The events of this last week have negatively impacted my view of, and my work at, an institution where, like many other faculty, I have dedicated by career. Prior to October 23, 2020, some of the MU faculty were skeptical and suspicious of the current administration and the Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA). In addition, there were also some faculty who were very trusting and believed in the words of the VPAA. Some were so trusting and so convinced that we were being well represented by our chief academic officer that they loudly advocated on his behalf.
On October 23, the entire faculty learned directly from the VPAA that he colluded with the Board of Trustees and President Owens to freeze the tenure process. The VPAA admitted that, since June 2020, the faculty were not informed of the plan to eliminate tenure indefinitely. Such a plan is unprecedented and will result in a radical change in the direction and future of the institution. It occurred without any shared governance. The VPAA decided not to share the plan with the faculty. The plan was concealed from the Faculty Senate and the general faculty for months. The VPAA admitted to receiving and following without question a directive to keep this information from the faculty. His admission has led the faculty, including those that days earlier energetically supported him, to condemn his actions in a loud and unified voice. The VPAA has lost the trust and confidence of the faculty.
On October 23, the entire faculty learned directly from the VPAA that he colluded with the Board of Trustees and President Owens to freeze the tenure process. The VPAA admitted that, since June 2020, the faculty were not informed of the plan to eliminate tenure indefinitely.
Without integrity, honesty and transparency, there can be no leadership. It is difficult to see any way to continue productive, collaborative efforts by the VPAA and the faculty. A leader leads from a position of respect, integrity and trust. Credentials are meaningless, titles do not garner respect, positions do not empower, and words do not gain trust. Hired to be a leader of the faculty, the VPAA did not act to slow or block an unprecedented decision that was made in a vacuum of knowledge and foresight. This has jeopardized the health and future of Misericordia University and placed the institution in an extremely tentative and vulnerable position.
It will have a chilling effect on the myriad of university activities that rely on faculty-administration synergy. Fund raising, alumni relations, student recruitment, enrollment, Middle States Accreditation, program development, and operations of the academic programs will be severely impeded, if not paralyzed. A more informed process could have—and should have—occurred with the involvement of the Faculty Senate. The administration working in good faith collaboration with the faculty could have brokered an alternative and effective plan.
Unlike the many administrators that pass through the arches of MU, work to further their careers and then leave the institution, the faculty come here to live the mission of the institution and dedicate ourselves and our careers to assure the university’s strong future. It is unfortunate that an administrator working without the heart and collective wisdom of the faculty can attempt to alter the course of the institution.
The only solution is for the administration to reverse course and nullify the resolution to freeze tenure and to reevaluate the suggested need to eliminate faculty positions.