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.


Anonymous said...

It's news like this that makes me really fear for things to come when the people that are in charge of shaping young individuals for the future are only interested in shaping the institution for themselves. Really makes me wish that we as a society could move towards a world where flinging feces would be acceptable in these situations. I would so throw poo at them.....

Duane said...

Morgan, I couldn't agree more. I am so sick of all of the apathy and the inaction to make things right at Northwest. I hate to see the move to mediocrity, but think we will quickly move beyond that to become even worse. I am sorry that Dave was treated so poorly and with no one to support those who speak up, it was bound to happen. I wish Dave the best. We lost another great person.

Heather K. said...

Morgan, what a nice tribute to David. He truly is talented and I enjoyed working with him during my time at NWC.

I don't know Jill Anderson...I've never met her. I find it fascinating that you could have done a 'search and replace' and my name would have been there a mere 10 months ago. The same will hold true with each successor for those you personally named.

There are many people at NWC that I really miss...but I certainly don't miss you.

Ahhh, it's so nice to read this from afar.

Morgan said...

Yes, as it has turned out, your name could easily be replaced for Ms. Anderson's because I can't imagine you taking any kind of stand for someone like Dave either... just another automaton looking out for your own job (and perhaps a few good friends).

Amazing, (isn't it?) that NWC "aspires" by going from one mediocre staff member to another. And when they do get ahold of someone of quality, someone who can think outside of the toxic environment and with plenty of imagination, they'll likely be run off too.

I'm holding out for Sean Fox. Word on the street is he's quality material.

Sadly, I'll have to return the sentiment. There's nothing to miss about you either ...not even your fake smile.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Heather Kobbe, another ugly chapter in NWC's history.

Anonymous said...

This does not help anyone. Why would you wish to work at a place that you feel is mediocre, or is represented by crap?
Until you are ready to become a part of the solution you might take a look deep inside yourself and ask "am I part of the problem".
Very rarely can we change someone else but we do have the power to change ourselves and our attitudes. I believe that the hardworking dedicated employees at NWC deserve a break from all the pot stirring.

Morgan said...

Anonymous... Wouldn't that be the easy route (for you, at least) if I were to leave when things don't go my way. Is that how you operate... you don't get your way, so you move on to some other place where everyone rolls over (or bends over) for you?

I suspect your idea of being part of the solution is to go along with all the incompetent "deciders" running the show and never question anything. For that reason, it's doubtful that you ever stepped up for Dave or considered his ridiculously under-compensated position. just a monkey with a camera—a copy machine with legs—and anyone can take "pitchers," right? And I'd wager you're one of the deciders—whether official or unofficial. Did you squander this opportunity to make things right, or just not give a shit?

Take your own advice and have a look at yourself and ask if your part of the problem... the problem that results in mistreated, neglected or under appreciated employees.

"Eat your burnt toast and mind your manners..." that's how it is in your dim world, right?

I suspect you are someone who has a cushy administrative job and is a member of that well-connected, toxic administrative subculture of NWC and/or beyond.

Pot-stirring: you make it sound as if this is something that happens just for the sake of pot-stirring. I'm sure you'd like such to cease so the same lackluster agenda-for-the-privileged can carry on in silence and peace.

When you speak of the "hard-working dedicated employees" of NWC, I suspect most of those who truly fit this description would consider themselves relatively powerless too. I'll even go as far to say that they would likely side with my views over yours... if nothing else, only because I'll sign my name to my words in forums like this.

Anonymous said...

Morgan....Here's a thought...Why don't you leave Northwest? If you hate it that bad then go away and see if you can find something better.

Most people are tired of your whiny ass comments about the smallest things possible. I'm sorry but you truly aren't that good of a professor at NWC. I have heard you rant and rave for over 3 years now and am personally tired of your crap.

Don't bash Heather Kobbe or Jill Anderson because you have no idea what they have to deal with. You are simply a moron.

If NWC is that bad of a place, then go take more pictures of 6 man football and try to make your living that way and please just shut your mouth for a while.

I'm a big fan of NWC but it's people like YOU that make it impossible to enjoy their job!

Anonymous said...

Morgan. If you think you are a leader and the common person listens to your liberal, arrogant banter, you are more delusional than I thought. It's perplexing no one has chased you and your obnoxious opinions out of NWC and the community. Go work in a union shop where people may give a damn.

Morgan said...

I appreciate the entertainment value of the above anonymous buffoons but, where are the well-thought out counters to my original critique? What particulars did I get wrong? Elaborate please...

Stan Peyton said...

Morgan, you say that leaving Northwest is the easy way out when things dont go your way? Isn't that what Dave did?


Morgan said...

Finally some intelligent feedback from Stan (and Vance, though it appears Vance has deleted his/her comment).

Yes, leaving is always the easy way out, as opposed to fighting the good fight, but we all have our limitations, yes? In Mr. Vaughan's case, I'd say hanging in their for eight full years is nothing to scoff about—knowing his position wasn't fully supported from the first day on the job. I'm unsure if I would last that long if I had been in his shoes.

