CCRI Faculty Union Head Calls for President Hughes’ Resignation After Vote of No Confidence

Tuesday, December 04, 2018


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82% of voting CCRI faculty union members voiced "no confidence" in CCRI President Meghan Hughes (pictured). Photo: GoLocalProv

The head of the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) faculty union is calling for CCRI President Meghan Hughes -- and others in administration leadership -- to "step aside," after 82% of voting CCRI Faculty Association (CCRIFA) members voiced "no confidence" in Hughes.

On Monday night, the results of the no-confidence motion before the CCRIFA saw out of 271 eligible voters, 219 ballots were submitted. 160 votes supported the motion, 34 votes did not support the motion, and 25 ballots abstained. 

"After careful consideration of the very serious issues raised by this Motion of No Confidence, that impact so greatly on our students' education, the faculty, in great solidarity, have made their voices heard by this vote. Of the faculty who voted "Yes" or "No", 82% (160 out of 194) voted No Confidence in President Hughes, VP Costigan and Dean Sabbagh," said Steve Murray, CCRIFA President, on Monday night. 

"The message from this vote is loud and clear -- President Hughes and her senior team do not have the ability to be effective leaders and educators, they have not acted in the best interest of our students, and as a consequence of their failures, they should either resign or be removed," continued Murray. "As this vote was being held over the last week, not one faculty member publicly spoke up in support of President Hughes, VP Costigan or Dean Sabbagh. The time has come for them to step aside so that the College can move forward to fulfill our mission in the best interest of our students."

When reached for comment, CCRI said that Hughes would be issuing a statement on Tuesday.

Latest for CCRI -- and Faculty

The move marks the latest in friction between Hughes and CCRI faculty. 

In June 2017, GoLocal reported, "Over 50 CCRI Faculty Call Hughes’ Leadership 'Challenging and Distressing'" -- and the following month, Hughes "Criticized Faculty for Negativity."

This past October, Murray took issue with the implementation of Governor Gina Raimondo's free "Rhode Island Promise" college tuition program at CCRI. 

Read: Head of CCRI Faculty Union Says Raimondo’s “Free College” Students Not Ready, Not Succeeding

"From what we have in this 'Enrollment Update' -- 38% of the RI Promise students failed to return for year two -- and of those that did return, we haven’t yet been told how many of the returnees failed to complete the first year successfully," said Murray in October. "I wouldn’t call RI Promise a success or a good use of the taxpayers money."

A further review by found that "CCRI & Raimondo’s RI Promise Claims Are Not Supported By School’s Documents."

Other faculty joined Murray in criticism of Hughes leading up the vote, including Assistant Professor of English Michele Seyler, who wrote the following to Hughes on November 30 -- and shared with colleagues. 

"You designed RI Promise without any faculty input. As a result, students in three developmental courses are concurrently enrolled in two mainstream college classes. Students with learning disabilities are taking accelerated writing courses. Low-level ESL students who can't decode a sentence are in RI Promise," wrote Seyler. "Your administration is well aware of this. We know because we are the ones who brought it to their attention at the one English department meeting they attended. Now, in the second roll-out of RI Promise, these same issues exist."

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The implementation of the RI Promise free college tuition program at CCRI (pictured) was one of the many issues the faculty took issue with.

"Faculty proposed that our lowest level developmental and ESL students be automatically assigned an advisor. That proposal has not even been acknowledged. Mandatory orientation has also been proposed to help our most at-risk students. That, too, has been ignored. There is ample money and movement in the hiring of administrators.  The administrative expansion under your stewardship is astonishing," continued Seyler. "You also misrepresent the facts when you lead people to believe that you have worked with faculty since last January to make J-Term happen. You have not. No one from [the] administration has attended our departmental faculty meetings to open a dialogue. And, you endeavor to distract people from the core issue - academic integrity."

Curriculum Issues Flagged

In October, Murray took issue with CCRI Dean Thomas Sabbagh's involvement in the participation of the Curriculum Review Committee -- writing to faculty members that Sabbagh acknowledged that he changed forms without faculty knowledge or consent, in order to manipulate feedback from instructors about their ability to condense semester-long courses into a winter "J-term" offering. 

Sabbagh purportedly overrode the faculty input to dictate that instructors would have to fit semester-long classes into the abbreviated window of time. 

"Dean Sabbagh stated that it was within the power of the Administration to determine the scheduling format of courses and that's why he added the word "various," wrote Murray to colleagues -- when he called for Sabbagh to step down. 

Last week, CCRI VP of Academic Affairs Rosemary Costigan informed the community that Sabbagh notified the college that he would be on leave effective immediately. 

CCRI Professor of English Steve Forleo sent the following to colleagues before the completion of the CCRIFA vote on Monday.

"What is before us now is not unlike that contentious time. In fact, what I’ve seen now is far worse. This faculty is witnessing a political coup," wrote Forleo. "We have a group of neophyte administrators clearly intent on undermining any true sense of shared-governance, an attempt to control our core pedagogical mission by tethering academics to workforce development, a systematic erosion of faculty autonomy, and propagating unnecessary political propaganda of using our students as pawns to run around the CRC for J Term."


Related Slideshow: CCRI Promise Report March 2018


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