March 28, 2016
The withdrawal of Kenneth Saunders from the presidential search is a step in the right direction in getting our college back on track. Our current crisis, as highlighted in the Middle States oral Exit Report, goes well beyond the ongoing problems with the search. The report confirmed what this faculty has known for a long time: the breakdown of trust and communication, as well as competent fiscal and administrative management of our college, is at the root of our problems. Our accreditation crisis calls for swift, informed action that will bring about the changes needed to meet the Middle States Standards to secure our accreditation. Now is the time to make the systemic changes required to secure NCC’s future as a high quality, low cost academic institution.
The first step on the road to recovery is the immediate appointment of an Interim President from outside the college who understands SUNY and has experience with the Middle States process. There is no time for a president who requires a learning curve. We need an individual who can take immediate action to bring us into compliance with the seven standards we failed.
To that end, we call on SUNY and the NCC Boards of Trustees, to press the “pause button” on NCC’s presidential search and appoint an Interim President who specializes in assisting colleges in crisis get back on track. There is precedent for this, both across the state and at NCC. In the early 1980s SUNY appointed James Fitzgibbons as our Acting President. Dr. Fitzgibbons brought a calming influence and was able to unify the campus community. To quote one of the vice presidents at the time, “He (Fitzgibbons) has us talking to each other again!” We urge the SUNY and NCC Boards of Trustees to adopt this type of “crisis management,” to quickly resolve our Middle States crisis.
The second step is a forensic audit of the college and a thorough review of administrative practices. It is clear from the failures cited by the Middles States report in administration, allocation of institutional resources, leadership, and most disturbingly, integrity, that the current administration is not up to the task. It will take an experienced Interim President from outside the college, one not connected to this County’s political apparati, to effectively tackle these problems, restore institutional integrity, and open communication on our campus.
Only after these tasks are accomplished will it be appropriate to search for a permanent president. This “pause” will permit the college to get back on track before a new search begins, one in which all applicants will be fairly evaluated and not subject to the taint of favoritism and the political wrangling that has marred NCC’s presidential searches since 2012.
The result? NCC will be assured that our next permanent president will possess a vision for the college that embraces its rich culture of shared governance and academic excellence, in which its dedicated faculty work hand-in-hand with the administration in a climate of mutual respect, collaboration and consultation.
It is time for SUNY and the NCC Board of Trustees to put our students and this institution first. We urge them to do so.
Submitted by: the NCC AAUP Executive Committee and the NCC Academic Senate Executive Committee