Opinion: Administrative upheaval at Appalachian: A plea for transparency

During the past weeks, a number of administrative changes have been announced while much of the Appalachian State University community is off campus or away for the summer months.

Even so, many alumni, students and faculty are deeply concerned about the intentions behind these dismissals and appointments, as well as the timing of these announcements. Since transparency is essential to the collegial operation of the university, we the undersigned ask Chancellor Sheri Everts to respond publicly to the following questions, which, we believe, members of the Appalachian community have a right to know:

1. Are plans currently under way to privatize certain units of Appalachian State University? If so, which units will be affected? What is the schedule for this process? Who makes such decisions? Will they have any impact at all on the university curriculum and educational mission? What will happen to those currently employed in the affected units?

2. Has the plan to renovate Winkler Hall, upon which millions of dollars have already been spent, been discontinued? If so, why? How will the money originally budgeted for this project be used? Will another residence hall be built there or not?

3. Does the fact that she supported moving forward on replacing Winkler with a new residence hall have anything to do with the recent dismissal of Vice Chancellor for Student Development Cindy Wallace?

4. Why has the chancellor hired a new chief diversity officer, reporting directly to her, when the university already had an associate vice chancellor of equity, diversity and compliance? Why was this duplication necessary, particularly given that the associate vice chancellor we already had was popular with students? Is this duplication justified financially, particularly at a time of dwindling resources from the state and increasing student tuition?

5. Everts announced that she was naming as acting chief of staff and director of communication an individual who, until two years ago, had no prior experience working in a university; who completed her bacheolor’s degree only a decade ago; who has several degrees from the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution with a reputation that is at best controversial; and whose spouse was named six months ago to be a member of the Appalachian State University’s Foundation board. Is this really the most qualified person for the job? Does this selection not create an appearance of a conflict of interest?

6. Have any Appalachian students been retaliated against or faced disciplinary action for speaking out on these administrative changes?

The kinds of issues raised above, particularly when administrative decisions are made in opaque and underhanded ways, can significantly undermine campus morale. We look forward to clear, prompt, and public answers to these important questions from Everts.

Dr. Michael C. Behrent (history, president, ASU chapter of the American Association of University Professors)

Dr. Gregory Reck (anthropology, vice president, ASU chapter AAUP)

Dr. Leslie S. Jones (biology)

Dr. Sheila Phipps (history, AAUP member)

Dr. Jeff Bortz (history, AAUP member)

Dr. Greg McClure (Reich College of Education)

Dr. Elizabeth Bellows (Reich College of Education)

Watagua Democrat (6/29/16)