In 2007, when I first spoke to Dr. Uma Gupta about writing an investigative piece about her experience as the target of cyber-predators during her Presidency at Alfred State College from 2003 -2006, my creative juices immediately began flowing as Dr. Uma Gupta and I examined the compelling elements: the harassment of women of color in leadership, a remote, rural campus, the prevalence of ethical violations, an anonymous, vituperative blog, and most importantly an urgent need to dispel lies, myths, slander, and libel with factual evidence.
Dan Noyes of The Center For Investigative Reporting affirmed, " Knowing the facts is essential to educating and organizing citizens so they can participate in decision making that affects their lives." Dr. Uma Gupta impressed me as a progressive, dedicated leader committed to change. I had read about her relief effort after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and how she had mobilized a group of students on a journey to New Orleans working side by side with Hands on USA, a volunteer organization to offer a supportive presence to the victims. She and her family donated $25,000 to the college to support scholarships for international students. I felt empathetic towards Dr. Uma Gupta because I also had experienced the indignities of working in a climate replete with unethical behavior, and lack of accountability. Therefore, I knew the terrain well. I felt empathetic towards Dr. Uma Gupta because, as a veteran of the New York Public School system, had brought a malevolent Principal before a New York State Judge to demand the removal of his damaging letters from my file. As a result, the Principal was re-assigned to an Assistant Principal position and the letters were removed permanently. I also had experienced the indignities of working in a climate replete with unethical behavior, and lack of accountability.
But this is the story of Dr. Uma Gupta, a former President of Alfred State College in Alfred, New York and what happened to her during her tenure from 2003-2006. Dr. Gupta, by all accounts and performance measures, was a highly successful President with a proven track record of significant accomplishements in higher education administration. By all relevant measures, Dr. Gupta’s presidency was highly successful. A few of her many accomplishments are listed below: § Steady increase in enrollment for two straight years resulting in a request to system administration to increase the institution’s enrollment target. § The collaborative development of a visionary five-year strategic plan which earned high praise from the Middle States Accreditation team as "…very well conceived…" with specific praise for leadership that created "…an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation." § The college secured an unprecedented state appropriation of five million dollars for a visionary regional economic development initiative – the Smart Farm – for the first time in the instituition’s one-hundred year history. § Number of international students increased by 35% in two years. § Women and minorities were hired to fill key leadership positions. § Fund-raising increased 16% first year and 17% second year. Unrestricted donors and unrestricted dollars increased multiple folds. § For the first time in several years, the college submitted a balanced budget. § Close to 10 new associate and baccalaureate programs were under development and a few them were launched. The campus experienced the largest building boom since 1960s valued at $31 million. In fostering change and leading the institution into the 21st century, Dr. Uma Gupta, like many other presidents’ was confronted with several challenges, and yet she embraced them head on and advanced the institution in ways that were far-reaching and have made a significant difference as evidenced even today. So why was Dr. Gupta publicly attacked by a small group of faculty and staff with lies, slander, and libel? Why was Dr. Gupta and her family repeatedly harassed? What motivated an influential group of veterans to stall progress by initiating an anonymous blog? Was there a coup attempt? Were they richly benefiting from the status quo? Were they racist? Did they have something to hide? These and many other provocative questions will be explored in greater depth. This blog shares the events and circumstances that led to repeated attacks on Dr. Gupta and the lessons that higher education stakeholders can learn from it. There are many examples of excellent persons like Dr. Uma Gupta who have worked hard for the common good, and been persecuted by those with self-serving agendas in academia. We are no longer surprised when we hear about presidents and senior administrators being viciously attacked by those who have nothing to lose. This case study is one such