Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘presidential search’

Late yesterday afternoon, APSCUF’s state president, Ken Mash, sent a letter to PASSHE Chancellor, Frank Brogan, and PASSHE Board of Governors Chair, Guido Pichini, regarding on-going problems with KU’s Presidential Search process.

Mash’s letter began:

I am very disappointed in the System’s handling of Dr. Paul Quinn’s serious complaint to the State System about the presidential search process at Kutztown University, and the subsequent correspondence related to his complaints about the process directed to the campus community by Mr. John Wabby, the search committee chair.

Mash insisted that “a presidential search process is so very important that is must be beyond reproach” and that a “flawed process can only result in tainting — from the very start — someone’s tenure as president.”

The responsibility of members of the presidential search committee is equally important. If a committee member believes that the search process is flawed or potentially unethical, then a committee member has a difficult decision to make:

Should any members of a search committee believe that the process is fundamentally flawed, if not discriminatory, what are their options? Infused as the process is with high-level administrators and trustees, the act of filing a complaint is surely intimidating. Yet, Dr. Quinn had the fortitude to raise his concerns with the System. Despite his stated desire to bring union representation with him to file his complaint, he was denied the opportunity. He was told there would be an investigation, but we now know that at least one key witness was not interviewed, and others were not even informed of the nature of the complaint.

Mash then addressed the decision by John Wabby, the Chair of the Presidential Search Committee AND the Chair of the Council of Trustees, to kick Quinn of the search committee.

In Wabby’s letter to faculty, he stated that Quinn had violated a Board of Governors policy regarding confidentiality in the presidential search  process. However, Mash was at the APSCUF-KU Representative Council meeting at which Quinn discussed his concerns with the presidential search with elected faculty union representatives. Mash responded as follows:

Having been left with no recourse, Dr. Quinn related his concerns in the most general way to the faculty on the KU APSCUF Representative Council. That body chose to vote no confidence in the process. What else was he or they do do? Forever hold their peace? That is not way to ensure the integrity of the process. He was not informed of any route for an appeal, he was not assured that his serious concerns would be addressed, and he was [not] told how, specifically, his concerns might be wrong.

Contrary to Mr. Wabby’s communication to the university community [including students], Dr. Quinn did not relate specific information about the search to anyone. He merely related his concerns about process and diversity to his colleagues, and he related the reasons for the faculty’s lack of confidence in the process to the public. Our universities are, after all, public institutions.

You can read the full text of Ken Mash’s letter RIGHT HERE.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

In an email addressed to the “University Community” yesterday morning, John Wabby, Chair of the KU Presidential Search Committee and KU Council of Trustees, announced that he was removing APSCUF-KU President Paul Quinn from the Presidential Search Committee. The move comes two days after Quinn called an emergency meeting of the union’s Representative Council to bring forward what he called “serious problems” with the presidential search process. At that meeting, union representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution of no confidence in the search process (see more here).

In the email, Wabby stated:

I was disappointed when Dr. Paul Quinn, a member of the search committee, chose to breach the confidentiality of the search process on Tuesday by publicly disclosing information about the committee’s deliberations and about potential candidates. While I know he is deeply committed to the university, his action was a clear violation of the confidentiality section of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education policy 1983-13-A—provisions that all participants in our search process have been well aware of from the beginning of our effort. Accordingly, I have removed Dr. Quinn from the search committee, and an APSCUF alternate will take his place on the committee so that we can ensure forward progress.

Wabby makes a case for “respecting the committee’s choices”:

Not everyone will agree with every decision made by the search committee, but it is important to respect the committee’s decisions rather than work outside the process. No single member should have the ability to cast aside the hard work of a duly appointed and fully representative committee.

On the surface, there is nothing surprising about what Wabby says. That is, generally, most people would agree with Wabby’s take here when it comes to basic procedures of a search committee. However, Quinn did not simply decide willy-nilly to start broadcasting his personal thoughts about the Presidential Search. Quinn went public because there were “some serious problems with how the Presidential Search Process is being conducted” and that he believes that “the process has become deeply flawed.”

