At least three internal reorganizations in just five years have spurred a growing number of faculty members at Western Carolina University to call for changes to what they describe as top-down, heavy-handed decision making.
Anger and frustration with the university’s administration, coupled with anticipation of Draconian budget cutbacks by the General Assembly, resulted in a highly charged meeting on Wednesday of WCU’s Faculty Senate. The issue is on the agenda again in a follow-up meeting set for April 6.
The controversy at WCU has erupted even as UNC system President Tom Ross considers candidates to replace Chancellor John Bardo, who leaves his post July 1 after 15 years as WCU’s top leader. Bardo did not attend the Faculty Senate meeting. He has said most of his time is absorbed working on budget issues in Raleigh. The university is facing cuts of at least $8.6 million, and perhaps much higher.
After more than two hours of debate — with a vote of 14 against, 11 for and 2 abstentions — the Faculty Senate on Wednesday rejected a resolution brought by nine of their colleagues in the College of Education and Allied Professions. The resolution contained a proposed amendment expressing Faculty Senate’s solidarity with, and support for, the faculty raising objections.
The resolution comes after Professor Jacqueline Jacobs, a tenured faculty member in the College of Education and Allied Professions, opted to resign from the university on grounds that university administration failed to include faculty members in decisions concerning reorganization.
Professors Mary Jean Herzog, Casey Hurley and Meagan Karvonen presented the resolution asking Faculty Senate to endorse a proposal to table for a year the reorganization of the College of Education and Allied Professions. The college is set to shrink from five to three departments, and the doctoral program — one of only two at WCU, and the university flagship with 40 some candidates — has, the faculty members claim, been left without qualified leadership.
In a rebuttal piece published last week in The Smoky Mountain News, interim Provost Linda Seested-Stanford countered Jacob’s charges that the reorganization was decided without faculty guidance or help. She assured readers there was “no intrigue, no smokescreen and no deep, dark secret in the reorganization,” adding the newspaper’s rendering of the blowup was “good stuff for a spy novel.”
Though less pointed in her criticisms when facing the Faculty Senate, Seested-Stanford described Herzog’s take on the situation as “exaggerated,” and downplayed the professor’s and her fellow faculty’s assertions that they were denied roles in university decision-making.
Seested-Stanford assured the Faculty Senate that Perry Schoon, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions, had kept her well informed. Additionally, she said, the task force helping develop the reorganization was, in her mind, representative of the faculty at large in the College of Education and Allied Professions. There are about 87 faculty members in that college.
Psychology Professor David McCord, a department head in the College of Education and Allied Professions, leaped to Schoon’s defense, as well.
“The accusation there is no faculty involvement here burns me,” McCord said, adding that his colleagues’ accusations were “inaccurate” and “absurd.”
McCord said he believed Schoon’s selection of members on the task force was the only means available to ensure the formation of a group capable of objectivity, one that could “step back and take a big-picture view … and work with others” while hard choices were being made.
“He wanted each department to be represented by a credible advocate,” McCord said, adding that the reorganization plan represents a better solution than other possible options. The psychology professor did not detail what those options might have been.
There was some indication a few Faculty Senate members might have voted against the resolution simply because they felt endorsing the demand was outside their purview. The Faculty Senate is an advisory group.
“Let’s focus on the policy issues, and not get involved in management,” said Leroy Kauffman, a professor in accounting and financing and a department head. Kauffman added he believed there were “valid issues” being raised about faculty participation.
Cheryl Waters-Tormey, a professor in the geology department, said she was concerned about endorsing a resolution without knowing how many people in the College of Education and Allied Professions were supportive.
Karvonen said “the culture and climate” prevented some in the college from feeling able to speak out.
Waters-Tormey suggested drafting a new resolution that expressed the Faculty Senate’s support for consensus building. English Professor Catherine Carter responded she believed such a resolution, or one that endorsed the concept of transparency, “is like saying we are for clean air and water — it is meaningless.”
Another resolution is in the wings, however, and this one is crafted by the Senate Planning Team (the self-described conduit from the general faculty to Faculty Senate). It will undoubtedly prompt more debate next week.
