"Oppressive" Management at UTMB

The Houston Chronicle reported about troubles at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) School of Nursing:

Discontent among nursing school faculty at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston runs so deep that it hinders the ability to train nurses, a statewide faculty association says.

Experienced faculty members are seeking new jobs because of an oppressive administration that has jettisoned the traditional academic system ensuring academic freedom, according to interviews with faculty members. The administration, they say, has embraced a corporate model emphasizing income and loyalty.

The oppressive management style is fostering discontent not only in the nursing school, but throughout the university, including its medical programs, [Texas Faculty Association representative George] Reamy said.

Things got particularly tense after the termination of a popular administrator.

The faculty association had long complained about the steady loss of faculty and increasing teaching loads that left little time for research. The simmering discontent came to a boil when [Dean Pamela G] Watson refused to renew the contract of Associate Dean Kathy Lucke.

Lucke was popular among the faculty in part because she was seen as sympathetic to their plight, faculty members said.

In response to Lucke's involuntary termination, 39 faculty members signed a petition that said, 'We are distressed that she has been relieved of her position and have concerns for the future of the school and its ability to maintain the excellence in nursing education it currently holds.'

An accompanying letter outlined faculty concerns and listed the names of 34 staff lost during Watson's six years in office and four others who intend to leave.

The administration did not respond with sympathy.

The administration responded with an iron fist, [Texas Faculty Association representative George] Reamy said. He said [Executive Vice President and Provost Dr Garland D] Anderson accused the faculty of trying to get the nursing school dean fired and told them to stop complaining or resign.

The administration also refused to respond to the Chronicle's reporter.

UTMB denied a request by the Houston Chronicle to interview President Dr. David Callendar, hired less than a year ago; Provost and Executive Vice President Dr. Garland Anderson; and school of nursing Dean Pamela Watson.

UTMB spokesman John Koloen said, 'It is university practice not to comment on personnel matters.' Koloen said officials also would not comment on nonpersonnel matters associated with the association's complaints.

Add this to our series about mission-hostile management of academic health care institutions. (Other recent examples were in posts were about the JPS Health Network and the University of Arizona.) Of course, sadly, academic administration run on the corporate model is getting to be an old story. And see the FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) web-site for a distressing catalog of offenses by academic administrators (and sometimes faculty) against free speech and academic freedom. An academic institution ought to welcome open discussion and debate about the direction of the institution. Actually, a well run corporation should also welcome such discussion and debate. An academic manager who tells experienced faculty members who voice criticism to shut up or quit is a manager who has no idea what to do next.