February 24, 2014

Dr. Leslie Di Mare: I am writing concerning the deterioration of the relationship between the Faculty and the Provost. I am concerned for the future of this university under his leadership. A Provost should have the respect and the trust of the Faculty he leads. From what I can see, this Provost has neither. Granted it is difficult to come from outside because no trust has been established, so the task facing Dr. Wright when he came here would have been to earn the trust, and then the respect, of the Faculty. In my opinion, he has made no discernible attempt to do either. Dr. Wright is completely out of touch with the Faculty perspective. Rather than go about learning who the Faculty are, not necessarily individually but collectively, and then seeking input from the Faculty regarding setting goals and determining needs, he has dictated several “initiatives”, some in conflict with the Faculty Handbook, and none as I understand it involving prior consultation with Faculty Senate nor, perhaps, with you. Dr. Wright, in his fall speech to Faculty, made us aware that he came to higher education as an “escape” from an onerous job that kept him on the road and away from family for 80 hours per week. He found, through his initial experience with a “weekend college” teaching position, that he had much more free time to spend with his family. Not knowing his duties or schedule when he first became a tenure-track faculty member, I can only surmise from what he told us during his speech: that he believes faculty have “the best paying three-day-a-week job you can get”. When questioned on his “three days” assertion, Dr. Wright did not back down, or inquire if he might be mistaken, but rather allowed gratuitously that “I know you get your 40 hours in” and went on to say that faculty time is “flexible”. Perhaps true in his former position and, for all I know, perhaps true for some at this University, but by no means do most, or even a large minority, of members of the Faculty of CSU-Pueblo work “three-days-a-week”. In some of the departments within this University, I know of faculty who put in six or even seven days a week for long stretches during and between semesters. Granted, we may work shorter days on weekends and during semester breaks, but most of us get in far more than our “40 hours”. In my opinion, Dr. Wright has forgotten or does not understand the mindset of a teacher. Perhaps he believes that we all came to teaching, like he did, as an escape from some tedious job. Perhaps he believes that we, as did he, found that teaching gave us a lot of “free time”. This could not be further from the truth for most members of this Faculty. Most of us came to teaching because of our passion for our discipline and for advancing our discipline among the younger generations through teaching and research. We are passionate about our teaching and our research and, as noted above, put in far more than Dr. Wright’s “three-days-a-week”. In fact, most of us knew in advance that we would be committing far more than “40 hours” to our work and we willingly and eagerly accepted the position.

However, no teacher has unlimited time to devote to new “initiatives” dreamed up by the Provost and imposed upon us, or set to be imposed, without any oversight by the Faculty Senate or the CAP Board. A reliable source has communicated that when Dr. Wright was informed of widespread discontent among the Faculty and that, directly attributable to his attitude and actions, many are actively looking for positions elsewhere, he remarked “let them leave – we’ll build from the ground up”. This callous attitude seems typical of Dr. Wright’s approach to the Faculty. He has demonstrated his disregard for our viewpoints and has rejected our expertise. During the CSM Convocation meeting, an experienced and productive biological researcher and scientist tried to explain to Dr. Wright that scientific research requires a significant commitment of time and resources that is not consistent with an increase in credit hour teaching load. At some point, the available time will be insufficient to maintain commitments and something will have to be cut. Either our commitment to our students will have to be curtailed in order to leave time for research, or research productivity will diminish markedly. In his response to this scientist, the Provost simply asserted repeatedly that “I think you can do it” offering as justification that he had managed to maintain his research in business with a 12 credit teaching load. This mindset is revealing: Dr. Wright equates “research” in business with “research” in science; apparently believing “research” in all disciplines requires the same time commitment. This is ludicrous and Dr. Wright should be seeking guidance from those with expertise in fields where he is lacking. But Dr. Wright’s approach so far has been to assert that he knows best and that we are going to have to do whatever he says. I am certain that this University will lose faculty under a Provost with this attitude. And I do not believe it will be easy (possible?) to recruit new faculty under his leadership. I wish Dr. Wright was a good Provost. I wish he was a great Provost. I would reluctantly settle for him being a mediocre Provost. And I and others would work to help him if he showed any genuine desire to gain some understanding of us and our needs, our goals, and our limitations. This University, with our current budgetary and enrollment situation, certainly needs a capable and competent leader in that position. But Dr. Wright is, perhaps, the worst Provost this University has had during my time here. I believe he would have to try in order to be worse at his job than he is. In my opinion, any genuine show of willingness to learn from and cooperate with the Faculty would be an improvement, but I fear it is too late, and Dr. Wright unwilling, to turn this around. I believe a Provost should come from within the University community. He/she should be someone the Faculty knows, trusts, and respects. An outsider is at a disadvantage in this. Ideally, in my opinion, a Provost should be selected from among the Deans. The Deans, themselves, unless they are well-known and respected in their field, should also come from within, since having the trust and respect of the Faculty is also critical for them. Unlike your own position, where a proven leader from outside can quickly earn the respect of the Faculty, the Provost has a harder job to earn that respect. And when the person occupying that office fails to demonstrate concern for, understanding of, and respect for the Faculty, he will never earn respect or trust from the Faculty.

I believe this University can be a good university. Some of our departments are exceptional within the state. A Provost needs to discover these and work with their faculty to ensure no loss in quality. CSU-Pueblo is, I believe, capable of being the “university of first choice” at least for our local and southern Colorado regional students a goal I have worked toward in my own area since coming here. The faculty make up the most critical element in that choice. Without students, there is no need for faculty; without faculty, a university cannot have students. A Provost needs to be aware of this relationship. And finally, a Provost must appreciate what faculty do in order to accurately represent us to you and to the Board of Governors. I believe that Dr. Wright cannot possibly appreciate what we do because he is completely unaware of what we do. Sincerely, David Dillon

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