'A Chronology and Data Summary: Ridgewater College President Doug Allen’s Leadership'

A Chronology and Data Summary: Ridgewater College President Doug Allen's Leadership Prepared by the Minnesota State College Faculty-Ridgewater College, Willmar and Hutchinson Related: MnSCU backs Ridgewater president after faculty vote of no conf...

A Chronology and Data Summary: Ridgewater College President Doug Allen's Leadership

Prepared by the Minnesota State College Faculty-Ridgewater College, Willmar and Hutchinson


Related: MnSCU backs Ridgewater president after faculty vote of no confidence

 The complete report follows  



"A Chronology and Data Summary:

Ridgewater College President Doug Allen’s Leadership


Executive Summary


The data and information outlined below demonstrate a clear pattern of unresponsiveness by President Allen to faculty concerns.  Beginning with the first faculty survey conducted in 2007 to the layoff of six faculty colleagues this past fall, faculty leaders for the past eight years have attempted without success to identify and address faculty concerns regarding President Allen’s leadership.  The data and reports, both internally generated (i.e., from faculty surveys) as well as from external agencies (e.g., PACE, AQIP, and Harley process) consistently reveal dissatisfaction with President Allen’s leadership.  The extended time frame from which the data is drawn further establishes that no appreciable change has occurred to ameliorate those concerns.



The persistent issues and concerns about President Allen’s leadership include the following:

1.  An unwillingness to engage in true shared governance.

2.  A reactive instead of proactive approach to College challenges

3.  A lack of planning and foresight

4.  A limited, unproductive communication style

5.  A failure to “close the loop” on consultative input from faculty

6.  A penchant for paying lip service to the need for change, but not embracing it

7.  A command rather than collaborative or consensus decision making style




(Parenthetical numbers refer to the numbered addenda on the following pages.)

2007-08: MSCF Campus Climate Survey (1)

2008-09:  MSCF Campus Climate Survey (1)

October 2008: Faculty meeting with then Chancellor McCormick (4)

2009-10:  PACE Survey (2)

2011:  AQIP Systems Appraisal Feedback Report (3)


2011-12:  MSCF Campus Climate Survey (1)

2012-13:  Bill Harley Process/Report (5)

November 2013: Faculty leadership letter to Chancellor Rosenstone (4)

November 2014:  Layoffs (6)


NOTE:  The information outlined on the following pages represents a distillation of approximately 250 pages of related documents.  A brief summary is found at the end of each addendum.




1. MSCF Campus Climate Surveys


Three surveys on administrative leadership and campus climate were conducted by faculty leadership in 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2011-12, respectively.  Survey questions on President Allen were identical for each of the three surveys.  Results are expressed as the mean.


Likert scale (key):  5 = Strongly Agree; 4 = Agree; 3 = Neutral; 2 = Disagree;1 = Strongly Disagree (NO = No Opinion-these were not included in the averages)


1.  President Allen demonstrates respect for faculty.

            2007-08 = 2.22


            2008-09 = 2.067

            2011-12 = 2.38


2.  President Allen demonstrates a commitment to teaching and learning as the core mission of Ridgewater College.

            2007-08 = 2.60

            2008-09 = 2.351

            2011-12 = 2.31


3.  President Allen demonstrates that he places appropriate value on the input of faculty in addressing college issues.

            2007-08 = 1.98

            2008-09 = 1.623

            2011-12 = 1.86


4.  President Allen demonstrates a commitment to creating a level of morale on campus that encourages faculty in their work.

            2007-08 = 1.82

            2008-09 = 1.597

            2011-12 = 1.93


5.  President Allen demonstrates a commitment to engaging in sincere efforts to reach agreement with the faculty on college issues.

            2007-08 = 2.02

            2008-09 = 1.653

            2011-12 = 2.0


Summary:  In no area did the survey results approach the mid-level, “neutral” (3) data point.  All results fell within the “disagree” (2) to “strongly disagree” (1) range for all three surveys spanning a 5-year time period.  In short, there was no statistically significant change in the areas surveyed.

2.  Personal Assessment of the College Environment (PACE) Survey


The National Initiative for Leadership and Institutional Structure conducted two  “PACE” surveys in collaboration with the Ridgewater College administration, one in 2009-10 and one in 2012-13.  Owing to the limited participation of faculty in the 2012-13 survey (15.2%), faculty deemed the results invalid and they are consequently not reported below.  