example. Dr. Uma Gupta led the college with integrity, courage, vision and consequently made significant inroads into a community where a small fraction of racist faculty and staff had made life difficult for her and for several of her predecessors. A Timely Tip-Off In March 2005, after the Accreditation team’s exit interview, The team Chair, Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, President of Penn Tech College during the exit interview with the President shared the team’s unanimous findings and opinion that the Vice President of Administrative Affairs and Enrollment Manager, Mr. James Grillo was sabotaging the efforts of Dr. Gupta and was openly and blatantly undermining her leadership. The team chair indicated that the team heard enough concern from the campus community about Mr. Grillo’s intentions and his "connections in the community" to undermine the president. Dr. Gilmour also expressed the team’s opinion that the responsibility for the campus budget should be reassigned from Mr. Grillo. The accreditation team indicated that the current set up was a potential conflict of interest because Mr. Grillo was also managing the marketing and enrollment budget. Speaking on behalf of the team, Dr. Gilmour also expressed apprehension about the performance of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Karla Back. It was observed that Dr. Karla Back had not been responsive to the needs of the accreditation team and that they were not impressed with what they saw and heard. The team did not make any recommendations about Dr. Back or her duties, but simply advised the president to be guarded. Karla Back had assumed the title of Vice President for Academic Affairs in August of 2004, appeared to be negligent of her duties and coming under strong scrutiny as she continued to fail in meeting expectations. Dr. Uma Gupta initiated a series of meetings, strategic counseling sessions, written .communications, yet Karla Back continued to be negligent and refused to take any corrective actions related to her poor performance which included but was not limited to budgetary oversight. Ironically, Dr. Uma Gupta had divulged her concerns about Karla Back to Mr. Grillo and asked his advice, anecdotal records indicate. Dr. Karla Back, despite acknowledging that she would reflect on Dr. Gupta’s concerns, did not follow through. Dr. Gupta continued to share her serious concerns with Karla Back about her performance at the college, records show- and insisted that unless Karla Back made progress towards correcting her performance issues, her termination as a senior administrator would be a real inevitability. Tough Realities Issues of Gender Equality, commission of a hate crime and a discriminatory dismissal The relevant themes woven through Dr. Gupta’s experience as a woman of color in a leadership position at Alfred State College are striking: gender inequality, a conspiracy and commission of a hate crime, and a discriminatory dismissal and are explored in detail in this section. Catherine Hill recently noted that more women than ever attend universities and the process of selecting women for leadership positions in higher education has turned into a natural outgrowth of the reflected pattern. (The American Association of University Women’s Director of Research) When Dr. Uma Gupta assumed the presidency at Alfred State College 1n 2003, she was the first woman to do so in the institution’s 100 year history. In an article that ran in India Abroad on July 11, 2003, reporter Monika Joshi described Dr. Gupta’s vision for Alfred State College: "Her vision for Alfred State College which has gone form being primarily polytechnic to an undergraduate school, is to see it grow stronger, and a year or so down the line, to explore the possibility of graduate programs." Many have praised the work of dedicated female college presidents like Dr. Gupta. According to Rich Kendall, Utah’s Commissioner of Higher Education, gender has little to do with their success because "they take a holistic approach to their work," he explained in a USINFO article by Carolee Walker. Catherine Hill of the AAUW also affirmed the value of diversity in higher education. Hill told USAINFO that opening the doors to women leaders is important because it is widely recognized in American culture that higher education holds the keys to economic and political success. In light of some of these observations related to diversity, why did Alfred State College close its doors to cultivating Dr. Gupta as one of its foremost leaders for years to come? Accountability in Academia: Dr. Leslie R. Wolfe, President of The Center for Women Policy Studies, the first feminist policy research center offering expertise on women’s issues in Washington, D.C., has conducted national surveys and focus groups on the treatment