The W. A. Franke College of Business (FCB) has gone through numerous leadership and faculty changes since the spring 2019 semester. While there has been progress made throughout the past few months within the college, other concerns have only intensified.
Summer 2019 marked a time of leadership turnover within the college. One position that was resolved outside of the FCB was the new provost for NAU, Diane Stearns, who appointed in March. Stearns was the previous interim dean of the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences, and she became the fourth provost in four years.
An open forum took place June 27 between the provost and FCB faculty. During the forum, there were discussions regarding planning and strategies to fill the dean position, faculty hires and reaccreditation.
It was during this meeting that the responsibility and “blame” for the low morale and leadership issues within the college was pointed directly at the faculty and staff within the FCB, rather than higher administration.
“It’s been a really rough year,” an anonymous long-tenured staffer within the FCB said. “You have to dig deep to find your motivation to come back and do it all over again.”
The Lumberjack reported various issues within the FCB in May. The problems stemmed from the direct impact of NAU’s higher administration decision-making and faculty morale. Pressure mounted when the ratio between tenured Ph.D. scholarly positions and non-tenured faculty were unaligned for Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) accreditation.
AACSB International placed NAU on a continuous improvement review to give the FCB a year to address the ratio concerns.
According to the review committee, the FCB falls “substantially below AACSB recommended guidelines.”
One of the most significant shortfalls came from the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree, which only has 27.5% scholarly academic faculty. The required ratio is typically 40%. Another deficiency is in finance, where only 24% of faculty are scholarly academics, according to the AACSB International report.
However, concerns over maintaining accreditation are not strong. It is rare for an AACSB International accredited school to lose accreditation, and NAU has taken steps in securing its license.
One of those steps started with the hiring of new interim dean Eileen Hogan who began her role July 29. Hogan is a former dean and Professor Emerita at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and is principal of Eileen Hogan Consulting, an accreditation and assessment collegiate consulting business.
Hogan will serve as interim dean for the 2019-20 academic year, as NAU continues its search for a long-term dean.
Hogan impressed faculty with her experience with the AACSB International accreditation process, strategic planning and transparency — all of which were issues for the FCB last year.
There is no worry from Hogan regarding whether or not the school will maintain accreditation.
“It is doable,” Hogan said. “[The review team] has set out what we need to do, and we’re going to do it.”
NAU President Rita Cheng said the university approved the hiring of nine tenured faculty to help with their ratios by fall 2020. However, multiple sources, including interim dean Hogan, state there are only eight tenured-track lines. Regardless, it will be up to an internal search committee within the FCB to find those faculty.
President Cheng has also made her presence more known in the FCB after The Lumberjack reported last spring that there was a lack of involvement from the university’s president, who has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Rhode Island.
“There are numerous times throughout the academic year where I am invited by faculty to talk with a class or an FCB leadership group,” Cheng said. “I anticipate having many opportunities this year and always enjoy engaging with our talented students.”
Cheng said that she was invited to speak to FCB student ambassadors during a day-long training event at the beginning of the 2019 fall semester.
“We’re in a better position than we were a year ago,” FCB associate professor Eric Yordy said. “We’re looking forward to hiring these new faculty members, and that’s a positive. I think Hogan is coming in and saying we can articulate things better and do better outreach to make sure upper administration knows what we’re doing.”
Last spring, an anonymous letter was sent to The Lumberjack that stated about 60 classes did not have full-time faculty to teach them. Hogan said the number is down to 22 classes.
“We are very proud of that,” Hogan said. “I don’t have the numbers from last year or the year before, but we’ve always had some. My bet is 22 [vacancies] is lower than most years.”
It is still undetermined if the FCB’s executive job shadow program will return in the spring 2020 semester, after it had to be put on hold last year due to a lack of qualified staff. The program is an important initiative for the Franke family, who fund the college.
According to an email from Hogan, a meeting will be held to discuss the program’s future.
“The FCB staff is meeting this week to discuss the potential for bringing this program back on line,” Hogan wrote in an email. “I hope that very soon we will be able to announce this opportunity to our business students.”
Even with questions moving forward, there have been notable steps made within the college. Prior to Hogan’s arrival came another aggravated blow to the FCB faculty and staff. Frustrations grew due to a lack of initiative from higher administration, centralization of key resources for FCB faculty and blame being directed toward structural leadership in the FCB discussed in the late June provost meeting.
The Lumberjack reached out to over 60 staff members within the FCB for a follow-up to the May report. Four agreed to interview, three of which wished to remain anonymous.
“I don’t know what to say,” an anonymous FCB professor said. “The university destroys our good traditions and policy in FCB, and at NAU. They rebuild something following their will and add extra burden and cost to us, in order to save them cost. Now they want to take the credit, not the blame?”
