President Maryam Barrie’s Public Comments to the Board of Trustees – April 22nd, 2014

Rumors are probably a part of every work environment. Over the last several years, there has been an increasing climate of distrust and fear throughout all levels of the college. There is an increasing sentiment that speaking up puts people at risk for losing their jobs, or for petty repercussions. I say this to you not to say that it is justified, or accurate, but just to clearly tell you – this is how many people feel. I’m sure if you had taken any of the suggestions Jennifer Baker made to you in the last year about having an external climate survey (ala the Detroit Free Press “best places to work” ) or a 360 evaluation (with staff and faculty evaluating their supervisors without fear of repercussion), you would have discovered this for yourselves. Because I’m the elected representative of the Full time and Adjunct faculty here at WCC, I see my job in reporting to you each month as an important way to speak up on behalf of those I represent.

Those that I represent find it deeply unsettling that many valued, long term employees have left the college recently. We used to have a climate where people loved their jobs, and generally had a healthy working environment. I want to make you aware of what faculty are aware of: That has changed. There has been a nearly complete turnover in our Web Services staff over the last 18 months, making it nearly impossible for this group to be responsive to faculty needs. We are on our third Director of Marketing in the last three years. Faculty are alarmed at the departure of key members of the DL staff critical to the completion of the DOL Grant. Joanna Eliot, of the Center for Distance Learning, announced her plans to leave the college this week, and last week Dianne Fine, who was working specifically on that same DOL Grant, resigned. Faculty throughout the college are alarmed that a grant that faculty were not consulted about prior to its being granted could fall through, and that those staff members left standing will be left to bear that burden on their own. As I hope you know, WCC faculty learned last week that three academic deans are leaving their positions. Jim Egan, Dean of Distance Learning, will be rejoining the Math department in the Fall 2014 term, and Rosemary Wilson, Dean of Business and Computer Technologies will be rejoining the Business department at that time. Marty Showalter, Dean of Math and Natural Sciences for many years, and for the last 3 years, Health, is retiring. While some efforts have been made toward finding a permanent Dean for Health Education, and as of yet, there has been no progress with this. That means that the College needs to find 4 Deans soon. As you can imagine, this adds a great deal of uncertainty to the alarm faculty are already feeling. I’d point out to you that while we’ve not been able to hire a Health Dean over the last three years, we are working in an environment that has gone from having 2 Full Level VPs (VP for Instruction, VP for Finance) to having 7 full level VPs. We are also slated to hire another new associate VP. Faculty are aware of these changes… and I can’t tell if you, as Board Members, are aware of them or not. If you are not, please pay attention. The choices you make are affecting the current and future school that we are all proud to serve.

There are problems with communication here at WCC. I know Jennifer worked hard last year to tell you that. I don’t know if you have been hearing that or not. I urge you to hire an independent audit to do some sort of work climate survey that WCC employees throughout the college could respond to accurately without any fear of repercussions. We want to be a part of helping the college navigate through these changing waters. Urge your employee, the President, to find ways to slow down her plans enough to include thoughtful faculty engagement with her initiatives. A rumor that I’ve heard several times this week is that faculty were called to a meeting and told to get on board with a plan to update their curriculum or to get out of the way. That is NOT collaboration. It isn’t good communication, either. I hope we will can come up with better ways of communicating together so that as rumors fly and alarm faculty about the DOL grant, about a new Advanced Manufacturing grant and building, about the point of a publication that looks like a newspaper (“On the Record”), but isn’t a newspaper, that purports to be the “Official” vehicle of communication between the college and its staff and faculty, we can calm things down. But we can’t help to make anything better, if the only communication happening is top down. That is what needs to change – as I know we have said many times.

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