Volume 46 Number 1
Ethics comes first, even if we’d like to get rid of them
By Alan Frey
CCA Staff Consultant
It’s happened to almost every association president: A member of some other community colleges’ screening committee calls and tells you that one of your managers is a finalist for a job in a new district.
So what do you do when asked about your opinions of the applicant?
Warm and wonderful
If the person is a warm and wonderful human being, you may be perplexed about the thought of losing him or her to another district, but your admiration of the person will likely direct you to a glowing recommendation.
But what if the reverse is true, that you consider along with most of your colleagues, that the individual is ineffective and should not even have the position they currently hold?
On the one hand, you may be tempted to give a favorable endorsement of the applicant in the hope that you will be rid of them once and for all and that this will become someone else’s problem.
But perhaps your sense of ethics dictates that you should tell the screening committee member what you really think – that the individual doesn’t have the skills to be a manager anywhere, including your own district.
So you are left with the dilemma, tell the truth, or tell less than the truth, and hope that they become someone else’s problem.
It is an age-old question and there are human resources managers who have overcome the problem with a set of scripted answers that call for reading between the lines. Comments like: “he is an independent thinker” (not a team player), “has creative ideas” (breaks the rules), “has worked for us for 10 years” (but we would love to see her go), and “handles paperwork efficiently” (can’t get along with people).
Much like the letters of recommendation that follow a negotiated departure, the hidden meaning is as evasive as obtaining increased funding for the community colleges.
Recently a chapter president from northern California called and asked my opinion of how he should handle just such a request from a screening committee member at another college. In this instance there is universal belief that the college morale and efficiency would be better off if the person got the job at the new college. The president immediately grasped the conundrum. He would love to see the administrator depart but was reluctant to pass him on to some unsuspecting college faculty. So what to do?
Tell the truth
Yes, I recommended that he tell the truth even though the outcome would likely be that we will have to suffer for years to come. The reality is that compromising one’s ethics for personal gain is not the path to take. The alternative is to buckle down and work to improve the skills of the manager, or, as a last resort work to have them relieved of the management position.
Many of us have witnessed the musical chairs that some administrators have managed to exercise. Moving from college to college just ahead of the axe has, for some administrators, become de rigueur up to their full retirement.
The reality is that there is no right answer. Management in the community colleges remains a revolving door between colleges, regardless of performance. That is not to say that there are not some good managers out there, but until we, as faculty, exercise some responsibility for the evaluation of management performance, the dance will go on.
AB 1725 the community college reform bill which recommended (not mandated) faculty peer review, also encouraged faculty evaluation of management. But when was the last time you heard of this provision of the bill?
Perhaps that is where we need to begin.