Palmer alumni cast vote of no confidence in board

Eighty-five percent of the Palmer College of Chiropractic alumni who responded to a Web-based poll supported a vote of no confidence in the institution’s board of trustees. This information is reprinted with permission of the Quad-City Times. Copyright 2004. Of the 665 alumni who filled out a questionnaire at, 569 cast their ballot in favor of the vote. Twenty-three voted to support the board of trustees. Non-alumni and chiropractic students also responded the poll, which was prompted by the resignation of Palmer president and chancellor Guy Riekeman on Feb. 5. A total of 1,257 people responded. The response shows there is concern beyond Riekeman’s resignation, said Mary Flannery, the alumnus who organized the effort. Specifically, several of those who responded cited problems with the structure of the board. “A lot of the alums are saddened and unhappy about Riekeman leaving,” she said. “But the loss of Riekeman is a symptom of a much larger problem.” Palmer officials asked that alumni continue to support the school in order to maintain the school’s “107-year tradition of excellence.” “We recognize that alumni and students still have questions about Dr. Riekeman’s resignation,” a statement from the school said, noting that Palmer is conducting an audit which “may provide additional information relevant to this matter. We would again ask that all alumni continue to support Palmer both financially and by referring students.” Riekeman resigned his position as president of Palmer College and as chancellor of the Palmer University System about three weeks ago. He had been president for five years, chancellor for eight months. The board and Riekeman acknowledged that he resigned because of resolutions passed by the board, namely the requirement for board approval of hiring and salary increases and the employment of Larry Patten as a consultant to gather information for the board. Patten resigned after the 1997 vote of no confidence. The number who cast their vote of no confidence is about the same as those who cast ballots of no confidence in the school’s administration during 1997, Flannery said she was told. The 1997 vote was organized by Palmer’s alumni association. Palmer officials said the 665 who responded “represent a small percentage of Palmer’s more than 20,000 alumni worldwide.” The board and Riekeman also say he supported an audit requested by the board. They agree there was a communication problem between them. Almost 700 people said they would stop referring students to Palmer, while 45 said they would continue to do so. More than 350 said they were donors to the college and would discontinue their support, while 32 said they would continue their financial investment. Todd Spieles, a 1970 graduate who attended Palmer with Riekeman, said Palmer is the epicenter of chiropractic and “we just had a big earthquake.” “There is a firestorm brewing amongst the alumni,” he said. Two hundred of the students who responded called for a restructuring of the board to include a student representative. Seventy-seven students said they are considering transfer to another school, and five said they would transfer. Thirteen students voted in support of the board, with 16 saying there was no negative impact on their education. All of the respondents who supported the board “reviled the negative press surrounding this crisis and felt it was better to either trust the board or wait for more information to become public before judging,” the poll summary says. It continues: “Many expressed a personal distaste for Dr. Riekeman and his vision. The other comments in support of the board applaud the perceived return of less philosophy and more musculoskeletal science to the curriculum.” Those who supported the vote of no confidence, the summary says, “expressed extreme anger and incomprehension toward the board and toward (Palmer board chairman) Vickie Palmer. “A frequent comment lamented the financial damage and loss of Palmer pride likely to remain if no satisfactory statement or rectification of the situation is evident,” it continues. “Finally, many comments praised Dr. Riekeman and what was characterized as the unique leadership qualities he brought to the school.” Flannery hopes that, in the end, the vote will open communication between all parties interested in the future of the college. “One of my primary goals is to have the board, the alumni association and some people who are not in the alumni association sit down and have an open dialogue,” she said. This information is reprinted with permission of the Quad-City Times. Copyright 2004. Ann McGlynn can be contacted at (563) 383-2336 or [email protected].

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