Unsigned letter sparks discussion

An email sent Oct. 1 by an anonymous group calling itself ‘Save LCCC’ may have caused a stir, but not enough for a faculty member to think anything would come out of it.

“We’ll get up in arms about it everywhere for two or three days, and then it’s gone,” said David Zwonitzer, an instructor for English and philosophy, who noted that was the American mentality.

Zwontizer also mentioned speaking with other faculty members who speculated more on who wrote it rather than what the content revealed. He mentioned that a few faculty members mentioned that the anonymous source had a few valid points, but because it was written anonymously, it would be discounted by the administration.

Zwonitzer then noted that another big opinion was that, “even if it were perfectly written and every point were perfectly valid and authorship was identified, ‘so what?’ Nothing would have come out of it.”

However, LCCC President Joe Schaffer mentioned that the administration did take the letter seriously, and because of the conversations that the email generated, that they plan to work with Faculty Senate to host a couple, “town hall” style type of meetings. The town hall meetings will discuss academic affairs and the changes that the school is going with along with other subjects such as leadership and curriculum.

The email touched on several issues. The biggest one was the reassigning of Clark Harris, the vice president for academic affairs, special assistant to the president and his interim replacement, Kari Brown-Herbst, the director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching.

The email also touches on the college’s abilities to retain faculty, with many being pushed out from program closures with, “disregard for the established program evaluation process.” That, according to the letter, hinders the quality of the curriculum.

The letter also suggested that the current administration didn’t have the qualifications needed to fulfill the responsibilities of their roles, something Schaffer saved his strongest words to refute in an email to faculty and staff a few days after the email was issued.

“While I can certainly handle criticisms directed at me, I simply cannot ignore the crude and baseless criticisms pointed at some of our most dedicated employees,” Schaffer said, “especially when done under the cowardice of anonymity.”

The letter ends stating that, “We hope the board of trustees stops the bleeding of the college of its established programs and experienced faculty.” The letter ends calling for independent oversight and calling out the board to provide checks and balances to the president.

When seeking a reaction from the student body, one was almost impossible to find. The email was explicitly sent out to employees only with the exception of the LCCC Wingspan newspaper.
Student body president Zeke Sorenson refused to comment but did mention that he hadn’t heard from any students express any concerns about the email.

When asked, many staff members refused to comment on the email or delayed a request for an interview, including Interim Executive Director of Athletics Cynthia Henning, who was targeted in the email.. Henning, however, responded directly to the email.

Her email illustrated that she felt called out by saying that, “my name is Cindy Henning and I’m currently the Interim Executive Director of Athletics, Exercise Science, and Recreation, or as you referred to me in your open letter, “even three-year appointments without a competitive search.””

Her email then went on to detail her own personal experiences at LCCC within the last 10 years of her employment. She stated that email didn’t reflect her own experiences at the college and that she didn’t appreciate an anonymous source to speak for her. She later stated all the positive things that LCCC has done for her personally including when her first dean encouraged her to begin her doctorate degree.

Schaffer stated that they get feedback such as the email frequently. He stated that some of it gets broader attention, such as this email, than others. He stated that he presumes the source remained anonymous because “there’s a legitimate fear that they’re still working her, and if they put their name on it that they will lose their job or be retaliated against.”

But he said they’re unable to fire them due to federal law, with specific whistle-blower laws. But he finds more often than not that if you chose to be anonymous, “you don’t have to own what you say, if you don’t actually put your name on it, then I don’t have to respond when questioned or provide actual evidence to support the claims.”

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