This resolution asks that:
• “A task force be created to study university reorganization issues and develop a clear, coherent, and effective university reorganization policy and process that protects the integrity of WCU’s academic mission and provides for meaningful faculty, staff, and student voice;
• Leadership from the Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate, the Student Government Association and the Council of Deans propose the composition and means of election/selection of the task force members as well as a timeline for taskforce objectives; • And each of those bodies must approve the composition of, membership selection methods for, and timeline for the task force by May 15;
• And we request that future restructuring does not take place without consulting the faculty on this restructuring committee.”
It’s not a bad job, really. There’s a nice house, more than 7,000-square-feet, that’s currently undergoing a nearly $300,000 facelift. You don’t have to pay for utilities, grounds keeping or for a housekeeper. Then there’s the salary, ranging from $236,979 to $379,180. Oh, and free use of a car.
So perhaps it’s not that surprising a whole lot of people apparently want to become Western Carolina University’s next chancellor. Longtime leader John Bardo exits the scene in fewer than four months. He’ll leave July 1 after more than 15 years on the job.
Steve Warren, WCU’s board of trustees’ president, indicated the search is progressing well and is in the homestretch. He said the 16 members of the search committee (which he also chairs) believe they will have Bardo’s replacement hired when the position officially opens. A search firm started with a pool of 22 candidates; the committee has since winnowed that to an unspecified number.
The committee has been tightlipped about exactly who they are talking to about the job, but Warren said during a recent trustees’ meeting that the candidates are of extremely high caliber.
“In terms of the quality of the candidates we have reviewed, they are just outstanding,” Warren said, then added, “everyone wants to play for a winning team.”
The chancellor-to-be has to meet some towering expectations, including interpreting what the board of trustees mean by “the importance of a successful athletics program” (the football team went 2-9 this fall, with the last winning season in 2005); the unique culture of Western North Carolina; the relationship between WCU and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; WCU’s “passionate dedication” to teaching and learning; and so on, according to a job description.
What’s absent from that shopping list is mention of the difficulty any chancellor is going to face given the anticipated cutback in state dollars. The university is preparing for $8.6 million being slashed, tumbledown from a state facing a more than $2 billion shortfall.
Bardo has been dealing with much of that financial fallout now. The university is cutting 10 positions this spring and another 15 come July 1.
“I’d rather deal with it myself than to leave it for the next person,” said Bardo, who told the university’s board of trustees this month that the two most difficult parts of his job are telling parents when a child has died, and informing faculty or staff they no longer have jobs.
Bardo makes a base salary of $280,000.
Athletics won’t trump academics in the selection of a chancellor for Western Carolina University, committee members charged with hiring a new top leader assured worried professors this week.
“I don’t want you to be concerned,” said Jerry Baker, head of Baker and Associates, a search firm being paid $75,000 to guide the 16-member selection committee through the process. “We won’t let any one voice out shout the others.”
The comments came at the outset of a four-hour public comment session organized by the selection committee. Faculty, staff, students and alumni, community members and supporters of intercollegiate athletics were each given hour-long slots.
Vicki Szabo, a member of the history department, said recent news coverage of the search had given her and others the impression athletics might dominate, or play a larger role than merited, in the selection.
Committee members were dismissive of the news coverage in question, published recently in the Asheville Citizen-Times.
“I’d take it for whatever it’s worth at face value, it is the Asheville Citizen-Times,” said Kenny Messer, a WCU alum and past president of the Catamount Club, which helps raise money for WCU athletics.
Charles Worley, an Asheville lawyer and former mayor of that city who, in his time, has been on the receiving end of less-than-flattering coverage (which is not the same as less-than-accurate coverage), saw an opportunity to educate listeners regarding media coverage in general and newspapers in particular.
“You know how newspapers do,” Worley said in an ominous tone of voice. “They tend to pick on things and take it out of context.”
After that, chairman Steve Warren opted for a gentler approach, reminding those in the audience — and possibly his selection committee — there must be a balance struck in the hiring of a replacement for Chancellor John Bardo, who is retiring next summer after more than 15 years.
“Athletics plays a role at this university, and the new chancellor needs to understand this. And everybody else,” Warren said, before quickly adding that academics would of course remain a top priority.
