UM responds to professors emeritus: allegations ‘taken seriously’, Flint campus offers ‘lots of promise’

By Jan Worth-Nelson

Allegations of misguided decision-making and concerns about bullying at the highest level at the University of Michigan–Flint were “taken seriously” and received an “appropriate” response, the gatekeepers said Friday. floor of the University of Michigan.

Associate Professor Emeritus Theodosia Robertson and the other 20 former UM-Flint faculty who signed a letter of concern sent to UM President Santa J. Ono on Nov. 2 received the email response from Rick Fitzgerald of the UM Public Affairs Office.

The letter was also attached to a response to East Village Magazine from Robb King, UM’s director of marketing and communications. It is reproduced in its entirety below.

(Graphic source: www.umflint.edu)

The flurry of communications arose from controversies emerging from what UM called a “strategic transformation” — an effort announced on the Flint campus Sept. 23 by UM-Flint Chancellor Debasish Dutta to try to resolve UM – Flint Problems including declining enrollment, declining numbers of university students, and other issues.

Fitzgerald wrote that following a Nov. 4 visit to UM-Flint by UM’s new president, whose first official day on the job was Oct. 14, “it is clear to him that UM-Flint is an excellent institution with great promise that has the strong support of community leaders.

Regarding the impassioned comments of former College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Dean Susan Gano Phillips – who says she resigned under pressure in June – Fitzgerald wrote: ‘The President and Chancellor are aware of the concerns raised by the Professor Gano Phillips. . The university took these allegations seriously and carefully reviewed the details of each situation and responded appropriately.

EVM asked UM for details on what those answers specifically entailed. King replied, “We are unable to share any further details.”

French Hall on the UM-Flint campus in downtown Flint. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The 21 retired UM-Flint faculty, all from the College of Arts and Sciences, expressed concern about recent planned and proposed changes to the Flint campus and the decision-making process involved, saying Gano Phillips’ statement ” reflects the emergence of a culture campus under Chancellor Dutta where pressure replaces reasoned decisions of shared governance and where concomitant secrecy and confusion lead to demoralization of staff.

Fitzgerald’s letter indicated, contrary to the claims of some on the Flint campus, that the move of three CAS academic units to the university’s new College of Innovation and Technology (CIT) had in fact not been made suddenly but after a series of considerations across the divisions, and, in effect, a response to requests from the faculty of those units themselves.

Although the letter from the emeritus did not directly raise it, Fitzgerald’s letter also addresses concerns raised during the October 20 Regents Meeting about Huron Consulting, a controversial agency hired by UM to help with the so-called “strategic transformation” initiative underway at the Flint campus.

“…the Huron Consulting Group makes no recommendations or decisions. The group helps the Flint campus collect market data and analysis,” Fitzgerald said.

He also reiterated what UM – Flint Chancellor Dutta said in community meetings, “…that campus leaders consider the wants and needs of all affected constituencies throughout the process. Contributions from faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders arrive daily. »

UM – Flint Chancellor Dutta (Photo Source: UM-Flint website)

More information on UM – Flint’s strategic transformation process is available here.

UM Response to Emeritus Letter

Sent on November 10, 2022
Dear Professor Emerita Robertson and colleagues:

Thank you for taking the time to voice your opinions and share your concerns. President Santa J. Ono and Chancellor Deba Dutta have asked me to respond.

As you may know, President Ono visited the UM-Flint campus on November 4, and it is clear to him that UM-Flint is an excellent institution with great promise that has strong support from community leaders.

The President and Chancellor are aware of the concerns raised by Professor Gano-Phillips. The university took these allegations seriously and carefully reviewed the details of each situation and responded appropriately.

In line with the relocation of three academic programs from the College of Arts and Sciences to the College of Innovation and Technology, these moves were made to better align the disciplines represented, as well as research and faculty interests, to the most appropriate unit.

The moves were approved by the provost after his office received letters requesting the move signed by all faculty members who eventually moved. After reviewing the request and in consultation with the Deans of both colleges, the move was approved by the Provost, Chancellor and Board of Trustees.

