Wednesday, December 10, 2003


I coined this term personally for my own fear that the administrative chores of my job one day consuming me whole. End of semester does that to a guy. But it also could apply to the fear of administrators actually administering a university for fear of conflict, lawsuits, and dirty laundry being applied in public.

Dick Andzenge, a criminal justice professor here, has penned an explanation of several events on this campus to the local newspaper. Th The St. Cloud Times does not archive their news stories very well -- the links change daily -- so I have archived the article here.

Prof. Andzenge starts with discussion of the dismissal of Dean Lewis. Changing administrators is normal, but SCSU is not a normal place.
At St. Cloud State, ordinary action is suspect, resulting in threats of lawsuits that are often settled in ways more problematic than the original problems. Those settlements cost a lot of money to the state and erode our reputation as a university. Even though the university never acknowledges any wrongdoing, the persistence of these incidences continue to tarnish the image of the university.

Lewis threatens to sue and I hope that for once the university will go to court so the complaint can be resolved by an open and objective evaluation of facts.
Indeed. The anti-semitism case settled last year still have not had its findings or settlement released to the university at large, though I've seen people in the union executive committee carrying copies around. We do not know if the settlement has been fulfilled or not. We do not know its findings. But Prof. Andzenge reveals a good bit of the case.
One department in the college became the focus of controversy when junior faculty resisted established scholarship requirements for retention, promotion and tenure. Lewis' insistence that these people knew the requirements at the time of their employment and that they should abide by them became offensive to them.

A visiting professor applied for a full-time position and was denied. He charged he was being discriminated against.

While this was going on, a report that one of the professors in the same department had submitted fraudulent documents (an application for employment) became public. The professor acknowledged she was being investigated for fraud and admitted she had not published some articles or books she claimed to have done. However, she claimed the investigation was motivated not by her wrongdoing, but by the fact that she had supported the other professor.

A careful investigation by the university could have established whether the actions of the faculty search committee, the department chair and the dean were proper or whether both professors were wronged.

The university engaged several external groups to examine perceptions of discrimination and the racial climate on campus. Each of the groups concluded there are perceptions of discrimination.
We spent a good deal of time on those perceptions last year (see our best-of list on the left index for additional information). It is in fact this process that lead to the anti-semitism settlement. Adminisphobia in this case was displayed by Prof. Andzenge then discusses another, new twist on adminisphobia.
Another result of settling claims without establishing facts and holding people accountable is that more people in the system refuse to be held accountable.

In recent years, some faculty members have sought and received the right to not be supervised by their deans. This action makes departments ungovernable.

Some professors use this tactic to intimidate their colleagues, avoid peer review, claim tenure or promotion they have not legitimately earned and to cheat students of proper education.
This is being applied both to deans and to professors in contentious departments evaluating their peers. Where I agree most strongly with Prof. Andzenge is that we are using group judgments like anti-semitism and adminisphobia to avoid individual accountability. Because that case was settled, there is no finding of fact that can ever clear a former dean's good name, or the faculty member accused of academic dishonesty. They are both smeared.

Adminisphobia damages academic departments by not permitting them to enforce academic standards for promotion and tenure. The use of exclusions from dean- or peer-supervision is in fact a breach of academic freedom. Faculty members' productivity is interdependent with the productivity of other members of their department. Influence over that environment is vital to their careers. Deans provide an interested arbiter who, when they act objectively, buttress the departmental standards that have been mutually agreed, as well as enforcing university-wide standards for teaching and research. New faculty (particularly those who are on fixed terms) are made aware of the standards. If they do not agree, they should not sign contracts to join.

It is likely that adminisphobia is leading to the disintegration of departments. It has destroyed one in our college and is in the process of destroying another. As the discussion on the newspaper's website suggests, the responsibility for this begins and ends at the President's Office. (And look what he shows on his site now -- where is he???)

UPDATE: Archived the article, by permission of the author.