The question at stake here is this: if a member of this committee (or any such search committee) is alarmed about a process that has grown unethical, flawed, or biased, should that member of the committee “respect the committee’s decisions;” or, should that member of the committee blow the whistle? Let me take that one step further. Let’s now say, that a committee member who is alarmed about the process, follows the official procedure for filing a complaint. But, instead of the complaint being treated objectively and professionally, the committee member is subjected to intimidation and denied the right to union representation. Then what? What if, despite the fact that a serious complaint has been filed, the search is allowed to proceed before a determination is made about the substance of the complaint? Does that committee member simply “respect the committee’s decisions?” If that committee member becomes increasingly concerned that somehow their complaint is being dismissed due to personal or political motives, should she or he just kick the dust, say “ah shucks, guess there is nothing I can do,” and walk away?

Yes, I just proposed a hypothetical situation. But that very “hypothetical” situation is the ACTUAL situation in which APSCUF-KU President, Paul Quinn, finds himself in at this very moment. Since John Wabby kicked Quinn off the committee, the faculty union has been scrambling to find an APSCUF member to replace him on short notice – interviews begin today at Philadelphia Airport Marriott.

While the concerns Quinn discussed with faculty union representatives on Tuesday about problems with the Presidential Search are deeply problematic, the fact that PASSHE investigators and lawyers denied him union representation at an intake meeting is alarming, especially when you consider Quinn’s description of that intake meeting. After Quinn received a three sentence response from PASSHE lawyers about his complaint and his discomfort with the intake process, Quinn decided to write an email to PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan, PASSHE Board of Governors Chair, Guido Pichini, and PASSHE Chief Counsel, Andrew Lehman. In that email, Quinn detailed his treatment by PASSHE lawyers and being denied union representation:

Standard practice at Kutztown University is that when a complaint is filed from a faculty union member about an individual in a position of authority, a union representative is permitted to accompany the “complainant” to the meeting. The role of the union representative is to serve as a witness, a note taker, and to be an advocate for the faculty member filing the complaint.  The primary purpose of these functions is to provide protection for the “complainant” who is reporting potentially inappropriate behavior from his/her supervisor, and to ensure the protection of faculty member’s rights and interests.  The union representative is bound by confidentiality and cannot share the results of the meeting.

As a matter of fact, when I first filed my complaint with Jesus Pena, I brought the local APSCUF-KU Vice-President Helen Bieber, and she served as my union representative.  It is my belief that  union representation was necessary due to the sensitive nature of the complaint and because quite frankly, it was very intimidating to file a complaint regarding the presidential search process which involves the Council of Trustees, and a PASSHE member, Peter Garland.  Though I have a good working relationship with all of them, they clearly have authority over me, and I feared the potential of retaliatory actions against me.

After filing my complaint, I must stress that I found the actual investigation procedures to be problematic and very contrary to the above detailed practices. My experience began with a process in which I was seemingly treated as a hostile witness.  An example of this is when I was scheduled for the intake with the private investigator Chris Jones, and attorney Suzanne Williamson, I was denied the right to have a witness present.  In particular, Ms. Williamson, was adamant about how this was not necessary because I was the “complainant.”  Her refusal to allow me union representation demonstrated an unwillingness to consider that the very nature of my claim could have ramifications on my professional career.  It was further aggravated by the fact that she personalized my request for a representative as evidenced by her comment:” I feel personally insulted that you do not trust me”.  Despite my requests and explanations for needing union representation, I was told that the proceedings would not take place unless I met with both of these PASSHE investigators –alone. Although uncomfortable with this decision, I requested that this denial be officially noted on the record.   Following the interview, I was allowed to read her notes, but was informed I would not be provided copies or photocopies of the intake transaction for my own records.