The nationally normed surveys included responses from administration, faculty, and staff.  Unfortunately, the survey questions related to administration (or supervision) did not differentiate among the various hierarchies of administration, so the results are obfuscated by this missing level of detail.  (Faculty requested targeted supervisor questions, but the request was denied.)  Despite this limitation, however, there was a clear perception gap between administration (n=10) and faculty (n=92) about a range of issues that fell within the “Institutional Structure” category, the survey area most relevant to the faculty-administration relationship.  In fact, the bottom ten mean scores on a  composite basis (i.e., all three personnel groups included) all fell within the “Institutional Structure” category of statements. 


Key (satisfaction): 1 = Low to 5 = High


The perception gap is strikingly revealed-and statistically significant-when the responses are broken down by personnel classification.

1.  The extent to which information is shared within this institution.

            Administration = 3.80

            Faculty = 2.29

            (Staff = 2.50)

2.  The extent to which a spirit of cooperation exists at this institution.

            Administration = 4.20

            Faculty = 2.13

            (Staff = 2.73)

3.  The extent to which open and ethical communication is practiced at this institution.

            Administration = 4.20

            Faculty = 2.27

            (Staff = 2.71)

Of the limited number of customized statements included in the survey (the above are standard PACE survey statements), one stood out for reaffirming the aforementioned perception gap:

The extent to which there is a positive relationship between faculty/staff/administration.

            Administration = 3.40

            Faculty = 2.19

            (Staff = 2.56)


Summary:  The top ten “areas in need of improvement” found at the conclusion of the survey were all drawn from the “Institutional Structure” climate area.  Thus, an outside survey instrument that did not afford any level of specificity to Ridgewater’s structure, confirmed the broad conclusions reached by faculty surveys and was further corroborated by staff survey results.


3. Ridgewater College AQIP Systems Appraisal Feedback Report


This 2011 report conducted under the auspices of the Higher Learning Commission, our institutional accrediting body, drew several conclusions that we believe substantiate the patterns heretofore identified.  The first quote is drawn from the Executive Summary section of the report.


Category 5:  Leading and Communicating

“The Ridgewater College President functions as the ultimate decision maker, but a wide variety of constituent groups within the College structure bring valuable perspectives enlightened by data analysis….  Recent administration of the PACE survey has exposed communications improvement opportunities and prescribed an agenda for continued development in this area.  However, Ridgewater College has not provided detailed information concerning specific processes and instead relied on brief statements which may name a process, but not describe that process.  It also seems to lack an active closure to the loop through communication of results and a formal plan for analyzing data to determine areas and means of improvement.” (2)


The quotes below are drawn from the category feedback section of the report.  That is, they illuminate within each of the nine AQIP categories a more defined “strengths and opportunities” analysis.  A “OO” designator indicates a “pressing or outstanding opportunity for improvement” while an “O” designator indicates an “opportunity for improvement.”


Category 1: Helping Students Learn

OO  “The portfolio does not address how the culture of the institution helps to select processes to improve.  It is not clear how the College evaluates its processes to determine areas for needed improvement.  Although the College infers that they look for opportunities for improvement, it remains unclear what results are being evaluated and which areas have been determined as a priority.” (20)


Category 2:  Accomplishing Other Distinctive Objectives

O  “While Ridgewater College notes that it gathers data from ‘any and all’ of the constituents…, it is not clear how the constituents are systematically involved in setting the goals.” (22)

O   “…it appears that Ridgewater College operates from an outcome or compliance perspective rather than from a process-oriented approach.  Such a cultural bias may impede the College’s ability to engage in continuous improvement cycles….” (24)


Category 3: Understanding Students’ and other Stakeholders’ Needs

O  “Ridgewater College has presented little evidence that attempts are made to collect satisfaction data for any additional stakeholder groups other than students.  The College will benefit its operations by seeking to understand the needs of all stakeholders in a systematic and programmatic fashion.” (27)


Category 4:  Valuing People

OO  “…no information is provided to suggest that strategies, processes or mechanisms are in place to plan proactively for changes when creating new positions or reconfiguring existing personnel vacancies….  Furthermore, the information presented in the document does not account for changes in faculty positions, only non-faculty positions.  Ridgewater College may benefit from developing process that seek to manage personnel changes in a proactive manner….” (31-32)


Category 6:  Supporting Institutional Operations

O  “…the College does not provide detailed information that demonstrates how the ‘two-way communication’ enables them to identify that needs are being met as intended.” (41)


Category 7:  Measuring Effectiveness

O  “…Ridgewater College has provided little evidence of any systematic process to analyze data to meet specific local needs or to make micro-data analysis available to key stakeholders.” (46)


Category 8:  Planning Continuous Improvement

OO “Ridgewater College has not presented evidence of a systematic and comprehensive approach to planning continuous improvement.” (52)

Note:  This category had the most “OO”s (i.e., “pressing or outstanding opportunity for improvement”).


