questions," she told us. "I've not heard the answers to a lot of these questions so I'm not sure they have been answered."
Another person who wants to hear Walker answer these questions is Alan Redfield, the vice president of the Edison State College Republican Club.
"It's pretty ridiculous to get that kind of an income from taxpayers," he said, referring to Walker's half-million dollar salary. "Yet feel that you have no accountability to the individuals paying your salary."
Two questions we wanted answered: How Walker can justify his huge salary given the faculty's vote of no confidence and if he's to blame for what a recent audit described as a "culture of fear" amongst faculty.
"I feel very strongly," said Ambrose, who is also a professor, "that there is a culture of fear here."
To be fair, Walker has interviewed with us before when he did not know the questions in advance. So why won't he answer your questions this time around?
We asked the college's spokesperson. She agreed to give a statement but only on the condition that we did not ask her any follow-up questions.
"For the past year we've worked very hard here at Edison State College to provide information as it's requested of us, to work with the media, to work with our community and to move forward and be stronger than ever," said college spokesperson Teresa Morgernstern.
"We've had these challenges and we worked very proactively to address these challenges, to correct anything that wasn't corrected in the past," she said. "And we're going to be better and stronger and we're looking forward to celebrating with our community 50 years starting next year."
She did not address why Walker declined our interview request.
The unanswered questions
These are the questions Fox 4 submitted on Aug. 25 that Dr. Walker declined to answer:
1. The college has faced a number of scandals in the past nine months - bloated salaries, wasteful spending, course swapping to boost graduation rates, and audit describing a widespread "culture of fear" and nursing students misled about their program's accreditation status. Is that an way to run a college?
2. What do you say to people who want you to step down now not in two years?
3. Are you to blame for the widespread "culture of fear?" How much of that falls on your shoulders?
4. Did you hire and ultimate create a high paying position for Dr. James Browder because he is a friend of yours? Why was nobody else interviewed for that position?
5. Given all these scandals over the last nine months and the fact faculty gave you a vote of no confidence can you justify your half-million dollar salary to taxpayers?
6. In the Henderson-Franklin report, Dr. Steve Atkins is quoted as saying his is "100%" sure there is racial discrimination at the college. That's a strong accusation - is he wrong?
7. Multiple faculty members have to us they are afraid of being retaliated against. Why is that the case and what are you doing to address it and alleviate faculty concerns regarding this and everything else that's going on with the college?
8. Dr. David Klein, who donated $250,000 to the nursing program, called the accreditation scandal "disgusting." Do you agree? And what are you doing, as president of the college, to ensure donors, taxpayers, and more importantly students, something like that will never happen again?
Matt Grant, Reporter