Another concern with this investigation was the fact that the presidential search process continued, despite the serious allegations brought forth.   The search firm, acting in an egregious manner, scheduled interviews and continued the search before I received any information discussing the status or outcome of the investigation.  To my knowledge, it is not standard procedure to notify candidates of search results while an investigation as to the fairness of the very process that has been used to select candidates  is pending.  To underscore my point as to the manner in which equity investigations are conducted, it is my experience as union president that our own social equity officer, Mr. Pena, would not conduct an investigation in this manner.  Subsequently, I inferred by the continued forward progress of the search firm, condoned by PASSHE, that my complaint was irrelevant and the process would continue no matter the serious nature of my complaint.

Pennsylvania law ensures a union employee the right to union representation if the employee reasonably believes she or he might face disciplinary action as a result of their participation in a meeting with superiors. The law gives gives the employee the right to determine whether she or he believes disciplinary action might result. However, Quinn received an email response from PASSHE’s Chief Counsel, Andrew Lehman, in which he seems to believe that he and PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan get to decide whether or not Quinn is “reasonable.” Lehman wrote,

The Chancellor received your email and asked me to provide a response. Even though your complaint was filed locally with Kutztown University’s Office of Social Equity, the matter was appropriately referred to my office for guidance and, ultimately, investigation.  We reviewed the matter in a timely manner, gathering documents and interviewing several members of the search committee, including you. This complaint did not involve any potential action against you, but rather you raised issues related to conduct of other members of the search committee and of the search consultant. Board of Governors’ Policy requires members of the search committee maintain confidentiality.  Expanding the universe of individuals involved to include a union representative would not have been appropriate during your interview as part of the investigation related to the search.

Really? My boss gets to decide whether or not I have a reasonable concern about retaliation? That’s not a world in which this union member or ANY WORKER, in my mind, should live. Unless, of course, you long for the days of the Company Town.

As it turns out, Quinn seems to have been right to be worried, especially once he made his concerns plain to faculty union representatives. Not only was Quinn kicked off the committee, yesterday he received a veiled threat of managerial retaliation from the Acting Provost, James Mackin, if he continues to raise concerns about the Presidential Search process:

 

Mackin Email to Quinn

Yes, “so long as no information is shared that would violate the referenced Board of Governor’s Policy.” Since the Chancellor and his legal team are already working from an interpretation of that policy that led to Quinn being kicked off the Presidential Search Committee – despite going to pains NOT to disclose any specific information about the search – it’s pretty clear what this says: say another word about the search and I will begin “infringing upon your rights to communicate with faculty,” or some other form of sanction.

What started as an attempt to ensure an ethical and sound search for the next president of Kutztown University is quickly turning into something else entirely. More to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

At a special “Emergency Meeting” of APSCUF-KU’s representative council meeting late Tuesday afternoon, the union’s governing body passed a Resolution of No Confidence in the current process for choosing KU’s next president.  APSCUF-KU President, Paul Quinn, made the unusual move to call for an emergency meeting in a November 25th, email, emphasizing that is it was of “the utmost importance” that elected union representatives from every department be present at the meeting. APSCUF State President, Ken Mash, also drove to Kutztown from Harrisburg for the meeting.

Quinn began the meeting by reading from a prepared statement explaining why he called the meeting on such short notice:

I have called this representative council meeting today to discuss problems that have occurred with the Presidential Search Process. I apologize for not discussing this with you sooner, but the Presidential Search Process is one that is supposed to be bound by confidentiality, and I did not want to violate or even appear to violate that agreement in any fashion. It is only out of a need for action that I am discussing this with you today.

I believe that there are some serious problems with how the Presidential Search Process is being conducted and I believe that the process has become deeply flawed. As your union president and the union representative on the Presidential Search Committee, I can no longer stay silent in good conscious. I believe if this were a faculty search, the university’s Social Equity Office would have throw it out. And, at the end of this meeting I will be asking you for a vote of no confidence in the Presidential Search Process.

The urgency of the meeting also came from the fact that the first round of “airport interviews” (interviews conducted at a hotel near the Philadelphia airport) begin later today, Thursday, December 4th.

