Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Northwest College: Marching Toward Mediocrity

Northwest College Landmark by mdt1960
Northwest College Landmark, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
It was announced in the college email today that Northwest College photographer David Vaughan resigned from his position—effective immediately.

The email came from Payroll Specialist Tracy Gasaway, but it was a forward from the Human Resources Director, Jill Anderson. Why Anderson couldn’t have sent the announcement to everyone herself is beyond me. Yet, another illustration of the convoluted practices of an administration that is far from being above board.

I learned earlier this morning that Vaughan turned his keys in sometime after midnight, when no one was around.

This was a case of someone who wasn’t really wanted—someone not appreciated. This cloud of ingratitude has lingered since Vaughan’s first year on the job when he learned newly-hired college president Miles LaRowe would not have supported the photography position had LaRowe been on the job sooner. An air of non-support and disinterest for his position has prevailed since that first year.

Given such neglect, it seems reasonable that the college’s leadership considered firing Vaughan at any given time, but they couldn’t produce any dirt on him. So, like any spineless, paranoid and heartless operation, they strung him out—making things so discouraging for him, that he simply gave up and quit on the college.

The verbal language that came from those in his department and the administration was typical administrative lip service. But, when it came to putting things in writing there was only a vacuum. No one really supported or fought for Vaughan except those who had no power or real input to his situation. Even the photography department that educated Dave years ago and its four-faculty-members-strong status was relatively mute.

Ironically, other members in his department glided effortlessly through the job-banding process and saw significant pay increases—$10-15K more than his salary. His plea for a proper job banding and compensation was passed around from one incompetent administrator to another like an unwanted stepchild. In the end, Vice President of College Relations, Mark Kitchen and Human Resources Director, Jill Anderson even admitted their own detachment and ignorance of Dave and his position as they planned to hand his case over to an external consultant. Incompetence prevails again at Northwest College. But really, they simply didn’t care.

It’s disturbing to know that Vaughan doesn’t have another job lined up at this time… that’s how bad it was for him. Imagine how miserable you’d have to be in a job, leaving it without having anything else lined up—given the current economical climate.

Ironically, this past spring, an anonymous source reported that Vice President of Administrative Services, Kim Mills received a $10,000 pay increase—something V.P. Kitchen could not verify or deny in his highly, self-touted “rumor clearinghouse” intranet site. One has to wonder how much flack Mills endured for his comfy $10K boost compared to Vaughan’s three-year pursuit for proper job banding. And to no one’s surprise, Mills is considered one of the key administrators who had strongly objected to Vaughan’s job banding reclassification.

Another individual who is also critical of the college made a poignant observation about how trouble seems to find those at Northwest College who don’t fit a “Stepford” profile. Such individuals typically work in their own circles due to a unique component in their jobs. Sadly, these are the people that make any learning institution dynamic—which is what education should be. How can a school be dynamic if everyone is on the same page? Like racial profiling, if you’re not seeing the world through the same lens as everyone else at Northwest College, you’ll likely be dismissed.

College professor Harriet Bloom Wilson was one of the first to chime in regarding Vaughan’s departure, “What a pity. David’s photographs have captured all that is special and beautiful about Northwest for years. They represent us around the world.”

My guarded response to Bloom-Wilson’s comment (because I’ve been reprimanded for “improper use” of college email) was simply, “Yeah, starting with myself, he made us look more special and beautiful than we really are.”

What I really wanted to say was something like the following:

“Way to go NWC administration… another step closer to mediocrity.”

“NWC… you will be absorbed.” (From a popular Star Trek episode)

“NWC… where mediocrity prevails.”

There’s so many descriptors of NWC’s administrative leadership that have come up again and again in conversation over the years regarding the dismissals of talented staffers like Dave who have left on their own or were removed outright. So, I’ll put these descriptors here so there can be no doubt as to the words that are spoken in such conversations about the college’s leadership:


Along the lines of nefarious, several NWC staff members have benefited in their elevated salaries and retirements by listing the supervision of Dave’s efforts in their job description. This is the greatest deception of all because from Day One, Vaughan has been a one-man photo operation who has scheduled shoots, made first-level photo-editorial decisions, developed and executed unique and creative compositions for shoots, made purchase decisions regarding equipment and supplies, communicated with all college staff regarding photography work and managed an extensive data base of images. No one “above” him directed Vaughan in any of these areas. I hope the light of shame finds and exposes these individuals in their incompetent, self-serving, resume-building, life-wrecking ways.

In parting, Vaughan was responsible for many things that never credited his contribution. Most outstanding was coming up with the college’s slogan/jingle, “Northwest College: Your future, our focus.”

In the past years as Vaughan’s enthusiasm waned thanks to the insipid support coming from those around him, he developed a few more slogans that were more accurate of what he felt—reflective of his experience as a Northwest College employee. One of my favorites was, “Northwest College: Don’t not do.”

Thanks Dave for all you did. No thanks to Northwest College and its toxic administrative culture—strangling anything extraordinary or with an inkling of creativity.