Nassau Community College
AAUP Advocacy Chapter
February 29, 2016
It’s 1982: Dr. Sean Fanelli has just been hired as Nassau Community College’s new president. His hiring was occasioned by the indictments on corruption charges of the former president of NCC and four other college administrators. Dr. Fanelli was an outsider–a biologist by training and a dean of academic affairs and deputy to the president at Westchester Community College–when he was hired. His outsider status was especially crucial to a college in dire need of ethical leadership and moral integrity. Clearly, the search committee and board of trustees responsible for bringing in Dr. Fanelli sought someone not tainted by the corrupt and indicted outgoing administration. They sought and chose an individual who would not only repair the damage done by the previous administration, but one who would have the vision to lead the college boldly and intelligently well into the future. And Fanelli did just that for nearly thirty years. When he was honored at different points during his career, what stood out among his accomplishments was his defense of academic freedom. Here is one of his notable quotes: “[The] concept of persons not in the College community deciding what the content of a course should be sets a dangerous precedent. It’s just not appropriate to have an entity external to the college process come in and tell you how to construct a curriculum.”
It’s 2016: NCC is once again at a crossroads. Our reputation is in decline, we are becoming known for administrative incompetence, corruption, and academic mediocrity. We have been suffering from a leadership vacuum—no permanent president—for almost four years, and a troubled or incompetent leadership for nearly seven years. Will we soon be calling this the “lost decade,” as we peer into the dark chasm of decline since Sean Fanelli’s departure?
We have detailed with quite a bit of care the history of the past three searches for a permanent president. We don’t want to rehash that sordid history once again. Our fundamental thesis is this: we do not have confidence in the integrity of the search. We have detailed patiently and with care the reasons why we believe the search as it is currently being carried out and as it has been undertaken since 2012 is and remains fatally flawed. We believe that the basic premises of the search doom it to failure–chief among them permitting an internal candidate to participate. This has rendered it all but impossible to attract candidates of Sean Fanelli’s caliber; a candidate who can lead with integrity, a candidate who can restore the reputation of the college, a candidate not tainted by political connections or cronyism, a candidate who has a deep respect for academic freedom, excellence and shared governance, a candidate who can nurture and cultivate true connections to all communities who have a stake in our college, and finally a candidate who has the courage to face down political resistance and demand that this college be properly funded.
1. We feel that the Board of Trustees meeting as scheduled for March 2, 2016 violates the Opening Meeting law and that any decision made regarding a final choice for president of NCC at that meeting may be void if challenged.
2. We believe the current search should be halted because it is tainted and because it is very clear to us that much better candidates have either abandoned their candidacies (like Dr. Gena Glickman) or simply not even bothered to apply given our recent hopeless and hapless history.
It would be a terrible shame if our next Sean Fanelli was never found simply because we could not get our act together. So let’s do just that. Let’s get our act together.
NCC AAUP Executive Committee