of women in corporate America. The center was not able to do research on the climate for women in academia due to lack of funding, yet Dr. Wolfe explained that what she believed about the climate in terms of the structure and levels of accountability in academia based on anecdotal evidence appeared to be far worse than in corporate America. "Corporate America has the bottom line to consider. There is no bottom line in academia." Could this notion be one of the pieces of the puzzle related to why SUNY took a laissez-faire attitude? Debates Public agenda research and internet issues: debates Public Agenda, a non-partisan opinion-research and civic engagement organization stated: "Private life is being turned inside out for all to see in the electronic age." Furthermore, there are several arguments related to safeguarding the individual’s rights of privacy and free speech. According to research on Public Agenda.org, one argument against this approach asserts that "the choice perversely stands up for the rights of sociopaths to express themselves while paying scant attention to their victims." On the other hand, the research went on to say, some believe in protecting communities by curbing overly permissive rights, banning hate groups, and insisting individuals accept limits on what they can say, or keep confidential on the internet. Along the same lines, Public Agenda.org’s research suggests that banning anti-social speech does not undermine free speech. On the part of Dr. Gupta, there were repeated requests for SUNY to take action in addressing the Alfred State College blog started by Karla Back, and college records show the requests went ignored by SUNY. In matters like this, the college general counsel can issue an informative, fact-based memo educating the college community about federal and state laws concerning hostile workplace and harassment, and as a result can make its point effectively. The question arises, why did SUNY fail to act? Findings Independent law firm investigation: Findings Public records indicate that not long after Mr. James Grillo had been re-assigned to a faculty position, a discovery was made that demonstrated the he had engaged in fraudulent activity during his tenure of Vice President of Academic Affairs. Dr. Gupta was advised by SUNY General Counsel to initiate an independent investigation, and hence, a Buffalo firm, Mackenzie and Hughes was retained. In a report dated February 8, 2006, Mackenzie and Hughes asserted: "Mr. Grillo failed to live up to his responsibilities as Vice President for Administration at the college. It is our recommendation that due to the serious nature of Mr. Grillo’s actions and inaction, as well as the lack of judgment he demonstrated in connection with the Barrett compensation matter, he should not be considered for any administrative position in the future." The firm’s report summarizes an interview with Deborah Putman, interviewed on Dec. 20, 2005. At the time of the interview, she was Vice President of Administrative Affairs and Technology services at Alfred State College. Ms. Putnam asserted that Gerry Barrett had worked as Chief of Police for many years at ASC. He had retired in 2003. In spite of his retirement, the college continued employing him as Interim Police Officer for a period of time during which a replacement was sought. According to Ms Putnam’s understanding, Mr. Barrett was on the payroll of both the college and ACES. In her interview, Ms. Putman further asserted that after a new Chief of Police was hired, Mr. Barrett filed for unemployment benefits from the college. During a meeting with Mr. Tom Massara, Executive Director, Auxiliary Campus Enterprises and Services, Inc. at Alfred State College, Massara informed Ms. Putnam that Mr. Barrett was being compensated for his audit preparation work through an ACES agency account, but during the interview, Massara also disclosed to Ms. Putman that an agreement had been worked out between Grillo and Barrett to pay receipts from various vendors as reimbursement for Mr. Barrett’s personal expenses" in lieu of direct payments to Barrett for the work he had performed. During the interview, Massara produced a copy of a letter dated Feb. 10, 2005 which outlined the terms. Records show the results of the interview with Mr. James Grillo and state that during the on campus meeting on Jan. 3, 2006, Grilllo questioned the authority of Mackenzie Hughes LLP had from the State of New York to conduct an investigation into the Barrett compensation matter. Further, Grillo asserted that he had nothing wrong or unethical and that "the SUNY people in Albany had already made a finding that there was no fraud involved" in anything he had done. He further affirmed, as the record indicates that it was belief that the investigation conducted by Mackenzie Hughes