OP-ED: Chair of Faculty Senate Challenges Student Petition To Oust Chancellor

OP-ED: Chair of Faculty Senate Challenges Student Petition To Oust Chancellor
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SPECIAL REPORT. June 15, 2016. BOONE, NC — The leadership shakeup continues at Appalachian State University. In crafting her vision for the university, Dr. Sheri Everts, now in her second year as Chancellor of Appalachian State, has implemented policy and personnel changes, further putting her stamp on the University and its future.

One recently reported dismissal of longtime Vice Chancellor of Student Development, Cindy Wallace, prompted second year senior business student Daniel Tassitino, who had previously served as an intern in the Student Development office, to initiate a petition calling for the ouster of Chancellor Everts.  Two petitions appear on the website, Change.org, and both appear to be written in the same rambling, frequently redundant style. One petition is credited to Tassitino, the other credited anonymously as “App State Student Power,” but quoting Tassitino extensively and the only person quoted.

The following is an op-ed article penned by Dr. Paul Gates, current Chair of the Faculty Senate and a professor in the Department of Communications since 1995, challenging the Tassitino and “anonymous” petitions.

Op-Ed by Dr. Paul Gates

Loyalty is a powerful human emotion.  It has its origins in the gratitude we feel for the support and opportunities people give us in our educations, careers, and life more generally — particularly when we are young and beginning to find our way in the world.  It is, therefore, not surprising that some of the students Cindy Wallace touched during her years at Appalachian State University would feel a need to express their indignation at her removal as Vice-Chancellor for Student Development.  It is in that light that the on-line petition started last week by Daniel Tassitino and the comments it has drawn should be understood.  

Sometimes when we write things in anger emotions can cause us to muddle or misrepresent the facts.  Being the chancellor of a university is a complex job that serves multiple constituencies: students, faculty, and staff on the campus, but also the Trustees, the Board of Governors, the legislature, and the citizens of North Carolina.  A chancellor must raise money for the institution,  traveling all over the state and region to meet with potential donors in these times of financial challenge for institutions of higher education.  A chancellor must also participate in discussions of system-wide policies, often traveling to Chapel Hill and Raleigh to meet with educational and legislative leaders.  Therefore, to suggest that the chancellor has been hiding or is trying to “save face” fundamentally misunderstands the complexities of the position.  It is simply impossible to conduct the business of a university without engaging in these vital time-consuming tasks.  

Sometimes when we write things in anger, emotions cause us to muddle or misrepresent the facts.

Despite these varied demands on her time, in Boone Chancellor Everts has begun implementation of a strategic plan, initiated work on an updated campus master plan, moved aggressively to increase campus diversity, started a suicide prevention program, and begun numerous other initiatives in an effort to move the campus forward in the service of all of its constituents.  

To accomplish these tasks, it is necessary that an organizational leader be supported by a team that she has confidence in.  It is for that reason that the UNC Code of the Board of Governors, the Appalachian State University Policy Manual and the university’s Faculty Handbook all vest in the chancellor the authority to make determinations in matters of personnel and other areas that they believe will best serve the interests of the institution.  I do not know all the issues that led to the removal of Cindy Wallace, but it is clear that it was the catalyst for Mr. Tassitino’s petition.  We may never know all the issues, as state law prohibits the public disclosure of personnel matters.  

Being Chancellor is a complex job, serving several constituencies.

What I do know is that removal of a popular administrator is a decision not taken lightly, however the Chancellor is the person ultimately responsible for the institution’s success.  We know that the Chancellor must coordinate all the diverse functions of the institution so that they mesh both effectively and harmoniously.  It must be the Chancellor’s call regarding who is best suited to perform those tasks, especially at the senior level..

What I hope Mr. Tassitino will consider as he reflects on his time at Appalachian is that the opportunities that were afforded him here were not the result of one person’s efforts, but made possible by a community of faculty, staff, administrators, and fellow students all working together to make his college career at Appalachian the best educational experience that it could be.  

Paul Gates has been a professor in the Department of Communication at Appalachian State University since 1995.  He is currently chair of the university’s Faculty Senate.

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