Sunday, March 28, 2010

Various & sundry HLC pre-visit thoughts

So one of my colleagues has admonished me for airing 'dirty laundry' in this forum about the condition of the university. I was warned not to speak ill of our now threatened university lest our uncorrected deficiencies lead to our loss of accreditation or even closure or consolidation. I inquired whether this instruction to silence came from on high and was not surprised to hear that it had. The first problem I have with this is the wish to have faculty compromise their personal integrity during the HLC visit by not telling the truth as that is perceived as airing dirty laundry. I believe that at the end of the day, I only have my integrity and it is something that I don't compromise and never for a job. I hope that my faculty colleagues, if asked, are completely truthful about whatever the Visitors inquire about. For the sake of their own integrity, I would hope truth wins the day.
Some months ago, the Provost assured faculty that the process of preparing for the visit and the visit itself would be open and transparent. I recently saw the visitation schedule and was struck by the lack of faculty feedback and involvement. Faculty has been given 45 minutes to meet with the Visitation Team. I then realized that the purpose of the visit doesn't center on faculty not doing their jobs. Rather it focuses on a Board of Trustees that had been asleep at the switch, a former president completely uninterested in protecting the university and an interim president completely hamstrung by a megalomaniacal BOT chairman who appeared hell bent on destroying the institution. Faculty is clearly not on the hook for another administrative and BOT failure. The unfortunate result of this is there has never been any accountability for the six years of university mismanagement. Choosing not to revisit the past is a mistake. Taking responsibility for the failings of the administration could serve to put much of the past behind us. The HLC gave the university instructions in 2003 to address a specific issue. The university did not comply with those instructions until after the announcement of the Focus Visit. Therefore, it seems to me that an admission of that publicly would begin a process of accountability. Replacing workers and shuffling administrators is not accountability. I am saddened that this administration is really no different from the past in terms of open and transparent communications and building a culture of accountability. I guess the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Finally, I am curious about the schedule. Are all of the meetings open? Why would any of the meetings of the accreditation team be closed? At a public university doing the public's business, I would expect a level of transparency promised by the Provost. It seems to further entrench a closed and secretive management style, one that has proven over the past two decades to dis-serve the university. I would have hoped there would be more clarity provided about the visit. Many faculty are interested in this process and have not been given the ground rules. Good communications is usually pro-active, not like what we are accustomed to.

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