Wichita State President John Bardo remains in the hospital as he recovers from a second surgery to treat a chronic lung condition. At Thursday’s WSU Board of Trustees meeting, Chief of Staff Andy Schlapp said Bardo is doing “really well,” but hinted that he will have to make a decision as to whether or not he will continue to serve as president.
“He has an autoimmune disease, and it’s been pretty serious and pretty tough for him,” Schlapp said.
“At some point in time, he’s going to get healthy enough — you know, he’s 70 years old and he’s got to make a decision that, ‘I feel really good and want to come back to work,’ which is where he is. He wants to come back to work but he may decide that he — I don’t know. He has that right to determine that time.”
Bardo has been hospitalized since before Thanksgiving. Last week, Provost Rick Muma was named acting president.
“Rick Muma’s been put in as acting president to make sure we continue to move everything that Dr. Bardo did . . . so that no area, department, or individual feels, ‘Oh, we can’t do anything right now. We have to wait until we get an okay from Dr. Bardo,’” Schlapp said.
He said Bardo’s executive team is maintaining university operations effectively in his absence.
“The executive team that Dr. Bardo has put together right now is pretty awesome and is really working hard,” Schlapp said. “The reason so many good things are happening and all areas of the university are able to run at full capacity right now is because of that leadership.
“The Regents want to make sure that that leadership continues.”
Schlapp said the Kansas Board of Regents is supportive of the direction Bardo has taken WSU in.
“The Regents love what Wichita State is doing,” Schlapp said. “They believe that of all the universities, there’s only one that’s looking at how to be sustainable in this new economic reality that we’re dealing with, and so they want to make sure there’s limited disruption of what’s going on and what they can do during this time to make sure that Wichita State is true to its vision and mission.”
In an email, Regents Director of Communications Matt Keith said Muma is receiving no additional compensation as acting president. Keith did not respond to The Sunflower’s inquiries about the process or timetable for naming a new president if Bardo remains unable to fulfill his duties for an extended period of time.
“The Board has not added any new compensation for Provost Muma while he serves as acting president, and it sends President Bardo best wishes for a speedy and full recovery,” Keith wrote.
Schlapp said Bardo is eager to remain involved in university operations but needs to focus on his recovery.
“The difficulty is telling Dr. Bardo his job at this point in time is to get better and take care of himself,” Schlapp said. “That’s got to be his goal and his focus. I don’t know if he’s accepted that that’s his goal and focus.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Bardo had been removed from the President’s Executive Team page on the university website. Bardo never appeared on the PET page and has his own bio on the website.