College employees encourage trustees to fire president.

June 2, 2017

urban_sandersonCollege employees encourage trustees to fire president.

#WestShoreCommunityCollege.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

VICTORY TOWNSHIP — A representative of West Shore Community College employees addressed the Board of Trustees Thursday night and called for the termination of its contract with President Kenneth Urban; Professor Matt Sanderson addressed the Board Thursday during its special meeting. While the only topic on the agenda was to levy the current tax millage, the meeting was still an open meeting and allowed for public comment.

Urban received mixed reviews from the board when it conducted its annual evaluation of his job performance in mid-May.

“The consensus of the Board is that Dr. Urban has met expectations in some of the areas evaluated by the board, but the Board continues to note areas where it feels that Dr. Urban can make progress including some elements of leadership, decision-making/problem-solving and building the campus community,” Board Chairman Bruce Smith said at that time.  Urban was hired as president of WSCC in the summer of 2015, replacing Charles Dillon who had retired. During its 2016 review the board noted that Urban could continue to make progress on leadership and building the campus community.

Sanderson furnished MCP with the statement he read during the meeting:

“During your May 2017 meeting, you conducted a performance appraisal of Dr. Kenneth Urban’s leadership that was even weaker than your May 2016 appraisal of the President. Since then, you have also read, and likely been dismayed by, the President’s 12-page self-evaluation that attempts to teach you, the Board, about the proper role of a college president. While I am President of the Faculty Association, I am here today to represent all West Shore employees in regards to our concerns about President Urban’s leadership. We concur with your assessment that the President is generally not meeting expectations. Overall, we, WSCC employees, have been, and remain, very dissatisfied with Dr. Urban’s presidency, as evident in the voting results which I’ll explain shortly.”

Sanderson was referring to Urban’s self evaluation, which he is required by contract to submit to the Board. (Note: This sentence was updated).

“The Executive Committee expressed to me, after reviewing my mid-year update, that it appeared I spent the majority of my time externally focused rather than being engaged internally,” Urban stated in his self evaluation. “This is not the case… The Board delegates operational authority to the President; I have decided to more explicitly explain to the Trustees the role of a president and how my daily work is parceled out.”

Urban then explained that of the 899 events in his schedule between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 (the evaluation was sent in late May 2017), that 7.5% were board or board-related, 7.7% were associated with professional development, 28.5% were externally focused and the majority, 56.4%, were internally focused. He then included a graphic to visually demonstrate his point.

The 12 page report explains in detail Urban’s activities over the past year.

In his statement, Sanderson said the issues with the President have been continuous since he was hired two years ago.

“We have quietly observed the Board become aware of issues related to the President since March 2016, when the Board was first alerted to campus leadership concerns during the site visit by the Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation review team,” Sanderson said. “We appreciated the acknowledgement of these concerns by the Board in May 2016, as reflected in the weak performance appraisal and the decision not to extend the President’s contract.
“Another year has passed and our concerns have only increased — to the point now where the campus believes the college cannot move forward successfully under President Urban’s leadership. Let me be clear: When I say ‘our concerns’ and ‘the campus believes,’ I mean the entire campus. This is not just a faculty concern. Instead, the concern is shared by all employee groups, including support staff and administrators. Indeed, a
straw poll I conducted this week revealed that 24 out of the 26 support staff and administrators who voted did so in favor of dismissing President Urban. (There were also eight abstentions.)”

Sanderson then encouraged the Board to consider what he called Urban’s “lack of collaborative leadership” when it meets to discuss Urban’s contract renewal.

“During the most recent presidential hiring process, employees understood that the Board expected the College’s leader to practice collaborative leadership. We feel this is one of President Urban’s greatest flaws as a leader. In particular, Dr. Urban’s efforts to re-organize our institution have been the most egregious examples of his lack of collaboration.  

“The President’s style is to create processes to solicit input from stakeholders, but then to make decisions in isolation, often ignoring, misrepresenting, or badly misunderstanding the input he received, in large part because that process doesn’t provide an opportunity for dialogue or debate.  Accordingly, the two re-orgs attempted by the President have been riddled with unnecessary complications, have cost college faculty and staff significant stress and innumerable hours of extra work, and have absolutely no buy in from the campus community.
You, our Board, are no doubt aware of many other campus issues directly tied to the President’s lack of leadership. Four come immediately to mind:

First, there is significant lack of campus participation in developing the new strategic plan. This lack of engagement virtually ensures not only a weak plan, but also little to no campus buy-in, especially when it comes to implementing the plan.

“Secondly, there is widespread concern that our college did not capitalize on the opportunity afforded by the 50th anniversary of the college to engage in significant fund and friend raising.  

“Thirdly, we have heard that the President has left the Foundation without a clear direction, and/or that the direction is ever shifting and changes from meeting to meeting. We’ve also learned that President Urban’s inaction left the Foundation without an executive committee for several months.

“Fourth, we have not only begun work on reports required by the HLC (our accrediting body) a year late, but the president-led team (the Institutional Effectiveness team) responsible for accreditation reports that are due next year has not met since early in the fall 2016 semester.
“As I walked the campus this week conducting the straw poll I mentioned above, I was struck by the number of campus employees (myself included) who said the same thing: President Urban is a nice guy and a good person, but he is not a leader, and he is also just not a good fit for our college at this time.

As a result of Dr. Urban’s clear and persistent inability to provide the leadership that the College needs, we the Faculty Association, on behalf of all college employees, ask that you again do not extend the president’s contract. We also recommend that you consider ending the contract immediately so that another year of opportunity is not lost. We hope that President Urban and you, our Board, begin immediate talks to design an exit strategy wherein Dr. Urban is able to resign and leave the College by June 30, 2017.
“While you may have to face public scrutiny in response to a buyout, we believe the damage to the institution under another year of this presidency will be much greater than the cost of the buyout and any public criticism you may face. Also, the public deserves more credit: if properly informed, as we have attempted to help with this evening, I believe the public will understand and support the Board’s decision.

“We, WSCC employees, are committed to doing whatever it takes to move this institution forward, but we do not believe the institution can advance under the current president. We stand with you, our Board, and look forward to your continued efforts to protect and advance our beloved West Shore Community College.”
The college’s full-time faculty had expressed its dissatisfaction with previous president, Charles Dillon, when he held the post.

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