was nothing more than a "witch hunt." He then demanded to know whether the investigation conducted was a criminal investigation, and was assured by the law firm that it was not. Mackenzie Hughes concluded in their findings that Mr. Grillo had engaged in unethical behavior, violated the policies and procedures of SUNY Board of trustees, and potentially committed violations IRS regulations. Hate Crimes Dr. Gupta’s case at Alfred State College appears to be inextricably bound to the larger issues of gender equity in academia-particularly workplace harassment against women in the form of hate crimes. In Dr. Gupta’s case, no one can deny that cyber-stalking by its very nature is a form of intimidation and violence. Therefore, it qualifies as a hate crime against persons since the anonymous blogger attacked Dr. Gupta’s gender and national origin as public records show. Manhattan District Attorney, Linda Fairstein noted: "Cyberspace has become a fertile field for illegal activity. By the use of new technology and equipment which cannot be policed by traditional methods, cyber-stalking has replaced traditional methods of stalking and harassment. In addition, cyber-stalking has led to offline incidents of violent crime. Police and prosecutors need to be aware of the escalating numbers of these events and devise strategies to resolve those problems through the criminal justice system." In 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s statistical data in the category of crimes against persons indicated that there were 2,044 reported incidents of intimidation and 967 bias motivated hate crimes in schools and colleges. It cannot be denied after closely scrutinizing public records and the presence of the Alfred State College Forum blog, that intimidation against Dr. Gupta was perpetrated by an anonymous blogger. The blogger referred several times to Dr. Gupta’s ethnicity and gender in a derogatory manner and in addition, mocked her British accent. The Association of American University Women position on improving Hate Crime law emphasizes greater advocacy. "Hate crimes are serious and well-documented problems, but remain inadequately recognized and addressed." The fact that SUNY failed to act when Dr. Gupta sought help and support as a dissenting group of administrators engineered her downfall, underscores how inadequately recognized and addressed the problem really is. The Association of American University Women position on improving Hate Crime law emphasizes greater advocacy. "Hate crimes are serious and well-documented problems, but remain inadequately recognized and addressed." The fact that SUNY failed to act when Dr. Gupta sought help and support as a dissenting group of administrators engineered her downfall, underscores how inadequately recognized and addressed the problem really is. The Coup Discriminatory Dismissal Dr. Gupta set out at the beginning of her tenure to initiate campus reform. When James Grillo violated Board of Trustee’s policies and procedures, Dr. Gupta at the advice of her chancellor, brought in an independent law firm to investigate. It would appear that as a result of Dr. Gupta’s eagerness to carry out reform, and uphold ethics, SUNY failed to support her. Discriminatory motives could be proved on the part of SUNY as they relate to Dr. Gupta’s removal based on the National Whistleblower Center’s categories of facts or circumstances used to establish a reasonable inference that the discharge was discriminatory. Since 1988, the Center has worked to focus on exposing government and corporate misconduct and promoting the highest standards of ethics. One factor used to help prove discriminatory motives relates to high work performance ratings and problems revealed without warning thereafter. If Dr. Gupta was not meeting SUNY’s expectations, why didn’t SUNY conduct a performance evaluation and suggest remedial strategies? Dr. Gupta was told repeatedly verbally and in writing that she was doing a great job. In a letter dated June 6, 2005, Elizabeth Capaldi, Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff affirmed: "We are very pleased with your first year as president and delighted to recognize your performance with a $20,000 increment in salary." Further, anecdotal evidence demonstrates that faculty and staff at Alfred State College have asserted that the campus represents a hostile workplace where "good ol’ boys" rule and women and minorities are demeaned. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts that by 2010, 7.76 males and 10.72 females will be enrolled in post-secondary institutions. How will Alfred State College and other institutions that demean women be able to handle the predicted influx of female students in the future- when they appear to not to be supportive of female leadership and contributions?
