By Greg Grisolano
Missouri Southern State University’s board of governors is directing university President Bruce Speck to “renew efforts to improve relations with the faculty and to address faculty concerns in terms of leadership, management and judgment without retaliation,” according to a press release issued Friday night.
Specific details as to what action Speck must take to accomplish those efforts are not outlined in the report, nor were any of the board of governors willing to discuss in detail the manner in which the strained relations between faculty and administrators are to be addressed. The board statement also said it is “fully aware of the dissatisfaction of the faculty” in regards to Speck.
The board’s directive comes in the midst of a movement by the faculty senate to engage in a vote of no confidence in the president’s leadership. An ad hoc committee of faculty senators forwarded a preliminary report to the board outlining 23 indictments against Speck, including failures of leadership, management, shared governance with faculty, judgment and public embarrassment. The statement from board of governors chairman Rod Anderson also acknowledged “the distinct possibility of a no-confidence vote by the faculty.”
“The board commends the faculty in raising concerns in such fashion because solutions to issues cannot be solved if concerns are not voiced and brought to the attention of this board,” Anderson is quoted as stating in the release. “This dialogue has given us the opportunity to better ourselves for the good of this university and the students we serve.”
Anderson declined to comment further about specifics of the meeting, including offering reaction to concerns about Speck’s leadership style that were broached by faculty senate President Roger Chelf during the open portion of the meeting.
Members of the faculty senate ad hoc committee said Friday night they were “shocked” by the board’s actions following Friday’s meeting.
“Collectively, we are very disappointed in the board’s actions,” said Linda Hand, a professor of mathematics and assistant director of the honor’s program. “We need some time to digest the statement. It’s totally unexpected.”
Hand said the committee plans to meet Monday to continue its effort to bring a no-confidence vote in Speck’s leadership. The no-confidence vote is a non-binding resolution meant to express concerns over the relationship between Speck and the faculty.
Hand said she personally feels like the relationship between Speck and the faculty is already beyond repair.
“I can’t speak for the whole faculty but I personally think that,” she said. “This isn’t something that just started. This resentment and feeling of helplessness has been building among the faculty for some time. I don’t see anything he could do to make up for it.”
Speck only offered a “no comment” after leaving the closed meeting. He did not return a message left on his cell phone Friday night requesting comment on what specific actions the board had directed him to take to resolve the matter with faculty.
The closed-door meeting with Speck and the governors followed a two-hour open meeting during which Chelf presented Speck and Anderson with a folder containing supporting evidence of a list of complaints compiled from faculty about Speck. Those complaints specifically cited cuts to the school’s Institute of International Studies budget, repeated turnover of Speck’s administrative cabinet, and “fostering an adversarial relationship with faculty” over shared governance issues.
Chelf released the full report and copies of the evidence he furnished to Speck and Anderson following the adjournment of the closed portion of the board meeting. He declined to comment about the outcome of the meeting or the details in the report following the conclusion of the open session.
The board also completed a new contract with Speck that was initiated in June during the nearly three-hour closed session on Friday. Speck had already signed a copy of the contract and returned it to the board’s attorney prior to last month’s meeting.
Anderson said he expects Speck to be at work on Monday.
“The president is under contract, so there’s no change there,” he said. “He’s under an extension until June of 2011. It was finally taken care of today.”
Several other board members declined to comment following the meeting and referred questions to Anderson. Board member David Jones was absent, Anderson said.
Board member Dwight Douglas presented a petition of 25 signatures and 22 letters of support for Speck from local community and business leaders, including Joplin Mayor Gary Shaw, the entire Joplin School Board, Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn; and Doug Carnahan, assistant MSSU vice president for student services and dean of students.
What follows is the text of a preliminary report compelled by a committee of the faculty senate at Missouri State University in Joplin. It contains a list of complaints against university President Bruce Speck.
MISSOURI SOUTHERN STATE UNIVERSITY
Date: September 17, 2009
To: MSSU Faculty Senate
From: MSSU Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee to investigate
No Confidence vote in President Bruce Speck
CC: MSSU Board of Governors
Dr. Bruce Speck, President
Subject: Preliminary Report
We submit the following as a preliminary explanation of why a vote of No Confidence in President Bruce Speck is both necessary and deserved. We have gathered considerable supporting evidence for this summary. Any questions or requests for clarification should be directed to Dr. Roger Chelf, Faculty Senate President.
Failures of Leadership
* Dr. Speck is unable to keep his top management team together. He has seen the resignation of Drs. Messick, Oakes, and Agee in a matter of months, all on the pretense of returning to the classroom, but all a response to what we perceive as failed leadership. These facts speak volumes. You have received correspondence from Dr. Oakes that provides specific examples of leadership characteristics lacking in Dr. Speck. The disruptions that these resignations have caused and continue to cause across the entire university cannot be overstated.