The extra “burden” mentioned stems from numerous reported issues.
One of those issues is the current problem with accreditation, which could have been avoided. As a faculty member who has filled various positions with NAU since 2001, Yordy said NAU has been replacing tenured faculty with non-tenured individuals consistently over the past five years.
It didn’t take long to notice that the ratio would not hold for AACSB International accreditation. Yordy said the last two deans of the college, including former dean Daniel Goebel, who is back as a professor, told him they had sought approval for tenured-track lines, but were repeatedly turned down.
“We kept showing that our accreditation numbers were going to be out of whack, and we just kept getting denied. I don’t know who was making those decisions,” Yordy said. “So now we are playing catch-up. If we had better planning from whoever was making those decisions, we would hire one or two a year. We wouldn’t have all the faculty in a search committee to hire eight people while we’re teaching and doing research.”
For NAU, cutting down on costs, replacing tenured faculty with lecturers and minimizing faculty resources started becoming more frequent over the past five years.
Since last spring, a full-time receptionist’s position for the dean’s office has been replaced by part-time student workers.
Another budget cut came in the form of centralizing the Information Technology Services (ITS) department across campus a few years ago. ITS was an integral resource to faculty and staff in the FCB, who relied on a more professional team to update and troubleshoot complex software for their research and classes.
“Since our IT centralization, things have been ten times more difficult, at least,” an anonymous faculty member said. “The centralization just took away our autonomy.”
The source said that a software installation for their computer would have generally taken under an hour to be completed. Today, the same installation can take up to two weeks.
“I look at opportunity cost,” the anonymous source said. “But [Cheng] is an accountant. She doesn’t look into opportunity costs. What is the cost for me spending 10 times longer to just have a software install? It’s not going to reflect on the spreadsheet.”
The blame for structural leadership issues within the FCB was also placed on faculty and staff. The current leadership design within the college is managed with area coordinators rather than departments and department heads. In this structure, great responsibility and power falls on the shoulders of the associate dean, rather than it being equally dispersed throughout the college.
According to the anonymous source, the FCB had proposed departmentalization to help disperse responsibility and help with the leadership structure at no additional cost to the university. It was not approved by higher administration.
“[The proposal] was shot down,” the anonymous source said. “But on the first meeting with the provost, they blame us for not being able to departmentalize our college. How can that be our fault?”
Growing frustrations and an “unpleasant” environment had the faculty member contemplating early retirement — a recurring issue within the college.
When it comes to efficiency, Yordy said FCB faculty has been at the top of its game for years, despite a lack of institutional support.
“The faculty here feels like we haven’t gotten the resources we need to stay accredited,” Yordy said. “My perception is that higher administration doesn’t always understand the things that we’ve done here, so our perspective is we’ve been super efficient for years. We have no departments, which means we have no administrative assistants for the departments, and so we’re very minimal on staff ... The feeling is that we’ve been punished because we’ve been so efficient throughout the years.”
Frustration from FCB faculty reportedly grew to an extent where two professors left in the middle of the meeting.
“It’s been hard working against this reputation that’s been thrown out by higher administration — that all the troubles are coming from the faculty who are unhappy,” an anonymous long-time FCB staffer said. “[Higher administration] says that the problem is the faculty. That was painful and hurtful.”
Provost Stearns recalled the meeting and said that the context during that part of the meeting was in relation to the student perception of the FCB and how information from faculty was being translated to the students.
“I stated that faculty contribute strongly to the student perception by the messages they convey,” Stearns said in an email. “And that students listen to what faculty tell them, and to what faculty state publicly.”
Stearns also said she saw one faculty member leave, but that many faculty and staff thanked her after the meeting and stated they found the forum useful, even though the conversations were difficult.
When asked what steps the president’s office has taken this summer to address issues with staff morale, Cheng stated in an email, “I believe with Dr. Hogan as our Interim Dean and with Provost Diane Stearns as leaders, these perceived challenges will no longer exist. We have approved nine tenure track lines for hiring during 2019-20 — an example of a greater influx of resources than any other college or school this year.”
Over the past six months, there have been notable steps of progress for higher administration and the FCB, particularly when it comes to retaining accreditation. But some issues still linger and have perhaps worsened.
Regardless of circumstance, the faculty and staff within FCB have placed a clear emphasis on moving forward for the college.
“Despite higher administration, I think everybody in the building is there to make it the best possible experience for the students,” an anonymous FCB staffer said. “That is something everybody has signed up to do. We want to make it good for the students. I want them to know that they can totally rely on the staff and faculty. We are there for them.”