In criticizing others, we sometimes reveal things about ourselves.
Like the matter of the no-confidence vote recently taken by Monroe Community College faculty members.
Of the 60% of teachers who participated, 88% of them said they had no confidence in college President Anne Kress.
It was a literal fulfillment of their negotiating threat: “No contract, no confidence.”
Not given what they want at the bargaining table, they have decided to destroy a woman’s reputation and career.
But negotiations are hard ball and unions do that and the vote can’t be seen as a surprise.
But the vote, combined with the public conduct of the teachers and the two organizations that represent them, does indicate a certain culture of narcissism and self-importance among the MCC faculty that is unseemly at best.
In expressing no confidence in the college president, faculty members may have shaken public confidence in themselves and in their professionalism.
Last night, as the president was speaking before a large gathering at a meeting of the board of trustees, her remarks were met with sneers and boos, with faculty leaders making juvenile faces as she spoke.
They didn’t look like college professors, they looked like spoiled brats. They looked like ill-mannered elementary school students.
They looked and sounded like punks and bullies.
In front of TV cameras, of their own volition.
As Anne Kress was graciously saying that no confidence was a one-way street – that she respected and appreciated them and their service – they were cutting up like adolescents in need of detention.
It left you with the feeling that if Kress has a weakness as president, it is in her hiring standards.
It’s hard to see the conduct of college professors on the evening news and believe that they can be very good leaders in the classroom. If moms and dads are pointing at the evening news stories recounting MCC teachers’ antics and telling their children, “Don’t be like that,” you know something is wrong.
And that something may be the odd flowering of the entitlement culture in the college classroom.
We thought the problem was the students. It turns out it might be the teachers.
Or it might be that the proper reaction to the realities of small-town small-college challenges in economically depressed upstate New York is collegiality instead of demonization.
Kress and her college and its teachers are facing real challenges. More and more incoming students need remediation instead of actual education, a contracting region provides a shrinking student pool, a stressed tax base makes desired funding unattainable, the very paradigm of American higher education is becoming dysfunctional. It’s a huge challenge.
And instead of working like a team, the faculty has decided to have a fight.
It wants Anne Kress to be fired.
It wants blood on the altar of its arrogance.
In a day when this or that perceived slight can only be addressed by the sacking of a dean or president, you’re nobody if you haven’t gotten somebody fired.
And in the era of activist and entitled college professors, organization charts are forgotten and those whose job it is to follow insist on the prerogative of leading.
The academy becomes the fiefdom of those who teach 100- and 200-level courses.
And spectacles like the one last night before the trustees play themselves out.
So let’s reset, and remind ourselves of what’s real and true.
The various teachers, of every rank and title, at Monroe Community College have the potential every day to impact for good the educations and lives of young people who desperately need a good start in life. In very large measure, those teachers care and excel, and those young people are blessed.
Likewise, Anne Kress is a person of legitimate and impressive achievement. She has done, for years, an excellent job of leading MCC and balancing the varied interests inherent in that. She deals with competing priorities, as any leader must, and she does so in a fashion that has been well received by the trustees, elected officials, students and the community. She makes hard decisions, and asks people to do more with less, and to give the students and the taxpayers a good return on their investment. She raises the bar and expects people – beginning with herself – to meet high expectations.
The path forward is through partnership, not attack.
And the sooner the faculty understands that, the better – for the college and its students, and for the community that pays for the whole thing.
Because Anne Kress is the b-word.
She is the boss.
And she has the confidence of the community.
And the faculty may want to consider that its perspective is not only different, it is wrong. And its antics are damaging to its own perception in the public eye.
Which isn’t going to help with that contract very much.