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Published May 09, 2013, 09:29 AM

Meeting to address grievances within UND's nursing college leaves many disappointed

Faculty wanting a prompt response from the dean of UND’s College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines were disappointed after she did not address their grievances during a meeting Wednesday.

By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald

Faculty wanting a prompt response from the dean of UND’s College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines were disappointed after she did not address their grievances during a meeting Wednesday.

Faculty from UND’s sixth largest college gathered on campus hoping to hear Denise Korniewicz address concerns they documented in a statement in late April.

Instead, they heard from UND’s new provost, Thomas DiLorenzo, who deferred the dean’s comments to an unspecified date.

“In the spirit of shared governance, I want us to work together to plan the future,” he said. “I believe the provost’s role is to create a process for us all to move forward. It’s not for me to dictate certain things.”

Faculty approved motions to meet individually with the provost starting Thursday until the end of June, then hold a meeting that includes both faculty and staff members before mid-July.

Dean speaks

Korniewicz made a short statement at the end of the meeting, saying she hoped future meetings would provide a springboard from which they could move forward.

“I hope to have continued dialogue with you, and continue commitment to our students, faculty and staff,” she said.

She added that it’s “very important” to develop practices and processes that address the concerns of faculty, staff and students, and said she distributed a survey taken by members of a task force who summarized these issues.

In its nine-page summary of the survey, the task force stated it found the “most troublesome” aspect was faculty’s views about their work environment.

“Barely 50 percent of respondents said they felt safe in the department, and only one-third of the individuals felt this way in the college,” it said. “Clearly more emphasis needs to be placed on creating and maintaining a safe work environment. A fear of perceived job security, according to these results, comes not only from the upper levels of the college, but from within the departments themselves.”

The task force also noted the need for clearer communication throughout all departments and that an “authoritarian atmosphere” among leadership led several faculty members to feel bullied.

A total of 56 people responded to the survey, but not all employees answered every question.

Faculty response

At the meeting, several faculty members balked at delaying action further, and two left in tears after it was finished.

DiLorenzo first proposed spending two months to meet with faculty, review past procedures and examine each department, saying it would give him enough time to accomplish the task and even suggested pushing the process into the fall semester. One said delaying Korniewicz’s response would further harm faculty and students, who are already affected by the tense atmosphere.

According to faculty’s three-page statement from April, members are reluctant to “speak openly and honestly with the administration due to fear of retaliation” after witnessing others being publicly chastised, humiliated and having their ideas and concerns dismissed.

They described the environment as “hostile, stressful and unwelcoming,” and that the dean has made “disparaging remarks regarding individuals and systems within the university, the community and the populace of North Dakota.”

“How can we prepare for fall with this atmosphere?” said Bridget Thompson, a clinical associate professor, at the meeting.

A few noted the “courage” of faculty members who expressed their fears in the April document, which was created in response to the dean’s request for feedback. They also wanted to clarify in the minutes of Wednesday’s meeting that many stood up in support of the document at the last faculty meeting.

Faculty members said a quick response was needed, especially as many have year-to-year contracts that are up for renewal, and may affect people’s decisions on accepting work for next year.

Only 22 of 100 total within the college are tenured or tenure-track, according university spokesman Peter Johnson.

The faculty document stated Korniewicz has issued termination notices for long-term clinical faculty without explaining her reasons to the college and that tenured and tenure-track faculty have resigned or actively considered leaving.

DiLorenzo assured members that Korniewicz would address concerns, just not on

Wednesday.

“I have every intention of her responding,” he said.

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