The Courier sat down with Glenn Hansen, president of the faculty association, and Richard Jarman, vice president of the faculty association, to gage the faculty’s current response to college-wide issues like SLEA and selecting a new president. We have categorized our conversation by topic and topics are not necessarily in the order presented.
On the Board
GH: There are conversations that happen between Joe Collins, Kathy Hamilton and faculty leadership. We talk to the other trustees and that’s a significant change to what has been going on the past seven years. Even prior to that, there were board members, trustees that would never have met with me over the years, having been in that boardroom for a long time. There were some that I never had a meeting with on the previous board. Some of those who are still on the board I’ve never had a meeting with. You know ‘Let’s have a cup of coffee,’ that never happens.
RJ: I don’t think we’ve ever had a conversation with the former Chair [Erin Birt].
GH: Never. I think we’ve probably exchanged about 10 words over time.
Courier: So, you feel that the new board is responsible for helping to change things.
GH: I think we all play our own part and they are playing a significant leadership part and they’re making significant policy changes that are propelling us forward. They did their due diligence before firing Dr. Breuder.
On the HLC report
GH: I look at it as a huge opportunity. All of the faculty has said there needs to be an outside examination of issues of things, regardless of what it is, either to verify there’s a problem or there isn’t a problem. The only way you get a clean slate record on things is that somebody else affirms whether or not things are right or wrong. And there are issues with the HLC report that are not appropriate, but let’s look at it as an opportunity that really put on the spotlight; here are some problems, let’s address those, let’s not respond to those with platitudes that we are going to do better. Let’s demonstrate.
On faculty and administration nerves
GH: There have been improvements in relationships with some administrators. As we’re moving forward there’s a great deal of nervousness among all constituencies. Students who are tuned in I think are aware of things. Others, they’re not because they’re here to study. They aren’t paying attention to politics, and maybe they shouldn’t be. A community college, in being a non-residential campus, is very different from what you would have at, say, Missouri. That’s a very different situation where you have resident students who are engaged all the time.
GH: I think there are some better relationships, I think there are some relationships that aren’t changing, but faculty can be nervous about where we’re going, adjuncts are nervous about what’s coming forward, administrators are very nervous about what the future holds for them. Imagine thinking that you’ve been doing what you thought you should be doing for a number of years, there’s a change in president, and as presidents go, so do administrators. That’s a fact of life in higher education. Before Dr. Breuder was brought in, we brought in an acting interim president who cleaned house. That was his national reputation.
On the Presidential Search Committee
GH: If we don’t get it right the first round, we go back out. We’re not gonna finish this until we have the right person in place to move us forward as an academic, as a healer, as somebody with high integrity that can embrace our culture and all of our employees and students.
C: Do you think it’s gonna be more difficult to attract the level of candidates you’d like to see given everything that’s surrounded the college?
GH: Boy, that’s been debated a lot. I really don’t know. I’ll know more when I see the first round of candidates. It could be that there will be people who want to come in and solve problems. My personal perspective is that I’d be leery of somebody who comes in and says they have all the answers, because Dr. Breuder had all the answers. You’ve gotta be kind of wary of that.
RJ: I think a creative leader would be interested in taking on the challenge of working at an institution that has a lot of things going for it. If you look around community colleges, it’s one of the largest. There’s lots of resources, there are many positive things about it, which I think would be attractive to a president. So I don’t have a real concern about that; that all of this turmoil will be a big turnoff. Hopefully some of these investigations and other issues will be dying away. I think that might be the most concerning thing for someone to come into.
On life after Breuder
RJ: I know a lot of people are concerned about the uncertainty. They think everything is just awful because of all of this negativity, but actually I have a very optimistic viewpoint. I think the arrow is pointing up for our association, the faculty in particular, but also for the entire college. If I think back one year ago, I would have never conceived that this is where we’d be today. It just seemed impossibility. Of course, we hoped to see the progress that has been made in changing the leadership here. Changing the board. I know there’s a lot of criticism but in my own experience, I have seen nothing but good in dealing with them.
GH: Going back a year, I was still addressing the board and asking them to pay attention to the vote of no confidence. They weren’t even talking about it. I had to remind them to include it in their minutes that I had addressed them about the vote. When you think about that, a year later, look where we’re at. Pretty remarkable.
On Breuder’s bullying and administration’s responsibility to heal
C: So you have noticed a change in the environment with faculty since Breuder has been gone?
GH: Yeah, definitely. There’s been a big change.
C: There was some talk of him being kind of like a bully.
RJ: Some talk? (laughs)
C: Have you noticed a significant change with that since he’s been gone?
RJ: I would say, beginning of fall term 2014 to beginning of fall term 2015 it’s night and day. I think we were all groaning at the prospect of sitting in the MAC listening to yet another monologue and hating the prospect of it. This term, totally different.
GH: Mhm. Totally different.
RJ: Don’t get us wrong, we’re not pretending it’s all fabulous all of a sudden. But I would say there was a substantial change in the mood just at the idea that the white Lexus was no longer in it’s parking space, and everything that that entailed.
GH: His management style was very imposing, very much a dictatorial one, and he always said he was the decision maker on everything. It would only be him. He was a very intimidating personality that tends to be received as being a bully and wanting his way. The atmosphere around here is much better, but as Richard says, we’ve got a long way to go. I think we’re at the point where we’re recognizing we need to heal. There’s the possibility that we can heal and repair relationships, and that’s the first step.