The resolution before faculty union representatives stated the five most significant reasons supporting a vote of no confidence in the search process:

  • the Presidential Search Firm contracted to run KU’s Presidential Search failed to abide by the committee’s stated Code of Ethics, encouraging improper and anecdotal discussion of candidates well in excess of candidates’ application materials
  • the voting procedures established by the Presidential Search Firm were flawed and applied inconsistently
  • the process promoted by the Presidential Search Firm yielded a candidate pool that was not ethnically diverse, despite the fact that the Firm raised KU’s failure to meet national standards for recruiting women and minorities
  • the Presidential Search continued unabated, despite the fact that Paul Quinn, APSCUF-KU’s president and representative on the committee, filed a formal complaint with KU’s Office of Social Equity
  • PASSHE lawyers denied APSCUF-KU’s President, Paul Quinn, his right to union representation when required to meet with them and formally file his complaint

Faculty representatives discussed both Quinn’s prepared remarks and the resolution before voting overwhelmingly in support of the resolution.

Diversity Concerns

According to Quinn, the search firm contracted to run KU’s Presidential Search, Greenwood/Asher and Associates, emphasized the fact that Kutztown University has failed to meet national standards when it comes to recruiting women and minorities. Despite the emphasis the search firm placed on including women and minorities in the initial pool of candidates, the final pool of twelve candidates did not include a single minority candidate, according to Quinn. The pool did include women candidates, but the overwhelming majority of candidates were white men. Quinn explained that this pool of candidates is particularly problematic given Kutztown’s location between Allentown and Reading, two urban centers with large populations of African Americans and Latinos.

Like many colleges and universities across the country, Kutztown University has experienced a drop off in enrollment over the past couple of years and has placed a university-wide emphasis upon recruitment and retention. After decades of being one the least diverse student bodies in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), KU made significant gains recruiting students from underrepresented minority groups. The same has been true, although to a much lesser extent, when it comes to faculty and staff diversity. Those gains are important for the university insofar as the State System is supposed to provide access to all Pennsylvanians and each university is expected to reflect, at least to a degree, the demographics of its surrounding community. And, further, several of the key indicators that determine the level of funding each university receives (see an article by former Chancellor John  Cavanaugh and Executive Vice Chancellor Peter Garland for a discussion of PASSHE’s new performance funding model. Interestingly, Garland is also serving as the PASSHE representative on KU’s presidential search).

Inappropriate Criteria: Hearsay and Unsubstantiated Opinion

What was most troubling, according to Quinn, was that the search firm both allowed and encouraged members of the committee to include personal anecdotes about a candidate if they knew them in some capacity. The search firm did not require members of the committee to substantiate any claims they made. Quinn described this aspect of the search in his prepared remarks as follows:

A few of the candidates that applied were familiar to me due to my relationship with colleagues at other universities. When it came time to discuss one such candidate, I asked the firm once again if it was permitted to share what I knew. They reiterated that it was fine, so I shared my interactions with this particular individual. The candidate stated in their resume that they had resigned from one of their previous positions. Another member of the search committee then disclosed confidential personnel information about this candidate that contradicted what was in the resume. There was no evidence of these claims in any of the materials that the candidate submitted, making the comments completely unsubstantiated. In my opinion, the information that was shared was inappropriate, and a breach of a confidentiality if it was indeed true. That discussion should NEVER have been allowed to occur. It was a violation of the rights of that candidate who was not even present to defend themselves.

This situation was allowed to occur for other candidates in the pool as well. People used hearsay, information with no factual basis, and personal opinions to judge who was worthy of an “airport interview.” In fact, certain members of the committee made it clear they were instructed by their representative constituency how to vote, and that was their intention. Their decision had nothing to do with the information provided to us by the applicants. Material that had nothing to do with the resumes, was shared and discussed openly by the committee. The firm even shared undocumented information about certain candidates’ previous employment that was not appropriate without the candidate being present or references being contacted.

