BY MICHAEL DECESARE
In 2016, the AAUP’s annual meeting voted to add The College of Saint Rose to the censure list. The most egregious of the administration’s and governing board’s many transgressions had been the termination of 23 tenured and tenure-track faculty appointments as part of a top-down “academic prioritization” process that eliminated a number of programs.
According to the AAUP investigating committee’s report, tenure was “virtually meaningless” at the college; the conditions for academic governance were “deplorable.” The report’s final conclusion laid the blame on the trustees and the relatively new president, Carolyn Stefanco: “The program eliminations and faculty layoffs were ultimately the result of a lack of responsible stewardship at the board and presidential levels, leading to the faculty’s recent vote of no confidence.”
Some of the same trustees are now blaming the president for the college’s continuing difficulties. As reported today in Inside Higher Ed, several board members have resigned in recent weeks. The excerpts from some of their resignation letters, appearing in an article in yesterday’s Albany Times-Union, are consistent not only with what the investigating committee found but with what Saint Rose faculty (and students) have been saying for a number of years.
Trustee Gregory Serio, for example, wrote that President Stefanco’s “secretive management style, closed-circle communication methods, obvious preoccupation with personal interests, and apparent disdain for the board and its critical role in the governance of this institution are serious and, probably, irreparable shortcomings for any executive, within or without higher education.” The AAUP report described the president in similar terms–the only difference being that it highlighted her disregard of the faculty’s critical role in governance.
The report also concluded that the trustees had been asleep at the wheel for years. Some have finally woken up, but only after crashing the college into a ditch of declining enrollment, administrative infighting, a ballooning deficit, and a failing strategic plan.
For the sake of the institution—and its courageous and dedicated faculty and students–let us hope it can be pulled out.
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