Daily Egyptian

Letter to the Editor: GPSC will not yield to Montemagno’s abuse of administrative authority

By Johnathan Flowers

Last Tuesday, the Graduate and Professional Student Council, GPSC, voted no confidence in Chancellor Montemagno. As President of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, I owe the campus community an explanation for this action.

Though we have significant concerns about the reorganization and the Vision 2025 plan, the vote of no confidence is strictly related to the chancellor’s continued violation of Board of Trustees and university policy where the inclusion of student input in administration is concerned.

GPSC recognizes the need for reorganization done correctly and not hastily.

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We believe that reorganization should account for the institutional context and climate of the University. We believe that reorganization should be developed through communication with all recognized governing bodies (including those that represent students) and systemic, evidence guided, internal and external research.

However, the administration has not reached out to or solicited feedback from student constituency bodies and provided insufficient evidence for their proposed reorganization, specifically where student outcomes are concerned.

Where the chancellor has provided evidence, he has done so by appealing to two pieces of internally generated research to support his reorganization: the 2012 Program Review Committee (PRC) report, which established metrics for programmatic review and reorganization; and, the 2013 Complimentary Program and Academic Efficiencies Task Force report, which developed recommendations for reorganization through application of the PRC metrics, as well as faculty surveys, focus groups, and comparisons between similar institutions.

According to the 2013 report, which provides recommendations for reorganization, “the wisest procedure for ensuring significant change requires engagement from faculty and staff with leadership from Deans and the Provost. The scholarly literature, such as Peter Eckel’s study of consolidation and merge, indicates that the most successful efforts occur in substantive consultation with the affected programs.” By imposing a reorganization and consulting with the campus community after the fact, the chancellor circumvents “the wisest procedure” as recommended by the very report he has cited.

To be fair to the chancellor, he has subsequently held 68 meetings with affected groups, including Faculty Senate, A/P Staff Council, and the Civil Service Council to receive input on his proposed reorganization. GPSC has yet to be invited to a single meeting. By excluding GPSC from the 68 meetings held concerning his Vision 2025 plan and academic reorganization, Chancellor Montemagno has actively obstructed graduate and professional student participation in institutional planning and administration as is our right under Board of Trustees and university policy.

Allow me to be absolutely clear: GPSC is the second largest constituency body on this campus, representing over two thousand students across the breadth of SIU’s graduate and professional degree programs.

We are the official organization under Board of Trustees policy 3.f.3 designated to represent graduate and professional students in institutional planning and administration, most directly through our five voting representatives on the Graduate Council, as well as through participation on university-wide committees.

Institutional planning and administration includes the chancellor’s proposed reorganization. And we have yet to be solicited for participation by the chancellor or his designees in any meeting concerning Vision 2025 or the proposed reorganization.

Further, Board of Trustees Statues 3.6 mandates that the chancellor of the University receive advice and encouragement from GPSC concerning issues not appropriate for delegation to constituency bodies under shared governance policies. By not soliciting GPSC input either through myself as president of GPSC, or including GPSC in any one of the 68 meetings he held concerning his Vision 2025 plan and academic reorganization, I contend that the chancellor is in violation of Statutes 3.6.

Therefore, despite claiming that “students are at the center of everything we do,” and that SIU allows students to develop real world leadership skills by “letting our students lead the way,” the chancellor has displayed a history of obstructing student leadership, specifically graduate student leadership, on every front since his arrival on campus. In so doing, the chancellor has consistently violated university policy, Board of Trustees policy, and Board of Trustees statutes in his drive to “revitalize” SIU.

I fully expect the chancellor to point to GPSC participation in Graduate Council and in Constituency Heads meetings as evidence for his “working with” GPSC. However, this is the minimum basic requirements of the Office of the Chancellor where student constituencies are concerned. Other constituency groups, most notably the A/P Staff Council, the Civil Service Council, and the Faculty Senate, have enjoyed expanded cooperation with the chancellor, as evidenced by their participation in the 68 meetings that the chancellor has held with constituency groups except for GPSC.

The only meeting that the Graduate and Professional Student Council has had with Chancellor Montemagno was Aug. 17 in a 30 minute lunch meeting, which was also attended by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) president. During this lunch meeting, the chancellor expressed a commitment to working with the student constituency bodies to address issues with diversity and graduate student funding.

Following this lunch meeting, I requested additional monthly meetings outside of the chancellor’s regularly scheduled Constituency Heads meetings to discuss the concerns of the graduate and professional student body. The chancellor’s Administrative Associate, Julie McDannel, informed that the chancellor would be unable to accommodate monthly meetings, but that he was willing to commit to two meetings per semester. Contrary to this agreement, I was later informed in a phone conversation with McDannel that the chancellor had rescinded his offer to meet and that I should direct all communication to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Lori Stettler.

The President of USG and I additionally requested that the chancellor attend a joint USG/GPSC Town Hall to communicate directly to students. While the initial proposed date was rejected by the Chancellor’s office, four additional dates were offered through McDannel. After selecting one of the dates, we were told that the chancellor would have an open forum with the entire university following his University Address in place of a meeting with the student bodies. When asked, the Chancellor’s office refused to offer an explanation for why he would not meet specifically with students. For a full account of the communications regarding these issues I have provided the text of these emails.

Because GPSC has been denied access to conversations with the chancellor and because he has only solicited feedback from faculty, administrators, and civil service employees, GPSC has collected comprehensive responses to the proposed reorganization and the Vision 2025 from their constituents, which can be found on GPSC’s website.

