I was forced to blog as Harrisburg University lacks any mechanism for self-correction. All the power in the organization is concentrated with the provost and he is grossly unqualified to be our chief academic officer. He has never succeed as a faculty member or an academic administrator. Take a hard look at his bio, it's either fluff or business related. BTW, both of those business in his bio no longer exist, so I'm not sure how good of a businessmen he is either. Anyhow, the president is not nicknamed "Do Nothing" without reason, he's been essentially useless. He has never tempered the provost in any way. As the president and the provost are the only ones that speak to the trustees (until recently), it has lead to a complete failure of the organization.
Even within the organization, everything is decided by the provost. Take a look at the HU Student Handbook or the HU Faculty Handbook. You'll see that there are established procedures for grievances, but the provost has the final say on everything. What if your problem is with the provost? What if the provost is a complete idiot? The buck officially stops at the president, but as we've established - he's useless at best.
We have seen how student enrollment is down, retention is pitiful, the president is a liar, the provost is an incompetent buffoon, the school acts fraudulently towards freshman, financial aid is screwed up, the school's mission has been forgotten, there are persistent rumors of financial distress, the registrar devours the young, we have a bloated administration with fat salaries, we don't have enough faculty and genuine science is dying. What else could go wrong? What has to happen before the trustees do something?
How did the university get so far off track?
It's obvious that the administration wants the university to be a business and technology school. It has demonstrated no real interest in STEM or experiential learning, its complete dedication to the underrepresented is a single remedial math class and the school is currently gutting the science faculty. The capital region of Pennsylvania does/did not need another business and technology school. Rather than fight an uphill battle to get a charter, it seems the university latched onto every buzzword ("STEM", "underrepresented" and "experiential learning") they could find. Anything that would distinguish the school, get a charter and help with funding.
The provost's big innovation was to run the university like a business. That model is a complete failure. An academic institution is not akin to a business selling software or sprockets. The faculty and staff are not the employees and the students are not the customers. That, however, is the provost's attitude and the fundamental failure of the institution. The administration feels that they are Harrisburg University. In their minds, the faculty and staff work for them and the students buy their product.
This business-like model of education is at odds with successful academic models. Principles that include shared governance, fiscal transparency and academic integrity are simply incompatible with an approach that takes the power from the community to help and direct themselves. This business-like model has killed the community itself and has lead to Harrisburg University becoming nothing more than a soulless for-profit business and technology institution. Everything about Harrisburg University screams "for profit": the marketing material is all about "hot careers", the marketing is disingenuous ("92 percent of HU students have a job in their major at graduation!"), a shiny building, fake centers of science, and an administration that continuously lies about facts and figures.
The students sense the lack of community, the falseness and administration's air of disinterest in them. Unfortunately, it takes a semester or two before the realize they have been scammed.This is why we have declining enrollment and bottom-of-the-barrel retention.
Can we fix it?
That's really up to you. Is Harrisburg University worth fighting for? I like to think that it is. But there must be fundamental changes made immediately or the school is destine for failure. Read through the blog. You'll see example after example of failures on the part of Harrisburg University in many aspects of accreditation. You'll see examples of Harrisburg University violating Pennsylvania law. One disgruntled employee or a few angry students could topple the whole institution. It's really that bad.
I've heard staff members and administration complaining about this blog. They feel that to reveal these problems to students and the community is just plain wrong. I disagree. If my kid was a student at Harrisburg University, I'd want them to know the truth. Wouldn't you?
Students are not customers that can be hoodwinked, they are part of our community and they deserve our respect. We have an ethical and professional obligation to tell them the truth.
If you feel otherwise, then go get a job selling used cars or something, you don't belong in an academic institution.
What can be done
1) Harrisburg University must acknowledge our problems and take immediate corrective action. This is the only way to avoid losing accreditation.
2) The business-like model of education must be abandoned.
3) Harrisburg University must, from this day forward, be honest in all of their public dealings.
4) Our current administration must be removed.
5) There must be fiscal transparency.
6) There must be shared governance.
7) The faculty must unite and form a community.
8) The faculty, staff and administration must acknowledge that Harrisburg University exists for the benefits of the students and the community, not vice versa.
9) The trustees need to get their heads out of their asses.
10) Our overpaid an overabundant administrators need to be culled.
11) Our academic programs need to be reviewed.
12) Harrisburg University needs real leadership. The selection of new leaders should be decided with input from the entire community.
It's now or never HU community. Do we stand or do we fall?