MCC faculty to hold no-confidence vote against President Anne Kress
Faculty members at Monroe Community College are scheduled vote today and tomorrow on a resolution of no confidence against MCC President Anne Kress.
Leaders of the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Association, which represents 694 professors, adjuncts, and non-teaching professionals, say they do not respect Kress as a leader.
"She's wonderful at making people feel comfortable, at presenting herself as someone who cares and is interested,” said Faculty Association President Bethany Gizzi, “but that does not go beyond that surface level. She doesn't really engage and listen and hear people's concerns to the point where she is going to respond to them."
The resolution outlines a list of 68 grievances against Kress and her leadership team, some of which Gizzi and Faculty Senate President Amanda Colosimo said have been mounting for several years.
The claims range from dissatisfaction with labor contracts to the development of academic plans without faculty input. They also include alleged intimidation of employees who are afraid to voice their complaints directly to Kress and other administrators for fear that they will lose their jobs.
"People do not feel safe here,” said Colosimo. “In the last month, I've gotten probably close to a dozen anonymous notes and spreadsheets and things that are shoved under my office door. I've had people call me and write me and tell me they feel that their phones are being monitored by people in administration."
College spokesperson Cynthia Mapes said in an email that employee phone calls are not monitored and the college has no reports from employees of such a concern.
Kress also denied that employees have reason to be fearful.
"There's no evidence at the college that anyone who has spoken up with concerns about myself or the administration -- whether publicly at the board of trustees meeting or privately in Faculty Senate meetings -- has ever faced any retaliation,” Kress told WXXI News. “In fact, it's interesting that that would be their perspective because sometimes people are speaking up at board of trustee meetings at which they themselves are being promoted."
Kress said many of the faculty grievances are unfounded or incomplete representations of events.
"It disappoints me,” she said of the no-confidence vote. “It saddens me. I have confidence in our college; I have confidence in our faculty; I have confidence in our students and I welcome the opportunity to continue dialogue."
But both Colosimo and Gizzi describe a broken line of communication between faculty and college leadership.
“Faculty and staff have been speaking at the board of trustees’ open forums. That’s something that I’ve been doing,” Gizzi said. “The union is not recognized as a part of shared governance, so we don’t have a formal way to communicate with the board so I have to sign up for the open forum to speak to them directly. We’ve been bringing some concerns to them through that process for years without any response.”
Gizzi said there is a pattern in Kress' nine years as president of stalled contract negotiations with the faculty union. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, the talks failed to reach an agreement and went into arbitration. Union members have been working without a contract since August.
Gizzi said Kress approaches the union with a dismissive attitude.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Kress. “When I was in graduate school, I was a union organizer for the United Faculty of Florida. We have strong union relations with our other large union, CSEA, and haven’t really reached the same difficulties at the table with that union, even though they bargain very hard on behalf of their membership.”
Kress speculated that the challenges of limited financial resources and declining enrollment are at the heart of some of the faculty frustrations.
"That makes life difficult for people,” she said. “There are expectations individuals might have about what they would teach and when they would teach that really aren't being carried forth anymore because of the demands of our students, the needs of our students, and where their interests lie."
There has been an increase in no-confidence votes against presidents and chancellors at colleges and universities nationwide, according to independent research cited last May by The Wall Street Journal. The trend was attributed by faculty leaders to the fact that institutions were looking to expand in lean financial times while enrollment was declining.
The report said while most no-confidence votes result in the departure of the colleges’ president within a year, the votes can be an effective tool for professors to leverage more influence in decision-making and financial priorities.
This week’s no-confidence vote by MCC faculty is a symbolic one, according to Gizzi, that will reflect how employees feel about Kress' leadership.
If the resolution passes, it would then be up to the college’s board of trustees to decide whether to take action.
“We are asking the board of trustees to hold a transparent evaluation of Dr. Kress and to listen to our concerns about her leadership and management,” Gizzi said. “We want the board to be receptive to the concerns and the communications that we have been bringing to them for the past year.”
Board president Barbara Lovenheim declined a request for an interview with WXXI News, but issued a written statement in support of Kress and her leadership team.
The statement said, in part: “MCC has a clear shared governance policy that articulates and provides ways in which employees and students can participate in college governance. There are many ways in which employees and students can participate in college governance.”
Faculty leaders will make the results of the no-confidence vote public on Monday, November 26.