Faculty unrest at the state’s four regional universities and community colleges is once again rising, and faculty leaders are asking the staff at each institution to consider taking a vote of no-confidence in the system’s president, Gregory Gray.
“Decisions made by the president have not been based on sound academic and pedagogical principles,” reads the no-confidence resolution being circulated to the 12 community colleges and four regional Connecticut State Universities.
“The President has promoted educational practices not in the best interest of our students,” it continues.
This unrest comes after faculty learned about the award of a $1.91 million contract to an out-of-state consultant to create a facilities plan for the system. It’s the second consulting contract that has been a sore point with faculty. The first was for a plan for the system’s academic future. Faculty are now being asked to commit to the controversial initiatives in that plan.
“I don’t think he’s even aware of the consensus across the campuses that faculty are unhappy,” said Stephen Adair, the vice-chair of the faculty panel that advises the Board of Regents, the system’s governing board. “He could have prevented us from coming to this point.”
Faculty have had a tumultuous relationship with Gray since the president of the 90,000-student system released the academic “roadmaps” developed by outside consultants without input from faculty. The system paid $1.97 million for those plans.
After a backlash, Gray promised to work with faculty before moving forward with the 36 initiatives, which are collectively named “Transform CSCU 2020.”
But two weeks ago, his staff convened faculty leaders for the stated purpose of “reaffirming the 36 initiatives and affirming which of these initiatives will be pursued by the colleges and/or the universities.”
And then Gray’s chief financial officer Erika Steiner, informed members of the Board of Regents Finance Committee this week that Transform is moving forward.
“We are pressing ahead,” Steiner said.
The Regents’ Faculty Advisory Committee has responded by adopting a resolution to again criticize the initiatives and call for them to be thrown out. Among their concerns, the faculty feel the plans would lead to an increased reliance on online courses and a loss of faculty control over curriculum decisions, which Gray has said is not the intention.
Faculty are also circulating a contract the system office entered into last June with Perkins + Will Architects of Boston to create a master facilities plan to project capital needs for the next 10 years.
“There’s another outside consultant group, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point,” Adair said.
The problem, Adair said, is that this spending may be appropriate but faculty don’t appreciate being surprised when they find out about all of these costs.
It also does not help that this spending was discovered as faculty are being asked for concessions to help close the system’s deficit.
“The president has asked the faculty, staff and students of CSCU to shoulder an additional financial burden that could have been partially offset by dollars paid to consultants,” reads the proposed no-confidence resolution.
A system spokesman said the plan Perkins is compiling is not paid for out of the system’s operating budget, but rather through bonding, which is essentially borrowed money. The plans are necessary and different than the work being done by Sightlines, said spokesman Michael Kozlowski.
The facilities planning is intended to take into account demographic projections, academic programs, student life requirements and existing facility conditions, Kozwlowski said. The study leads to facility recommendations designed to enhance academic and student life.
“The master plan and Sightline studies analyze two separate capital program issues,” Kozlowski said.
Elsa Núñez, the president of Eastern Connecticut State University, wrote her faculty this week to explain why the Perkins contract was necessary.
“Since the Master Plan necessitates a great deal of technical expertise in architecture and engineering, a University community could not develop a master plan on its own,” she wrote.
She pointed out that master plans are typically undertaken every 10 years. The last ECSU plans were completed in 2008 and 1997 and in 1990. Western Connecticut State University was scheduled to be next in line for a master plan to be created but declined, she wrote.
The resolution of no confidence is being proposed by the Connecticut State University Faculty Leadership Group, which is comprised of faculty and union leaders.
The resolution was introduced during Southern’s last Faculty Senate meeting and could be voted on at its April 22 meeting. Central is meeting Monday to discuss the resolution.
“I hope you will share your thoughts on the idea of a vote of no confidence,” William G. Faraclas, the leader of the faculty organization at SCSU wrote his colleagues this week.