I interviewed Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Hank Dunn on Monday to follow-up a discussion started by someone at the college leaking a faculty communication that included criticisms of Dunn’s leadership and policy changes. You can read my column in the Asheville Citizen-Times here.
On the communication front, Dunn is about as open as an administrator can be. He holds a monthly meeting open to any faculty member, staffer or student who wants to air issues, and he holds a monthly lunch meeting with a different group of a dozen or so he picks.
He sends out a weekly email update, and he encourages anyone who wants to talk one on one to enter his office. Dunn is adamant that no college employee has been disciplined for expressing discontent with his decisions.
“I’m OK with people disagreeing with me,” he says, as long as they’re civil. “My approach is just to tell people what I’m doing.”
Dunn’s been talking a lot about his new policies put in place over the last year on campus. He’s changed the workweek from 35 hours to 40 hours. He’s urged faculty to consider moving to four-week and eight-week classes, rather than the traditional 16-week time frame, which requires significant revisions to schedules and new teaching approaches in the classroom.
There’s a new procedure to interview and select new hires, one that some faculty feel diminishes their voice. And he’s adopted a program that uses specific metrics that aim to measure and improve student performance.
Dunn’s apparent willingness to talk arrives with the freshness of a spring breeze, but it can’t just be a season that comes and goes. Transparency is hard work, and Dunn must keep after it.
Dunn can talk about his openness but it is a facade. He will say one thing to one group and the opposite to the next group and deny doing it. When one asks for the research to prove the points he makes, he cannot cite it. He will just say "google" it. And, of course, it is not there. He fools around with data, often faking it and I guess assumes we, the employees of ABtech, are too dumb to figure out what he has done. An example would be his assertion that 4 week classes' grades are higher than others. He knows he is comparing a small elite number to a larger one. He also knows that regular employees do not want to teach these classes and others in many cases have been brought in to do it. They will pass these students so they can have future jobs teaching these classes and freely admit to this.