Finally, to address concerns surrounding the strategic transformation initiative, it is important to reiterate that the Huron Consulting Group does not make any recommendations or decisions. The group assists the Flint campus with data collection and market analysis.

We would also like to emphasize that campus leaders consider the wants and needs of all affected constituencies throughout the process. Contributions from faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders arrive daily. All of this information will be considered along with market analysis and program data before decisions are made or plans are finalized regarding the university’s academic programs.

The end goal is to strengthen student outcomes at UM-Flint so that the university is academically strong and financially viable to meet the needs of our state’s citizens and prepare UM-Flint graduates for productive careers.

Sincerely,

Rick Fitzgerald
Public Affairs Office

Original Letter from Emeritus Faculty to President Ono:

Dear President Ono,

I write out of concern about the current situation of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) under the leadership of UM-Flint Chancellor Debasish Dutta. Comments by former CAS Dean Susan Gano-Phillips at the Oct. 20 Regents meeting in Flint outlined the context for Chancellor Dutta’s June 2022 executive action to transfer three CAS academic programs (computing , engineering and physics) to form a new unit. , the College of Information and Technology (CIT). https://youtube.com/watch?v=za-nrcespBE

Along with distinguished colleagues who have signed on here, I am concerned both about how CIT was formed and about the strength of CAS in the process of strategic transformation ahead. Former dean Susan Gano-Philips’ disturbing statement does not bode well for the future of liberal arts on the UM-Flint campus.

Three articles about the situation appeared on October 21 and 22 in Flint’s East Village Magazine online: https://www.eastvillagemagazine.org/

Emeritus professors have experienced several changes in the constituent units of our Flint campus; discussions were often contentious, but none were as threatening as this situation. Susan Gano-Philips’ statement reflects the emergence of a campus culture under Chancellor Dutta where pressure replaces reasoned decisions of shared governance and concomitant secrecy and confusion leads to demoralization of staff. Complaints through the appropriate channels were not acknowledged.

The new CIT unit, whatever its merits, was created at the expense of the College of Arts and Sciences in an action in June before the strategic transformation process launched publicly in August-September.

Strategic Transformation Page
Presentation of the Chancellor Strategic transformation

If this strategic transformation is to succeed, the role of the College of Arts and Sciences in the history and mission of the Flint campus as a university cannot be ignored. An institution with integrity does not allow complaints, grievances and allegations to go unanswered. Respect for the principle of shared governance is not only an academic value; it is an essential element for public acceptance of campus change.

On behalf of the undersigned, I eagerly await your response.

Sincerely,

Theodosia (Teddy) Robertson
Emeritus Associate Professor of History

List of signatories, in addition to Robertson

Jacqueline Zeff (Emeritus English teacher)

Douglas E. Miller (Associate Professor of German and Art Emeritus)

Ronald E. Silverman (professor of psychology)

Lois M. Rosen (Professor of English Emeritus)

Kathryn Schellenberg (Associate Professor of Sociology Emeritus)

Harry Frank (Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Emeritus Associate Professor of Earth and Resource Sciences)

Carolyn M. Gillespie (Drama Professor Emeritus)

Margaret F. Kahn (professor of political science and David M. professor of French emeritus)

Harriet Wall (professor of psychology emeritus)

Tracy L. Wacker (Distinguished Lecturer in Biology)

Christine Waters (art professor emeritus)

Charles EM Dunlop (Professor of Philosophy & David M. Emeritus Professor of French)

Paul Peterson (Associate Professor of Philosophy Emeritus)

Neil Leighton (Emeritus Professor of Political Science)

Lauren Friesen (Drama teacher & David M. Emeritus French teacher)

Ernest N. Emenyonu (Emeritus Professor of African Studies)

Richard Gull (emeritus professor of philosophy)

Nathan Oaklander (professor of philosophy and David M. professor emeritus of French)

Peter Gluck (Emeritus Professor of Political Science)

Lois Alexander (professor of music emeritus)

Charles Thomas (Emeritus Professor of Sociology)

EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at [email protected] Worth-Nelson worked for UM-Flint from 1987 to 2013, most of those years as a writing professor in the English department, and retired as director of the Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching.

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