MCC President Vows to Address Survey Concerns
LOWELL -- While Middlesex Community College President James Mabry is working to address concerns about his leadership highlighted in a recent survey, he said communication is the first step. But with the changing education system and limited resources making for an uneasy environment, Mabry said it is a challenge he is willing to accept.
When it came to the survey itself, Mabry said the criticisms were general and that the survey was “written in a way to bring out a lot of negative response.”
Aside from lack of confidence in his leadership, survey results also revealed that many had concerns that the college was becoming a “top-down institution,” where policy decisions are made regardless of input from faculty and staff.
“Irregardless of how the survey was done, it’s important what comes out of that,” Mabry said during an editorial board meeting with The Sun Friday. “You take what comes out and then you have to deal with it. That’s critical. That’s the most important thing.”
There were about 170 Massachusetts Community College Council union member respondents to the survey. While Mabry said there are a total of about 900 union members, faculty union President Joanna DelMonaco said there are 593 total union members.
When asked if more survey participants may have made for more favorable responses, Mabry said that was not a critical issue.
“I think the issue is, we understand that there is a communications gap that we need to solve,” he said. “I have heard the results of this. I went to the meeting (Thursday) where there was a really strong group of faculty and staff there.”
Faced with challenges of decreased funding and declining enrollment, Mabry said it has become difficult to work with less. He said per-pupil funding has decreased by 31 percent since 2001.
“So, that means we’re trying to do more with less. And then we have less revenue from our students. That’s an environment that makes everybody uncomfortable,” he said. “You have to make more difficult choices when your enrollment’s going down and your funding’s going down and when the opposite is true.”
Community college enrollment across the state is down about 21 percent, while MCC is down just below 17 percent. Mabry said it isn’t great news, but the college is not “falling off the cliff.” With fewer students to serve, the institution has also been reducing its workforce.
“It’s a challenging environment, a lot of stress in there that comes out in different ways,” Mabry said. “They’re not going to yell at the governor, they’re going to yell at me.”
Mabry and James Campbell, MCC Board of Trustees chairman, said one of the major issues raised was communication, but DelMonaco said that isn’t the main concern.
“The concern, to me, if you look at the responses and how people felt, is we don’t feel we’re being led as effectively as we could be,” DelMonaco said.
In a packed meeting Thursday, Mabry met with faculty and staff to address faculty and staff concerns and plan for future discussions on the topic.
“This is a great place. It’s been a great place for the almost 50 years it’s been around and that’s from the community that works here,” DelMonaco said. “So, it’s everybody that makes this place great. I’m not worried about the college per se, but I think we’ll find time to continue to talk. (Mabry) is receiving the criticisms as constructive criticisms. That’s what he said to me.”
Mabry said he has a lot of good work to do and initiatives to see through to make for a stronger institution.
“What I heard there is they want me to be more visionary and more passionate and talk about the big picture with them,” he said. “That’s on me. So that’s going to be my goal.”
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.