A year-and-half after the president of Southern Connecticut State University was informed that she would be losing her job, officials of the system have decided to back off filling the chancellor’s position that may soon be eliminated and finally launch a search for the next SCSU president.
That delay means the top position at the 12,000-student university will have been in flux during three school years before a new president takes office.
“I am angry with how Southern has been treated,” Michael Shea, Chair of the English Department at SCSU and president of the American Association of University Professors at SCSU, told the board last week. “You knew in November (2009), and you waited.”
Shea was one of several university employees and students who came to the Board of Trustees meeting at SCSU to outline their disapproval for a number of mistakes the 18-member board has made.
CSUS has drawn fire for approving double-digit raises for top administrators and the questionable firing of SCSU President Cheryl Norton while paying her full salary for one year.
Richard J. Balducci, acting chairman of the board, responded questions about why it’s taking so long to fill the SCSU presidency by saying he “wasn’t privy” to the timing decision.
“I’m not going to get into a debate on that,” he said about the timing.
That drew whispers from the audience, followed by Shea asking, “You were the vice chairman–you weren’t privy?”
The decision to move forward with hiring a chancellor first was made by former board chairman, Karl Krapek, after gauging the board’s opinion during their November meeting.
This decision to spend between $80,000 and $100,000 to hire a firm to launch the search was made despite mounting uncertainty of whether state lawmakers would eliminate that job. Three months later, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recommended eliminating the chancellor’s position and CSUS officials reacted by delaying hiring a search firm.
“It seemed to make sense to put the brakes on that,” Balducci said, who became the chair after Krapek resigned abruptly in January.
Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti said the board made a “smart decision” to move forward with finding a president for Southern, a position that has not been proposed being eliminated by Malloy or state legislators.
Susan Casato, faculty senate president of Southern and an environmental sciences professor, said it may be a little late, but is glad the position will finally be filled.
Other speakers pointed to UConn, which hired a new president fairly quickly, while they will likely wait three years.
Several professors and even board members at the meeting said interim-SCSU President Stanley Battle has done a “great job”, but many pointed out he “lacks the authority” to make several decisions.
Stensen Jean-Baptiste, a junior at SCSU, told the board he has a solution to put an end to the tension over the vacant position: hire Battle.
“Just hire him,” he told the board.
But Balducci, reminded the packed audience, “first there is a process” that has to take place.
And that process begins now, with the expectation that dozens of applications will begin rolling in.
Whether one of those applications will be Battle’s remains to be seen.
“I need to think about it,” Battle said.