Fac­ulty vote ‘no con­fi­dence’ in lead­ers

Also pan con­sol­i­da­tion plan

The News-Times - - FROM THE FRONT PAGE - By Kath­leen Megan

Dis­mayed by lead­er­ship of the Con­necti­cut State Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties sys­tem and a plan to con­sol­i­date the 12 com­mu­nity col­leges, fac­ulty at five com­mu­nity col­leges and two state uni­ver­si­ties have taken votes of no con­fi­dence in Pres­i­dent Mark Ojakian, the Board of Re­gents, and the plan it­self.

Car­men Yi­amouyian­nis, chair­woman of the Cap­i­tal Com­mu­nity College College Se­nate, which in­cludes fac­ulty and staff, said CSCU lead­er­ship has pur­sued a “top down ap­proach that seems to dis­re­gard fac­ulty. It’s ‘this is what we’re go­ing to do’ in­stead of re­ally try­ing to en­gage the fac­ulty.”

The con­sol­i­da­tion plan, which is known as “Stu­dents First,” has some as­pects that Yi­amouyian­nis thinks would be help­ful, in­clud­ing a sin­gle ap­pli­ca­tion for all 12 col­leges and cen­tral­iz­ing cer­tain ser­vices. But like other fac­ulty, she is con­cerned that a merger would strip the col­leges of their in­di­vid­u­al­ity.

Fran­cis M. Coan, a fac­ulty mem­ber at Tunxis Com­mu­nity College, said fac­ulty there are poised to vote on a “no con­fi­dence” res­o­lu­tion this week.

“It’s clear the lead­er­ship is not lis­ten­ing to the pro­fes­sion­als,” he said. “We don’t know what ac­tion to take ex­cept to speak a lit­tle louder.”

Two months ago, fac­ulty and stu­dents held a news con­fer­ence at the Leg­isla­tive Of­fice Build­ing and marched a pe­ti­tion with more than 1,300 sig­na­tures over to Gov. Ned La­mont’s of­fice in hopes of meet­ing with the gov­er­nor. So far, that hasn’t hap­pened and sev­eral fac­ulty said they want to know what the gov­er­nor thinks about Stu­dents First.

La­mont spokes­woman Mari­bel La Luz is­sued a state­ment Tues­day say­ing the gov­er­nor “sup­ports the com­mon­sense goals be­hind Stu­dents First, which in­clude cen­tral­iz­ing back of­fice func­tions, mak­ing it eas­ier for stu­dents to trans­fer within the college sys­tem and al­lo­cat­ing more re­sources into teach­ing and learn­ing where they belong.”

“He also un­der­stands the merger is a com­plex is­sue that peo­ple on both sides feel strongly about, but our pri­mary fo­cus must re­main on the stu­dents,” La Luz said.

Coan said he’d like to see the Stu­dents First plan scrapped and have fac­ulty and ad­min­is­tra­tors come up with a new plan to ad­dress the bud­get con­straints that prompted the cre­ation of the orig­i­nal plan.

Sev­eral fac­ulty who voted no con­fi­dence also said they want Ojakian re­moved from of­fice and the en­tire Board of Re­gents re­placed with new mem­bers.

Leigh Ap­pleby, spokesman for the CSCU sys­tem, which in­cludes four re­gional state uni­ver­si­ties in ad­di­tion to the com­mu­nity col­leges, said the vote of no con­fi­dence is not a sur­prise.

“We un­der­stand that change can be dif­fi­cult, but Stu­dents First is a nec­es­sary step for­ward,” Ap­pleby said. “As it stands, the three-year com­ple­tion rate is just 16 per­cent at our (com­mu­nity) col­leges. We have an obli­ga­tion to do bet­ter.”

He said the Stu­dents First plan re­al­lo­cates ad­min­is­tra­tive re­sources “to­ward data driven, proven stu­dent suc­cess ini­tia­tives.”

The plan will also help ad­dress the sys­tem’s fi­nan­cial is­sues, which he said is “on the verge of in­sol­vency.”

“Stu­dents First, by con­sol­i­dat­ing some re­dun­dant func­tions, saves $23 mil­lion per year and puts the sys­tem on much firmer fi­nan­cial foot­ing,” Ap­pleby said. “Most im­por­tantly, it does this while al­low­ing all of our cur­rent com­mu­nity college cam­puses to re­main open and fully op­er­a­tional.”

Ap­pleby said im­ple­men­ta­tion of Stu­dents First has been “col­lab­o­ra­tive and trans­par­ent” and has in­cluded “more than 400 in­di­vid­u­als across all cam­puses par­tic­i­pat­ing in work­ing groups.”

“Over the past two years, we have heard con­stant op­po­si­tion from the same groups,” Ap­pleby said. “What we haven’t heard from them is an al­ter­na­tive plan.”

Diba Khan-Bureau, a fac­ulty mem­ber at Three Rivers Com­mu­nity College, said she was in­sulted by Ap­pleby’s com­ment about change be­ing dif­fi­cult. “They think we are ba­bies and chil­dren and we can’t han­dle change,” Khan-Bureau said. “I find that re­volt­ing. We change all the time.”

