EOU Faculty Union response to the Board leadership’s inadequate vetting and lack of transparency in announcing new interim leadership
Sept 8, 2022. On the eve of the Board’s next special meeting to discuss the upcoming search for a new president, the executive leadership of the Association of Academic Professionals, Local 6200, stands ready to articulate and publicly defend a counternarrative that seriously calls into question the Board leadership’s claim that EOU is in a period of desired ‘continuity and stability,’ and should continue along the same path that brought the institution to this point in its history. EOU’s leadership has controlled the narrative over the last several years by limiting constituents’ ability to participate meaningfully in decision making, through the outgoing president’s policies and Board bylaws. The process for choosing interim co-presidents was the latest example of a decision made without broad input. The faculty counternarrative will include responses to the Board leadership and outgoing president’s claims of ‘success’, and will do so through arguments that can be defended and supported with documentable evidence. The status quo has come up well short of the high standards and integrity we expect as longtime members of the EOU community; it is time for change, and a new narrative. Stay tuned.
How is the vetting inadequate?
- The board leadership announced its intention to appoint interim co-presidents, as per the recommendation of the outgoing president. The campus doesn’t really know if all trustees received comments through email@example.com, because the board leadership did not share its deliberations, and did not invite public discussion, even after making a decision.
- Board leadership claims to have sought input from shared governance. They sought input from the two shared governance chairs, who were not asked to assess the mood or opinions of their constituents. This also puts undue pressure on shared governance chairs, and is a flagrant violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of principles of shared governance that have historically undergirded the institution and its stability.
What stakeholders have been included?
- On campus, none. Shared governance chairs were not representing their constituents when they were asked to ‘meet.’ Possibly the board leadership and outgoing president have consulted with donors. It is difficult to say because of the lack of transparency of board business (refer to description of August 19 meeting). Marginalizing campus voices has been an ongoing issue with board leadership and the outgoing president since their arrival in 2015.
Do board leadership’s actions represent the will of the trustees?
- There are several trustees who have shown a willingness to ask questions. However, the August 19 meeting, hastily arranged and ignoring or at least refusing to respond to criticism of the decision making process and its poor optics for the institution, suggests not all trustees were given the comments shared through the board’s own email for soliciting feedback. Board leadership did not mention any of the critiques, nor did leaders bother to adequately develop any of four options moving forward other than the one they approved, after no public discussion. This despite the fact that Board leadership claims ‘engagement’ and ‘transparency’ as guiding principles. Vice Chair (VC) Martin explained that there were no other options that had been adequately researched to merit a vote (her opinions).
What is the outgoing president’s role in Board decision-making at this point?
- It is unclear why President Insko, leaving in the middle of an enrollment and leadership crisis to return to a management position in the wood products industry, would be making recommendations, or why the Board leadership would believe that the outgoing president’s policies, given enrollment declines and a leadership crisis, represent any desirable form of ‘continuity and stability’ (see ‘On continuity and stability’).
- Neither is it clear why the outgoing president is still apparently an ex-officio member of the Board, still involved in deliberations as an insider, beyond the scrutiny or even gaze of the campus, given that his hand-picked interim successors have been serving since the beginning of September. This would appear to violate the Board’s own bylaws (Article III.2).
What is the faculty union seeking by speaking up at this point?
- First, to point out that the process has not been public, that any public meetings were pro forma events to announce decisions already made in private;
- Second, to challenge the Board’s contention that ‘continuity and stability’ from current leadership is desirable, or sustainable;
- Third, to point out the many perceptions of conflicts of interest for both board and senior leadership, involved in ex-Chair Chaves moving seamlessly into the co-president position. There has been no point-by-point response from the Board leadership;
- Fourth, to strongly question even an interim appointment that provides no higher education experience in leadership to the institution, just as leadership and enrollment crises overtake public discourse;
- Fifth, to ensure that the HECC, the Governor’s Office, and the State Legislature are aware that leadership at EOU is acting without the consent or even prior knowledge of the governed, and to make clear that the ‘shared governance’ claim has been dishonestly used to create a misperception of seeking genuine feedback. The truth is closer to a top-down, private sector model that has poorly served the institution and its committed stakeholders;
- Sixth, that this lack of transparency and inclusion is not a sustainable model of leadership moving forward. A university that alienates its faculty will enjoy neither the trust nor the confidence of the campus community. Survey data from the Great Colleges to Work Force starkly demonstrates the lack of confidence and trust in senior leadership. Degrading the culture of higher education at EOU has led to very talented faculty and staff leaving for other jobs where professionalism in leadership is valued and expected at all levels of the institution. We face a current and future challenge of finding and hiring talent as we reclaim that culture, and this includes hiring a new president unassailable higher education credentials;
- Seventh, to recommend a fair and inclusive process for conducting a nationwide search for EOU’s next president, which does not risk being co-opted by cronyism that has marked the outgoing administration.