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Yes, fit to lead

Voting ‘no confidence’ would be major mistake

Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 01:04



Last Thursday, members of the UNH chapter of the American Association of Union Professors received an email announcing, in all capital letters, that they were conducting a no confidence vote on President Mark Huddleston.   

The vote will decide whether the union deems Huddleston unfit to maintain his position at the university – a ludicrous thought at an even more ludicrous time.

Last week, Huddleston asked senators to avoid slashing the USNH budget more than $5 million after the House already approved a $45 million cut. The current budget is $100 million.

And now, professors have the chance to vote no confidence on Huddleston.

If professors don't have confidence in UNH leadership, how is the senate supposed to give USNH the $95 million it's asking for in the new budget?

In an email to AAUP members, English professor David Watters wrote, "just imagine if we vote confidence in Huddleston! It would send the message that the huge cuts in the House budget are just fine with us."

No, Professor Watters, it would not.

Huddleston has worked hard over the last week to ensure that the House budget is not passed. Voting confidence would show that you're going to stand up to the huge cuts.

Plus, this is a move that the AAUP is not prepared for.

Members have had just five days to mull over one of the biggest decisions in UNH history. And one of those days was a major holiday that many celebrated. For a typical meeting, according to union bylaws, members have at least 30 days to prepare.

Rather than discussing this major decision like mature adults – you know, the kind that professors are trying to mold students into – they decided to hold this vote.

While the AAUP doesn't cite contract negotiations as a contributor to approving the vote, it certainly didn't hurt. We've made it clear where we stand regarding these negotiations. The professors are simply asking for too much at a time when a USNH budget hasn't been approved.

President Huddleston didn't do himself any favors with the union during his speech, especially with lines like, "we still too frequently convey information in 50 minute lectures delivered by a ‘sage on the stage' to largely passive recipients in the audience."

But is he wrong? No. We've all encountered sub-par professors and we've all been a part of passive classes with unenthusiastic students. That's part of what he's trying to change with his strategic plan.

And he deserves a chance to do that.

The union should postpone this vote. It hasn't given professors the time to contemplate this and discuss it with other members. It hasn't given Huddleston the time he needs for reform. It sadly doesn't understand the effect that would have on the school.

So instead, professors need to head down to the library on Tuesday and Wednesday, grab their ballots and mark confidence in our president.

The union has already made two major mistakes in jeopardizing state appropriations and giving professors insufficient time before the vote. Let's hope they don't make a third.

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Mon May 30 2011 14:23
My guess is that whatever jack ass wrote: "...four years of unchallenging curriculum with unenthused professors and get a job at liberty mutual when you graduate, this place is for you" is not enrolled as a science major in any discipline. My experience has always been one of great challenge and much enthusiasm, and has left me on course to apply to graduate school. Maybe if you picked a major that was a bit more challenging you'd have come out ahead.
Tue May 3 2011 08:04
I agree with Huddleston. UNH is not a world class, innovative institution- most notably the highly regarded business school. It is a subpar university with a marginal reputation, oh and not to mention one of the highest in-state tuitions in the country. If you want to cruise through four years of unchallenging curriculum with unenthused professors and get a job at liberty mutual when you graduate, this place is for you.
Wed Apr 27 2011 13:36
I also need to wonder about how the TNH reporting staff originally got word of the union's plans for this vote. As a faculty member and a member of the AAUP, I had assumed until recently that this was an internal union process (at least until the results had been tabulated). The very fact that the union leadership have obviously tried to publicize the very existence of this process speaks to their political agenda (threaten and remove anyone who threatens constant, across the board pay raises).
The strategies used and the results achieved by union leadership over the past 10 years have been pathetic. They have increasingly resorted to name-calling, character assassination, and a campaign of misinformation. Meanwhile, the only things that they have achieved have been to repeatedly delay, delay and delay agreements on new contracts. They are worse than non-productive, they are actively poisoning the environment here at UNH, and they apparently don't mind trying to drag students into their political schemes either.
I cannot stomach the fact that 5 members of the union leadership have decided that this how they are going to spend their time, and my union dues. My only hope is that this vote blows up in their faces and galvanizes the faculty to either elect new union leadership, vote "no confidence" in the current union leadership, or decertify the entire union.
Tue Apr 26 2011 22:02
Thank you for that information. I actually saw the paper when I was out today and then read the President's latest e-mail. So now I understand where this editorial is coming from. It's funny that the sensationalist manner of the front page of today's paper has been so quickly reversed by this editorial; but it makes sense considering the president's e-mail in which he referenced his concerns with the paper directly. That last line to the dean is mostly a joke, but also a way to use as much as tact as the author of this opinion piece (in my opinion). I'm well aware it is "bad form," but thank you for contributing something comprehensible towards answering my questions. My limited perspective on the functions of the president and this entire issue with the union is visible through my initial writings. I am certainly anxious to see how all of this plays out.
Tue Apr 26 2011 20:36
I am not sure about the AAUP but as a 9 year staff member at this institution I recently find it hard to have confidence in a "leader" who continues to push for a 51 million dollar capitol project (while still not having the funds to cover it), a "leader" who allows the lead story in the campus journal to focus on taking a student for a ride in his personal plane (while many staff, faculty and students suffer under current economic conditions), a "leader" who doesn't have enough faith in the student body to actually include them in some sort of shared governance of this institution (not to mention PAT or OS staff), a "leader" who continues to impose a view for this university that isn't informed by a genuine partnership with constituents, but instead a "strategic" vision that will allow him to take credit for success and lay blame on "lack of collective effort" for failures, a "leader", who is among the top three in salary and compensation among state employees, that has the audacity to try and discourage PAT staff from organizing to protect what they were promised and finally a "leader" who embraces fear mongering instead of eating some humble pie and admitting that maybe not all his decisions have been "spot on".
Tue Apr 26 2011 14:43
In response to Joe... since you are a student here, you've probably not been on campus for more than four years to I'll enlighten you... SOME faculty have been 'unhappy with the current state of affairs' for decades. What will make them happy? The AAUP has stated it loud and clear -- low cost health insurance (faculty pay less percentage than staff), ridiculously high raises (12.5% over three years?!??! When staff get 1% or nothing?!?) and no accountability... (unwilling to have their raises based on merit.) You write very well, Joe, and I appreciate your taking the time to share your perspective.. but, a pot shot at Dean Kirkpatrick? Bad form.
Joseph Van Gombos
Tue Apr 26 2011 13:31
Haha, yes, I see it is listed under opinion. I suppose I was making some general statements about the paper. It is an opinion of the entire editorial staff of the paper though. So the opinion is not that of any person but that of the organization. I hope every person on the staff agreed with everything said here.