* Instead of proclaiming a vision for MSSU, Dr. Speck explains the dire state of the university and the likelihood of additional future hardship with no vision of what should be done about it. In his first “Occasional Thoughts” memo to the university community, he stated, “I have been somewhat hesitant to respond to questions about vision because I did not want to subvert the strategic planning process.” He does not seem to understand that it is his vision, as leader of the institution, that drives the strategic planning process. The president must lead the strategic planning process, which is the subject of an upcoming HLC reaccreditation focus visit. He has not done so.
* In his communications to faculty, Dr. Speck has demonstrated contempt, if not defensiveness bordering on paranoia. Some examples include: “I have no intention of reporting to the Faculty Senate or any committees established by the Senate. In addition, I will no longer allow those in administration to take requests for information from faculty members, whether representatives of the Senate or otherwise. All requests for information will come to me...” “I will not... continue to foster any notion that the Faculty Senate or faculty committees or faculty members will conduct a tribunal in which I am called to account for my decisions. If that attitude continues to persist, you can be assured that I will interpret such a posture as a violation of the social contract I assumed we had of advice and consent in a civil environment.” Such belligerent statements only serve to antagonize and demoralize.
* One of the things that has made Southern truly distinctive, aside from the low tuition, is our state-mandated international mission. Dr. Speck has been instrumental in dismantling that mission. The reductions have gone far beyond a budget cut for the Institute of International Studies from FY08 to FY09 and have been proportionately far greater than for any other program outside of sports. The decimation of the mission has produced an outpouring of concern from students, faculty, alumni, and the community. He has failed to respond to these concerns.
* Fear and uncertainty pervade the MSSU campus and morale is extremely low. Many faculty members wished to serve on this committee but did not do so because they feared for their future. Dr. Speck has himself asserted that he takes no interest in or responsibility for the dramatic decline in morale among faculty and staff at MSSU, asserting in the March 2009 Board of Governors meeting that morale is an “individual responsibility”.
Failures of Management
* Dr. Speck has failed to communicate financial information clearly and forthrightly, withholding the details of expenses and income from the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Welfare Committee. His financial team, whom he has referred to as “a wonderful, dedicated group of faithful employees who have tremendous insight” and “a stellar group of Southern devotees” was there at the origin of the crisis and provides Dr. Speck with the financial information he doesn’t seem to understand. One member of the team recently demonstrated contempt for the Board of Governors when requested to provide unaudited financial statements. The origins and extent of the current financial crisis remain unknown.
* In the midst of this financial crisis, Dr. Speck was remiss in authorizing the expense of approximately $40,000 to hire a consulting firm (Evergreen Solutions) to perform a task that is the job of the HR Director and a function of the HR Department. To date, the results of the report have not been released and actions taken have apparently not improved staff morale.
* Dr. Speck speaks without having full knowledge of a situation. For example, in a Chart article, “Dr. Speck: Nothing is Sacred” (12/05/08), he stated “The idea that honors students are required to do that (international travel) does not mean that in this time of huge financial difficulty that we are obligated to honor that. What we may do, is we may relax that requirement.” The Honors Program is governed by the Honors Program Committee, not Dr. Speck, who is not even a member of the committee. MSSU does not pay for any of the trips abroad that the Honors students take unless the students apply for and are awarded International Study Travel Grants.
Failures of Shared Governance
In response to the upcoming HLC reaccreditation focus visit to address shared governance at MSSU, Dr. Speck formed a Shared Governance Taskforce. In the charge to that taskforce, Dr. Speck specifically referred to AAUP guidelines as a basis for initiating discussion of shared governance at MSSU. Each of the following incidents is an example of an abrogation of those AAUP standards of shared governance. In addition to compromising academic integrity and fostering an adversarial relationship with faculty, these actions disrupted schools and departments across campus as faculty moved in and out.
* Dr. Speck has usurped legitimate departmental authority on a number of occasions. He over-rode a duly authorized faculty search committee by directing the committee to hire a personal favorite whom the committee had already passed over for being less qualified than other candidates.
* Without consultation with any faculty or administrator in the school affected, Dr. Speck fired an adjunct faculty member without cause one week before classes began. The class had a number of students who were part of a training program for a national company, an opportunity that Lifelong Learning had spent considerable time recruiting for and which provided the prospect of expanding MSSU’s distance learning services to this company on a national basis. That company had chosen the course based on the instructor (who had outstanding evaluations) and expressed dissatisfaction with the change, jeopardizing this relationship. Dr. Speck was informed of this and would not reconsider his decision. When all four department heads in the school contacted the Academic VP for an explanation, they were informed that “The President is not open to having a meeting related to the staffing of the business law classes.”
* We have identified other examples of Dr. Speck’s abuse of power in removing or reassigning employees, but the employees involved are unwilling to go on the record due to fear of retaliation by Dr. Speck.
