Sunday, February 14, 2010

They Eat Their Own Don’t They?

PACtoons: Episode One
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The late Northwest College anthropology instructor Doug Nelson once quietly said to me over a cup of coffee, “Given how many administrators we go through here, why can’t we mold them over time to better serve the college’s real mission (beyond some trite jingle like “your future, our focus”)—resulting in a body of leadership who are more invested in this place?”

At the time when Nelson posed this question, I was in agreement with him responding, “Yeah Doug, how come we can’t do that?” I’d certainly felt this had been achieved with the faculty—including myself. When I came on in 1991, I was pretty raw and didn’t see myself lasting longer than five years. Nineteen years later, for better or worse, I’m still on the job.

Recently, my walks to the workplace each day have sadly become drearier—attributed to a handful of the most powerful people on campus and their concerted efforts to make a power play or two. For the most part, the students, fellow faculty and staff are a joy, but as I think of the institution’s top leadership, only words and terms such as “self-serving, ineffectual, cliquish, mediocrity, spineless, smarmy, out-of-touch, fake, knifing, pollyanna, nefarious,” and “watch-your-back” come to mind. These descriptors have found me via my own experiences with the college’s “upper crust” or in listening to the testimonies of other faculty and staff.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say here that the five-headed monster that has become Northwest College gets my vote of “no confidence” here. And there’s nothing I would rather see than a good five-headed decapitation via an axe-wielding Board of Trustees.

Oooooooooo... what shocking news coming from yours truly. This should really shake things up in the workplace. As Bill Cosby often said so unenthusiastically well, “Righhhhhhht.”

It appears that I have been picking on NWC quite a bit lately—much in the same way that I was critical of the Bush administration when they were in power. All I can say is that when targets this large come on the scene, one can’t resist but taking an occasional shot now and then.


Anonymous said...

When leaders are no longer trusted .... bad things begin to unfold and the community or organization descends into a toxic factory of unhappy folks. To avoid this, Stephen Covey suggests leaders pay attention to issues like TRUST and RESPECT.

When many employees experience fear and emotional pain working in their organizations, because they are treated as objects, not full human beings, toxicity dominates. Covey suggests the knowledge worker is a new model for change in the unspoken, unwritten contract between employer and worker. He bases this paradigm on respect for the complete person - mind, body, heart and soul - not just the part that works from nine to five.

Watching Northwest College faculty and staff devolve into fear and suspicion of management is so sad. And signals bad times ahead for all who work and care for NWC.

Ken Williams

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say they eat their own, I would say they protect or give jobs to their own and eat those who dare disagree with them.

The one descriptive word you missed to describe NWC leadership is incompetent. The refusal of any manager to listen to, objectively evaluate, and incorporate differing opinions or ideas along with their own is a sign of weakness and insecurity. And when a manager's most effective tool is to write someone up or threaten punishment or dismissal it says a lot about their ability as a whole (or lack of it).

How many other would give them a vote of no confidence?

Morgan said...

I would agree with you Anonymous. Yes, let's include "incompetent" for sure.

I suppose what I meant by "their own" was fellow colleagues at the institution, but your spot on in this clarification.

Anonymous said...

If you hate NWC that much Morgan, Why do you stay. Its apparent that you have a large hatrid for many people there and you just need to go find something else to do that makes you happier. As a side note, name one place of work that protects the employees that do not help to protect and take care of it.

Morgan said...

There's that lame and tired "love it or leave it" mentality—again! That seems to be the only argument anyone from the admin camp can produce. I'll ask it again: What is so wrong with one being critical and challenging the leadership in their "power plays?" If they're as upright and truthful (as they claim), people like myself should have been silenced long ago.

I don't have a "hatrid" for anyone... rather, I (and many others—at least 43 from today's FO meeting) have real reservations about the managerial practices employed by a handful of administrators (please revisit the third paragraph).

Forgive me, but my reading level probably isn't as elevated as yours, so you might want to clarify that last sentence/question as I'm unsure of what you are really asking.

Anonymous said...

From the sounds of your information, the Faculty is being made accountable for their actions and they don't like it. What makes them any different than joe the plummer or harry the hardware salesman. You must have accountabilty for your actions, and if either of these guys talked the way you do about your bosses, how long do you think they would have a job. Of course you do mention you "should have been silenced long ago".

Anonymous said...

Most people realize that you and others can't be silenced as this would be a violation of your First Amendment Rights.

What is misunderstood by many is that the personnel matters that are are often scrutinized can only be discussed by one party. Of course, the individual is telling what they want people to know. Management must remain silent.