Students Affected by Corruption How students are affected by corrupt administrators Transparency International, a global coalition fighting corruption noted: "Education is central to preventing corruption. Teaching ethics to schoolchildren or university students, showing the importance of integrity to public officials, and raising general public awareness helps fighting corruption. But when the education system itself is corrupt, how can children learn the values that underlie a transparent and accountable society?" As mentioned earlier, Dr. Leslie Wolf, of The Women Policy Studies, a feminist policy research center based in Washington, D.C., observed via anecdotal evidence the prevalence of a lack of accountability in academia. Public documents and anecdotal evidence have demonstrated that corruption at high levels was rampant at Alfred College during Dr. Uma Gupta’s tenure from 2003-2006. The recent International Herald Tribune coverage about Alaska senator Ted Stevens, Stevens, 84, accused of concealing more than $250,000 in gifts and home remodeling services he received from VECO Corp., a once powerful contracting firm, and top VECO executives who pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers is redolent of the actions of Mr. James Grillo and the manner in which he chose to compensate Mr. Gerry Barrett through vendor reimbursement payments. The Workspace Bully Have you been threatened, humiliated, or intimidated? A recent Seattle Post-Intelligencer article noted that 49% of American workers have been impacted by workplace bullying as either a target, or as having witnessed abusive behavior targeted at a colleague- according to the Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2007 survey. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as "repeated health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators that takes on one or more of the following forms: verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating. Statistics estimate that 1.4 million New York employees are subjected to psychological violence in the workplace. Dr. Uma Gupta reached out to a variety of stakeholders at SUNY to make them aware of her plight as the target of cyber-stalkers, and to date she is awaiting a reasonable response. With the alarming numbers of NY employees subjected to workplace bullying, it is left to be seen whether stakeholders at SUNY will champion the cause of lobbying for the Healthy Workplace Bill in the future. Clarifications University Faculty Senate v. Middle States Accreditation reports: Clarifications In September of 2005, Dr. Uma Gupta received a call from the then Executive Vice Chancellor, Betty Capaldi asserting that Chancellor Ryan had made a recommendation that a visit from the University Faculty Senate would be appropriate. Consequently, in October 2005, a few months after the Middle States Commission of Higher Education visit and resulting positive feedback in its institutional accreditation report related to the leadership style of Dr. Uma Gupta, the University Faculty Senate (UFS) was invited in good faith., to address rumor-mongering and governance process violations of the new Chair of the Faculty Senate, an ex-administrator who was removed from his position by the President for unprofessional conduct. (Faculty Senate at each State University of New York campus elects one Senator to serve as its representative on the UFS). The UFS appointed five system senators to visit Alfred State College, but declined to include Presidents, Vice Presidents, Deans or other off-campus senior administrators to be a part of its team. Information published in a New York Times article by Michelle York, June 21, 2006 affirmed that "The President of Alfred State College whose leadership was the focus of a rare, three-month investigation by state education officials last year…" It would appear that the New York Times article (and later The Chronicle of Higher Education) used the term investigation erroneously. Well-documented evidence shows that the presence of the UFS visitation team was not the result of an "investigation," but rather an invitation in good faith by senior administration, upon the recommendation of the system Chancellor, to address rumor-mongering and governance process violations of the new Chair of the Faculty Senate, an ex-administrator who was removed from his position by the President for unprofessional conduct as stated earlier. If Dr. Uma Gupta had received a positive evaluation regarding her collaborative leadership style from the Middle States Accreditation team a semester earlier, what would a University Faculty Senate" investigation," as termed by the New York Times purport to examine? The word vestigare has its roots in Latin meaning to track or trace. What elements related to Dr. Gupta’s leadership did the University Faculty Senate establish were absent and needed further tracing above and beyond what was already fact- from all documented accounts, Dr. Uma Gupta had passed muster, so to speak with the Middle States Accreditation in relation to her leadership of Alfred State College. Further, Dr. Gupta was open to transparency. After comparing the Middle States Accreditation report to the statement in the New York Times article and the University Faculty Senate’s findings in their report, I discovered many inconsistencies. For example, The UFS report cited serious challenges to fund-raising and in contrast the Middle States Accreditation report noted the following facts: For the first time in its hundred-year history, the college secured an unprecedented five million dollars in state funding to turn around an academic program and launch a new economic development initiative hailed as "ground-breaking and visionary."
· Fund-raising increased 16% in the first year and 17% in the second year.