RJ: I want to make it clear that as the faculty members, I think we could afford to be less intimidated by that president because at least we had some security, but the intimidation of other sections of the college was way more apparent. It’s not an exaggeration to say that there was a climate of fear here, and that was made clear at the shared governance meeting we had in the summer of 2014. It sort of leaked out during the discussion, we sort of brought it up. (laughs)
GH: Okay, so we brought up the topic of bullying and intimidation as a management tool.
RJ: Because other sections are much less willing to say anything. But it did become apparent during that discussion that it was throughout the institution.
GH: From every constituency in the room. The stories started to come out.
C: How much does the ongoing hesitancy have to do with remaining members of the administration? You mentioned that a lot of times, when the president goes, much of the administration goes with it. Is there kind of that waiting game on that level for that to happen here?
GH: I would suspect so. I mean, I don’t know their motives, their cautions, but I’m sure that is an element of it. Who’s gonna be here? How are they going to respond to it. Which points to an opportunity, a thing that then those administrators need to repair that with those people who are hesitant. They need to work together to fix that culture. A lot of the responsibility for fixing it falls on the shoulders of the administrators because they’re the ones with authority and power. For many people, that power comes down to the ability to hire and fire.
C: Can you quantify the fear? Are there people who did lose their positions because they said too much under Dr. Breuder’s administration?
GH: I think there have been a lot of people who have been released, fired, early retirement, terminated, resignations in the six years, particularly among classified staff.
On SLEA and Continuing Education credit hours
C: Joe Collins had said there was a really big misstep with SLEA credits and that was not consulting faculty. Have you seen that in any other programs and do you think it’s a larger issue than just that course?
GH: That’s the poster child.
RJ: Yeah, definitely the most significant situation where administration has really driven the bus without taking opinions of the faculty into consideration, but I don’t think it’s the only situation. I think there are smaller cases where this has been done.
GH: I think a lot of those cases pertain particularly to Continuing Education. Issues with Continuing Education has been a long standing issue as to what is their role, what do the do, what do they offer, who teaches their classes, how does it relate to what we do either from the perspective of, at one point in time, some of us thought they were poaching out enrollment. They weren’t enhancing what we do, but in the current situation there are concerns of other, parallel, curriculums being offered. That would then, of course, bring up the issue of credits for continuing education courses. So SLEA is the major misstep, but there are other things we need to work on. We have proposed working on it.
C: How were programs like that being created if faculty wasn’t involved? What was there to gain by not consulting faculty?
GH: That’s a very good question.
RJ: SLEA is an outside academy. It’s not a COD entity. The college hosts it. It allows SLEA to use our facilities. It’s a complicated business but I think there was a temptation, perhaps, to parlay that SLEA entity into something positive for the college in terms of credits that then they could get money out of.
GH: And the question of what was to be gained, as the criminal justice faculty have repeatedly said very loudly, these are not students. They’re cadets. They’ve been hired already when they come here. They’re not coming here to gain credit. They have a job. They’re being paid here to be trained in a curriculum that’s established by a state agency. They don’t even need the credit.
C: But the college cared about the credits because there’s money tied to that.
C: Were there concerns about the quality of those programs that the faculty weren’t being consulted on?
GH: That was a big issue.
GH: Particularly with the SLEA issue. There were questions raised by criminal justice faculty about the credentials of the instructors. We have hiring guidelines that are very specific for fulltime and adjunct faculty to teach a course. The position of the criminal justice faculty was that some of these instructors did not meet our hiring guidelines. They weren’t appropriate instructors, nor did they go to the depth in the curriculum that warranted credit being issued.
On remaining administration & the future president
C: What do you think the faculty’s overall opinion is on the remaining administration form Breuder’s term?
GH: Real diverse. To be honest, that’s one thing I would prefer not to speak to because it’s very diverse. That’s an individual thing to each of the individual faculty members. It depends on what their interaction was with a given individual on an individual case. I would say is that everybody’s future is in their own hands. Administrators need to make the case of who they are and why they need to be here and work with people. They need to find a way to make sure that everybody will see them separate from the past, yet they need to be accountable for that past. We can’t just say seven years of Breuder happened, brand new day, because you’re dealing with people’s interactions, feelings, emotions. That’s gotta be accounted for, so that’s for those people to figure out how to fix it. How to prove themselves. Like I said, there are people out there who fully support the administrators. There are people who want them gone last year. There are those who will wait and see. It’s really diverse.
RJ: The administration, just like the faculty, is not a monolith.
RJ: Just because they might have been perceived as the enemy.
C: How do you go about then selecting a new president that represents that diverse point of view about the remaining administration. I know you said in the past, there have been interims that come in particularly to clean house. It doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re necessarily looking for this time.
GH: Group wisdom is often pretty good. We have a search committee that is going to take in opinions from all constituencies. They’re gonna review everything. They’ll then make recommendations to the board. We’ve gotta have faith that the process is going to work. Nobody has the one answer right now. It’s very inexact because you also run the risk that people interview differently from who they really are. I hope the board has the wisdom not to sign them to a long-term contract until we know who they are.
RJ: Isn’t there a law about that now?
GH: Yeah, there is a law about that now. (laughs). Dr. Breuder law. It’ll limit them to two year contracts.
GH: It’s a big experiment. We’ll see how it turns out.