Nevertheless, Dave gave the college and its "esteemed" administration the benefit of the doubt for several years—hoping his pursuit of a fulfilling position would eventually be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like what dave did was pretty stupid. If he was so unhappy for so long, why didn't he line up another job while he had the time (Years according to you folks) and move on so he had an income to support himself and was happy, instead of taking the attitude you have which is fight the administration and go down with the ship. This is not the 60's anymore, in the real world. People who act like this get left behind in todays society, get over it.

Morgan said...

The only stupid thing Dave did (in my opinion) was believe in NWC's administration... that they would ultimately deliver in their ongoing loose-lipped promises, pledges, forecasts (whatever you want to call it) of adjusting his position and compensation to accurately reflect the work it entailed.

RE: "This is not the 60's anymore, in the real world. People who act like this get left behind in todays society, get over it." ...ah yes, the language of real sheep.

Dave said...

Regarding the above anonymous comments, it's clear you don't know me, and if you think you do, let me affirm that you truly don't. So, any disingenuous concern for my well being can be put aside right now. When I took the position 8 years ago, my salary was around 25k ... clearly money wasn't a motivation for seeking this job. Poverty was just above 19k. I was making a good living while self employed, and chose to "give back" to a school that I loved and still have great affinity for. My finances are not the issue here. This is about my principles which I don't need to justify to you or anyone. When you no longer feel that your so-called superiors and or leadership can command your respect, then it's time to leave. Simple. I spent four years fighting for what I believe would honor the profession of photography, one which NWC touts as a flagship program. Simple as that. I'm a big boy so don't fret for my welfare. I have plenty of resources and I made it quite clear throughout the previous two years of employ that my leaving was eminent and rest assured, I planned well. The annual joke each year around the office was, "will Dave be here come the next new year?" That got old. Everyone new I wasn't going to return for the fall should my contract not be updated by July 1. Therefore, you can say I quit but the truth is, I fired them all. I hope you never feel stuck in your position and I would encourage you to gain your own identity as the only ones who should be worried "these days" are the myopic sheep who think they have to step in line, and take pot shots at those of us who actually have a purpose to live for, rather than those who blurt out ignorance from the bleachers of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

"Therefore, you can say I quit but the truth is, I fired them all" Did you get them, Do you really think any of them are going to lose sleep at night knowing that you "fired them". The Paperwork is probably already done and filed. When you stop to think about it, name one position at a college that if they were to quit the doors would have to close. hmm...Thats why nobody cares if you leave or not, you are replaceable. Your attitude however is your own. I would hate to be in a position where i was wasting two years or more of my life saving of or making changes knowing that this day would probably come. I would have left two years ago to find greener pastures instead of some sob story about giving back. Just think, you might not be as bitter had you left back then, and your friends might not be as well due to all the bitter conversations you all had. I am sure it helped the moral at the school a ton.

Morgan said...

"...nobody cares if you leave or not, you are replaceable."

No one said otherwise regarding being replaceable. However, several people took the time to acknowledge Dave's contribution in the college email, not to mention any Dave may have received via his personal email. Yeah, nobody cares... you're anonymous. One in the same in this case.

Till said...

Boo Hoo David. You made 25k 8 years ago. Dont for get the benifits that college employees get. Here it is 8 years later, I work my ass off for my family, work outside not in an airconditioned building (or heated in the winter) and I still dont make 25k. Oh and I dont have benifits. I do it for my family so don't whine about how you feel you should have been compensated more.

Dave said...

So many colorful folk chiming in here Morg, don't know how you do it. This is my last comment, as I have no interest in playing Whack A Mole with cowardly snipers who pretend to know me.

I ended a bad relationship, nothing more. Takes two to make and break a deal like that as anyone should know so I accept my part, good and bad.

I was the first to admit how very replaceable I am by resigning. That's kinda the point I thought. So let's take it down a notch people. I just hope they do right by the position. I'm sorry for anyone who makes sub standard wages, especially with families to support. I wish those people had more choices. It's sad.

To the dozens of wonderful friends and employees of NWC who've sent all the kind emails and warm cards, I'm grateful and excited about the next chapter and never felt better, truly.

I've also never cared or needed to be loved by all–just need the right ones in my life. To the few whom I've made happier by leaving, well, hope you keep smiling too, it's not healthy to harbor such angst.


Anonymous said...

Good riddance to a bad attitude. Morgan why don't you follow your friend.

Anonymous said...

If the college has this flagship program, why do they need
Your position. Hire the students.

Morgan said...

Leave? Are you kidding? ...And pass up my professor emeritus title possibility at NWC? :-)

Hire students... what a genius idea! Let's include those in the Business areas. They can certainly run the joint better than the current lot of administrators.

Anonymous said...

While at it hire adjuncts and fire people like you. Better for the students and college all around.

Anonymous said...

Wait for it... "Morgans comments of mediocre adjuncts blah blah blah...."

At least the institution would not have to deal with a moral issue.

Hmm... Mediocre teaching VS Moral issue due to folks who have bad attitudes. Which is better for the students in the classroom because everyone knows that attitude is coming across to the students.

Jesse said...

HA HA HA!!! From reading all these comments I would say that it is indeed acceptable to fling feces at one another. Stay strong Morgan Your the M-A-N MAN!