· Unrestricted donors increased nearly 500% between 04-05 and 05-06. (40 donors to 242 donors)
· The college experienced a 338% increase in unrestricted dollars in two years. · For the first-time, several new alumni chapters were launched. · The Brick campaign was launched for the first time and raised many friends and funds.
· The alumni magazine got a new look and feel and web communications were launched for the first time. Said one donor, "We went from looking like a Penny Saver magazine to looking like GQ!" The University Faculty Senate report noted falsely that one manifestation is that the College’s enrollment goal for the Fall 2005 semester was not met, resulting in a revenue shortfall which will require budget balancing in the near years and the likely postponement of important plans. Conversely, the Middle States Accreditation report asserted that on December 12, 2005 (around the same time the UFS team was writing its report) the President, at the recommendation of the Vice President for Enrollment Management, requested system administration to INCREASE the 06-07 enrollment target because of strong enrollment growth. However, the increased target was not met. System administration noted that other technology colleges in New York were also experiencing a slight decline in enrollment. The campus was unable to achieve this increase (difference between original target and requested increase) because of unanticipated attrition. In an email to the President dated 8/26/2005 the Vice President for Enrollment Management noted: "Our attrition last year was terrible – 12.4 in the fall and 9.5 in the spring. We lost 450 students from the beginning of fall to the beginning of spring alone. In spring we lost another 300. We didn’t stand a prayer of making our continuing target based on that alone. We had 1779 continuing students at fall census last year and we were projecting 1828 for the year as our target." Finally, barely a semester before these inaccurate statements were made, the accreditation team observed, "The institution has been very successful in increasing enrollment, especially in the four-year programs." Additionally, the University Faculty Senate report noted that progress on the agenda had been stalled and successful implementation uncertain while on the other hand, the Middle States Accreditation report cited that Alfred State College achieved significant milestones under this administrative team. A few of these include: · Significant increase in enrollment for two years in a row that prompted administration to seek system’s approval to increase enrollment targets. Alfred State College achieved significant milestones under this administrative team. A few of these include: · A significant increase in enrollment for two years in a row that prompted administration to seek system’s approval to increase enrollment targets. · One of the most successful Middle States accreditation reports (the College received only one recommendation – an extraordinary accomplishment according to the team itself). · Developed an institutional strategic plan in a highly collaborative and cohesive manner that won rave reviews from the accreditation team. · Launched capital construction projects worth nearly $31 million dollars. Town homes were built for the first time to support baccalaureate students. · Fund-raising soared. Detailed data has been presented elsewhere. · Transparent and consultative budget building processes were initiated for the first time. Balanced budget submitted for the first time in many years. · Many new academic programs were developed, including first-time ever seamless programs for vocational students to pursue a baccalaureate degree, and several successful external program reviews were launched
· Successful recruitment of women and minorities in key administrative positions.
· Turned around an agricultural enterprise and an educational farm lab that was making significant financial losses for more than two decades.
· Established a first-time Office of International Education and international students increased by nearly 35% in two years. · Established a first-time Office for Transfer Students and transfer students increased significantly.
· One of the most successful Middle States accreditation reports (the College received only one recommendation – an extraordinary accomplishment according to the team itself).
· Developed an institutional strategic plan in a highly collaborative and cohesive manner that won rave reviews from the accreditation team.
· Launched capital construction projects worth nearly $31 million dollars. Town homes were built for the first time to support baccalaureate students.
· Fund-raising soared. Detailed data has been presented elsewhere.
· Transparent and consultative budget building processes were initiated for the first time. Balanced budget submitted for the first time in many years.
· Many new academic programs were developed, including first-time ever seamless programs for vocational students to pursue a baccalaureate degree, and several successful external program reviews were launched
· Successful recruitment of women and minorities in key administrative positions.
· Turned around an agricultural enterprise and an educational farm lab that was making significant financial losses for more than two decades.
· Established a first-time Office of International Education and international students increased by nearly 35% in two years.