Debate about the role WCU plays in the region it serves also surfaced. Many professors and staff members emphasized a unique ability of the university to help Western North Carolina and its people. By preserving the culture and environment, saving the ecosystems, and so on — plus providing “the children of the mountains” with an opportunity to receive a quality higher education near home. Some, however, spoke to the need for WCU to be visible on a national, even international scale, and to focus on being a topflight academic institution.
Fred Hinson, senior associate vice chancellor of enrollment management, has been at the university for 45 years. He spoke against hiring someone who needed on-the-job-training. WCU, along with other universities in the UNC system, are facing the prospect of draconian budget cuts.
“We’re at a stage here at the university … (where we) need experience,” Hinson said. “We don’t need a lawyer or a business leader at this time.”
Several faculty and staff members discussed problems with morale. They said a chancellor, in these hard times (low salaries in general, no pay raises in several years, a poor retention rate, key leadership positions unfilled, potentially massive budget cuts looming) must recognize and reward staff in other ways. Recognizing their hard work and dedication, allowing professionals to be professionals, and such intangibles were mentioned.
David Claxton, in WCU’s department of health, physical education and recreation, told selection committee members faculty and staff members have generally had a “great relationship” with the university’s provost (that post is currently open, too).
Claxton added, “sometimes it has been harder to communicate with our chancellor.”
There is a questionnaire posted on the Western Carolina University search committee website: www.chancellorsearch.wcu.edu. Anyone can participate. This allows for comment on the “state of the university,” preferred priorities of the chancellorship, suggested background of candidates and other pertinent issues.
The next meeting of the selection committee is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, in the Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Center. Meetings are open to the public, and can be closed only for reasons specified in the state’s Open Meetings Law.
Members of the public will have an opportunity to have their voices heard by the search committee that will help select the next chancellor of Western Carolina University during a series of open forums Monday, Nov. 22.
Four hourlong meetings to seek public comment will be held in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center on the WCU campus beginning at 1 p.m. Each session is designed for a specific constituent group, but all sessions are open to anyone who wants to participate.
The public forum schedule:
• Faculty members – 1-2 p.m.
• Staff members – 2-3 p.m.
• Students – 3-4 p.m.
• Alumni, community members and supporters of intercollegiate athletics – 4-5 p.m.
In addition to the open forums, members of the public also can share their thoughts on WCU’s next chief executive officer through a questionnaire that will be posted on the chancellor search committee’s website – chancellorsearch.wcu.edu.
The online questionnaire will allow visitors to the website to provide input on the “state of the university,” preferred priorities, suggested background of candidates, and any other pertinent issues.
All scheduled search committee meetings are open to the public. The Nov. 22 open forums are the only meetings that will have time for public comment.
Following the forums, the committee will meet at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, to discuss public feedback and review the official position description for the chancellor’s post. The meeting will be held in the Peele, Westmoreland Suhre, Hartshorn Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Another meeting is set for 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, in the Hospitality Room of the Ramsey Center.
The WCU Board of Trustees recently appointed a 16-member search committee to help select a successor for Chancellor John W. Bardo, who has announced his plans to step down next summer after more than 15 years in the position. The committee is working closely with Baker and Associates, an executive search firm, to identify a pool of candidates.
After reviewing candidates, the committee will recommend its top choices to the WCU trustees, who will forward the names of at least two nominees to Tom Ross, who takes over as University of North Carolina president later this year. Ross then will present his recommendation to the full UNC Board of Governors for final consideration and approval.
Search committee members are striving to have a new chancellor named and ready to lead the university by July 1.
Don’t rush when hiring a new chancellor to replace John Bardo, one board of trustee member for Western Carolina University cautioned the university’s other top leaders last week during a two-day annual retreat in Cullowhee.
Echoing the sentiments of the search firm — Baker and Associates, which has offices in Winston-Salem and Atlanta — hired to help a newly constituted search committee find exactly the right candidates for chancellor, former Asheville Mayor Charles Worley urged his fellow board of trustee members to “be sure we’ve got the right one — even if it takes a little longer.”
The selection process is estimated to take five to six months.
Bardo announced Oct. 11 he planed to retire. He spent more than 15 years as WCU’s chancellor.
