Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Edison State's Walker, Browder offer to take pay cuts

Written by

Rachel Revehl

8:35 PM, Apr. 6, 2011|

The embattled president of Edison State
College has proposed a six-point plan to
appease the faculty who earlier this week
voted a loss of confidence in his

Credit to Fort Myers News-Press

In hopes of restoring that trust and
ultimately the position he’s held for 20
years, District President Kenneth Walker
also offered a “significant” salary reduction
for both him and Senior Vice President
James Browder.

Addressing a crowd of about 150 at a
special board of trustees meeting
Wednesday evening, Walker asked that the
difference in pay go toward the
establishment of a scholarship fund and
another for homeless students.  

“We have a long history of great
relationships, and I will do my part to get
us back to that relationship,” Walker said.
“I ask faculty leaders to join me.”

Professors, after hearing his concessions,
say it may be too soon to tell whether it will 
be enough.

Credit to Fort Myers News-Press

“Time will tell,” Professor Russell Swanson
said. “The reduction of the compensation
package — I can’t disagree with that.”

In addition to the pay cut, Walker

• Greater transparency and full disclosure.

• A third-party review of the management
team and processes, which will result in a
completed report to the board.

• A series of small-group meetings on each
of the four campuses to hear concerns and

• An anonymous survey outlining the
concerns of each faculty and staff member.

• Open office hours for faculty and staff to
meet with him.

• Several meetings with students to hear
their questions and concerns.

The 24,000-student college has also hired
a Fort Myers law firm to investigate claims
of discrimination in hiring. Swanson
questioned how a firm paid by the college
could be effective in that task.

Walker’s concessions came after weeks of
strained relations on campus, centering on a
myriad of complaints, including Browder’
s hiring without a formal search and
subsequent raise, Walker’s $832,125
annual compensation package, allegations
of discriminatory hiring practices, abrupt
resignations of several high-level
administrators and the question of
diplomas issued to students who hadn’t
met minimum requirements.

The professors, meanwhile, explained their
no-confidence vote, approved Tuesday by
84 percent of 103 voting faculty senate
members. Many of those members are
union, though the senate is a separate
entity focused solely on academic affairs.
Speaking on their behalf, Professor Jim
Daniels said staff felt Walker did not act in
good faith by moving Browder into an off-
campus position, when in earlier meetings 
he suggested Browder would find another
job within 30 days or else the board would
decide the next step. Professors were also
upset with comments made by Walker in an
April 1 article by the Chronicle of Higher
Education, in which he stated those pushing
for Browder’s removal were a small group,
fueled by the media.

Walker told the publication concerns were
never brought to him, a point disputed by
Daniels, who said he had dates of prior 
meetings and the names of those who were

“That doesn’t sound like transparency to
us,” Daniels said. “...It was such a hostile
environment, and we could not stand by
and watch the college implode.”

He ended by asking the board to put the
students first, something Walker also said
is his goal.

Erica Patti, a 21-year-old junior
communications major, said she found it
strange that Walker made students the last
point on his list.

“I would kind of hope that he would have
made us a little higher on his list,” Patti
said. “And I really just think enough is
enough. Everybody has just been through
enough stress and tiresome arguing, and it
really just needs to end.

“I think if the students joined together and
came forward, I think the board would
come to the conclusion that (Walker) would
have to walk away.”

But if the board’s support of Walker is any
indication, that’s not likely to happen soon.
Many praised his decades of service but
still said they had heard the concerns

“What I’d like to see happen is we take the
opinions of faculty and use them as a
springboard to make Edison even better,”
said Chairman Chris Vernon.

While the board was not able to fully craft
an agenda for the next scheduled April 26
meeting, Vernon did outline a list of 11
areas that may possibly be addressed:
improved board oversight, improved
systems to assure graduation qualifications,
improved accreditation preparation,
investigation of allegations of discrimination
and retaliation, Browder’s employment
status and pay, improved academics and
reporting structures, need for a new vice
chair of the board, current and future
leadership and leadership compensation
and issues that can and should be dealt
with prior to the regular meeting.

The board agreed they wanted time to
digest the information proposed, and
would individually report to Walker about
the issues they hope to discuss before the
next meeting. Walker will ultimately be
responsible for piecing together the next

Article Credit to the Fort Myers News-Press        

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