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Published April 26, 2013, 09:48 AM

UND nursing college head faces faculty ire

The dean of UND’s College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines has been criticized by faculty who say she has created a “climate of fear, intimidation and retaliation,” according to a statement by college faculty who met Wednesday.

By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald

The dean of UND’s College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines has been criticized by faculty who say she has created a “climate of fear, intimidation and retaliation,” according to a statement by college faculty who met Wednesday.

A three-page, nonbinding “Document of Concerns Presented to the Dean and Faculty” states Denise Korniewicz, who started her job less than two years ago, will have 10 working days to prepare a written plan that describes how she will address the concerns. It also says she must also speak with faculty during a special meeting within the same time period.

Several faculty members the Herald spoke with were not willing to speak on record about the dean, but said the letter was read at the faculty meeting and a majority of those present signed the document.

University Senate Chairman James Mochoruk, along with several other UND officials, was given a copy of the document.

Mochoruk said he’s always “concerned whenever there’s any question of shared governance.”

UND spokesman Peter Johnson, who said President Robert Kelley had received a copy, said the university supports a collaborative governance approach.

“The president is quite committed to that,” he said.

'Fearful' faculty

Nursing faculty compiled the three-page document, which describes the environment as “hostile, stressful and unwelcoming,” in response to Korniewicz’s request for feedback at a recent faculty meeting.

Korniewicz has issued termination notices for “well-respected, long-term clinical faculty” without explanation to the college, and tenured and tenure-track faculty have resigned or actively considered leaving — developments that further exacerbated the situation, according to the document.

“It is no exaggeration to say that in light of such developments many members of the college are fearful that they could be next,” it states.

The dean has also made “disparaging remarks regarding individuals and systems within the university, the community and the populace of North Dakota, including during public meetings,” according the document. It also said that faculty members, staff, and students have been “publically chastised, humiliated and (had) their ideas and concerns dismissed.”

Faculty members are reluctant to speak openly and honestly with this administration because they fear retaliation, the document states. Further, faculty have witnessed “this administration disregarding department and college policies, making changes to policies that have been previously approved by faculty, without faculty input, and disregarding the faculty governance processes that are outlined in our bylaws, ND Board of Nursing Rules and Regulations, and accreditation standards.”

Next steps

The university’s faculty handbook emphasizes shared governance and the principles and a democratic administration, and “it is our experience that these responsibilities have not been fulfilled,” the faculty members wrote.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson noted that it’s not unusual for questions to be raised during a time of rapid change at a university, though one like this is “fairly rare.”

UND has experienced several changes in the past year, including dropping and adding departments and pursuing a goal of becoming a premier research institution, he said.

Korniewicz did not respond to requests for comment. She joined UND after serving as a senior associate dean for research at the University of Miami School of Nursing & Health Studies.

University Senate involvement has not yet been requested by nursing faculty.

Much of the procedure that follows hinges on the dean’s response, if she responds, and how the faculty members want to proceed, said Mochoruk.

“There is no formal process to deal with a matter like this,” he said, adding that the processes that are in place are more related to issues between individuals.

“The Senate may be called upon, maybe not, to take action, but at least to serve as a forum,” he said. “We’re a University Senate, so it’s not just a faculty body.”

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