“It is very important that you keep control of the process,” board of trustee member George Little said, adding cautionary words to those by Worley. “That’s why you’re there (on the committee) as a board member — so that we will have the best candidate.”
Six board of trustee members, including Vice Chairman Worley and Chairman Steve Warren, were placed on a 16-member committee tasked with nominating candidates to the full WCU board of trustees. The board will forward the names of at least two nominees, probably three, to new University of North Carolina system President Tom Ross. The UNC president will present his top selection to the full UNC Board of Governors for consideration and approval.
Ross, acting as president-elect (Erskine Bowles is retiring this year, at age 65, as UNC system president), will “charge” the WCU search committee Nov. 16. That date also represents the first meeting of the new committee.
In addition to the trustees, the committee is made up of WCU faculty, students, community members, alumni and administration.
Warren said the search committee would actively solicit ideas on what is wanted from the next WCU chancellor, through a Website being built and more. He wants to see a “statement of position” for the chancellor crafted before candidates are identified.
In other WCU-related news, Bardo announced last week that Dianne Lynch, chief of staff for WCU, would assume the role of acting vice chancellor for operations, effective immediately. The move, Bardo said, is in response to several interim appointments at the university’s executive level and in recognition of his own pending retirement.
“I have made this decision because I anticipate a challenging legislative session and I expect to be spending a considerable amount of time in Raleigh once the legislature convenes in late January,” said Bardo, who owns a house near Raleigh. “This interim appointment ensures that Dianne has the delegated authority to make and/or approve institutional decisions for non-academic areas of the university that may become necessary when I am not on campus, and until the chancellor’s search is completed and that individual has been named.”
Bardo’s retirement announcement meant the suspension of national searches that had been under way to fill two top university leadership positions. Chuck Wooten retired as vice chancellor on Jan. 1, and internal auditor Robert Edwards last week was tapped interim vice chancellor for administration and finance.
Additionally, searches were taking place for a replacement for Kyle Carter, who left WCU’s provost office to become chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke on July 1. Linda Seestedt-Stanford, dean of WCU’s college of health and human sciences, is serving as interim provost.
• Steve Warren, chair of the board of trustees who will also chair the selection committee.
• Charles Worley, trustee, an Asheville attorney and 2001-2005 mayor of Asheville.
• Gerald Kister, trustee, a 1969 graduate of WCU and resident of Columbia, S.C. Former chief executive officer of La-Z-Boy Inc.
• Joan MacNeill, trustee, a Webster resident who is the former president and chief operating officer of Great Smoky Mountains Railway.
• Virginia “Tommye” Saunooke, trustee, a Cherokee resident and an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who serves on Tribal Council. Earned two degrees at WCU.
• Teresa Williams, trustee, a Huntersville resident who serves as board secretary.
• A.J. Grube, head of WCU’s department of business administration and law, and sport management.
• Erin McNelis, current chair of the WCU Faculty Senate. Associate professor of mathematics and computer science.
• Billy Ogletree, head of WCU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
• Daniel Dorsey, president of the Student Government Association. A senior from Decatur, Ga., majoring in communication.
• William Frady, chair of the WCU Staff Senate. Manager of instructional and student computing in the Division of Information Technology. Holds two degrees from WCU.
• Carol Burton, associate vice chancellor for WCU’s undergraduate studies. Holds two degrees from WCU.
• Betty Jo Allen, president of the WCU Alumni Association. A resident of Lincolnton and a 1968 graduate of WCU.
• Kenny Messer, former president of the WCU Alumni Association and past president of the Catamount Club Board of Directors. A Greenville, S.C., resident who is an executive with Milliken Corp.
• Phil Walker, former chair of the WCU Board of Trustees. Senior vice president with BB&T, a 1971 graduate of WCU, and chair of the recently completed campaign for WCU, which raised more than $52 million in private support.
• Scott Hamilton, president and chief executive officer of Advantage West, the regional economic development commission of Western North Carolina. Hamilton lives in Henderson County.
A national search for a new Western Carolina University chancellor will start immediately following longtime leader John Bardo’s announcement this week he would leave the institution’s top post and join the faculty.
