Thursday, September 15, 2011

Seek wise counsel

So when I hear about personnel changes on the academic side of the university, my ears always perk up. Whether it is the ill-conceived and inept reorganization of the College of Arts & Sciences, the double secret probation in the College of Education, the micro-managing selection of the English Department Chairperson, the elimination of the Graduate College and its Dean, or the hiring and then non-hiring of the Nursing Department Chairperson, it seems that the regime is managing like a decapitated chicken, stumbling in all directions with no sense of what is best for a university rapidly approaching accreditation.
The Nursing Department situation is very interesting. Apparently the former chair was not retained by the normal June 30th deadline of contract renewal. The CEO recruited and was prepared to hire a nursing administrator from another local, public institution until said administrator saw more negative press about CSU and opted not to take the position. With no one willing to assume the duties and responsibilities of the chair, a non-academic administrator was placed in the role some months later. There are some problems with this.
First, internally, having someone with no experience in academic administration does the faculty and the department a dis-service especially in the area of personnel matters. If your humble narrator were a faculty member in that department I would have grave concerns about the ability to be properly and competently evaluated by someone who has not worked with the collective bargaining agreement at this institution or supervised faculty. If, for example, the interim chair were to pass someone along with an positive recommendation who didn’t deserve it and that faculty member was denied retention, promotion or tenure later, she could be placing others at undue risk because of her inexperience administering the faculty contract. If she provides some negative report about a faculty member during the personnel process that is unjustified it creates the same sort of problem.  Placing an inexperienced non-faculty member in a position of supervision of faculty could create a situation with significant unintended consequences. Managing a nursing unit at a hospital or similar locale is very different from an academic institution. I would have hoped that wise counsel was sought before this decision was made and yet it feels like yet another decision was made in desperation by a directionless CEO.
Secondly, the accreditation of the Nursing Department was placed at risk because there was no chairperson and one of the conditions for their continued accreditation is no gap in departmental leadership. If the Nursing Department’s accrediting body, the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc (NLNAC), wished to make an example of an institution by withdrawing accreditation because of administrative incompetence, this regime gave them more than enough justification to do so. An examination of the NLNAC Standards and Criteria Baccalaureate indicates the university could have been out of compliance with the 2008 Standards.  Standard 1.5 of the NLNAC Accreditation Manual states “ The nursing education unit is administered by a doctorally prepared nurse.” If no one was serving in that capacity, it could place the department out of compliance. Additionally, Standard 1.2 states “The governing organization and nursing education unit ensure representation of students, faculty, and administrators in ongoing governance activities.” That sure sounds like shared governance language to me and indicates an expectation on the NLNAC’s part that shared governance will be practiced. Without notification to even the Dean of the College of Health Sciences of the change in department chair, faculty were obviously not given a vote, even advisory, on the selection of an interim chair. This loyal readers, provides yet another example of the administration’s refusal to honor basic principles of shared governance.
The question is what becomes of our students who just took the last state examination and those who will take the next state examination as to whether they will be licensed or not since they would be coming from a potentially unaccredited program.
I suppose this is what the university gets when a non-academic administrator and by that I mean one who was never a tenured faculty member, college dean, or provost and one who has never published in a peer reviewed journal, is given license to manage this institution.
I am curious if the Board of Trustees is even aware of the impending self-inflicted wounds the university could suffer. And if they aren’t we really are in trouble.

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