Alumni eNewsletter: Excerpts from GUAAnews.com (Archives)
GUAA Presentation to the Board of Trustees - November 11, 2006
The GUAA was invited to speak to the Board of Trustees (BOT). Five representatives of the GUAA presented. They are: Mike Kaika, GUAA Home Region Representative; Isaac Agboola, GUAA Treasurer; Kelby Brick, Local Alumni; Tawny Holmes, Local Alumni, MJ Bienvenu, Local Alumni.
The agenda was very specific.
- The qualifications and characteristics the interim president should possess; and
- The process the board should use in selecting an interim president.
Before addressing those, issues must be identified.
Issues that affects the Interim President Process
- The campus has been stuck in neutral since the end of the protests. Campus wide dialogue, which is necessary to bring people together, has not really begun. The campus is still polarized and waiting for an Interim President to start the process of healing and forgiveness
- There is tremendous trauma on campus. A lot of people feel violated and harmed. The quickest way to deal with this trauma is to assure everyone that the University is moving on and doing its best to work together. This can only happen with an interim, in place quickly. This interim needs to be an individual who can hit the ground running and who can diagnose with accuracy what needs to happen and respond appropriately.
- The University is still under attack from the outside as a result of "not deaf enough" card and the University needs to commence a major initiative to address the damage caused by the publicity. Affected individuals range from parents of prospective students to corporate donors to congressional members. Gallaudet needs to be re-marketed as a beacon for all deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The "not deaf enough" emphasis has major implications for individuals seeking an education in a place with full communication access. What may have been a place where all deaf and hard of hearing students could experience a quality barrier-free education has now been depicted as a place where only some deaf students feel welcome. This message could have huge implications for enrollment and must be addressed.
- Stakeholders, particularly those on campus, truly believe that they have been disenfranchised. A complete reform of the current governing system needs to be addressed in order to regain the trust of stakeholders and ensure that the campus can be governable.
- There is a widespread perception that administrative retaliation is ongoing and pervasive and this perception impedes University recovery. There is also disparity in how University policies and procedures are applied to faculty, staff and students as a result of the protest. Full amnesty should be considered.
- Students are still afraid of their own safety and the presence of outside security forces is aggravating this fear. This perception of fear must be addressed.
- The University’s commission of the NSSE (The National Survey of Student Engagement) shows that the students’ perception of academics at the University is poor to fair—and this perception surely has worsened since the commission. This has been going-on and documented even before the protest. The University has to come on strong now—and say that it is paying attention to what students are saying about a quality education—and make changes now. This must be addressed immediately in order to retain current students and recruit new students.
- An interim president must be in place as soon as possible to commence this process of healing, recovery and reform. As long as there is no interim president, the University is stuck in neutral and thus damage is being compounded.
Qualifications and characteristics the interim president
In addition to being qualified as set forth last spring by the PSC, the interim president should:
- Be compassionate with the ability to understand the needs of the community and the skills necessary to unify a hurting and divided campus. The Interim should have either mediation skills or recognize that outside mediators need to be bought in.
- Be able to hit the ground running. In other words, the Interim should be able to transition in the role without too much help. The interim should already have in-depth knowledge of the University, the current personnel and structure on campus and the challenges that faces the University.
- Be able, as a person, represent him or herself as one of the best and brightest that Gallaudet has to offer. This means the Interim should be an alumnus which is critical at this time because the University, its students and its alumni are being portrayed in a very negative light. An alumnus as Interim will in this time of crisis, will be able to portray through his or her mere presence, the excellence that Gallaudet has produced. This serves as public testimony to what a Gallaudet education can do.
- Be widely respected and recognized by the faculty, students, staff, alumni and other stakeholders. The Interim should have credibility, balance and a vision on how to address those issues and where Gallaudet needs to go. This includes having a deep understanding of multiculturalism, civil rights, diversity, deaf community and culture, and top fluency in ASL.
- Be self assured enough of being able to him or herself with the best and brightest who will recognize problems and help guide the Interim into the right direction. This also means surrounding him or herself with those who is committed to checking the opposite pole someone who is self-assured enough to know that we all need to get input from others often with differing opinions in order to make the right decision.
Process of picking an interim president.
The BOT needs to be very clear on their next steps. They need to be decisive and move quickly. They need to have an interim in place within a few weeks.
This can be done in one of two ways:
- Make an executive decision and appoint an interim president that meets the characteristics and profiles as provided by various groups. The decision will be made by an executive committee of the BOT with written authority granted by the full BOT to make the appointment quickly.
This will curb further hemorrhaging and damage that is occurring. This raises, however, the problem of failing to be inclusive in the decision-making—a major criticism of last year. However, picking someone that is already known may alleviate this criticism and acceptable to stakeholders—meeting the characteristics and profiles offered. The Board accompanying the announcement of the appointment with the following can also alleviate this process:
- The BOT recognizes that the University is currently in a crisis and this requires the quick appointment of an interim.
- The interim has a public mandate from the BOT to imitate a reform of the governing system, addressing institutional audism and racism, repairing Gallaudet’s reputation and reversing the damage caused by previous publicity, and start the campus toward healing and recovery.
- The BOT recognizes that the University needs recovery, healing and stabilization before the search process for a permanent President is restarted. This hopefully will be only 12-18 months but may take as long as 36 months. The search process, when restarted, will be fully inclusive and transparent involving stakeholders from the very beginning including the development of the search process.
The above will provide the first public acknowledgment on the part of the BOT that real damage has occurred, and that there is a crisis and that the BOT is committed to addressing the root issues of the crisis. This acknowledgment may allow the BOT to make an executive appointment.
- Move quickly to assemble a search committee—inviting appointments (not nominations) by various stakeholders to serve on the committee. The committee should meet and start contacting (or inviting) candidates before Thanksgiving. This may or may not include interviews and public presentations by candidates. The committee’s recommendations should be made and accepted by early December.
This has the benefit of involving stakeholders in the process. However, it is unclear if such a process can be expedited quickly and effectively. Pragmatism must determine whether this is a realistic process. The drawback of this process is that qualified and top-notch candidates may not want to subject themselves through an expedited and public search process which will only further limit the pool of candidates. Nevertheless, the final appointment should be accompanied by the BOT’s announcement of the 3 bullet points above.
Posted: 17 Nov 2006