Rather, Khan-Bureau said, she and other fac­ulty mem­bers be­lieve cost sav­ings could be achieved with­out con­sol­i­dat­ing the col­leges and in ways that would im­prove the aca­demic ex­pe­ri­ence for stu­dents. “We can do ev­ery­thing to help our stu­dents with­out merg­ing those col­leges,” she said.

Many of the fac­ulty mem­bers who voted no con­fi­dence also ques­tioned whether CSCU’s pro­jected sav­ings will ma­te­ri­al­ize, not­ing that the sys­tem has been adding a new layer of man­age­ment — needed for con­sol­i­da­tion — years be­fore they will be ready to re­ceive the ap­proval from ac­cred­i­tors to go for­ward with the merger.

Cam­pus gov­er­nance bodies, in­clud­ing fac­ulty at some and fac­ulty and staff at oth­ers, this month en­dorsed no con­fi­dence res­o­lu­tions at As­nun­tuck, Cap­i­tal, Gate­way, Manch­ester, and Three Rivers com­mu­nity col­leges. Most of the res­o­lu­tions were sim­ple, say­ing only that the “rep­re­sen­ta­tive body for fac­ulty or fac­ulty and staff had voted no con­fi­dence in the ‘Stu­dents First’ plan, in Ojakian, and in the Board of Re­gents.” Oth­ers, in­clud­ing the res­o­lu­tions ap­proved at Cap­i­tal and Gate­way, went into greater de­tail about the rea­sons for the vote. Some com­mu­nity col­leges, in­clud­ing Tunxis, have sched­uled votes in the com­ing days and weeks.

Fac­ulty Sen­ates at Cen­tral Con­necti­cut State Uni­ver­sity and Western Con­necti­cut State Uni­ver­sity also en­dorsed the no con­fi­dence res­o­lu­tion.

Also on Tues­day, Anita Levy, as­so­ci­ate sec­re­tary of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sors, sent a let­ter dated May 14 to Ojakian and Matt Fleury, chair­man of the Board of Re­gents, say­ing her as­so­ci­a­tion is con­cerned about what is hap­pen­ing in Con­necti­cut.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing that the in­for­ma­tion the AAUP re­ceived came en­tirely from fac­ulty sources, Levy wrote that as­sum­ing its “es­sen­tial ac­cu­racy … we hope and ex­pect that the ad­min­is­tra­tion and the CSCU Board of Re­gents will ad­dress the fac­ulty’s con­cerns and do so in a man­ner that is re­spect­ful of the prin­ci­ples of shared au­thor­ity and col­le­gial re­spon­si­bil­ity that we have com­mended to your at­ten­tion.”

Ap­pleby said Tues­day that Ojakian had re­ceived the let­ter.

Many of the fac­ulty vot­ing no con­fi­dence are par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal of Ojakian’s re­cent hir­ing of three new re­gional pres­i­dents, who will start work July 1 with an­nual salaries of $220,000. The newly cre­ated po­si­tions are a key part of the gov­ern­ing struc­ture that would be needed for a one-college sys­tem, but that new sin­gle college is years away at best.

Ac­cred­i­tors did not ap­prove the first plan for a merger sub­mit­ted by CSCU last year and have yet to ap­prove a new one. The full merger is not ex­pected to take place un­til 2023.

Ojakian has said that hir­ing the re­gional pres­i­dents is a crit­i­cal step to­ward the merger plan and he be­lieves the ac­cred­i­tors will be more likely to ap­prove the merger if the ad­min­is­tra­tive struc­ture is al­ready in place.

Many of the fac­ulty con­sider it a waste of money to hire the re­gional pres­i­dents be­fore the onecol­lege struc­ture is in place.

Also on Tues­day, Ojakian an­nounced the se­lec­tion of four in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers — an­other piece of the Stu­dents First plan. Ojakian is re­plac­ing higher-paid college pres­i­dents at each cam­pus with chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers as openings arise.

These new in­terim CEOs, who will be paid

$150,000 an­nu­ally, will also start July 1. They will re­place re­tir­ing pres­i­dents at Nor­walk and Quinebaug Val­ley com­mu­nity col­leges. The fourth CEO will re­place James Lombella, who has been serv­ing as pres­i­dent of As­nun­tuck Com­mu­nity College and as in­terim pres­i­dent of Tunxis, but was ap­pointed in April by the Board of Re­gents for Higher Ed­u­ca­tion to serve as one of the three re­gional pres­i­dents start­ing July

1.

The new in­terim CEOs are Michelle Coach at As­nun­tuck, who is cur­rently in­terim dean of aca­demic af­fairs at the college; Ch­eryl DeVon­ish at Nor­walk, who cur­rently serves as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at that college; Rose El­lis at Quinebaug Val­ley who has served as dean of ad­min­is­tra­tion and in­sti­tu­tional ef­fec­tive­ness at Housatonic and at Gate­way; and Dar­ryl Reome at Tunxis, who is now in­terim dean of stu­dents af­fairs at Tunxis.

Ned Ger­ard / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Mark Ojakian, pres­i­dent of Con­necti­cut State Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties

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