February 27, 2008
I want to begin by expressing my deep gratitude to the Board of Governors for the Confidence Vote they took yesterday endorsing my administration. Regardless of the result of the upcoming Union-sponsored vote, the University community needs to move forward positively. It is important to me that everyone understands that my goal is, and has always been, to have all university constituencies work together for the overall good of the institution. The Kutztown University community is a group of talented, dedicated, passionate and honorable faculty and staff; a group who does the amazing everyday by working together to provide for our students with what I honestly believe is the best overall educational and life experience to be found in the Commonwealth; and a group whose concerns deserve to be responded to by someone, namely me, who shares your love for this institution and the region.
This has been the most distressing period of time in my Presidency; a period that, for the first time in my life as an educator, has focused more on the negative than on the positive in an endeavor to which I have dedicated my entire life: educating future generations. This distracting experience has allowed me to better appreciate what may be similar feelings of faculty members and community members who feel they have not been listened to, or think I haven’t heard or have ignored their concerns. I can assure all of you that this was never my intent and is not my style as a leader. I am sorry for this interpretation or perception of my responses and actions or lack thereof.
As I said before, I have made mistakes. I do not pretend to be perfect. My staff has also made mistakes in my name, and I do accept the responsibility for all actions taken by them on my behalf. Rest assured I have heard the concerns and I have instructed my Cabinet and staff to redouble their efforts to resolve them in as fair, as direct, and as timely a fashion as possible. What I sincerely hope is that we don’t continue to lose sight of all the good things, and there have been many, that we have done together over the past five and a half years.
That being said, how do we move forward from here? Many words have been said, thoughts exchanged, and positions taken -many quite publicly- that have the potential to be damaging to Kutztown University regardless of who is at its helm. This would be a most unfortunate result after all the efforts that have gone before to position the institution where it is today: a first choice destination for many high school, transfer and international students. More than my own personal position, the welfare of this university is my top priority.
First, there must be a commitment to communication, cooperation, and civility on the parts of all parties. There should be no hidden agendas behind our collective motives. Everyone on this campus has the opportunity and the obligation to work together to try to overcome the common challenges we all face. Whether we like it or not, we exist in a political environment and we are not always the masters of our own destiny. This is simply reality. Dealing with the issues brought on by outside influences and mandates is not just a responsibility of the President and a handful of administrators. We all must be involved. For any of our efforts to matter, we must show unity of purpose, if not singularity of mind. We cannot fight among ourselves, and hope to then make positive progress with our legislators and university friends who will wonder why they should help us if we cannot even agree among ourselves.
Second, we must realize that we will continue to face budgetary pressures. The situation will continue to be challenging. Indeed, the “do more with less” mindset that seems to permeate state agency thinking these days also affects us. This dichotomy is a fact of life in the State System of Higher Education in Pennsylvania. We must continue to strive to provide the highest academic quality with our limited resources.
Third, I hope you understand that although I am President, I too have a boss, -actually, quite a few: the Council of Trustees, the Chancellor and the Board of Governors. We are part of the State System of Higher Education, and we are compelled to follow the system’s Strategic Plan and Strategic Initiatives. I am responsible for implementing those system initiatives on our campus. Some of these plans and initiatives dictate new directions or ways to do things without much local input. To be able to function and succeed in this environment, we must find common ground so that we can work together effectively. We will have to develop more productive ways of disagreeing and of compromising. To move forward, we must develop a new sense of trust and collegiality.
To begin this process of reconciliation, I am going to pose a few ideas over the next few months and get your feedback on whether or not their implementation would help us address both our common issues and individual specific issues. I plan to meet with small groups of faculty and schedule town hall meetings so that we achieve a much deeper level of discussion and communication than we have had heretofore.
The administration also needs to reestablish clear and meaningful lines of communication with the faculty union. In pursuit of this goal, I have directed the Provost, as the main administration interface with APSCUF, to invite leaders of the faculty union to participate in a labor relations building activity. I have asked Provost Vargas to initiate immediately a conversation with APSCUF to determine the best way to achieve this goal. We can find an appropriate consultant (internal or external) to help facilitate such a relationship-building attempt. Improving labor/management relations, like any relationship involving human beings, requires the positive participation of all members in that relationship. I hope that APSCUF-KU will accept my reaching out in this way and agree to participate in such a fence-mending effort.
In conclusion, it has been a difficult year for all of us in many ways. Understandably, emotions have caused us to lose focus on our common goals, providing for the best education for all our students in a safe, nurturing environment. For the good of the students, and for each other, I certainly hope we can find our way back to interacting in a positive productive way. My staff and I are ready and optimistic that we can do so.
F. Javier Cevallos