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The combination of
a heavy workload,
doubts about faculty
evaluation procedures
and the “two tier”
mix of tenured and
contract professors
has made FGCU a less
attractive alternative
than some expected.
Said Chuck Lindsey, “We were able to hire
very good people because we were new and
different. Now the question is, can we keep
them? Can that level of quality be sustained?”
So far, 20 professors, more than ten
percent of the full-time faculty, have resigned,
a far higher defection rate than other faculty
contract schools, like Evergreen State or
Hampshire College, have experienced.
Vice President Richter said many of the
resignations have been in the business school,
“where faculty are very mobile because of high
demand” for their services.
But others suggested that the combination
of a heavy workload, doubts about faculty
evaluation procedures and the “two tier” mix
of tenured and contract professors, among
other reasons, have made FGCU a less
attractive alternative than some expected.
Academic freedom, presumably a major
advantage of the tenure system, seldom
was mentioned during interviews with
FGCU faculty members. However, several
said they were reluctant to criticize campus
administrators because they feared reprisals.
“Since I learned that our collective
bargaining agreement does not guarantee
the right to speak out on campus issues, I’ve
found I had much less to say about things like
university governance,” said historian Eric
Strahorn, whose contract is up for renewal.
“There’s an orthodoxy here, and you have
to repeat it even if it isn’t true and you don’t
believe it,” said a professor who does not expect
contract renewal but still was reluctant to be identified.
But others disagreed.
“Our faculty senate meetings are
open, and I haven’t seen any reluctance to
speak up,” said Chuck Lindsey, the senate
chair. “I know some people feel that way,
and the only way to deal with it is to
establish a solid track record.”
President McTarnaghan brushed
aside suggestions that complaining
faculty members might not have their
contracts renewed. He said these were
the comments of those who “want to
blow up bridges, not build them.”
“We have had very good luck in
our staffing, and I expect most of the
contracts will be renewed,” McTarnaghan
said. “The union said we were going
to hire a bunch of people on contracts
and then fire most of them. Why would
we do that, after spending hundreds of
thousands of dollars to hire and train them?
“If I had listened to the union, the world would have
ended several times by now,” he continued. “In 1993, when
we were planning this campus (McTarnaghan was then a
systemwide university official), the union president said, ‘We
will bury you! You will never open! No faculty will apply!’”
But faculty members did apply, in large numbers, and
the doors opened on time, despite environmental battles,
construction delays, the accreditation furor, the inflexibility
of state laws and university regulations and a host of other
problems.
“I’d say 95 percent of what we planned to do has worked
out,” said McTarnaghan, now nearing the end of his six years
as the campus’ founding president. “I feel like I brought home
a new child to a family that was waiting for one.”
A somewhat more measured estimate of campus
prospects was offered by Jack Crocker, dean of the College of
Arts and Sciences: “Much will depend on how we handle the
research issue, how we treat faculty, how we handle academic
freedom. And it’s going to be a few years before we will know
any of that.”
u
Roy E. McTarnaghan, founding president of Florida Gulf Coast University, will
leave the job at the end of May.