I submitted these responses directly to the chancellor and the two Co-Provosts. Yet, none of the concerns from the comprehensive response were included in subsequent revisions of the Vision 2025 FAQ, the Academic Reorganization proposal, or in conversations with the university community, despite assurance from McDannel that the feedback would be taken into consideration.

Further, the chancellor’s conduct during the October 5th and November 2nd Graduate Council meetings, documented in our Letter of Complaint, represents an example of the chancellor’s abusive treatment of GPSC representatives in public meetings.

The chancellor not only interrupted GPSC representatives by shouting over them as they sought to ask questions specific to the welfare of graduate and professional students as is their responsibility, but refused to answer those questions that made clear the harmful effects of the Vision 2025 and proposed academic reorganizations on the graduate education mission of the university.

Although the chancellor has been generally hostile towards GPSC representatives, he has directed most of his abusive conduct towards underrepresented students. The chancellor’s conduct led one GPSC representative to demand that the chancellor “treat her with the same respect (he) showed (her) male counterparts,” which is a matter of record in the Graduate Council minutes. The chancellor’s behavior is an overall pattern of intimidation and hostility, and is worth noting, since one of his first acts on campus was to cancel the search for the Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusivity Fellowships at the graduate school.

Directly following this meeting, the provost’s office proposed monthly meetings with GPSC officers to address concerns with the reorganization. The Co-Provost, David DiLalla, stated justification for these meetings was his awareness of a “communications breakdown” between the chancellor and GPSC.

GPSC representatives have also borne witness to similar treatment of the Dean of the Graduate School, Yueh-Ting Lee, who was recently stripped of his administrative authority because of his opposition to the chancellor’s plans where Graduate Education was concerned. This stripping of Dean Lee’s authority prompted GPSC’s recent Censure and Letter of Complaint and is one of the most visible examples of the chancellor’s willingness to exact retribution upon faculty and administrators who defy him.

While all of the above offers context for our stance, the intention of the administration to override the authority of college governance bodies, specifically the COLA Council, triggered our decision to motion for a vote of no confidence. In response to the Daily Egyptian’s report of the GPSC meeting where the vote was taken, Co-Provost DiLalla reached out to me to explain that my rendition of the events, as reported by the Daily Egyptian was “categorically false.” However, as the GPSC meeting minutes for our Feb. 6 meeting show, I did explain that the Co-Provost eventually granted COLA the authority to review program change proposals.

It is important to note, though, that the administration initially held the position that COLA Council was to be cut out of the review process. While DiLalla subsequently conceded to COLA Council’s involvement in the program review process, he did not indicate whether the governance bodies of all other colleges at the University will be granted similar rights. When asked about this matter via e-mail, the Co-Provost did not respond.

Given the chancellor’s desire for expedience and general disregard of appropriate policy, specifically policy that ensures participation in shared governance, we have reason to believe these colleges will not be informed of their rights based on the precedent established by DiLalla’s recognition of COLA Council.

While the numerous violations of policy form the material basis for GPSC’s vote of no confidence, the vote itself should also be read as a response to David Johnson’s statement, published in the Daily Egyptian, that, among the faculty “many are afraid to speak up or have resigned themselves to the belief that nothing can be done.”

I do not believe that that nothing can be done. I believe that it is GPSC’s responsibility, its obligation, to the graduate and professional student body to ensure that it does everything in its power to ensure that our voices are heard, to ensure that we are full participants in not only the organization of our institution, but the future of our education. I believe that by taking a stand against the chancellor’s continued abuse of his authority, GPSC can inspire others to do so without fear.

Therefore, in response to his violations of Board of Trustees Policies, university policies, and his deliberate disregard for the concerns of the graduate and professional students he claims to serve, the Graduate and Professional Student Council has voted no confidence in Chancellor Carlo Montemagno.

Johnathan Flowers. Ph.D Candidate, Department of Philosophy, and president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council can be reached at [email protected] 

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: GPSC will not yield to Montemagno’s abuse of administrative authority”

  1. Bradley Sketcher on February 12th, 2018 12:53 pm

    What were the standards used,in the reorganization plan?

  2. David Rossi on February 13th, 2018 1:32 pm

    It seems some good points were raised in Mr. Flower’s opinion piece, namely Chancellor Montemagno is abusive to subordinates and students, and in violation of statute 3.6. But, statute 3.6 states that the Chancellor provide necessary leadership “with encouragement and advice from these groups wherever delegation is not appropriate,” and yet the chancellor informed Mr. Flowers to direct all communication to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Lori Stettler. So apparently, delegation is appropriate; the chancellor delegated to the vice chancellor. Whether he is in violation hinges on the statute’s interpretation so a third party may be required to make that determination.

    Is the chancellor abusive? It may seem so yet we must make allowances. His leadership style may be abrasive but we must remember he is an engineer and engineers are stereotyped as aloof and lacking interpersonal skills. Why should we expect the chancellor to be any different? As an engineer, he surely wants to build an efficient and pragmatic organization which is probably a radical change for SIU.

    I’m sure Chancellor Montemagno’s heart is in the right place despite his aloof demeanor. After all, the Board of Trustees wouldn’t hire someone with the intention of starting scandals nor drive this university into the ground. The chancellor is attempting a radical change for SIU’s betterment. But radicalism is often meet by suspicion by those ingrained in their ways. Some of us haven’t yet lost faith in this university’s leadership.

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