Quinn reiterated that if these kind of discussions and blatant statements of personal agendas took place during a search for a faculty member, Kutztown University’s Social Equity Office would have cancelled the search and restarted the entire process to ensure that proper procedures were followed.

PASSHE Lawyers Deny APSCUF-KU President Right of Union Representation

The proper step to take if a member of a search committee is concerned about ethical violations within the process is to formally report the matter to the University’s Social Equity Office. Quinn did just that after growing increasingly concerned about potential negative impacts of a flawed search on the future of the university. He described his decision to final a formal complaint with the Social Equity Office in his prepared remarks:

It was my opinion that after having been through tough times with the previous administration, it would be horrible for this university to start a new era that was determined by such a biased and unfair process. Thus, I decided to file a complaint with the Social Equity Office. I took [APSCUF-KU] Vice-President Helen Bieber as my union representative, and went on record with what occurred. I met with Mr. Peña [Associate Vice President Equity and Compliance & Title IX Coordinator], and gave an intake about the flawed process. He informed me that he would most likely not be allowed to conduct the investigation, and therefore would be contacting PASSHE legal for guidance. It was his belief that, since he had not certified any of the candidates for the “airport interviews”, that the process would be put on hold until my complaint was dealt with.

Quinn told faculty representatives that only later did he find out that the process was never put on hold. “Wouldn’t investigators want the process to temporarily pause, so that if something was found to be wrong, candidates scheduled for interviews wouldn’t have to be canceled?,” Quinn asked. “This leaves me with serious doubt as to whether my complaint was ever taken seriously” by PASSHE officials in Harrisburg.

Shortly after Quinn spoke to Mr. Peña, he was contacted by PASSHE’s Office of Legal Counsel to schedule another intake meeting with PASSHE special investigator, Christopher Jones, and University Legal Counsel, Suzanne Williamson. The meeting did not get off to a good start. Quinn explained:

When I showed with my union representative [APSCUF-KU Vice President Helen Bieber] for the meeting, I was told that I could not have a union representative as a witness. I tried to explain to the investigators that I was reporting a potential problem with a process run by the Council of Trustees and PASSHE. These were all individuals that had power over me, and I was feeling nervous. In particular, it felt like the PASSHE attorney was trying to bully and to intimidate me with her tone and stance. PASSHE would not budge, so I was forced to sit alone with the investigators for over two hours. I did have them document in their notes that I was denied a union representative, but I was not allowed to keep or receive copies of their notes or the report that they created about my incident. They made me feel as if I was the problem, and not the flawed process about which I was complaining.

According to a  ruling in the 1975 Supreme Court case, NRLB v. J. Weingarten, Inc., employees have a right to union representation at investigatory interviews. These rights have become known as Weingarten Rights. Weingarten applies only to private sector employees, but the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board adopted the Weingarten Rights in 1981 for public employees. The “Policy and Law” page on the PA State Human Resources site, describes an employee’s rights as follows:

“[The Pennsylvania State Labor Relations Board] will find a violation of Section 1201 (a)(1) of the Act if an employer conducts an investigatory interview of an employee without a union representative being present provided the employee has a reasonable belief that discipline may result from the interview.”

In effect, Quinn was presented with a choice: file a complaint without a union representative present or drop the complaint entirely. It is entirely unclear what would motivate PASSHE lawyers to deny Quinn union representation, especially given that he was coming forward with a complaint in order to ensure that the search for Kutztown’s next president would be ethical and fair.

What Is Going On?!?

Following a lengthy discussion and deliberation, an overwhelming majority of union representatives voted in favor of the resolution calling for no confidence in the current presidential search. There is no doubt that this was a difficult decision for many representatives, especially given the fact that Quinn and the other faculty member on the Search Committee, Dr. Jennifer Schlegel  (who is not a member of APSCUF-KU’s Representative Council, but who was invited to attend the discussion), did not disclose the names or specific details about any of the candidates and went through pains to respect the confidentiality of the search process. I think it would be fair to say, however, that most representatives left the meeting trying to understand what exactly is going on with the search, whose interests are driving the process, and why PASSHE seems hell-bent on pushing ahead on this search in a rather heavy-handed manner.