Summary:  The above quotes are representative of a pattern in which stakeholders are provided opportunities to provide feedback, but which is in turn either rejected or ignored.   Moreover, there is scant evidence of proactive planning to address College challenges.  Finally, a penchant for “command decision making” (see 5. Bill Harley Process/Report below) is intimated throughout the report.





4.  MnSCU Chancellor Communications


a. In September of 2008, a delegation of faculty met with then Chancellor McCormick to discuss concerns emanating from the consecutively unsatisfactory faculty surveys regarding President Allen’s leadership.  Faculty were not informed of any communications between Chancellor McCormick and President Allen nor were there any changes manifest in President Allen’s leadership behavior following the meeting.


b. In November of 2013, in the wake of President Allen’s unilateral decision to end the second phase of the Harley process (see 5. below), a letter signed by each member of the faculty leadership was sent to current Chancellor Rosenstone outlining again the faculty’s frustration with President Allen’s leadership.  Included among the points raised in the three-page, single-spaced letter were the following:

• President Allen’s unwillingness to engage in true shared governance

• the “lack of trust in this administration and its decision making process”

• the consequent disengagement and isolation of faculty in their respective areas


Summary:  Attempts to address concerns about President Allen’s leadership through direct communication with two different chancellors have failed to result in anything that could be remotely considered significant change.  In fact, current Chancellor Rosenstone’s refusal to meet with faculty following President Allen’s termination of the Harley process was a “slap in the face” to those faculty who had engaged in this year long, good faith effort to resolve faculty-administration differences.


5.  Bill Harley Process/Report


By mutual agreement between then MSCF President Greg Mulcahy and Chancellor Rosenstone, an external third party consultant was hired in July 2012 to oversee a process aimed at improving Ridgewater’s “workplace culture and environment by identifying key areas of employee discontent and corresponding potential policy and process improvements to address them.”

[Joint e-mail to faculty, staff, and administrators dated April 20, 2012 from President Allen and then faculty president Shawn Mueske]


In a letter dated December 30, 2012 addressed to President Allen and Shawn Mueske, Mr. Harley summarized “the general picture revealed by the assessment interviews.”  His primary conclusion follows below:


“The central area of dissatisfaction and dissonance revealed by the interviews relates to…an over reliance on command decision-making….  [T]he over-use of command decision-making hampers the development of open communication and trusting relationships; treating each other with respect, dignity and civility; a more collegial and less adversarial environment at the College; greater clarity and commitment in all employees to the College mission, vision, values and plans; and dedication to the continuous improvement of the College and to the measures by which progress is assessed.”


Moreover, “the over-use of command decision-making” was also noted to have deleterious effects on the College as a whole:  “While the dissatisfaction and dissonance arising from the overuse of command decision-making manifest themselves most strongly with faculty…patterns of under-functioning, hesitancy to innovate and under-utilization of human and other resources resulting from the over-use of this decision-making type were apparent during the interviews in numerous functions and at all levels of the College.”


Summary:  An external evaluator with expertise in organizational consulting and coaching, following a wide ranging, time consuming, and in-depth interview and data collection process, drew the same conclusions as the internal faculty surveys and the external AQIP report and PACE survey.  In many ways, the Harley process put an exclamation point on all of the issues faculty had raised during the previous five years.  Regrettably, and much to the dismay of faculty leadership who during the 2012-13 academic year devoted considerable time and energy to the process, President Allen expressed no desire to continue with the next phase; that of working through the eight consensus “barriers” identified during the process.  Thus, ironically and in yet another example of command decision-making, President Allen ended what faculty believed was a healthy, enlightening process in the fall of 2013.


6.  Faculty Layoffs


On November 1, 2014, six faculty colleagues were laid off.  When faculty leadership sought specific information to justify each of the layoffs (President Allen had only provided general exculpatory data), we received no response until the January 27, 2015 Faculty Shared Governance Council (FSGC) meeting, information that should have been readily available at the time of the layoffs three months earlier.  President Allen further exacerbated the situation by asserting in his general explanation that “during FY2014 and FY 2015 eight new UFT faculty positions have been added…,” clearly implying that these UFTs were additional faculty hires that somehow counterbalanced the six layoffs.  Not only was this statement not germane to the layoffs at hand and patently insensitive, it was blatantly inaccurate.  Only one of the eight positions was truly “new” or “added”; the other seven were replacements for retirements and/or faculty departures. "

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