Triton College faculty members are concerned that a top post at the community college is being filled without a candidate search.
Joe Dusek, president of the Triton College Faculty Association, made a statement at the college’s Jan. 22 Board of Trustees meeting that faculty members are opposed to the “behind-the-scenes” appointment for the vice president of academic affairs.
Sue Campos, the college’s dean of health careers, was offered the VP position, at a salary of $177,000, after board approval Jan. 22. Campos would replace the current vice president of academic affairs, Debra Baker, when she retires in May.
“We are bombarded with happy emails about all working together. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Dusek said of the lack of a candidate search for the VP position. “It is almost like the administration is so brazen that they are not even going to bother with a phony baloney job search.”
Dusek stressed that faculty members have no qualms with Campos becoming the next vice president of academic affairs, finding her “eminently qualified and well-known to be a fair-minded administrator.”
“Rather, our concern is with the process, or lack of, used to select the next VP of academic affairs,” the Faculty Association representative said.
“It is the opinion of the TCFA, that in accordance with standard practice and general fairness, all administrative positions should be filled through a search process in which positions are publicly posted, a search team representing members of the Triton College community assembled, and candidates thoroughly evaluated and vetted before anyone is hired,” the Faculty Association said in a statement. “The TCFA is deeply concerned that similar bypassing of this process was used previously to appoint senior-level administrators by the (college) president (Mary-Rita Moore) and Triton College Board of Trustees (chaired by Mark Stephens) without input from the campus community.”
Stephens said he understands the faculty’s concern, but noted the college’s president told him they have the right person for the job (Campos) without doing a national search.
“I don’t recall of any other position, in years, for which we have not had a search process,” Stephens said. “We search for every job on this campus. We do more search committees than anything else around here.”
Stephens said Moore was well within her rights as president of the school to do what she did “and we are going to proceed forward.”
He said it is “questionable” whether a five-month search process for a new vice president of academic affairs would benefit the school.
Dusek said word came down during a faculty workshop Jan. 18 that Campos was being appointed to the post. He said he was surprised by how much concern was voiced by faculty afterward over the lack of a candidate search for the position.
“To my knowledge, there is nothing illegal about what they did,” Dusek said. “It is possibly unethical though … It is difficult to believe that a public institution that spends public funds does not have to interview candidates for a position.”
Debra Baker had been the faculty union president before being appointed to the VP post.
“She has been fair to the faculty. She has been an advocate and fought for us,” Dusek said of Baker’s performance as a college vice president.
He expects the same support from Campos, who was secretary-treasurer of the faculty union at one point.
“We have every reason to believe she will be fair,” the Faculty Association representative said.
Dusek said he gets that taxpayers may not be too sympathetic to the union complaints when the current person in the VP of academic affairs post and the incoming VP are both supportive of the union.
“We have no complaints with Campos or Baker,” Dusek said, “but the college wants to talk about how wonderful everything is, shared governance and faculty being involved, and then they do this. Enough is enough.”
Dusek said faculty involvement in the Campos appointment could have been as simple as the administration coming to the Faculty Association and saying “‘We are thinking of Sue (for vice president of academic affairs). What do you think?’ We would have said, ‘We think it is a great choice.’”
Dusek said no faculty members had any idea that Campos was being appointed to the position until the announcement was made.
The faculty rep said his fellow teachers were also taken aback that the position is being filled already when Baker is in the post through May.
“I don’t remember a position being filled so far out before. I thought I would hear who is filling the post maybe in April,” Dusek said. “Sue is being appointed and we are five months out.”
The Faculty Association said that faced with declining enrollment, significant achievement gaps for minority students and new mandates from the state, it is critical that senior executive-level positions are selected from a diverse candidate pool through a fair and transparent interview process. When hiring, the teachers said, the college should compare candidates on the basis of merit, qualifications, experience, background, and consideration of the college’s short- and long-term strategic goals.
“This is not possible without a proper search,” the Faculty Association said in its statement. “As Triton’s top-tier administrative positions are among the highest paid in the state, the appointment of inside employees not only obstructs the inclusion of diverse talent, it creates an appearance of cronyism that jeopardizes the college’s reputation.
“We urge the president and Board of Trustees to uphold their obligation to the shared governance `of this public institution and the community it serves. It is imperative that the selection of all
senior administrator positions be conducted by a search committee that reflects the campus
community to ensure a transparent, fair and open process, so that Triton College selects the best
candidate that would serve the institution with the utmost integrity and excellence.”