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State of discontent: anonymous letter reveals faculty concerns after President Lepre's address

Updated: Nov 23, 2023


The front entrance of Holloway Hall. Image courtesy of Meghan Bean

The week leading up to Thanksgiving break saw the circulation of a lot of information throughout campus channels leaving students lost in the whirlwind before they make their way back home. Within 24 hours of the State of the University Address, a letter written to President Lepre on November 7 alleging to represent over 100 faculty members and their grievances was put on the floor at a monthly faculty senate meeting.


The State of the University Address is an event that is open to students and the public in which the President gives a brief to those in attendance as to what the university's current standing is.


Some of the most notable elements in Lepre’s hour-long speech on November 13, was her focus on international exchange, providing greater access to students and staff for various opportunities, and the need to “constantly celebrate SU in this time of competition”.


Those three topics were a common theme as they were also included in the letter and within the senate meeting. The majority of the November 14 senate meeting, and the portion discussing the letter from faculty was held behind closed doors. That discussion will continue as old business at the next meeting.


The letter was authored anonymously as by several faculty. It states in the first paragraph it originates from a “sincere and urgent need to improve communication and relations between the faculty of Salisbury University and you [President Lepre].”


The authors describe the letter as an “unusual approach” that stems from an “unprecedented level of discontent.” The letter is formatted in a topic/explanation broken into two categories: “Rumors that have gained traction” and “Facts We know to Be True.” It ends with a call to action.


 

SU Global Campus


Lepre introduced the international studies program during the address as one of the University's high impact practices. She detailed her travel to Austria, South Korea, Japan, and Spain to secure connections with partner universities.


The program is “part of a continuing effort to become the Maryland public university with the highest number of students with at least one global experience prior to graduation…,” according to a University press release sent out after the address.


The anonymous faculty letter directly addressed the championing of international programs.


The letter states, “The president is placing new emphasis on students' doing international programs, but without considering the financial realities that prohibit many students from participating in such programs and without financially supporting the Office of International Education to fund such growth.” And relates it to classist problems especially if this growth is forced.


A motion to charge the International Education Committee with the task of overseeing practices relating to international studies passed. The minutes outline it as “…reviewing policies and procedures relating to Study Abroad, international exchange, and international student recruitment programs as well as their implementation.”


This committee will draft a report and present their findings at the first senate meeting in April 2024, as well as presenting specific proposals for any desired changes at that time.



 

Telling the SU Story


Lepre identified “Telling the SU Story” as a major goal moving forward. She explained “We must celebrate SU, as this reputation is critically important in this age of competition.” Lepre further explained “We must put time and attention to building our identity and brand.”


The address included an in-depth review of “The Salisbury Seven” the university's newest marketing technique that outlines the seven pledges to help with the strategic growth.


"We will continue to tell our story, internally and externally, to cement our place in the minds of all as a University known for impact and excellence." Lepre explains.


The letter brings up the current marketing of SU as a point of contention by saying “Business-speak and the branding of SU is newly prominent” and identifying it as having gone into ‘overdrive’. The vast number of PR emails, good news articles, the naming of the president as “CEO” of the university are particularly unsettling to faculty. Among their reasons for the discomfort they identify several questions:


1) “If our email communications from the President is dominated by good news and positive PR above all else, how can we feel confident that she and her team are dealing directly with the real and challenging issues that affect our lives on a daily basis?”


2) “If SU is treated as a business over-and above all else being an educational establishment how can we have meaningful conversations about the spectrum of different disciplinary perspectives and values that we offer our students?”


3) “How can we trust our president if profit takes precedence over people?’


Lepre highlighted several grants, awards, and efforts to make opportunities for faculty in the address, as well as a care for work life balance. Yet the faculty letter emphasized a lack of communication with the president outside of faculty senate meetings, which conflict with school pick up time.


The need for communication and celebration of staff in meaningful ways as well as feelings of distrust, insult, and neglect are detailed throughout the entirety of the staff's letter.


“President Lepre, we ask that you respond to this letter as fully as possible by December 1. If we do not receive your full and direct response to all items on our list, we will have no choice but to consider other ways of registering our discontent. This is a moment: we hope it will be the time when your Presidency took a positive turn for the benefit of all,” the letter concluded.

 

By MEGHAN BEAN

News Editor

Featured image courtesy of Meghan Bean

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