A theme is shaping up here and it smells like suppression

Our third post of the night where suppression is the theme. This one is slightly old news but very important. Let’s begin…*deep breath*

Instead of adhering to the “shared governance” structure already in place at the colleges, Chancellor Bruce Leslie has spent both time and taxpayer money creating a “decision-making model.” Sigh. Bruce just can’t help himself! He has to remake everything in his own image. Bruce allegedly told Trustees that the consultant friend of his who was hired to moderate this retreat would not be receiving any sort of payment. Guess what? He was paid $3,500 a day plus expenses and any additional days after the retreat will have a fee of $2,500 along with expenses, according to an article in The Ranger. Nice work if you can get it.

Our question is…WHY ARE WE PAYING BRUCE LESLIE A TREMENDOUS SALARY if his leadership skills are so lacking that he has to drag us all into what amounts to marriage counseling? A scorpion is a scorpion. He’s already been run out of two other college environments prior to his tempestuous tenure at the Alamo Colleges. If anyone thinks Bruce is going to change and suddenly be all Mr. Participatory Governance, then they are sadly mistaken and dangerously naïve.

We received permission to reprint this from our colleagues at PAC AAUP.

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PAC AAUP and friends of PAC AAUP:

Please read the following. I received it from an anonymous source. It’s very disturbing to see how District administrators are further eroding trust by carefully manipulating what was intended to be an “inter-faculty dialogue designed to build trust.” The observations made by the author clearly show that it was a faculty retreat in name only (possibly to feign participatory leadership). False inclusivity has been the norm at the Alamo Colleges. Authentic faculty input has been suppressed systematically. When faculty is not allowed to ask the hard questions or to participate wholly, the Board of Directors risk making poorly informed decisions. How can the “success stories” reported by District be verified if those who are entrusted to preserve academic integrity (faculty) are systematically kept from asking the hard questions. Who will provide the Board of Directors the alternate perspective that can authenticate District’s portrayal of “success” and hold them accountable?

This is not the way to run a public institution. At stake is the rapid erosion of public trust in our community college system. Taxpayers and our students deserve better.

What follows is an eye-opening account of a deliberate attempt to impede voices of key stakeholders in an institution of higher education – the Faculty. To be sure, some of the most vocal faculty – representatives of the AAUP chapters – were excluded from this event (as noted below).

Tony Villanueva

The all-day Faculty Retreat was held on Oct 2nd, 2015:

When Faculty Super Senate President Lisa Black asked the faculty at Friday’s “faculty” retreat to stand, she hoped to make the point for those in the audience that the vast majority of those present were faculty.  When only about half in the room stood, it spoke volumes about the contradictions in this purportedly inter-faculty dialogue that was designed to, among other things, build trust.

This trust was undermined by the active participation of dozens of board members and administrators in the event’s key feedback gathering activity.  At least three vice chancellors, at least seven board members, all five college presidents, and various other deans, directors and vice presidents were actively engaged, like helicopter parents, in the speed-dating style two-minute participant interviews focused on six pre-determined questions designed to inform a design team while they develop a prototype for cross-college decision-making.

In the seven-hour retreat to publicly inaugurate the process, Chancellor Bruce Leslie stated that he was taking a hand’s off role in the initiative—although his remarks dominated the opening and closing of the retreat.  He began with, “My greatest fear is I won’t be able to save your jobs.”  Some construed this sentiment as a thinly veiled threat.  His statement also rang with hypocrisy as a staff representative originally appointed by one of the colleges had to be replaced because she lost her job due to District consolidation of the colleges’ continuing education departments in the weeks leading up to the retreat.

Wrapping up a final round of questions before beginning the feedback collection process, Trustee James Rindfuss continued the paternalistic tone set by the Chancellor when he worked into his “question” the unequivocal statement that, “Faculty are out of touch.”

The presence of so many administrators and board members eroded the authenticity and trust building the event aspired to.  The college presidents appointed the initial retreat attendees, and then were invited themselves as if to keep an eye on their minions.  The “anonymous” feedback process was made very public as one-on-one interviews were set up in parallel rows of a dozen or so seats placed right next to one another.  Nearly every “interview” was within earshot of an administrator or board member.

Although administrators and board members were intimately engaged in the process, representatives of the colleges’ American Association of University Professors chapters were excluded from the process.  The decision to exclude AAUP representatives became questionable in light of the morning presentation from Valencia College, a team handpicked by the Chancellor.  Valencia’s presentation included a lengthy explanation for why it is important to engage critical and divergent voices as early as possible in any major decision making process.

The tentacles of administrative usurpation of the process were exemplified many ways Friday, as during a roundtable event in which groups of ten or so participants identified “truths,” “trends,” and “unique ideas” among the responses to the six questions asked during the one-on-one interviews.  The role of official “recorder” of responses in one group was assumed by Jo-Carol Fabianke, Vice Chancellor of Academics and e-book/EDUC 1300 champion.  Another group’s recorder, and effective filter of feedback, was Trustee Yvonne “fire the old farts” Katz.

Ironically, in the group filtering the question, “What would it take for you to have trust in this decision making model?”  Vice Chancellor of Finance Diane Snyder questioned the validity of a faculty member’s report out, and shot down a proposed “unique idea” supported by at least two faculty in the group.  The idea that never made it to the floor due to Synder’s insistence was “participatory budgeting.”  Interestingly, another group filtering a totally unrelated question identified faculty involvement in budgeting as an important “trend.”

The design team tasked with planning the event is now challenged with making sense of comments which were supposed to be from primarily faculty, but which were instead from administrators, board members, and faculty who were forced to self censor their comments because of the proximity of the people who sign their paychecks.

Although the formal feedback gathered Friday is of questionable value, the real takeaway was from Valencia College, who provided the retreat participants with a narrative of their decision making development process.  This is a process that includes, among other things, an autonomous faculty council with veto power over any major decisions within the scope of faculty responsibility.  Additionally, the second of the three councils with veto power at Valencia has a faculty co-chair.

Valencia also described how the equivalent of their Super Senate president sits on their equivalent of the Alamo Colleges PVC executive council.  Furthermore, they explained how faculty are able to comment on every policy proposal that goes to the Board.  Unlike Alamo Colleges, Valencia is a singly accredited college with about a half dozen campuses.

The cross-college faculty decision-making model design team’s next task is to process the feedback from Friday and develop a prototype to present to the faculty at each college during Employee Development Day on Wednesday, October 28.

This is one EDD faculty won’t want to miss.  On this day, faculty have a chance to correct the errant course the cross-college decision making process is on and pressure their representatives on the design team to ensure that the process actually adheres to what predictably percolated up from Friday’s feedback:  The need for more trust, transparency, and true shared governance.

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