Faculty Senate, administration at odds over top academic leadership posts

Scott Murphy, News Editor

Following President Steven DiSalvo’s announcement of his permanent appointment of Mark Cronin as the Academic Dean of the College and Abbot Mark Copper, O.S.B.’s permanent appointment of Brother Isaac Murphy, O.S.B. as the Vice President of Academic Affairs, both of whom previously held these positions on an interim basis, the Faculty Senate held and scheduled several meetings to address their perceived lack of input in the decision making process.

Father Augustine Kelly, O.S.B. had originally held the responsibilities of both positions for eleven years until it was announced on October 3 of last year that he would be stepping down.

The decision was then made by President DiSalvo to split the previously compound position into two separate offices, with the Academic Dean of the College focusing on operational issues and the Vice President of Academic Affairs focusing on strategic issues.

After Father Augustine’s resignation, the Faculty Senate approved Dean Cronin and Brother Isaac’s interim appointments until November 1 of this year.

Dean Cronin served as Assistant and later Associate Dean of the College under Father Augustine, and has a Ph.D. degree in English from the University of Delaware.

Brother Isaac holds a Ph.D. degree in politics from the University of Chicago and served as Prior of the Monastery.

During this time in the last academic year, there was a search conducted for the office of Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Nine individuals were selected to form an official search committee, five of whom were members of the Faculty Senate and included the President of the Faculty Senate, which at the time was Professor Hugh Dubrulle.

However, neither of the search committee’s two finalists, both of which were not applicants from within the Saint Anselm community, was selected to fill the position.

President Steven DiSalvo (who conducted the final interview with both candidates) and the search committee agreed that neither candidate properly represented the mission of Saint Anselm College.

A search of this kind was not conducted for the position of Academic Dean of the College.

As a result of both the failed search for the Vice President of Academic Affairs and the lack of a search for the Academic Dean of the College, both Brother Isaac and Dean Cronin retained the interim status of their respective positions at the conclusion of the last academic year up until this point in the current academic year.

Conversation over the positions resumed at the start of the current academic year, which included an October 7 meeting of the Faculty Senate, which President DiSalvo attended specifically to discuss the matter.

President DiSalvo shared that members of the faculty utilized the meeting to initiate conversation about the new, dual structure of the Academic Affairs office, a desire for a more prominent faculty voice within the President’s Cabinet and how to best proceed with the appointment process.

President DiSalvo brought these viewpoints to the attention of Abbot Mark, the Chancellor of Saint Anselm College, as well as the college’s Board of Trustees, with the discussion centering on President DiSalvo’s belief that both Dean Cronin and Brother Isaac had demonstrated outstanding performance in their respective offices as well as a clear grasp of the college’s mission.

President DiSalvo cited metric improvements such as growth in admission and an increase in the college endowment, figures that he attributes to the strength of his leadership team which, for the last year, has included both Dean Cronin and Brother Isaac.

It was also added by President DiSalvo that beyond these groups’ belief that Dean Cronin and Brother Isaac were qualified candidates, both men endorsed the other’s hiring and enjoy working with each other.

President DiSalvo pointed out how crucial this is, considering how closely and frequently that their two positions must collaborate.

At an October 17 meeting of the Board of Trustees, a unanimous vote was taken to approve this very action, and as a result, the appointment decisions were made.

Abbot Mark made the official appointment of Brother Isaac to the position of Vice President of Academic Affairs, as the bylaws of the college grant him the authority as Chancellor to appoint a qualified member of the monastic community to a leadership position within the college.

The official appointment of Dean Cronin to the position of Academic Dean of the College was made by President DiSalvo, which falls under his jurisdiction due to the fact that the position is included in the President’s Cabinet.

Additionally, President DiSalvo revealed that the choice of Dean Cronin was made partially as a response to the Faculty Senate’s desire for a stronger voice within the President’s Cabinet, as President DiSalvo acknowledged that Dean Cronin is a well-respected figure among the faculty.

All of this information was relayed by President DiSalvo to Professor Phil Pajakowski, the current President of the Faculty Senate, during their monthly meeting for October. Abbot Mark was also in attendance.

After the decisions were announced to the college on October 23 via a campus wide email, the Faculty Senate scheduled an ad hoc meeting for October 28, which was followed by the issuing of a statement to President DiSalvo which claimed that the decisions violated the Faculty Senate Constitution, the Faculty Handbook and college precedent.

The actual wording of the Faculty Senate Constitution (which has been approved by the Monastic Community, the College’s Administration and the Board of Trustees) reads that “The Senate shall…actively participate in other decisions which affect the educational program of Saint Anselm College. In these matters the Senate shall, either independently or upon the request of the President of the college or the latter’s appointed representative, after due and proper deliberation, submit its recommendations to the President of the College.”

Specific to this case, the Constitution also states that “The Senate shall further have the right of involvement in the selection of the President, the Executive Vice-President, and the Dean of Saint Anselm College.”

Elaborating upon this statement, Professor Pajakowski shared that “In this case, we were made aware of the appointments after they were already made.”

Additionally, while President DiSalvo requested that the Faculty Senate conduct a preliminary discussion of Dean Cronin’s performance, they have stated that they were not provided the opportunity to give an official assessment or evaluation of the work of either Dean Cronin or Brother Isaac in their respective positions.

Professor Matthew Masur, Secretary of the Faculty Senate, explained that “Appointments of this nature require faculty involvement. In the case of Dean Cronin, President DiSalvo asked for informal feedback from the Faculty Senate and then he made the appointment permanent without asking the Senate for a formal vote. I’m not sure why he didn’t ask for a vote—it was clear that the Senate would have overwhelmingly supported Dean Cronin’s permanent appointment.”

Masur further added that “The Senate was even less involved in the permanent appointment of Brother Isaac to the VPAA position, as President DiSalvo did not ask for any feedback about this possibility before making the appointment permanent.”

Professor Pajakowski made a point to clarify that “What we have said so far has nothing to do with Dean Cronin or Brother Isaac. We have no personal problem with either of these men; we just want a say in the process.”

In response to these statements, President DiSalvo shared that the core of this issue is in how the involved parties relate consultation with administrative action.

While President DiSalvo shared that it was important for him to gather as much input from affected parties as he could, he asserted that it was ultimately his administrative responsibility to make the decision that he did.

“Considering that Dean Cronin will be a member of my senior team, I feel that it is a decision that I personally have to make,” President DiSalvo shared.

When President DiSalvo was asked about Abbot Mark’s appointment of Brother Isaac, he referred to the aforementioned powers granted to the Chancellor in the college’ bylaws as warranting the decision made by the Abbot.

President DiSalvo also commented on the fact that Brother Isaac is the only member of the Monastery that currently holds a leadership position within the college, something that is of great importance to the monastic community.

At this point, beyond their initial statement and a meeting scheduled for November 12, the exact course of action that the Faculty Senate plans to take has not been revealed.

It should be noted that several members of the Faculty Senate and College Administration that were contacted by The Crier were either unable or reluctant to deliver statements, as they felt that it would premature to do so at this time.