This is the nineteenth post in an ongoing series as we file Missouri Sunshine Law (RSMo 610) requests and investigate the non-renewal of the contract of University of Central Missouri President Aaron Podolefsky. Links to previous coverage are below the fold. BG and MB
We heard complaints from individuals on campus that the local radio station was not accurate in representing the results of a campus survey and was using those misrepresentations to bludgeon University of Central Missouri President Aaron Podolefsky on the air.
We were given a copy of a letter (and an attached analysis) sent in February to the University’s Board of Governors by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. We understand the board replied with a terse response only indicating that they received the materials submitted by the commission.
20th February, 2009
Dear UCM Board of Governors.
The President’s Commission on the Status of Women is in the process of communicating its analysis and recommendations for the UCM Campus Climate Study. The PCSW is deeply concerned about the actions of a local Warrensburg radio station (KOKO) during the analysis and recommendation phase of the study. The station inaccurately reported results of the study and pre-empted a clearly defined, thoughtful process. An analysis of the remarks was conducted by one of our committee members and is attached for reference.
In our opinion, these actions and inaccurate statements were detrimental to our process and the university. We fully support free speech and the exchange of ideas and understand the right of the media to report on the activities of a state-supported university. At the same time, we expect the media to report accurately and act ethically. To this point, the members of the commission understand that KOKO radio is involved in an ongoing business relationship with UCM. The PCSW would like to request a formal response from the board as to why this business relationship is allowed to continue, in light of the public comments made by this station.
We look forward to continuing our efforts to make UCM a better place to work, live and study and appreciate your support.
It appears that another group of individuals on campus holds a dim view of self-labeled “fair and balanced” media.
The analysis by a member of the commission submitted with the letter to the Board of Governors:
I was concerned about the summary of the climate study that was characterized as “exposing deficiencies in UCM Leadership” by the local radio station. In fact, since it was a campus climate study, there were few actual questions about leadership. In addition, there were no questions across both faculty and staff surveys about “senior leadership.” Rather, there were questions about managers and university leadership in a survey about campus climate overall. There is not a sense of overall “poor leadership.”
The UCM organizational climate study did not list a top three areas for improvement. The consultants listed general conclusions/recommendations in no particular order. In addition, there were actually three surveys: one was administered to students, another to staff members, and a third to faculty. While there was some overlap in the three, the questions varied, and the results were not the same across all three surveys.
Some recommendations listed regarding the student surveys (644 responses) were: reducing racial and sexual discrimination (14% of the female students have experienced sexual discrimination, 27% of non-white students have experienced racial discrimination), improving relations between students and campus/Warrensburg police (55% feel campus police treat them fairly, 43% feel that Warrensburg police treat them fairly), improving connections with academic advisors (58% feel their academic advisors care about them as a person), and improving mechanisms students have for voicing concerns (although 59% agree students have mechanisms to voice their issues). In addition, 83% were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with UCM. 83% feel that UCM staff treat them with respect, 85% are satisfied with the education they are receiving, 81% feel valued by their professors. 89% are comfortable interacting with people from different racial backgrounds and 68% socialize with those from different racial backgrounds, and 82% feel safe on campus.
Some recommendations listed regarding the staff surveys (573 responses) were: improve perception of university administration and its role (66% either very satisfied or satisfied with the job department managers were doing, 47% either very satisfied or satisfied with the job mid-level managers were doing, and 32% either very satisfied or satisfied with the job senior managers were doing) communication between university and staff (39% said they were satisfied with communications at UCM, 31% feel they have adequate methods to voice their issues to the university), clear objectives for recognition and advancement (18% agree university promotions and reclassifications are fair and equitable), and competitive pay (only 24% satisfied). It should be made clear that staff members were not asked about the university leadership per se. They were asked about their opinions of “department managers, mid-level managers, and senior management.” In conversations with some staff members, they took those questions to pertain more to HR (human resources) than to the academic leadership of the university. In addition, these questions about managers were in the context of a survey about campus climate, particularly in relation to discrimination towards minorities, so it is quite possible that respondents were responding in regards to managers and this particular issue, not overall. Overall satisfaction is 74%. In general, staff members were satisfied with their work relationships: 89% agree staff treat faculty with respect, 85% agree staff treat students with respect, 76% felt valued by their colleagues. They thought of themselves as supportive of minorities, 85% would report an act of discrimination if witnessed, 80% are comfortable interacting with GBLT minorities, 95% are comfortable interacting with racial/ethnic minorities, and 90% feel the university is a safe place to work. However, concern was expressed about discrimination on campus, particularly gender discrimination (21% had experienced) and job position discrimination (34%).
