Please Replace President Stefanco A.S.A.P.
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An Open Letter to The College of Saint Rose Board of Trustees
From the Saint Rose AAUP/FASTR Chapter and Allies
We are writing to express our dismay and genuine alarm that the Board of Trustees continues to support Carolyn J. Stefanco in her role as President. This misguided support, articulated in a letter of response to the Saint Rose full-time faculty’s appeal to the Board to replace Dr. Stefanco, apparently continues despite the clear ineffectiveness of her leadership and the lack of support she has from the large majority of faculty. The faculty, who are at the heart and soul of fulfilling the College’s mission to provide students with transformative learning experiences, have now twice expressed their lack of confidence in Dr. Stefanco, because her actions are so often counterproductive and threaten the very survival of the College.
Here are some critical facts that reveal the bankruptcy of Carolyn Stefanco’s “leadership:”
1. Despite draconian cuts to employment benefits and the lay-offs of 23 faculty and 23 staff, the College’s Chief Financial Officer predicts another structural deficit of $10 million dollars for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
2. Despite a costly marketing campaign, the employment of countless highly-paid consultants, the creation of many new vice presidencies, and overriding a faculty vote on transfer credit policies, the President and her inner circle have failed to improve enrollments for transfer or graduate students.
3. Further, the much ballyhooed “largest first year class” has not enhanced revenue or strengthened the College because of major increases in the discount rate and flagging retention rates. As such, the College is not on target to meet its budget objectives.
4. The President has brought the shame of censure by the American Association of University Professors to her administration due to her ill-conceived “prioritization process” that flouted nationally established norms for tenure. As an academic, she should have known that tenured faculty cannot be treated as “at-will” employees. Higher education cannot be run like businesses or even other non-profits to address its “bottom line” because it is a public good, rooted in free inquiry academic freedom that comes only when there is a strong, working system of true shared governance. She refused to consider other, more productive and collegial courses of action that were recommended to her, including the seeking of voluntary resignations and retirements as the Faculty Manual requires.
5. The President continues to violate academic freedom and to micromanage areas in Academic Affairs where faculty have the clear expertise and authority under our shared governance model, especially in the areas of hiring faculty which in turn affects the curriculum departments are able to offer.
6. The President has repeatedly attempted to justify or rationalize her failures by blaming others, with a favorite scapegoat being the faculty. The claim that the faculty resists change is wildly inaccurate, as is evidence by the cordial and productive relationship the faculty had with the previous administration for 16 years. In addition, faculty eagerly put forth new programs and policies (e.g., the Master’s in Social Work and the Bachelor’s of Music Performance, among many others) when the faculty determine the programs are well-designed, supported with adequate resources, rooted in compelling enrollment data, and consistent with our academic mission.
7. The President has created a climate of fear and mistrust on our campus, and she has publicly refused a request to address the exceedingly low morale that exists in all constituencies. Isolating herself by locking the Administration Building so employees and students cannot enter on their own provides a powerful symbol of her attitude toward the college community.
8. The President’s actions have created massive, unprecedented turnover in the leadership of Academic Affairs. Many of those who have left have shared with faculty that they felt disempowered and devalued by the President and her inner circle. A College that does not put Academic Affairs first and foremost will not fulfill its plans, goals, and objectives. It will fail on every level.
The heart and soul of the educational enterprise is the relationship between teacher and student. That’s where the magic of learning takes place. When you marginalize, disrespect, and silence faculty, you strike a lethal blow at the foundation of that enterprise. The recent decisions made by the administration to repeatedly override the faculty’s judgment and bypass its decision-making authority regarding the curriculum are devastating. These attacks weaken our ability to engage whole-heartedly and freely in the work we’ve dedicated our lives to—teaching and learning, and thus our beloved College is imperiled.
A President cannot lead without followers, and Dr. Stefanco has very few followers left.
We need to change Presidents. We cannot wait any longer.
We, the undersigned, therefore appeal to the Board once again to save our Saint Rose—replace Dr. Stefanco with all due haste.
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