* Upon the resignation of Dr. Messick as Academic VP, Dr. Speck unilaterally appointed Dr. Oakes, without the customary search or any faculty input whatsoever. Upon the resignation of Dr. Oakes as Academic VP, Dr. Speck did form a search committee, but contrary to shared governance and the benchmarking standards that he himself endorses, Dr. Speck chairs the committee and it had a single faculty member (i.e., no administrative duties). When the Faculty Senate president requested a senate representative, he was denied. Only after the threat of a no confidence vote arose did Dr. Speck decide that greater faculty representation was necessary.
* In April of 2009, the Faculty Organization approved four proposals requiring approval by the Board of Governors. When these proposals were presented by Dr. Speck at the June meeting of the Board, Dr. Speck changed the language of one proposal. While the Board has the right to amend the proposals, Dr. Speck does not have the right to alter the proposals approved by the Faculty Organization before presenting them to the Board.
* On January 9, 2009, Dr. Brad Kleindl announced his intention to step down as the Dean of the School of Business Administration. This prompted the four department heads to get together to request the appointment of an interim Dean because they believed a formal search for a replacement would not be optimal in the middle of the academic year and under the financial constraints facing the university. Their request, which was also overwhelmingly supported by School of Business faculty, was rejected by the President’s Council who decided to pursue an outside hire. That search was unsuccessful, vindicating the judgment of the department heads and faculty. Kleindl continues to serve as both Dean and Interim Academic VP which has caused disruption in the School of Business.
* After dismissing the Director of Financial Aid, Dr. Speck forced the Social Sciences Department to find classes for the former director to teach even though he lacks a terminal degree and has not been in the classroom since the early 1970’s. He currently teaches four sections of American History at MSSU.
Failures of Judgment and Public Embarrassment
* The dismantling of the international mission of MSSU has damaged the reputation of Southern. Dr. Speck even went so far as to praise the international efforts of Pittsburg State University, our closest competitor.
* Dr. Speck’s “Pink Slip Blues” song at the Rotary Club, making light of the employees’ second year without a raise and likelihood of further cuts, was in unimaginably poor taste and reflected shocking insensitivity to the several hundred dedicated folks who work for him.
* Dr. Speck has publicly stated a risk of bankruptcy for MSSU (Carthage Press, June 7, 2008) . Such statements can only serve to create fear and drive away prospective faculty and students.
* Dr. Speck wrote rambling “Occasional Thoughts” memos to the campus community. In one, he referred to MSSU as a “bachelorette” institution no fewer than four times.
* Dr. Speck auditioned to perform in a community play sponsored by the Joplin Area Catholic Schools and The Judevine Center for Autism. The day before the opening, Dr. Speck had his secretary call the director to say that he would be unable to perform after all. Gerrie Ellen Johnston, a member of the theater faculty at MSSU, was involved in the play and wrote a letter to Dr. Speck (copied to the Board of Governors) expressing her disappointment in him. Dr. Speck’s written reply included remarks that Mrs. Johnston found to be sarcastic and patronizing. It also is worth mentioning that Dr. Speck was on campus at meetings on the day of the opening performance.
* Dr. Speck fails to communicate his decisions to all involved in a timely manner. In an article in the Carthage Press (March 4, 2008), the Mayor of Carthage, Jim Woestman, stated that he was not happy about the way things developed prior to MSSU’s failure to accept the McCune Brooks Hospital building, after signing a letter of intent. He said, “Disappointment is a very nice word. We just don’t understand the lack of communication. I’ve got calls into them right now for them to meet with us and tell us what they’re going to do and not going to do…”
* The May 8, 2009 Joplin Globe carried a story on the efforts of some members of the MSSU faculty to form a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The provisional vice president of the proposed local chapter described it as a professional association, stating, “There’s nobody to be adversarial with if we’re all on the same side and want the same thing—quality education for our students and quality service to our community.” Dr. Speck’s response was, “The AAUP is a special-interest group. Yes, it’s a professional organization. But the AAUP promotes that the faculty are the most important people on the campus. And that really is contrary to us working as a team where everyone is important.”
MSSU has been and continues to be damaged by negative publicity. If the Speck administration is allowed to continue, there can only be further negative publicity and likely damage to the reputation of MSSU that will take years to repair.
Dr. Nii Adote Abrahams, Head - Department of Finance/Economics and International Business,
Associate Professor of Economics
Dr. Roger D. Chelf, President of the Faculty Senate, Professor of Physics
Dr. K. Casey Cole, Professor of Psychology
Dr. E. Scott Cragin, At Large Senator, Associate Professor of Marketing
Dr. Linda M. Hand, Assistant Director – Honors Program, Professor of Mathematics
Dr. Danny C. Overdeer, Professor of Teacher Education
Mr. J. Stephen Schiavo, Associate Professor of Computer Information Science
Mr. Richard E. Spencer, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
By Greg Grisolano
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