Guest Column: Faculty morale survey speaks loudly

Guest Column: Faculty morale survey speaks loudly

By Jeff Bergstrom

As has been noted before, the very hiring of college President Dr. Roland Chapdelaine drew controversy as certain faculty members, including the Faculty Association president, questioned whether racism was a factor in the passing of an African American candidate, who many believed to be the more qualified choice, in favor of Chapdelaine. Since that inauspicious start, Chapdelaine’s term has been littered with the sort of controversy that previous college President, Karl Jacobs, seemed to avoid. What’s more, the criticism of Chapdelaine appears to be gaining momentum as concern has spread down to the ordinary student.

The aforementioned controversy has included a $2.75 million lawsuit brought against the college by Professor Robert Branda as reported in The Valley Forge, the faculty voting to join an outside, independent union for the first time in its history, the firing of former employee Jeff Havens, whose criticism of Chapdelaine was well known and has gone on to author an investigative series about the college’s administration for local newspaper The Rock River Times that has raised many questions about Chapdelaine’s conduct and discernment, the lowering of the college’s recognition status by the Illinois Community College Board, and a faculty morale survey which shows growing unease with Chapdelaine.

It is the last two of these that raise the most concern. In the report given to the college by the ICCB, it is explained that the ICCB has “concerns about operations at the college” and that these concerns are “sufficiently serious” that warrant the lowering of the college’s recognition status to only one level above having no recognition, would result in the college losing state funding. Since the report went public, the college’s public relations department went into high drive spin control, in effect portraying the report as a silly little slap on the writs. A review of the report suggests otherwise.

The ICCB writes “the college was found to have been out of compliance in 11 of the 20 compliance standards with at least one non-compliance in each of the five recognition categories” and that “the number and the relative importance of the standards may signify that a college has systematic problems that warrant further exploration.” Sounds like a whole lot more than a slap on the wrist. Continuing, the ICCB claims that “the college has been given more than sufficient time to correct deficiencies” and that there are “major concerns in the finance area.”

It’s hard to imagine how the previous statement could be explained away as a slap on the wrist. Now retired Professor Bob Conboy seemed to prophesy this fate when he told the Rockford Register Star in January of 2002 that “there’s unrest, people are nervous about the money.” It’s all easy to see the cause of that anxiety now.

Now comes the faculty morale survey that was just completed anonymously by the faculty and has not yet been made public, but which The Valley Forge has obtained a copy of. A read through the survey should bring major concerns to Chapdelaine and the administration. Among the findings:

n 40 percent are less satisfied now than when they first were hired

n 55 percent have considered leaving RVC

n 84 percent would like to evaluate administrators (which they currently do not)

n 48 percent are either “not very” or “not at all” satisfied with higher administration

n 78 percent claim that administrators have been either an “extensive” or “somewhat” source of stress during the past year

n 78 percent claim that the frequency of reorganization has been either an “extensive” or “somewhat” source of stress during the past year.

The faculty were given the opportunity to anonymously comment on what changes need to be made. The comments are oftentimes not pleasant: “complete change of all upper level administration, starting at the top,” “not having a rubber stamp Board of Trustees,” “eliminate many administration positions (to do this, I might have to cut off the head of the serpent—remove Chapdelaine from office),” “fire President and his group of lackeys,” “replace Chip (Chapdelaine),” and on and on. Of course, the survey also shows how the faculty remain proud of their college, and that the level of academic integrity remains high, but there is obvious dissent toward Chapdelaine that must be addressed.

Chapdelaine is not without his supporters who claim that any criticism stems from the fear of change, an inability to evolve to Chapdelaine’s vision. Certainly the RVC-NIU partnership that Chapdelaine helped facilitate is a great addition to the college and one that increases its visibility and importance. The construction improvements around the campus, including the multi-million-dollar renovation of Starlight Theatre and the creation of two as of yet unopened buildings; the student support building, and the Arts Instruction Center certainly improve the campus aesthetically, but some are concerned at too great a price, both financially and academically, as academics have not received near the focus as arts and athletics have.

In light of the continued and growing controversy surrounding Dr. Chapdelaine, perhaps the Board should examine whether he really is the right man for the job.

On a personal note, minus one class in the summer, my career at RVC is over. My experience, like that of so many others, has been overwhelmingly positive. And I credit this by and large to the wonderful faculty of RVC. More than anything else, it is they who continue to make the college a treasure to the community.

Jeff Bergstrom is the editor-in-chief of the The Valley Forge college newspaper of Rock Valley College. This article was reprinted with permission from The Valley Forge of May 7, 2003.

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