CCRI President Hughes Criticizes Faculty for Negativity

Monday, July 17, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

President Hughes, CCRI
The battle between the Community College of Rhode Island’s President, Meghan Hughes, and the colleges faculty continues.

After a series of GoLocal articles, Hughes praised the school and criticized the faculty for their comments. Hughes wrote in an internal email to the campus community, “I know there are challenges as we engage in this work. Like you, I have seen the rancor expressed in internal emails and the local media regarding our college. This type of divisive rhetoric weakens us as a community and as a college.”

“I recognize that it takes energy to maintain a focus on serving our students and moving our college forward while this activity is happening around us, and for that I offer you my deepest thanks,” added Hughes.

Hughes' press office have repeatedly refused comment regarding the CCRI faculty raising questions about her decision-making and the ongoing faculty criticism.

"Setting aside the practice in alliteration, the cloying for community collaboration and collegiality sounds contemptuous of those who've courageously spoken out," said CCRI Professor of English Steve Forleo.

"The community in the college's moniker has been continuously calcified by commandments intent on curbing challenging conversations," said Forleo — his comments intentionally ridiculed Hughes’ writing style.

The "rancor" between Hughes and the faculty stands in stark contrast to Hughes' own bio, "A dynamic leader committed to social change through advocacy and education. Committed to engaging diverse communities and individuals to empower young adults to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. 30 years of continuous affiliation with organizations that advance social justice, education, public policy and public service. Proven fundraiser, experienced and effective public speaker and exceptional team builder with particular strengths in leading growth and change. A versatile non-profit executive with superb leadership skills and a track record of successfully stewarding diverse interests to the achievement of a common goal."

Faculty says the workplace is hostile under Hughes
"Hostile" Environment Claims Faculty

As GoLocal recently reported, CCRI faculty had warned of both a "hostile" and "political" takeover due to changes in state oversight and leadership in recent years -- and voiced dismay when the CCRI-based day care was shut down at the same time of the arrival of Goldman Sachs' small business program.  

Now, controversies surrounding the closure of the free community dental clinic on CCRI's campus, a change in leadership at the college's observatory, and even questions regarding "key card" access for the student press have put the community college that was formed in 1964 as the state's "junior college" squarely in the spotlight -- and under public scrutiny. 

The dental clinic has been a blow to the not-for-profit and their effort to provide free dental care to the poor.

The recent closure of a free dental clinic at CCRI's Lincoln campus drew strong rebuke from the dentist who has run the program. 

On May 10, Dr. Rosemary Costigan, CCRI Vice President for Academic Affairs, informed Dr. Jeffrey Dodge the college could no longer accommodate the community service program in its current form. 

"After a great deal of consideration, I write to inform you that [CCRI] is unable to host the Rhode Island Mission of Mercy [RI MOM]  in our dental health clinic at our Flanagan campus in Lincoln," Costigan wrote to Dodge. "CCRI remains supportive of this event that serves so many people with critical dental care, and we could like to continue our partnership in 2018 buy offering the use of our field house in either Lincoln or at our Knight campus in Warwick. 

"In the first year, we would allow use of the facility free of charge, and CCRI would absorb the staffing costs (an estimated $10,000) related to the set-up, security, and weekend-long use of the space," added Costigan. "We must prioritize use of our academic spaces in a manner that aligns with the mission of our college."

Dodge, President of the Rhode Island Oral Health Foundation, said in response, "After 5 years of inarguable progress, success and partnership, the Community College of Rhode Island has made a decision not to host the 2017 RI MOM free dental clinic, despite the fact the mission also provides immunizations, health screenings and serves as a conduit for individuals and families into regular medical and dental care," said Dodge. "Due to financial and logistical reasons, the RIOHF is unable to hold this event moving forward without the use of the CCRI dental health clinics."

"The decision by CCRI comes as shock to the RIOHF and RI MOM volunteers as the effort fulfills a moral obligation to the state’s vulnerable citizens and provides many uninsured or underinsured people with the annual dental care they critically need," said Dodge, who noted that over 650 dental, medical and community members volunteer at the RI MOM annually, and that from 2012 to 2016, the volunteers provided services worth a total combined value of $2.73 million.

Faculty says the workplace is hostile under Hughes
Students Rallied for Observatory Head Britton

Another recent controversy centered around the reassignment of faculty member Brendan Britton who headed to teach astronomy in 2007 and oversaw the Observatory.  

CCRI touted the opening of its recently renovated Margaret M. Jacob observatory on July 8 -- but a protest over the school's role in its oversight vied for attention. 

Steve Murray, President of the CCRI Faculty Association, sent the following to faculty prior to the protect earlier this month. 

"Our colleague, Brendan Britton was hired in 2007 to teach Astronomy courses and to operate the Observatory. From the outset, Brendan has done an outstanding job in his courses and in welcoming the community to the Observatory on Wednesday nights. The open Observatory nights have been a huge success over the years," wrote Murray. "The Administration has recently tried to bully Brendan into accepting less money to operate the Observatory than he was promised and that the contract provides for. When Brendan stood up to the Administration, they took the keys to the Observatory away and threw him out of the Observatory. The community, including students, staff, faculty, and area residents have voiced their strong support of Brendan in this matter."

Murray noted that the CCRIFA/NEARI have filed a grievance on Britton's behalf.

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