Doug Guthrie: GW saw business school as ‘cash cow’

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Doug Guthrie | Hatchet File Photo

Updated Sept. 7 at 8:55 p.m.

Doug Guthrie said Thursday that the University pulled back from its pledge to invest in the GW School of Business, with administrators instead thinking of the college as a “cash cow” that would bring money in to GW at large.

In his first extensive interview since he was fired two weeks ago, Guthrie told the popular business school blog Poets & Quants that the overspending rankled top administrators because the school would only be bringing back $42 million back to GW instead of $51 million.

“We had an agreement and they wanted to cut way back. I said we already were not where we need to be. If we have to give the university more money, I don’t think I’m the right person for this. I didn’t come here to be the steward of a cash cow. I came here to build programs and make investments,” Guthrie said.

He maintained that the college’s $13 million in overspending was manageable to cover through the business school’s reserves and extra revenue, but Provost Steven Lerman and University President Steven Knapp disagreed.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith shot down the claim in an email Friday, saying that the University “strongly disagrees” with Guthrie’s account. She said the University asked Guthrie to pitch another plan for investments into the business school, but Guthrie never followed through.

“The university never backed away from that agreement.  On the contrary, in a meeting earlier this summer, the Provost  and the Treasurer invited Dean Guthrie to submit  a proposal for an additional university investment in the School of Business.  That proposal was never received,” Smith wrote. “As it emerged that GWSB had significantly overspent its  FY 2013 budget, the Administration attempted to work with Dr. Guthrie to address the problem and  to develop a plan for moving forward but ultimately was unable to do so.”

Guthrie also told Poets & Quants that Knapp distrusted his ambitious plans to revive the middle-ranked business school. The University had invested in those plans since Guthrie took over in 2010, pouring millions more into the business school’s budget.

“They think I am a little bit uncontrollable,” Guthrie said. “And I understand how that makes them uncomfortable. We tried a lot of things here, and maybe it was too much too quickly.”

The comments illuminate more details on the rift between Guthrie and GW’s top brass. Mostly, Guthrie contends that the budget battle had a broader backdrop, with the two sides disagreeing on how much the college should hand back to the University as a whole.

Administrators wanted the school’s budget for next year to be about $7 million less than last year, a number Guthrie resisted. He that money would be taken away from research funds and summer salaries for junior faculty.

Guthrie said the budget disagreements created a situation in which he could not work with administrators, causing Lerman to abruptly fire him. He said the firing took him by surprise, figuring he would stay on through the school’s accreditation process this year.

“I knew that the stand I was taking made it a pretty good chance they would say this isn’t working and let’s see it through accreditation. I decided I would be fine with it because I disagreed with the suggested budget cuts,” he said.

This story was updated on Sept. 7  to reflect the following correction:

The Hatchet misattributed Candace Smith’s comments to Provost Steven Lerman. We regret this error.

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