John Bardo, chancellor of Western North Carolina since 1995, announced this week he would step down. It’s been an extraordinarily long tenure for a university chancellor, and Bardo simply said it is time for a change at the top.
Whether you’re a college student in Cullowhee or socialite in Cashiers, stocking up on beer, wine and spirits requires a trip into town. But a WCU Public Policy Institute/Smoky Mountain News poll shows 56 percent of voters in Jackson County support alcohol sales everywhere in the county, not just in Sylva and Dillsboro, compared to 39 percent who would be opposed.
This particular question polarized respondents more strongly than any other issue on the poll, which was conducted by the Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, one of the Southeast’s most respected polling companies. Only 5 percent of those polled were undecided. Most questions saw undecided numbers of around 20 percent.
The poll questioned nearly 600 registered Jackson County voters.
“It’s fascinating that so few people are unsure,” said Christopher Cooper, director of the Public Policy Institute at WCU. “It seems like the kind of issue, if it’s ever on the ballot, that would lead to a high voter turnout.”
The alcohol question sticks out in a poll where most of the questions address trust in government. Clay County — one of the region’s smallest and most rural — recently voted to allow alcohol sales countywide, so it seems to be an emerging issue in Western North Carolina, Cooper said.
Though the area has traditionally been conservative on alcohol sales, a lingering recession may have created more favor for the potential boost in tax revenues that widespread alcohol sales promise.
Jackson County Commissioner Tom Massie, however, doesn’t see the issue as pressing.
“I don’t have a whole lot of people stopping me in the grocery store, on the streets or calling me saying ‘We need alcohol sales,’” said Massie. “It’s not one of those things on my radar screen.”
Massie doesn’t see a trend toward acceptance in Western North Carolina, either. Clay County seems to be more the exception than the rule in the region, according to Massie.
“That’s got a whole lot more to do with tradition and deep-seated beliefs held by the populace,” said Massie.
Though Jackson County Commissioner Mark Jones said there is actually more acceptance of alcohol in general, the primary motivating factor for legalizing alcohol sales countywide is most likely financial at this point.
“It is a revenue-generator at a time when sales are down and economies are tough,” said Jones.
According to Cooper, the biggest supporters of countywide sales were men, liberals, the more educated and the young.
Those who face a long drive to get a six-pack of beer or a few bottles of wine resoundingly said “yes” to countywide alcohol sales as well. About 68 percent of Cashiers residents clamored for change in Jackson County’s alcohol policy.
Meanwhile, Sylva residents just barely supported countywide sales, with only 50 percent voting “yes.”
Though WCU Chancellor John Bardo was reluctant to comment on the results of a poll conducted by the university, he did say legalizing alcohol sales in the county would have a tangible impact on the college.
The main effect, Bardo said, would be the potential for a viable commercial environment around the university. For now, Cullowhee is short on restaurants and grocery stores, and the total ban on alcohol sales may be to blame.
“People want to be able to go out to eat,” said Bardo. “It’s part of the quality of life they’re looking for.”
Alcohol sales countywide might lead to higher tax revenues for local government, a better business environment in Cullowhee as well as a positive impact on student enrollment.
“More services make the university more attractive,” said Bardo.
Jones agreed that Cullowhee businesses would make a handsome profit if students weren’t forced to drive to Sylva to buy their alcohol.
Moreover, Jones cited the trend of more retired individuals moving to college towns for its culture and activities. Allowing alcohol sales in Cullowhee would enhance the area’s attractiveness to these potential residents, Jones said.
But Massie said the few miles drive to Sylva most likely isn’t a major problem for students at Western. He recalled the days Jackson County was completely dry, when students would make beer runs all the way to Waynesville.
“College kids, if they want beer, and it’s legal for them to get it, they’re going to get it,” said Massie.
Commissioner Jones, who manages High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, constantly encounters guests who query him on the nearest place to buy alcohol.
“For convenience, I send them to Highlands [in Macon County],” said Jones. “I’m guilty as charged.”
With Highlands a lot closer than Sylva, guests and residents alike often opt for the quicker trip when they’re thirsting for beer, wine and liquor. Jones said he cannot gauge how many thousands of dollars in potential tax revenue Jackson County loses each year in the process.
