Faculty union: 'No confidence' vote on MCTC leader

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2012 - 9:11 PM

Faculty members say they don't trust President Phil Davis to make necessary changes, but he has the support of MnSCU chancellor.

The faculty union at Minneapolis Community and Technical College voted "no confidence" in college President Phil Davis on Tuesday, saying they don't trust him to better the campus culture.

The union had been poised to take such a vote in April but tabled it when administrators promised an outside review to address faculty concerns. This month, consultants released their report, which found that "the current cultural climate at MCTC needs to change" and issued recommendations.

Barbara Hager, president of the faculty union at MCTC, said members don't believe that the process suggested by the consultants will work with Davis as president.

"We've gone through those kinds of committees in the past," she said. "And no change has occurred."

Davis, president since 1998, said he has "embraced" the recommendations. In a statement, he said that "it's disappointing" that the union declined his invitation to "come together with me for the purpose of charting our next steps."

Steven Rosenstone, chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, has supported Davis. In a letter Wednesday to college faculty and staff members, he said that "it is disappointing that a disgruntled minority of 44 of the college's 378 faculty ... have decided to take the confrontational approach."

Rosenstone praised Davis for recruiting the system's most diverse workforce, keeping the college financially healthy and overseeing the system's lowest tuition increase in 2011-12.

Hager declined to provide the number of faculty members who voted Tuesday.

"Only a change in administration leadership would be sufficient to move the college forward and ensure the viability of the institution," the union said in a statement.

After surveying 206 supervisors, faculty and staff members, consultants from Mobius Inc. found that the college's priority ought to be to "improve communication about differing viewpoints." Some employees said they feared retaliation if they disagreed.

Many said they wanted good work to be acknowledged, "a culture of noticing what works to build on versus a focus on mistakes," the report said. "These changes will require, in the eyes of many interviewees, a major change in the current style of top administrative leaders."

The consultants recommended work groups, plus a "community-wide dialogue" on race and equity.

"In a school whose student population is 54 percent minority, this is a dialogue in which all members of the MCTC community should feel able to safety engage."

After receiving the report, Davis e-mailed faculty and staff Dec. 3:

"All of us want MCTC to be a place where employees find professional fulfillment, feel safe to engage in respectful dialogue about important issues, enjoy a sense of fellowship with their colleagues and are empowered to do their best work. I am committed to doing my part to foster this kind of climate."

Rosenstone said that because of deep budget cuts, "President Davis has had to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions," as have other college leaders.

"But as colleges around the nation have become financially fragile to the point that their accreditation is at risk, the tough decisions at MCTC have kept it financially healthy."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168 Twitter: @ByJenna

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