Newspapers Notice "Tension" At Edison. Ya Think?

KY Ignores Wholesale Woodshedding From Reed To Rant About "Blogs," and "Facebooks"; Murray, Apparently Visiting Mars During Reed's Presentation, offers KY " of confidence."

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Brown News Service
by Melanie Yingst

PIQUA - Tension between Edison Community College administrators and staff continued Wednesday during a board of trustees meeting.

As the chairman of Edison's academic senate and assistant professor of Internet Technologies, Brad Reed was "apprised" by President Dr. Kenneth A. Yowell to limit his time to 10 minutes and to only address the president's e-mail sent March 24 concerning non-renewal of employee contracts and the conditions of the state budget.

Reed claimed to be the designated spokesman for the group concerning the March 27 resolution of "no confidence in President Yowell" by a vote of 44-1, with four abstentions.

In an article published April 1 in the Piqua Daily Call, Jack Kramer, Edison director of marketing and public relations, said the projected state funding reflects a severe and further drop in subsidy, access dollars, and tuition buy-down funds from two years ago.

Kramer said the Academic Senate's no-confidence vote for Yowell followed his communication to the institution that his "over-riding goal is to re-employ all staff for the new fiscal year beginning July 1," despite the serious state funding situation for higher education. Given no tuition increases for the next two years as mandated by the state - and given what may be a 50 percent cut in state assistance for Edison when the state higher education budget is determined at the end of June or in early July - the college will have a serious challenge in balancing its new budget, Kramer said.

Reed responded to Kramer's comments made in the April 1 article stating "with no other context, one might be led to believe that Edison is likely to receive half the state subsidy dollars next year as we received this year, but that is a gross distortion far from the truth. The truth is, the so-called reduction in state subsidy is actually a reduction of the amount of increase from the last biennium, not a reduction in dollars."

Reed said that members of the academic senate and others follow the state budget through the Ohio Board of Regents Web site and other sources of information.

Reed cited an article in the Piqua Daily Call earlier that week that named Edison the "second-fastest growing higher education institution in the state."

"If that is to be believed, then it certainly does not seem like the time to be reducing faculty and other key academic positions," Reed said.

"Some would like to characterize this as a faculty tantrum," Reed said. "However, our concerns are shared across all sectors of the college: faculty, administrators, classified employees, retirees and former employees, students, alumni and area employers; all have the vitality of Edison Community College in their hearts and minds.

"Notification of non-continuation is a declaration that the college does not intend to renew the contract. That is a courtesy to the employee, to give him or her adequate time to seek employment elsewhere before the current contract expires," Reed said.

"However in the president's e-mail he states, 'the overriding goal is to maintain full employment.' This is exactly opposite an intent to non-renew. In fact, it states an intent to continue employment. So either the letters of intent were sent in error, or the president is speaking in contradiction; you cannot intend to non-renew more than 60 professional employees and at the same time intend to maintain full employment; the two are mutually exclusive.

Reed also said that if the e-mail had a "clumsy misinterpretation of contract language or board policy, I doubt Academic Senate would have been moved to a vote of no confidence."

"However, the consequences of the wholesale notification of non-continuation are real, tragic and absurd," he said.

Reed said the "tragic" part of the e-mail is that good staff has reasonable doubt of employment beyond June and are seeking employment elsewhere and students are now in doubt whether they can continue at Edison and are considering transferring due to possible program cuts.

"No one really believes that even a significant fraction of those will be gone, but there has been no evidence presented of any transparent process of determining value added to the college and therefore staff are terrified that re-employment is contingent upon not crossing the wrong people or that non-renewal is retaliatory for some perceived disloyalty or offense - that's tragic," Reed said.

Reed also said that a math faculty member was given notice of non-continuation while chairing a search committee to hire another math instructor for next year.

"That's beyond absurd. It is evidence of a tragic lack of planning and sufficient to warrant a vote of no confidence," Reed said.

Reed ended his presentation by saying, "You ask for trust, but in a secretive and suspicious working environment, no trust is possible. You ask for our confidence that you will do the right thing, but given the disconnect between what we hear from our president and what we hear from other sources, no confidence is possible."

Following Reed's presentation, Yowell said his comments were "up to the eyes of the interpreter but I do have my own thoughts about the basics.

"Now this crowd here today is not here because our board meetings are exciting" Yowell said. "They can be like watching paint dry - they are here for a reason.

"I first want to tell all the people here that no one has been non-renewed and no one has been fired and if anyone has told you that, they've been lying to you."

Yowell said he was more concerned with the "behavior on this campus than I am anything else," and that he does care about what people say and think of him but "I will not let negative comments distract me from making the best decisions I need to make.

"A vote of no confidence is one thing, but this (garbage) going around it is entirely uncalled for," Yowell said noting blogs and Facebook messages about his performance stating he has no respect for the people involved in those activities.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm mostly ashamed of the handful of people and their deliberate extortions," Yowell said that have created a story of fear on the campus and "besmirching the names of the good people who work here.

"I do have full confidence in the majority of the faculty and staff and administration and classified employees, but who will step forward with me to point the compass of this college true north - none of us can do it alone."

Yowell said that in concerns to the state budget that is in question, he would gladly provide the names and addresses of the state legislators.

"He has my full vote of confidence. I realize we've got major hurdles, major problems but I think we can get through this together," said Board of Trustees Chairman Doug Murray before closing the meeting for an executive work session.

After the meeting, Reed said he would have liked to have had a chance to refute Yowell's comments during the meeting. Reed also mentioned he and another faculty member were removed from the president's cabinet Tuesday.

"He told us that we were no longer welcome and our services were no longer needed," Reed said. "He wants us to trust he'll make the right call - we don't trust him."

Reed is a full-time assistant professor, hired in 2000.

Yowell has served as the college president for 21 years.

Edison enrolled 3,300 credit students for the 2008-2009 academic year. Classes are offered on the main campus in Piqua, at the Darke County Campus in Greenville, and at locations in West Milton and Tipp City.

The Academic Senate of nearly 60 voting members comprises all full-time faculty and several specified administrative representatives.

[Ed Note--The Illuminator is a publication of the highest order, ethical standards and professional bearing. We would never extort anything from anybody.]

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