One day after faculty called for his resignation, Edison State College President Kenneth Walker defended himself saying the college has made progress with steps to reestablish trust with staff.
In a prepared statement, Walker promised to address lingering discontent following the college’s November accreditation review. He called for all staff to make the upcoming visit by the accrediting body a priority.
On Thursday, faculty senate members approved a statement calling for Walker’s resignation. Earlier this year, they took a vote of no-confidence in Walker.
In his statement, Walker said he found faculty’s approach concerning.
“My understanding of yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting is that less than half of our faculty members voted on the resolution which, as of late afternoon Friday, I have yet to receive,” he wrote. “It is concerning to me that the claims of this resolution are being played out in the media and not being addressed to me directly.
“It is unfortunate the recent turn of events have overshadowed the process that the faculty and I have worked on collaboratively for the past six months.”
On Friday, students followed suit, taking to the web to voice their concerns.
Students created the website BetterEdison.org, and called for Walker’s resignation, promising to deliver a letter to the board of trustees Oct. 24. In a letter in a separate Facebook group, more students deemed Walker “terminated.”
“Students have been wanting a platform since the issues at Edison began surfacing,” said Claire Malecot, a sophomore and member of the Facebook group. “We are real students with true concerns and we care about our school and it’s reputation.”
Student government leaders have not taken a stance or made any official announcements in response to the week’s events. Student Government President Eli Romero said he does not know who was responsible for the web site postings.
Student leaders meet each Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.
The frustration stems from a Tuesday announcement that Walker recommended Steve Atkins, vice president for academic affairs, be fired. Atkins was a whistleblower in a course swapping problem this spring. He resigned and was brought back at faculty’s urging over the summer.
In his statement Friday, Walker reiterated a six-point plan he created in April to address faculty’s concerns and rebuild his relationship with them. The first was to pay a third party to conduct an unbiased review of the practices at the college after the accreditation visit by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) takes place in November.
Walker’s response to student reaction was included in a line of his statement which said he would expand a planned, anonymous survey of faculty and staff to include students. That survey will also be conducted after the SACS visit.
Walker said he welcomes faculty senate input at the Oct. 25 board of trustees meeting “with the hope that we can work toward a positive resolution for the good of Edison State College.”
Malecot said she and two other students collected more than 100 student signatures on the Facebook letter Friday.
As of Aug. 22, there were 16,550 students attending Edison district wide for the fall semester. The college serves about 24,000 students a year.
In comparison, the Facebook group had 69 members as of 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Atkins was put on paid leave Tuesday. He has been barred from campus pending the outcome of an Oct. 25 board of trustees meeting.
Morgenstern said Walker’s office was “stormed by a news crew earlier this week, and now we’ve taken precautions we haven’t taken before.”
Morgenstern said Walker’s door was locked Friday.
“The door is locked,” she said. “You have to knock and someone opens the door.”
Faculty worried Thursday the accreditation process could be in jeopardy.
“Steve has been guiding us all the way through it,” librarian Frank Dowd said. “Now there’s no living, breathing human being in charge. It’s a bunch of papers now. Is all this work moot?”
The college has yet to name an interim for Atkins’ position, but Morgenstern said the interim and the existing accreditation team will handle the November visit from SACS.
Adjunct Professor Bill Coughlan was not at the Thursday meeting of the faculty senate. He doesn’t qualify for membership as an adjunct, but sides with the statement the members made.
“Faculty senate, I believe, reflects the overwhelming majority of faculty,” he said. “Dr. Walker should have resigned probably over a year ago. It should be overwhelming to the board (of trustees.)”
My understanding of yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting is that less than half of our faculty members voted on the resolution which, as of late afternoon Friday, I have yet to receive. It is concerning to me that the claims of this resolution are being played out in the media and not being addressed to me directly. It is unfortunate the recent turn of events have overshadowed the process that the faculty and I have worked on collaboratively for the past six months.
Back in April of this year, I announced a Six-Point-Plan designed to address the faculty’s concerns and to begin the process of rebuilding a professional and positive relationship. Today, four of those six points have been either accomplished or are ongoing. By mutual agreement, between myself and the Faculty Senate, one of those points, to engage an objective, respected third party to review the management team and processes at the College and present an open and honest report, was to begin after the SACS visit next month. It is important to everyone that final preparations for the SACS visit take priority. The final point, to conduct an anonymous survey of faculty and staff, is being expanded to include students, and will also be done after the SACS visit. Since April, the Faculty Senate has participated in the regular monthly Board of Trustees meetings by following established and agreed upon policies and procedures. The Faculty Senate is on the agenda for this month’s meeting. I welcome and look forward to having direct communications from the Faculty Senate with the hope that we can work toward a positive resolution for the good of Edison State College.