If there was friction between the top two officials of the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities during the provost’s last two weeks on the job, it didn’t play out in emails between the two.
In his last email to Gregory Gray, president of the 90,000-student system, Provost Michael Gargano appeared to be commenting on Gray’s recently unveiled series of initiatives overhauling the system’s collection of four-year universities, community colleges and an online college.
“I have a suggestion,” Gargano wrote in an email obtained by the Connecticut Mirror through a Freedom of Information Act request. “Many of the initiatives reference researching best practice and implementing best practice. The milestone does not reference terminating best practice. Although implied, you might consider specific language to terminate the non-valued activity.”
It is not clear what “non-valued activity” Gargano had in mind, and he has not returned numerous phone calls seeking comment.
In any event, that would be his last publicly available email to Gray before abruptly leaving his job Nov. 10. System administrators have insisted that Gargano resigned, but several faculty have questioned whether he was forced out.
The provost’s unexpected departure drew a backlash from faculty leaders, who believed the provost was their champion for addressing the concerns they had with Gray’s transformation plan and the direction in which they believed the system president was taking their schools.
Reacting to the reform plans released by Gray’s office, the faculty union leadership created an alternative five-page plan for the system president to consider. One of its major requests was to hire more full-time, tenure-track faculty to reduce class sizes and ensure students can get courses they need.
Gray’s reply to the union did not address the request for more faculty, and ultimately did not quiet the union’s concerns. Faculty at several state universities and colleges voted against endorsing the initiatives.
The documents released following the Mirror’s FOI request indicate that Gargano, the faculty’s perceived advocate, wrote Gray’s response to the union.
Other emails show that Gargano was frustrated with leaders at some of the 17 merged colleges and universities.
“In my opinion we have a growing problem with the colleges and universities lack of understanding to inform the System and the [Board of Regents] on all matters,” Gargano wrote. “It might take ‘a come to jesus’ meeting with the campus presidents and to include the lack of adherence to BOR policy in the annual performance of the campus president,” the provost wrote one week before he resigned.
This email was in response to an email from a system administrator about two armed robberies at Southern Connecticut State University.
The final email communications also show the system’s top officials discussing in-state tuition rates for out-of-state students, creating a new fee to charge nursing students, and setting up a meeting to discuss a “UConn Deal.” The CSCU system is working with UConn, the state’s separate flagship university, to have UConn refer students they don’t accept to the CSCU system to apply.