Faculty, Staff Vote No Confidence in Dr. Peggy Bradford
Heather Ostman, President of the Faculty Senate, opened the Faculty Senate Meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
“Today, new business contains a ‘no confidence’ vote for the Vice President of Academic Affairs,” Ostman said. “I want to assure you that I am aware of the myriad responses to today’s vote.”
According to Ostman, a “no confidence” vote is an expression of the faculty’s lack of confidence in Dr. Bradford.
“The senate has researched and very seriously considered the potential effects of such a vote,” Ostman said.
WCC President Dr. Belinda Miles requested to speak at a faculty senate meeting for the first time, according to Chad Thompson a faculty senator. Miles reassured attendees of the willingness and openness of the administration to work directly with the senate.
“When I arrived here nearly two years ago, we had a sense of urgency regarding the academic affairs leadership needed to help us to get through our imminent Middle States visit,” Miles said. “We were fortunate to find someone who had a skillset that can move us through that process.”
Miles stated she was “very pleased” in regards to the cooperation of faculty and administration when it came to the organization of the program review process.
According to Rosemarie Serrano, Curriculum Chair of Performing Arts, there are some curriculums that were not being supported until two years ago, including the performing arts.
Edward Tatton, President of the Staff Council indicated that while his own interactions with Bradford’s department have been “nothing but pleasant,” there are others who have seen Bradford’s “lengthy stint as an interim Vice President of Academic Affairs as anything but stellar.”
According to Maryanne Vent, English Professor at WCC, administration sees faculty as a means to an end.
“Our opinions aren’t sought,” Vent said. “After a proposition is made, a fake meeting is called and we’re asked for input.”
Bradford will be vacating the position at the end of the spring semester after commencements on May 15, according to Miles.
“In October of last year we announced to the college that the process that was underway did not yield the results that best match our current and future institutional focus and needs,” Miles said. “I announced that the focus would reopen immediately to evaluate candidates early in 2017, we received applications and nominations by January 7 of 2017, and the second screen committee spent three weeks reviewing 55 applications and they narrowed that down to the top 14 for further due diligence.”
According to Miles, the search and screen committee met to select semi-finalists on Friday, Feb. 24. The selection process will continue throughout the end of March.
“The Vote of No Confidence against the Vice President of Academic Affairs is unprecedented at the college,” Ostman said. “It speaks of deep distrust of the faculty in the academic affairs leadership.”
In a statement to The Viking News, Miles said that the vote of no confidence was cast despite Miles’ appeal to the faculty Senate to halt the action for multiple reasons.
“[T]he person targeted – the interim vice president of academic affairs – was not responsible for many of the items noted,” Miles said.
Miles also noted efforts made by the administration which were not included in the resolution, including “a confirmation that the interim-vice president is scheduled to vacate the role in May,” and “an update that the search and screening process for a permanent vice president of academic affairs is on schedule.”
Danielle DiGrazia, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, addressed the question of what the vote would accomplish in the short term.
“I have faced challenges and transitions and I have a great pride in Westchester Community College,” said DiGrazia. “I’m concerned that we, as WCC, are shooting ourselves in the foot to the detriment of our enrollment, our search for a new leader and our reputation.”
According to Senator Sean Simpson, faculty wanted “to make a statement” a year ago, but didn’t because they were assured that change was in motion.
“This is a measure of integrity,” said Senator Sheldon Malev. “The vote of No Confidence is a failing grade for Peggy Bradford.”
Malev dedicated his vote of No Confidence to the memory of several colleagues who have recently left their position at WCC.
“I’m [casting my vote] in the memory of Rose Cooper who, I believe, had her life shortened by the actions of Peggy Bradford,” Malev said. “There are so many things that will go unspoken in this meeting that really motivate us to cast our votes as we do.”
Ostman met Malev’s statement, saying to focus on the failure of operations.
“Locating the demise of an individual at another person’s feet is pretty much out of the purview of the senate,” Ostman said.
When reached for comment by The Viking News after the Faculty Senate Meeting, Miles said there was a lot more to accomplish.
“With the exponential strength of working together, it is my hope that we be united in a common vision for a more productive future based on just, fair and mutually respectful purposes and practices,” Miles said.