Some recommendations listed regarding the faculty (319 responses) were: improving communication (48% very satisfied or satisfied, 69% neutral overall), that the university needs to do a better job of managing perceptions/leadership (67% agree or strongly agree that they are satisfied with leadership at the department level, 13% neither agree nor disagree; 57% agree or strongly agree that they are satisfied by the job done by college leadership, 24% neutral; 29% strongly agree or agree that they are satisfied with university leadership, 29% neither agree nor disagree). However, “leadership” is likely defined differently by different faculty. Some could also only be thinking of leadership and discrimination issues given the context of the survey. They could also be thinking of leadership historically and concerns about leadership not staying long. There are no questions which relate solely to the President of the university and university leadership is comprised of more than just the president. On the whole, faculty were happy with their work relationships (74.7 very satisfied or satisfied with work relationships; 71% proud to work at UCM, 20% neutral; 71.1% overall are satisfied with their work life at UCM, 16.4% neutral.) 42% of women reported experiencing gender discrimination, 40% of female faculty surveyed reported racial/ethnic di
scrimination, and 20% of male faculty reported racial discrimination.
There is little to support the claim that staff and faculty “feared” to answer the survey honestly. Of the staff surveyed, 68.4% were completely honest in completing the questionnaire, 29% reported that they were honest in completing the survey “mostly, I have some concerns about confidentiality, and 2.3% reported “not completely, I have concerns about confidentiality.” Of the faculty surveyed, 72.9% were completely honest in completing the questionnaire, 24.1% reported that they were honest in completing the survey “mostly, I have some concerns about confidentiality, and 1.7% reported “not completely, I have concerns about confidentiality.” There could be concern about naming co-workers in their comments, concerns about online surveys in general, concerns that the results could be used inappropriately by others– we simply do not know. Having concerns and fearing are hardly the same.
On the whole, the university can improve on many issues, but it would be erroneous to assert from this data that there is a widespread concern about poor leadership on campus. We can be proud of the overall satisfaction of our students and use these results to move forward to make the campus climate even better.
The commission stated: “…We fully support free speech and the exchange of ideas and understand the right of the media to report on the activities of a state-supported university…” We resemble that remark.
Well, the board was silent then, and it’s publicly silent now.
Our previous coverage:
Three steps behind, and to the right (January 25, 2008)
Three steps behind, and to the right, part 2 – a microcosm of our universe (September 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”? (October 15, 2009) (transcript of a portion of the live radio broadcast)
It wasn’t just about a tree (October 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: I heard it on the radio (October 21, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: let’s not get cut out of the will (October 22, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: $87.75 will get you one sheet of paper (October 23, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: They’re not playing hardball, they’re playing cat and mouse (October 23, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: a cola and some scoreboards (October 24, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: a few more pieces of the puzzle? (October 28, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: your silence means consent (October 29, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: let’s not get cut out of the will, part 2 (October 30, 2009)
Old media irony impairment (October 30, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement?”: I heard it on the radio, part 2 (October 31, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: where everybody knows your name (October 31, 2009)
Methinks that someone is paying attention! (November 2, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: Bond, Stadium Bond (November 4, 2009)
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”?: where everybody knows your name, part 2 (November 4, 2009)