Note from The Carolinian: Below is a letter Spoma Jovanovic, UNCG Faculty Senate chair, sent Thursday to UNCG executives, as well as UNC system President Tom Ross. This letter is in response to an interview The Carolinian recently published with Chancellor Linda Brady.
President Ross responded to the letter Thursday in a email, saying, “I, too, hope UNCG can move forward in a spirit of cooperation and a commitment to work together for what is best for the institution. It is time to let go of the past and focus on the future.”
April 23, 2015
Dear President Ross, Chancellor Brady, Acting Chancellor Dunn, Board of Trustees, and UNCG Colleagues,
I am disappointed, of course, in Chancellor Brady’s comments about perceived faculty resistance to her leadership efforts that simply deflect attention away from the real problem—a series of decisions and strategies that isolated her and the administration from the larger campus community. To say that this campus is adverse to change is a sweeping generalization that is simply not true. What people everywhere are adverse to is being left out of key decision-making that impacts their role and functions. In academia, shared governance is in place for a reason; it is “a system for building communication, respect, and trust–with an eye toward developing integral leaders at all levels” (see much more at http://agb.org/trusteeship/2014/3/how-make-shared-governance-work-some-best-practices).
Chancellor Brady is correct in saying that at the heart of the problem has been her lack of communication to secure a collective will to move forward. Many people offered to help her with her communication practices that she readily acknowledges are weak. Those offers were rebuffed and instead, this campus was insulted with a series of top-down mandates and false criminal charges levied against hard-working employees (most recently the UNCG3) that defied good reason. Thus, her leadership was met with questions, skepticism, anger, and ultimately, mistrust. The faculty and wider campus community are well aware that we face tremendous challenges that may require big changes, changes that are best addressed with a collective response informed by reasoned deliberations.
Members of this campus community, new and old alike yearn for meaningful discussion, transparency, and dialogue with our campus leaders around the significant issues facing higher education and UNCG specifically. What has been absent in recent years is the desire by Chancellor Brady’s administration to truly listen to or engage with those ideas, hopes, concerns, and suggestions that poured forth from various campus constituents. Where once care and compassion were commonplace (under Chancellor Sullivan) to create a vibrant campus culture, we saw take root in the last seven years a reserved, detached model of leadership. In this new model, administrative ranks swelled in numbers and salary, while cuts and sacrifice were called for from everyone else, following the worst of the worst of corporate practices.
The record is clear. Faculty and staff have both embraced and endured sweeping changes on this campus from the widespread use of technology to the adoption of voluminous reporting structures and reduced resources to get our jobs done, all the while remaining committed to (and unwilling to change in that regard) the well-being of our students. Take a look around—faculty and staff have worked for years in response to one crisis after another without a raise and with fewer personnel and material resources to do their research and teaching. Students have borne the brunt of escalating tuition and fees without relief.
So, when resources are tight, it is not surprising that faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members would question decisions of how and why UNCG would invest money in, for example, upscale housing and recreation facilities. Those same constituent groups would question administrators, trustees, and legislators when the core academic mission was seemingly sacrificed for the expansion of other-than-core operations and offerings. That faculty and Faculty Senate hold on tight to the value of teaching and research in an institution of higher education should not be criticized as I see it, but instead honored.
I have regular communication with a large number of the faculty on this campus. We are not all of one mind, and we have differing views of the way forward. However, I believe all faculty want to work at an institution where they can see students flourish while attending to the research that is also part of their jobs. We all want to uphold the reputation of UNCG and see that it receives its due positive attention.
People want to be treated fairly, consulted on matters of the university’s welfare, and involved in planning efforts for change, as it is needed. I urge our incoming Chancellor and remaining top-level administrators to work closely, not at arm’s length, with faculty, staff, and students to address the problems that persist on our campus and to celebrate our many achievements. We have made some progress toward that goal this year, but with Chancellor Brady’s continued divisive rhetoric and attacks on the faculty, it has been difficult to remain open, positive, and engaged with the administration she has shaped. I sincerely hope that all of us, including Chancellor Brady upon her return to UNCG, can work together and use our different views as the assets they are, in the pursuit of a shared commitment to excellence.
We at UNCG are a community of remarkably intelligent people who are well prepared to continue a long tradition of doing the important public work of teaching, research, and service for the benefit of our students, surrounding communities, and the world at large. My colleagues and I are looking forward to the opportunity to do that in ways both tried and true as well as innovative and groundbreaking.
Chair, UNCG Faculty Senate