A number of troubling possibilities are plausible — some dealing with more local, institutional politics; others having do with with PASSHE’s persistent attempts to “transform” the state system through slashing faculty and programs. It is difficult to tell. In the next day or so, I will be posting a follow up article exploring some of these possibilities.

 

Read Full Post »

I wanted to remind all my Kutztown friends and XChange followers that today is KU President Javier Cevallos’s big day. He is one of two finalists to become the next president of Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. FDU is hosting him for a full day of events including town hall type meetings with members of the university community later in the day. According to Patrick Zenner, Chair of FDU’s Board of Trustees, “following the meetings and after reviewing all factors and the input we receive, the Board of Trustees will select the next president of Fairleigh Dickinson University.” While there is not a clear deadline for when the Board will make its decision, FDU is putting Cevallos’s best foot forward. Cevallos’s time as KU President dominates his bio posted on the FDU site:

Since his arrival to Kutztown, enrollment has increased from 8,500 to 10,000 students. Simultaneously, the diversity of the student body has grown. In 2002, approximately 6 percent of the students were members of a racial/ethnic minority, and today that number is 15 percent. The academic profile of the entering class has also improved, going from an 80 percent acceptance rate in 2002 to 64 percent in 2012.

Dr. Cevallos has also overseen a significant change in campus facilities. Since his arrival, the campus has completed a new $20-million Science Center, a $21-million classroom/dining facility (a unique concept that has received architectural awards), the renovation and expansion (almost doubling in size) of Sharadin Visual Arts building ($19 million), and this summer will see the completion of a $21-million renovation of Schaeffer Auditorium, the performing arts center.

The campus has also seen the construction of a new $61-million residence hall, a $30-million Student Recreation Center, and a $13-million renovation of the Health Center. Next fall will also see the completion of the renovation of a traditional residence hall, as part of the comprehensive Housing Master Plan that will renovate all university-owned housing over the next 10 years. He has also worked with the Kutztown University Foundation to build a $40-million residential complex that houses more than 1,400 students; and through the Foundation facilitated the acquisition and renovation of an Honors Hall, a $2-million project that combines housing and classroom space for honors students.

Dr. Cevallos has been an advocate for internationalizing the university. As a faculty member in Massachusetts he directed the Summer Program in Salamanca, Spain, and has been involved with international programs since then. Under his leadership, Kutztown has established programs in Ecuador, China, India and Italy. Kutztown is one of five leading institutions in the Pennsylvania System in a new program that aims to bring students from China to KU. As part of the effort, the university developed an English as a Second Language Program to help students with their language skills.

There are those at KU who may take issue with the fact that there is no mention that Kutztown University has pretty publicly announced deep budget deficits in 10 of Cevallos’s 11 years at Kutztown; that he has overseen the elimination of all retention programs for working class and first generation college students; that he eliminated the Early Learning Center – a legacy jewel dating back to the founding of the university; that he failed to deliver on his job as the university’s #1 fundraiser (the first item listed on his job description when he was hired); that he presided over the demotion of Kutztown University to a fourth-tier school in U.S. News and World Report; that the most recent “KU Campus Climate Survey” showed that 42% of tenured faculty members, 38% of tenure-track faculty members, and 31% of temporary faculty members have “considered leaving the university” (noticeably large); and…well I could go on all day.

The important thing, however, is that we have lots of nice buildings and the university is cosmetically attractive. And THAT’s what’s important about higher education. True, there are more students, fewer faculty, and larger classrooms in those nice new buildings. But I still think we should all consider dropping President Cevallos an email wishing him luck at FDU today: cevallos@kutztown.edu.

Break a leg, President Cevallos. Just be sure to let them know that Kutztown’s new slogan – plastered on the university’s web site and on billboards through out the region – is “The best choice I ever made,” and show them the website and all the billboards up around the region. That will keep them focused on the shiny stuff.

 

I made good choice

Read Full Post »