Silence from management does not mean they have something to hide and their acts are unethical. If members of management and/or administration do talk about these situations, then ethics and integrity should be challenged.

Be happy that you work in the public sector. You wouldn't last in the public sector because you would not have the same First Amendment Rights.

Morgan said...

Indeed, I would have to keep my mouth shut if I wanted to keep my job in the private sector... all the more reason for everyone to speak up when working in the public sector.

I disagree that management has to be silent. That's a convenient and weak excuse. Perhaps silent to the public, but not to fellow employees. As a campus, we could have a closed meeting and discuss some of the recent controversies and air it out... i.e., Mike Taylor's firing, other faculty dismissals (proposed and real), the new soccer program that was forced down everyone's throat, or the controversial letter that was mailed out to over 1,000 LDS students on college letterhead, but the admin knows they'd never withstand that kind of environment because they'd have no convincing evidence or rationale—they're afraid their agenda would be exposed.

Smoke and mirrors, baby, smoke and mirrors.

They get paid how much to simply say, "We can't talk about it." That's rubbish!

Anonymous said...

Wow. That is all that I can say. To think that you are teaching our youth.

God help us. Oops did I just mix church and state. F.u.c.k. I hope I don't get banned from your blog. You can't silence me ever. I think you should stage a protest. Just tell me where to meet the angry mob. I'll bring the torches. We'll string the administration up by their feet then make them watch the GW Bush's acceptance speech over and over tell they crack and bring all that have been fired back to your college.

Anonymous said...

What makes you think that you even need to hear about why mike taylor was let go, or anyone else for that fact. Why is it any of your business. Sounds like all you need is a reason to complain. Moral tends to lower when people dont do their job, they gripe all the time. Why should i send my children to a school that has instructors like you. My child will come out hating the world.

Anonymous said...

Educators if i remember must follow FERPA. Non Disclosure of information. I hope you follow this to your students and their parents, but you seem to be pushing the Administration to disclose information that more than likely by other laws they can not disclose. Why do you believe the administration doesnt need to follow the law, and i agree with the other anonymous why do you believe this is any of your business?

Anonymous said...

Low blow asking students to post FUCK posters all over campus. When free speech turns into possible treats, it's no longer protected. This will be fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

People who have given years and years of their lives to an institution have much more concern for the institution than short term administrators who come through like a wrecking ball, sweeping away devoted employees (literally destroying their lives), while the administrator's plans are to stay the typical 3-5 years, collect their big money and then move on. This is why it is not only Morgan's concern, but the concern of all devoted employees who make a career at Northwest College and Powell their home. The ego-driven antics of the power-hungry few affect the lives of the dedicated employees who by their longevity have shown caring and devotion to students and the college at large. And when certain administrators are given the power over the fate of these employees, their inability to act with strength of character, integrity, and compassion are often replaced with hubris, self-righteousness, and a childish arrogance that cannot conceive that anyone could question their actions. They are simply incapable of being leaders because they do not have the qualities that would make others admire them and follow them. So they then resort to using threats, fear, and back-door deal making. It takes far more strength to be humble and compassionate than it takes to be domineering and forceful. The latter are the traits of the insecure person who is not comfortable with their own character and are fearful of being seen as "soft".
Keep it up Morgan. You are NOT alone...AT ALL!

Anonymous said...

Businesses stay afloat because administrators allow people to cause low moral and break the law. What dreamworld do you live in. Administrators have to make the tough decisions that Many faculty just complain about!

Morgan said...

Sorry, don't know anything about the posters you speak about. No doubt, students read the papers and have their own conversations (as they should)... they are not sheep.

Anonymous said...

It seems some don't understand the environment of colleges. By the very fabric of their creation they bring about free thought and free speech. In a time when people consider Bill O'Reilly or Keith Olberman "news"... a haven for free thought and speech should be held in the highest regards. When you are only given one point of view you cannot think, when you refute a point of view without weighing it you cannot think. When you cannot argue the other side of the coin, you cannot think! College offers an unmatched setting for THINKING to take place.

Let's face it... Colleges and the internet are the frontiers of societal progression in this country. You can slam the thoughts of Morgan on here... but do know there is a large (and growing) population of students, both current and not, that are standing right next to him.

The problem lies here:
When colleges are depleted of anyone questioning their actions the capacity to form thought is lost at that institution... When thinking stops progression stops. A conservative (not politically mind you) may think we are fine where we are... but if they are reading this they are sitting at their computer, in a heated house, listening to their iPod, and drinking coffee from an electric coffee maker. I happen to enjoy the fruit of progression's labor.