But I am not convinced that this vote will ensure that the senate will not send more money this way. The vote IS happening. Does this mean we actually have no hope of receiving more money? Could you please clear up my confusion and explain why the state will positively not be giving us more money as a result of the vote occurring? You sort of left me hanging with an absolute statement and zero explanation...

Anne Mansfield
Tue Apr 26 2011 12:54
Quite right, anonymous!
Tue Apr 26 2011 12:48
Did you not see that this was under the opinion header, hence an opinion, hence it can have bias? Also, perhaps you are confused as to what this vote would mean. It would cripple any hand we have in convincing the senate for more money.
Tue Apr 26 2011 12:48
AAUP membership needs to leave USNH if it's so bad here....
Joseph Van Gombos
Tue Apr 26 2011 12:29
The intentions of the TNH in this editorial seem misplaced and confused. This paper has rarely been unbiased in their reporting of stories or information, but that is not really the issue here. Assuming the paper is student-run, it makes perfect sense why opinionated articles would often be published. While this can be unprofessional, especially considering the degree to which it is done in this piece, expression through the media is generally unavoidable. As a student at this university though, I question the brash statements made by the staff here.

In reality, the outcome of this vote will be overshadowed by the fact that the vote is occurring at all. Such a situation is a clear indication of discontent among the faculty and staff of the university. Clearly, there is a large enough number of faculty members who are unsure of the current course the president has set for the school. Denying these important voices their own opinions is foolish and also self-defeating. The faculty are the people most directly affected by the mandates and policies of the president of the institution. Thus, they provide the most unfiltered opinions and knowledge about the direction of the university based on executive decisions. The most ludicrous statement in this editorial is the one that claims that holding the no confidence vote is itself ludicrous. Besides that, I would hope students at this school have more tact than to blatantly insult faculty by calling them immature or claiming outright that specific professor's statements are absolutely wrong.

I also find it ironic that President Huddleston's strategic plan, based on long-term development and future goals of sustainability, could be threatened by such immediate actions. Perhaps the TNH is confused as to the actual consequences of this vote. The no confidence vote does not force the president out of office. If there is a significant portion of the responses exhibiting a lack of confidence, it will be clear to the administration that the faculty is unhappy with the current state of affairs and is also hesitant to sign on to the strategic plans of the current president. Obviously the political atmosphere of the institution is volatile right now. But that is precisely why strong opinions, especially those that act against the grain, need to be heard. When everything is working properly within a system, the voices of discontent matter much less than when there are serious problems. So I believe that a vote like this, which is threatening to the status quo, will be at least a good indicator of the cohesion between the top administration and the faculty here at UNH. While it is easier to ignore those voices, it is also much more dangerous for the future stability of the institution. Who wrote this editorial anyways, Dean Kirkpatrick? Maybe that would be giving too much credit...(just fighting fire with fire there)

Tue Apr 26 2011 11:58
This isn't about the comments made by President Huddleston.

This is about the refusal of the administration to give the faculty their 12.5 % pay raise.

UNH faculty think they are the only intelligent people on campus. They think we are too stupid to see right through them.

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