Thursday, May 31, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dear Harrisburg University Faculty

You have a professional and ethical obligation to stand up for the students and to act appropriately to protect the university. I understand that if you stand up against the administration you'll probably get fired. At this point does it really matter? How long before the university simply runs out of money and goes under? How long before PDE or MSCHE acts? You are culpable for the mess at Harrisburg University too. It's not enough to just collect your paycheck and keep your head down. Where is the faculty leadership?

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Just a quick reminder; Employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act are afforded certain rights to join together to improve their wages and working conditions, with or without a union.

Employees who are not represented by a union also have rights under the NLRA. Specifically, the National Labor Relations Board protects the rights of employees to engage in “protected concerted activity”, which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting on the authority of other employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, trying to induce group action, or seeking to prepare for group action. - National Labor Relations Board

I said way back in the first post that this blog was part of an effort to "improve working conditions for the faculty and staff" at Harrisburg University. Now is the time! Stand up for yourselves and stand up for the students. Faculty and staff need fair working conditions and fair contracts. If the faculty and staff had job security, the university would be a different place.

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You can fight back. Contact local politicians, file complaints with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.

Harrisburg University swirling the drain, senior administration flee. American Old West museum to be built on 10th floor.

Most of you in the Harrisburg University community probably know by now that HU President Mel Schiavelli has resigned his position and taken a job as a VP at a community college. You've probably figured out that moving from the president of a university to a VP of a community college is not an upward move. A VP at Northern Virginia Community College makes about half the salary that Schiavelli was paid at Harrisburg University. His reason for leaving? “It’s time for me to think about my own retirement planning since HU does not offer any retirement benefits.”

Schiavelli isn't the only administrator to leave this month:  
The VP of Alumni Relations, Ryan Riley has also decided to leave. The May 2012 graduation was the last event he planned for Harrisburg University.

Harrisburg University's Associate VP of Human Resources has decided to pursue a career helping people and small businesses reach their goals. This leaves Harrisburg University without a single employee in the HR department. This apparently does not concern anyone on the Board of Trustees. You might be thinking to yourself, how does a university remain operational without an HR department? Because that's what I'm thinking.

The university also recently lost:
The Director of Assessment, a senior faculty member, the staff accountant and the grant writer.

It seems that Harrisburg University is not just hemorrhaging students, they are now losing key employees at an alarming rate.

Could it be that they see the writing on the wall? 
The Patriot-News recently broke the story that Harrisburg University is indeed in some hot water financially. The University has been borrowing money from Dauphin County to cover operating expenses and to make its bond payments. The university has already defaulted on one loan. Additionally, the university is being sued by the Harrisburg Parking Authority for failure to pay as promised. In other words, if  Dauphin County hadn't given Harrisburg University money, the school would be out of business. How far do the good people of Harrisburg, Dauphin County and Pennsylvania have to carry Harrisburg University, a private institution? The city, state, country, and even the financially strapped Harrisburg School District have all given Harrisburg University millions of dollars. The result of all this co-operation? 150 graduates, a nice building and millions and millions of $ of debt that the University can't repay. [Edit: 5/31: Roxbury News deserves the credit for breaking the story about the HU loans and missed bond payment.]

Harrisburg University has squandered it's money on ridiculous crap like plasma displays in the lobby, $100K hamster balls, month long vacations recruiting trips to China, and exorbitant salaries. They should have been concentrating on building strong academic programs in line with their mission instead. Strong programs attract and retain students, build a solid reputation and produce quality graduates. Harrisburg University needed(s) strong qualified leadership to keep it lean and mean through it's genesis.

So who did the Board of Trustees decide should lead the university out of this mess? 
Well, in their tradition of being complete fucking idiots, they appointed Eric Darr to lead the University out of its financial emergency and academic boondoggle. Of course Darr is directly and largely responsible for the mess in the first place, but there is no sense in attempting to apply logic to decisions by the Board of Trustees. Darr is grossly under qualified to be a provost, and even more so to be a college president. I guess we shouldn't be surprised considering this is the same Board of Trustees that let ex-mayor Stephen Reed be a faculty member (even though he has no college degree) and allowed him to be an actual Trustee too. I for one am looking forward to the Harrisburg University of the American Old West. Anyhow, I digress.

Here are the bios from other local college presidents:

John J. Sygielski, HACC

Lex O. McMillan III, Albright College

Carl J. Strikwerda, E-Town College

You'll note that they all have years of experience in academia, and not a single one of them brags about "book chapters" they may have written nor do they brag about running business that no longer exist.

Harrisburg University needs an independent audit of its finances, new leadership and a new Board of Trustees. Probably not gonna' happen though.

Harrisburg University is screwed. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Harrisburg University Provost Eric Darr is less than ethical. Schiavelli changes Darr's title to "Provost Mini Me"

 I'm Mini Me. Come and get me!
Just a few weeks ago Provost Eric Darr did a radio interview for Enterprise Radio. You can listen to it here if you are so inclined. At -7:06 into the interview you'll hear Darr state that Harrisburg University has "24 undergraduate degree programs and 16 masters degree programs." As you may recall from my last post this is a lot like what HU has been claiming in press releases. The press releases state "Harrisburg University offers 24 undergraduate and 35 graduate programs." Neither one of those statements are true, Harrisburg University does not offer 40 degree programs like the Provost falsely claims, nor 59 programs like the press releases claim. Harrisburg University offers EIGHT degree programs. That's it.

At -2:21 you"ll hear Darr talking about some of the ways Harrisburg University has helped students be entrepreneurial. He says HU brought in "a talented ahhh game designer from a well known game company who's been successful in designing those sorts of ahhh businesses. Umm to act as... a coach and role model." You guys know who he's talking about right? You know the well known game designer that umm has designed famous games like ummm at that company that ummm yeah. I don't know who he's talking about either, since that person doesn't exist at HU. 

It appears that Provost Mini Me has taken a queue from President Schiavelli and is playing fast an loose with the facts. Once again, Darr fails to act with honesty and integrity. Harrisburg University's deceptive advertising and public relations is simply unethical and unacceptable. The entire university risks the loss of accreditation. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (HU's accrediting body) requires its member institutions act with honest and integrity.