April 4, 2016
Some of you growing up may have heard the expression, “Children should be seen and not be heard.” This dictum, pronounced by fathers at the head of American dinner tables in the 1950s and 1960s to their gathered flocks of sheepish children, was the folksy maxim humanizing an authoritarian parenting style. Children fostered in such controlling regimes learned that truth and authority was a top-down game, that questioning and dialogue between parent and child were unneeded in a world where Father’s voice was infallible (Remember Father Knows Best), that criticism could be of the children only, and, finally, that they should obey the code that says “silence is golden,” another Dad adage, suggesting that moral profit accrues to those who simply keep their mouths shut. Fathers (and duped mothers) wielded the weapon of silence. And the kids sat and stewed, thinking Father might actually be a fool. But because Fathers rule, silence is golden. And silence reigns at NCC.
Let us, then, like Alice plunging down the rabbit’s hole, briefly retrace our descent over the last few months from what was merely the shaky ground of dysfunction down into this strange new nether world of secrecy and silence. Let the Weekly Read, like Charon, be your guide. At the first level of our descent, we spy a strange document, the so-called PiP, riddled with errors, hostile toward faculty and shared governance, condescending toward female faculty (many of whom are great bakers, by the way!), and peddling soft racism. With the wave of a wand the PiP—POOF–disappeared, without a word. No words to explain its appearance and disappearance. Why? Because silence is golden. Will the PiP be revised with faculty input? Who knows? At the next level of our descent, we smell a smoldering document, the Middle States exit report, that identifies seven of fourteen compliance failures, including the damning standard of integrity. None of these failures were the fault of faculty. And here is how Middle States defines integrity: “ In the conduct of its programs and activities and the constituencies it serves, the institution demonstrates adherence to ethical standards and its own stated policies, providing support for academic and intellectual freedom”. What was the administrative response to the exit report? What plans are there to rectify this egregious, embarrassing, and damaging assessment? Well, yes, we know, silence is golden. The final stage of our descent into this pit of dysfunction is the presidential search. We covered this ground here and here. In something akin to a Friday news dump, we learned of Ken Saunders’ withdrawal from the presidential search in Newsday on the Wednesday of spring break. And as with Dr. Gena Glickman’s, Dr. Saunders’ CV vanished–POOF– from the NCC portal. The field of candidates has been narrowing—it’s now down to two—not because, as in normal circumstances, the search is moving with integrity toward the two very best candidates, but because of top-level administrative ineptitude and internal interference, including outside political pressure and internal favoritism, the best candidates ran the other way or folks were chosen who were clearly not up to the job. The BOT selected Dr. Saunders in secrecy, kept that selection a secret in a letter to SUNY, and finally has remained silent about why their chosen one failed. And since silence is golden, we get no explanations of anything. We are children at the table of the administration and Father is silent because Father knows best. Now children, don’t speak, unless you are spoken to.
Well, we choose to speak to the silence. If there is anything good to learn from this journey down the rabbit’s hole it is that we the faculty and staff of this college have been doing our jobs pretty damn well. Middle States sees this. Our students see this. We the faculty and staff see this and know this. We do our jobs, every day, tirelessly and well. And we have been speaking to the silence, resolutely, truthfully, and loudly, for the college, and above all, for our students.
We once again call on SUNY and the NCC Board of Trustees to to put the current (clearly flawed) presidential search on hold, and appoint an Interim President to oversee the college’s transition to solid Middle States accreditation and financial, academic, and institutional integrity.
Ultimately, silence is golden because someone wants to profit from it. The profit, power. The cost, the very soul of our college.
the NCC AAUP Executive Committee