Murray State University's newly elected Regent Chair took to the website of her anti-bullying foundation to respond to an anonymous 'hate' letter that contains personal attacks and criticisms and suggested backlash should she seek the firing of President Bob Davies.
Susan Guess and her daughter Morgan founded eight years ago the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation, which has garnered state and national attention for confronting the issue.
Guess said in an interview with WKMS News a typed, anonymous letter was sent to at least one Regent on Thursday, who then shared it with her. The Board elected on Friday Guess to the position of Chair. She had previously been Vice Chair. Chair Stephen Williams is stepping down due to an expired term.
Guess said she did not know if the letter was sent to all board members. She said she doesn't know who sent the letter. She said in the web post, it is fortunate that board members "didn't give any credibility to an empty voice."
"I think it's important to share when someone tries to use ugliness," Guess said. "It's one human being and it's certainly not something that will distract me from my role on the board or distract the board."
She said one cannot give credibility or credence to anonymous letters and hopes that if someone has issues they can share them in "an open and honest discussion about the facts."
She said she decided to share the letter because it's important for young people to see that bullying happens to adults as well.
"And hopefully to see an adult say 'it's not right and it doesn't change who I am or how I can succeed or how I can lead' and it's important to tell someone if someone is cruel," she said.
"I think it just provided me a platform to say this isn't right for me and it's not right for anyone who uses anonymity to punish or bring forward their own fears or insecurities. It's an opportunity to tell those kids - and to remind myself - that we deserve better. And that when this happens to us we should lift up that message because when we do, hopefully someone else will lift up their own."
No one signed up for the public comment period during Friday's board meeting.
The letter claims people in Murray "don't like outsiders and see Dr. Davies as an outsider." It says Guess has her "own agenda," is "power hungry" and "seeks media attention for herself." (Note: WKMS News sought Guess for comment on this story). The letter suggests Guess "jumped on the bandwagon" in combating bullying through her foundation and enjoys various perks and personal gains. The letter describes "wasted valuable police time" in an alleged incident in a parking lot involving Guess calling the police on a person she deemed threatening.
The letter shifts to defending President Davies for his handling of issues involving Murray State, including budget cuts, rising pension costs, enrollment decline and other factors "out of his control" such as the dorm explosion last summer. The letter claims Guess is trying to "jump the gun" in finding a new president. "It will be hard for him to succeed if he has a Board Chair stabbing him in the back and she is the liaison to the rest of the board," the letter states.
It concludes with an indictment of "Paducah leaders," including Guess, as having their "own agenda" that is "rarely in the best interest of Murray State University." The letter suggests a backlash should the board fire the president and more backlash for having "the Paducah representative as board chair."
Outgoing Chair Stephen Williams told WKMS News there was no discussion of Davies' contract during the four-year review, which included Guess and was publicized in Friday's meeting. Williams said that the contract wasn't discussed and that was neither positive nor negative and said it may come up at the August retreat, "that's when we normally do that." Davies' contract is through December 2021.
Guess said the concerns involving her intentions regarding Davies are "unfounded." She said the Board of Regents is in support of Davies and in support of working together to advance the university. "Any comment to the contrary is unfounded and incorrect," she said.
As to criticism that someone from Paducah - one the 18 counties in Murray State's immediate service area and of the largest by population it the region - should be represented on the board, Guess said outside of Calloway County, McCracken has the largest alumni group. "Every student that can have the Murray State experience is one that we hope to give to them. So why anyone would say such a thing, I have no idea," she said.
President Davies said in a follow-up, he and Regent Guess have a good relationship and are working hard to advance the goals of the university. He said he looks forward to working with her to meet challenges and to take advantage of opportunities in the future. He added the board is working hard and working together.