Some businesses in Cashiers are allowed to sell liquor, but only if they are established as a private club. Because these venues are required to purchase alcohol only from a Jackson County store, every restocking requires a drive down the mountain to Sylva or Dillsboro.
“It would save a lot of time, gas and trouble and expense to have an ABC store [here],” Jones said.
Though Jones supports countywide alcohol sales, he said he would rather see citizens petition to put the issue on the ballot than for the commissioners to get involved.
Massie, too, said he’d like to see a vote by the people, though he did not have a strong opinion on the matter.
“I’m not a teetotaler so it doesn’t bother me one way or another,” said Massie.
Still Massie, Jones and Commissioner Brian McMahan said they are all concerned that Jackson County ranks in the top 10 in North Carolina for alcohol-related accidents.
Though towns benefit economically from alcohol sales, there’s always a price to pay. “The trade-off is what are the social problems and liabilities that come with the sale of alcohol,” said Massie.
“Any time you have alcohol sales, you’re going to have that problem,” said Jones, adding that part of the tax revenues from alcohol sales do go toward law enforcement and education.
For McMahan, having widespread alcohol sales would probably not be worth the risks. McMahan said he would neither support legalizing alcohol sales in the county nor putting the issue on the ballot.
“The present system works, and there’s no need to change it,” said McMahan.
Cooper has two theories to explain why Sylva voters were more reluctant than others to welcome countywide sales.
Of the alcohol tax that stays locally, Sylva shares half of the tax revenue from alcohol sales with the county and keeps the other half.
Allowing alcohol sales everywhere obviously means fewer people driving into Sylva or Dillsboro to buy their beer, leading to a direct decline in the town’s revenues. Sylva voters might have taken that into account when a higher number of them opposed countywide sales.
Cooper’s other theory is that alcohol is already widely available to Sylva residents.
“If you live in Sylva, what do you care if there’s alcohol in Cashiers?” said Cooper.
Massie, who represents Sylva on the county board, has another conjecture altogether. While elected officials and town employees are well-aware of the alcohol’s impact on revenues, that’s probably not driving your average Sylva resident to vote “no.”
“Sylva has a concentration of some of the biggest churches in the county,” said Massie. “That’s what I’m thinking is the reason.”
Western Carolina University Chancellor John Bardo will not be among the pool of candidates being considered for president of the University of Cincinnati, he announced at a university board of trustees meeting June 5.
The fact that his name was among those under consideration had come as a surprise to Bardo, an alumni of the school. Bardo’s name appeared on a list of candidates compiled by the presidential search committee at Cincinnati.
“I did not ask to be nominated and did not apply,” Bardo said.
Bardo said he was honored to be considered by the search committee, and added that the decision to apply for a top position as president of another university was a serious one.
“This is not like moving from Burger King to Hardees working the cash register,” Bardo told the board of trustees. “If you’re in a role like this, you have to think seriously about applying for a position.”
At this point in time, however, leaving WCU is not something Bardo would consider, he said.
“I’m not going to think about that right now. What I am going to think about is WCU, the budget, and serving the people of this great state,” said Bardo.
Western Carolina University Chancellor John Bardo in an interview with The Smoky Mountain News last week said that he is distancing himself from the budget cut process.
He said he is leaving it up to a “cadre of deans” and the provost to come up with areas that could be cut.
He also said, “My finance guy is going through and looking at everything.”
By having the deans and provost handle the budget cuts rather than himself, he said it is a step toward “decentralizing” the university, which he said needs to be done if WCU grows as much as he thinks it will in the next 15 to 20 years.
A lot of the decisions will be “done away from me,” Bardo said.
Bardo noted that some teachers could lose their jobs. “If we get a 5 to 7 percent cut, there will be layoffs,” Bardo said.
Minimizing the cost of athletic programs is a way the university can save money, Bardo said, adding that the band may not need to go on every sports trip.
To hold down costs, a new position to oversee development of Millennial Initiative projects has been eliminated because it is not considered “mission critical,” Bardo said.
Bardo said the university is trying to be judicious in deciding what is and is not critical. For instance, he said the position of chief diversity officer will remain.