· Established a first-time Office for Transfer Students and transfer students increased significantly. Further, the UFS report cited "lack of civility and frequently hostile discourse, loss of credibility of both the administration and the faculty leadership," while the Middle States Accreditation report presented a different scenario. Unlike the UFS report’s assertions, the Middle States Accreditation report (just one semester before the UFS team issued its report) observed that the President was highly collaborative, open, cordial, and respectful to all constituents’ and that she actively sought out diverse opinions. The accreditation team graciously offered to share with the UFS team their observations about the leadership style of the President and the concerns that they had noted to the President about Mr. Grillo and his unprofessional conduct. Below are a few of the comments from the accreditation report:
· The new leadership team has created, in a short period of time, an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation among different segments of the college community regarding the administration and its communications with the campus.
· New leadership has invigorated the campus and provided a framework for sharpening the mission, defining the strategic imperatives and charting a course for institutional health and prosperity.
· There is evidence that the faculty, staff, students, advisory constituents and the community have all been engaged in the transitional status and conversion into a different higher education culture that includes broadening the institution’s offerings of 4-year programs.
· The new vision, mission and the strategic plan that was developed, clearly articulate the future for the institution. In contrast to the Middle States Accreditation report, the UFS report noted that apparently accommodation was reached which would integrate liberal arts material into the technical programs, while conversely the Middle States Accreditation team report gave special mention and high praise in its report to the open and collaborative processes followed in launching programmatic initiatives on the Wellsville campus (vocational campus) and observed: · The senior administrative team understood the curriculum, respected the role of the faculty, anticipated the issues early on, and sought accommodation. ·
Wellsville chairs/faculty are receptive to the need to provide broad educational experiences for students, to include general education courses, as well as the need to teach them to be lifelong learners and intentional learners.
· Emphasis has been properly placed to construct the appropriate foundation for future success: use of Bloom’s taxonomy, further development of critical thinking skills, and selectivity in admission criteria that support the newly revised mission, vision and strategic imperatives for institutional success. · There is evidence that the Senate’s recommendations are strongly considered by the College. Moreover, the UFS report indicated that low morale due to fear, retaliatory firing or reassignment, intimidation, threats, and abuse were prevalent at Alfred State College while in direct contrast the Middle States Accreditation report cited that the Chair of the Faculty Senate, James Grillo, eager to stop the investigation by an outside law firm for financial misconduct, made these serious charges against the President using 40 anonymous responses to an open-ended survey sent to nearly 400 faculty and staff. This report written by the ex-administrator and presented as the campus views was not seen or endorsed by the Executive Senate, the Faculty Senate, or the campus. Similar accusations were also made against the previous president. "Morale of faculty and staff has been without a doubt, at its lowest level ever!" "Many are fearful to come forward and discuss these issues publicly for fear of retribution." The reason for sharing these comments with the reader is not in anyway to minimize my predecessor’s contributions, but to show that a small vocal group has engaged in similar tactics anytime they disagree with the leadership.
The University Faculty Senate’s report contained several accusatory statements such as "The President does not listen," despite the evidence to the contrary based on written testimonials from a wide ranging group of stakeholders that attested to the fact that Dr. Uma Gupta was a President who listened carefully, invited diverse view points, and was consistently open and transparent in her decision-making. The accreditation team’s views about the President’s leadership style are diametrically opposed to the Visiting Senate’s view. Upon further analysis, the question arises how is it possible for leaders to dramatically change their style from collaborative and cohesive to intimidating and disrespectful in a matter of one semester? Other inconsistencies in the Faculty Senate report included assertions that in the absence of an open forum where disparate points of view may be offered for examination and discussion, or any other mechanism for the exchange of ideas without fear of repercussion, the blog appears to have become the only opportunity for open communication for interested parties. Yet, Dr. Gupta had kept the lines of communications open. From all accounts by witnesses and anecdotal information, Dr. Gupta was not the kind of President that barricaded herself behind closed office doors. College anecdotal records and witnesses evidenced that Dr. Uma Gupta was "famous" for her hallway walks. Other forms of regular communications included weekly and sometimes even daily campus electronic messages, speaking at school meetings, near-perfect attendance at Faculty Senate meetings, attending nearly all union meetings, attending divisional meetings with VPs when invited, attending departmental meetings when invited, hosting brown bag lunches, hosting small groups at the college homes, attending meetings with student leaders, and e-newsletters, to name a few.