It is like many problems... Time will give us the answer, but by then it may be too late.

Patrick Harrington

Anonymous said...

The problem is not having someone question their actions, the problem is when People dont like the answers they are given they get upset. Even if the answer is correct. Sit in class and question your your instructor, and when he gives you an answer, continue to question like he is wrong and your correct, tell the world about it, put it on the internet and the paper because that is your right to free speech. Then see if you can figure out what type of damage that does to the relationship between you and them.

Anonymous said...

I've never had a teacher tell me sorry, I can't answer your question. Your education is a secret... someday it should make sense.

But hey... at least I get the chance to question my teacher right...

Too bad for people who wanted to question the admin before they signed away money to create two soccer teams... Seeing they had no chance to do so.
Normally I'd agree that it isn't our business... "live and let live" but it is OUR MONEY they are spending.
Patrick Harrington

Anonymous said...

Descent is the responsibility of all patriots. When we disagree with decisions made or processes used by leaders and we keep our mouth shut or pens silent what we get is toxic. This "forum" is what living in a free world is about. Could faculty in lets say Cuba or China express themselves as Morgan has? Maybe those who write anonymous comments about how rotten Morgan is ought to consider moving someplace where authorities are "respected" or feared.

How about this if you have a thought about Morgan's blog, add your name to the post you make. Like confident grownups. Descent is our responsibility as is being honest about who you are.

Ken Williams

Morgan said...

Why is it that the people who have the least involvement with the students (admin) on a day-to-day basis don't listen more to the people that do (faculty)?

Anonymous said...

Why dont administrators listen to faculty, thats an easy answer. Some faculty do not believe a relationship between them and administration can exist. Many of these faculty are not higher up in a division, but down towards the bottom where they can complain but are not restrained by rules as Deans, Vice Presidents, or Division Leaders. When these Division Leaders fail to keep their faculty in line its like letting a child get away with anything while growing up, and their attitude shows it. Rules exist for a reason, and just as in every business, sport or other if you choose to bend the rules to the point of breaking you should be prepaired for whats coming. If people are as ignorant to state that they can get a job in government and then be able to say and do what they want they need a reality check. Anyone who does not like following these rules has the option to go into business for themselves and make their own rules.

Morgan said...

Anonymous... so what you're basically saying is the 1st Amendment doesn't hold much water.

I think you're misleading when saying: "some faculty do not believe a relationship between them and administration can exist." I'd say "very few" instead of "some." I hear our faculty all the time talking about "shared governance." If anything, given the heavy-handiness of NWC admin lately, I would challenge you and say, "some admin do not believe a relationship between them and faculty exist."

It will be interesting when the accreditation team shows up and realizes that what has been reported is a poor representation of the true campus environment. As someone told me the other day, "we're going to go through accreditation hell."

Anonymous said...

So by what your saying, why would it not be in the best interest to work with Many of these faculty that are talking about shared governance, and get rid of the faculty/staff causing problems with with negative attitudes that could cause accredidation issues. After all, isnt it the whole point of Higher Education to teach students as a whole. (It takes a village to raise a child).

Morgan said...

Since when did "negative attitudes" become a factor in accreditation? I think it takes a bit more substance than attitudes to upset that boat, doesn't it?

If that is a comment directed toward me, guilty as charged. But, I think you're giving grumpy/cantankerous faculty way too much credit to think they could upset the accreditation apple cart.

When/where did I say it wasn't in the best interest to work with faculty regarding shared governance? I don't follow you on that comment...

Anonymous said...


Why get into any type of intellectual debate with someone who doesn't even know the difference between "your" and "you're"? (i.e. "So what 'your' saying...."). That, of course is just the tip of the iceberg in Mr. Anonymous' comment. It is loaded with poor grammar, terrible sentence structure, and missing punctuation. Someone ought to revoke his/her high school diploma. What a disgrace. And I won't even go into his inability to formulate logical thought processes. This "bloke" wouldn't know the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning if Aristotle himself rose from the dead and gave him private tutoring!

Anonymous said...

Nice to see that your post has anything to do with the original topic. Is that part of the whole FREE SPEECH thing, or did someone get under your skin a bit...

Morgan said...

Nope, it goes where it goes. I don't care to be that heavy-handed about the topics discussed as long as they are civil (in agreement or disagreement). But as long as you've brought it up, I'll ask the question again since there's only been one offering and (for me) wasn't very compelling... Have a crack at it.

