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Survey gives UND admins, education dean poor marks for transparency

A survey of nearly half of the faculty at UND found many don't think the school's administration is open and transparent. The anonymous survey was created by a group of UND faculty and was emailed to 836 faculty members, 359 of which completed it...

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Thomas DiLorenzo
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A survey of nearly half of the faculty at UND found many don't think the school's administration is open and transparent.

The anonymous survey was created by a group of UND faculty and was emailed to 836 faculty members, 359 of which completed it over nine days.

The raw data shows 75 percent of respondents thought Provost Thomas DiLorenzo was "not at all" or "not very" transparent with more than four pages of negative comments following. Seventy-two percent marked DiLorenzo's office as "not at all" or "not very" open, and 71 percent said they were "not at all" or "not very" confident in the office.

DiLorenzo was traveling and did not respond to a Herald interview request, but UND spokesman Peter Johnson said administrators have acknowledged and paid attention to the survey results .

"We need to do a lot better job of communicating, and I think part of the response to the survey is going to be to find some mechanisms to do that, starting particularly this fall when students and faculty come back," Johnson said.

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Survey respondents wrote comments, stating DiLorenzo couldn't be trusted, was dishonest and had created a "climate of fear."

President Robert Kelley saw more favorable results with 54 percent responding he was "not at all" or "not very" transparent, 43 percent marking he was "not at all" or "not very" open and 35 percent said they were "not at all" or "not very" confident in the office.

On Tuesday, on the same day the survey results were released, Kelley announced his intention to retire in January 2016. He said the decision had nothing to do with the survey and had been considering retirement for about a year. He declined to comment further.

Survey respondents wrote Kelley was "removed" from faculty and not communicative.

Professor James Whitehead, one of several faculty who created and distributed the survey, said the intent was to bring to light faculty perceptions that weren't being addressed in discussions on campus.

"We simply felt we needed objective data, so we provided the data," he said. "Now it's up for people to decide what to do with the data."

Some of the survey's authors met with Kelley June 5 and an email sent out accompanying the results said the "interaction left us confident that the president would address the issues raised in a serious manner, and in the best interests of the university."

Johnson said Kelley appreciated the visit and that many changes, including a budget allocation redesign, hiring of several new deans and planning initiatives, could be at play.

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"Maybe we haven't done good in communicating why we're doing some of the things we're doing," Johnson said.

More results

Faculty also had an opportunity to share thoughts about deans at the university and the results varied widely.

Bruce Smith, the outgoing dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, was considered "somewhat" or "very" transparent by 89 percent of respondents and open by 88 percent of respondents. Ninety percent said they were "somewhat" or "very" confident in his office.

Using numbers from fall 2014, 49 percent of respondents were from within aerospace.

Smith said he has made an effort to consistently be open and honest during his 15 years at the helm of the growing school.
"(The survey) is actually is a reflection of what I already knew," he said. "It's been the way I ran the organization since I got there."

By contrast, 84 percent of survey respondents said Dean Robert Hill of the College of Education and Human Development was "not at all" or "not very" transparent and 82 percent said the same about openness and having no confidence in his office. More than 50 percent of respondents in all three categories responded with "not at all."

Using numbers from fall 2014, 59 percent of respondents were from within the education college.

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Hill said he wasn't yet convinced the survey was legitimate as he hadn't previously seen faculty write such extensive comments, some of which included profanity. Noting that, he added he had been very engaging, resolving fiscal issues, improving communication and creating partnerships and would focus on transparency in the future.

Comments written in the survey results called Hill a "dictator," accusing him of being secretive. Some wrote they worried for the future of the college.

"Some of those comments ... it looked like a social media blitz more than anything," Hill said.

Sixty percent of respondents said Law School Dean Kathryn Rand was "very" open, transparent and that they were confident in the office. Dean Gayle Roux of the College of Nursing and Professional Development got the job in January and saw marks of about 50 percent in those categories as well.

Hesham El Rewini, the dean of the College of Engineering and Mines, saw poor marks for being "not very" transparent or open but a vote of confidence in him was split more evenly.

The deans of the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Business and Public Administration and School of Medicine and Health Sciences had a fairly even divide of respondents with opinions varying on transparency.

Whitehead said there was never any intention to harm the university and he and those involved in distributing the survey are happy working there.

"We did this because we wanted to try and help make it an even better place," he said. "There are wonderful things being accomplished and we are just hoping this report won't be used in a manner to harm it but instead will be used in a manner that will help it do even better in the future."

View the full survey results here.

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University of North Dakota

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