On April 19, 2005, the Chair of the Faculty Senate in an email to the President wrote, "I can’t argue with you that there has been ample public communication from you and the vp’s (sic) during your time at the college. I don’t think anyone would deny that," while expressing sadness at the events that led to changes in the administrative team. The Visiting Senate team’s endorsement of an anonymous blog that engaged in profanities, racial slurs, personal attacks on families, and lies shocked and stunned all stakeholders, including those that may have disagreed with the President’s decisions.
In an email dated August 8, 2005 to the President, the previous Chair of the Faculty Senate wrote to the campus, "I held an informal gathering of Executive Senate, after your Tuesday afternoon forum, primarily to meet new members and to discuss our calendar and agenda for the year. Inevitably the conversation turned to the topics of faculty morale and the blog.
I was encouraged that, 1) everyone seemed to agree that Senate needed to condemn and distance itself from the authors of the blog, 2) there was general understanding of the loss of credibility we suffered by allowing the ‘swapping’ of senate representatives, and 3) there seemed to be general agreement that your responses to the senate motions of the spring were as reasonable as we could expect given the unusual (crisis) circumstances that precipitated the turnover among the cabinet members. I believe this thinking reflects the opinion of a majority of faculty, however I expect that there will still be a few who will squawk loudly." The University Faculty Senate’s report affirmed that recent administrative changes at Alfred State could not be characterized as not conforming to a well thought out plan. The number and frequency with which changes had occurred have an ad hoc appearance. However, an email excerpt from the HR Director to the President captures all personnel changes. Involuntary personnel changes were less than five over nearly two years. Further, the "recent administrative changes," referred to by the UFS team was publicly and enthusiastically supported by the Chancellor, system administration, the full body of the College Council, and many faculty and staff. The best of plans do not include a scenario of public misconduct by senior leaders. College records show that the President was highly measured and reflective in all personnel changes. Further, the University Faculty Senate report emphasized that toward the end of avoiding future frequent administrative changes, a full and open competitive searches should be undertaken. Consequently, in a post-visit conference call, college records show that Dr. Uma Gupta expressed the view that the governance structure as it existed at that time, was not salvageable. Dr. Gupta advised that the current Senate be dissolved replaced in the short-term with an appointed body until a new governance structure could be legitimately established. The University Faculty Senate reported that they heard many conflicting accounts regarding a number of outside consultants brought to campus by the administration. Conversely, College official records indicated that two consultants were brought in to help the Vice President for Enrollment and the Vice President for Student Affairs create an integrated marketing plan for the institution.
The institution was spending nearly a million dollars, conservatively speaking, in PR and marketing and reaping little or no benefits. The senior leadership team, which was dissatisfied with the return on investment, advised the President to conduct an unbiased and independent review of existing operations. Further, the visitation team ignored readily-available evidence about the remarkable results the consultants achieved. The University Faculty Senate’s report appears to have criticized Dr. Uma Gupta for being, as they termed "data-driven." Further, the document is peppered with terms like "many" and "widespread."
The fact is the Visiting Senate team met only with a few disenfranchised individuals, and records indicate a refusal to meet with those who disagreed with the tactics of the ex-administrator, Mr. James Grillo. Why is it that in the wake of a successful accreditation report that emphasized the positive leadership of Dr. Uma Gupta, as college records show, would two senior administrators, James Grillo and Karla Back not follow due process to resolve their concerns, in light of the fact that they had a perfect opening to do so-while the accreditation team was present at the college?