Why is it that the people who have the least involvement with the students (NWC admin) on a day-to-day basis don't listen more to the people that do (NWC faculty)?

Anonymous said...

I think your question can go deeper (devil's advocate). Why do the people who have the least involvement with the laws and management (Faculty)of a college on a daily basis not listen to listen to the answers given by (Administrators).

My response to this is Polarized Communication, but that is just my theory.

As far as your question morgan, maybe it can be answered with the same item.

Anonymous said...

The comments of anonymous that basically seem to say the administration is doing its job while Morgan and everybody else should shut up are ridiculous. Faculty should be quiet while administrators ignore faculty and student concerns and pursue courses of action that have little support outside their own circles?

Why? Because administration knows best? Because they have a title?

We should ignore administrators overruling division chairs because they know more about what's going on in the classroom?

We should all ignore the nepotism in the athletic department that has enabled double standards for the behavior of athletes in the men's basketball program? Why? Because our interim A.D. and her faithful campus cop are on top of it or because family members and spouses are involved? Or is it because the team is excelling?

We should ignore soccer being rammed down our throats when it's questionable as to whether we even have the facilities, trainers, transportation, and housing needed to run it well? Why, because it was administration's idea?

We should ignore the use of a public platform and our tax money being used to promote religion as a selling point for the school. Last I checked, the school wasn't religiously affiliated and until my children, who aren't religious, get a similar letter, this type of recruiting is absolutely unacceptable. And the fact that our President thinks it's okay is another sign of incompetence. (By the way, I don't care if you're Mormon or Catholic, Lutheran or a Scientologist- you shouldn't be getting a recruiting letter from a public institution based on your religious preference).

An administrator with any self-knowledge and expertise would ask themselves why so many faculty and students are upset and what they could do differently in the future - not just wish they could fire them all. This is not catering to underlings, it's making the underlings who do the bulk of the work part of the process. It's learning by listening to other viewpoints. And that's a much better model for smart management than the "might makes right" method.

And Morgan should leave? Why? He's a quality instructor who challenges his students to think. While I know administration isn't big on people thinking and challenging viewpoints, talk to his students, they are the ones who benefit. He also has more time invested in his job than the bulk of the administration. So, why shouldn't he speak up? The faculty that are speaking up care about the institution. Maybe administration should leave if they don't like it. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Please.

Scott Feyhl said...

I believe that what is overlooked in this debate over administration involves management philosophy. Think back to Econ. 101 and remember the flow charts that described various management models, with extreme pyramid on one end of the continuum and a flat configuration at the other. The first extreme is favored by top-down administrative types who don't trust the plebs and believe that the awesome responsibility that comes with power trumps group think. The other extreme favors worn-out concepts such as team work, and shared governance, and transparency. Corporations favor the first model and frequently "clean house" in order to gather a trusted and efficient group of administrative cohorts. The other model is often favored by learning institutions of all types, where academic freedom and shared governance is a premium.

It looks like a major shift is underway in the administrative philosophy at Northwest.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous.

Administrators are hired to manage a business/government institution, so its not just a title.

I believe the VP of Academic Affairs is an administrator and that position is above Div Chairs.

Nepotism, just another thing for someone to complain about. Tomorrow it will be that the Sun is Shining or the wind is blowing.

Soccer (What good ideas have the faculty come up with to raise FTE since we have grown the least in the last 10 years out of all wyoming colleges. I dont think complaining 101 would fly at the state.)

There i have said my pennies worth.

Morgan said...

Don't flatter yourself, it's not even a penny's worth. And shallow enough to trip over. Perhaps the response above is illustrative (in every way—style and content) of the dumbed-down, simplistic approach found in the leadership at NWC.

Scott Feyhl said...

I'd like to address concerns I have about the remarks made by "Anonymous" above. I know how frustrting it can be to respond to something someone on the other side of the fence has said to you that pushes your buttons. I read enough political blogs to see that thrust and parry spill all over the public. I don't fault you for finding your points and putting them out there, whether nobel or petty. Here's my thing though. I think you should own your personal truth. Identify yourself.

There are only 2 reasons why you wouldn't and I don't think you want to use either of them. Either you've been told by superiors, as a member of the administrative team (in-service loyalty being what it is) to stay out of it, in which case you're not doing the "team" thing very well. Or you're patently a coward. Don't continue this pointless discussion unless you're ready to own your convictions. If I'm wrong about this my heart-felt appology is waiting. Which is it?