New administration bettering OCCC, Faculty Association says in resolution

If OCCC upper administration is wondering how faculty feel about the work they’ve done this academic year, they might be all smiles this week.

The Faculty Association, in an almost unanimous vote, passed a resolution Tuesday that commended Interim President Jeremy Thomas and Executive Vice President Danita Rose for their efforts to improve morale among the faculty.

While the Faculty Association does not speak for each individual faculty member at the college, they do reflect the pulse of the most vocal faculty, including program chairs and others from all divisions on campus.

The one-page resolution, in part, shows faculty approval for the “actions of the current Executive Leadership Team and the OCCC Board of Regents as they relate to employee-friendly policy/procedure revision” as well as “supporting a non-retaliatory work environment.”

The policy also states that before this academic year, faculty morale had been suffering from a lack of respect and retaliative nature.

The lead administrators during the time when faculty felt most disrespected– before the 2020-2021 school year– consisted of former OCCC President Jerry Steward, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Greg Gardner, and retiring former interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Kim Jameson.

Steward retired early from OCCC in December 2020.

Jameson announced her retirement last month, to be effective this summer.

Gardner was moved to a “behind-the-scenes” position of Vice President of Operations in September 2020.

Since their removal, retirement or replacements the faculty has seen many positive changes to the OCCC culture, the resolution implies.

Faculty who approved the resolution credit the current executive leadership with many advancements and forward-thinking approaches including Friday question-and-answer listening sessions with employees, an “open and transparent” search for a new vice president of Academic Affairs, as well as raises for many faculty.

“The Executive Leadership Team desires to work cooperatively and respectfully with the faculty [which has] led to boosts in faculty morale…” the resolution states.

Faculty also feel less of a sense of fear of retaliation for speaking out than they did previously, the resolution goes on to say.

That is a change since last year when vocal faculty, including Professor of Political Science Markus Smith, spoke out through social media regularly in documenting a workplace he deemed hostile and retaliatory.

The faculty did not only commend Thomas and Rose through the resolution for their roles in reshaping the college culture.

The resolution also offers words of appreciation for the OCCC Board of Regents, who faculty say is working to “improve our school and community” in several ways including working on plans to employ a national search for the next OCCC president, according to the resolution.