November 15, 2018

Transparency key for Webster University

By Kavahn Mansouri

Any student who attended St. Louis Community College (STLCC) Meramec between 2010 and 2013 would say the institution is now a shade of its former self. But what brings an institution to its all-time low? A struggling economy? An assault on campus? A disgruntled workforce?

As a former STLCC-Meramec student, I have seen first hand what can happen to an institution that ignores its faculty, staff and students. Dishonesty and a corporate model are a few of the many issues that landed STLCC’s good name in a sea of bad press and too-little-too-late remedies.

While budget cuts killed campus life and cancelled classes, faculty and staff members watched as their campus crumbled due to top-down management. When things seemed like they couldn’t get worse, a female student was attacked on campus, leading to one of the biggest fumbles of administrative duty in higher education St. Louis has seen in a decade.

STLCC’s handling of the attack behind closed doors not only hurt the trust of the college, but also put its students in danger. One of the largest missteps made by the college was hiding this incident from the campus. Most faculty, student and staff found out about the attack on campus more than a week later.

This resulted in the resignation of the former campus president George Wasson, the firing of Campus Police Chief Paul Banta, District Police Chief Robert Stewart and Vice President of Student Affairs Linden Crawford.

How could this have been avoided? How could a community college that was on its way back to the good times plunge lower than it ever had before? The answer is a simple concept the STLCC administration and their un-renewed chancellor seem to disregard at every turn — Transparency.

STLCC is a public institution, giving it a responsibility to display transparency throughout. While STLCC failed in its duties, universities like Webster can prevail.

Webster, a private institution, has no governmental obligation for transparency, but that’s no excuse not to observe the practice. Honesty towards the faculty, staff and students should be the number one rule at any university. Without those three cogs, the university machine will fail.

A little bit of honesty could have gone a long way for STLCC if the administration had taken that route. Instead, hiding the truth and sweeping issues under the rug led to a larger problem that they could not fit under the rug. It may have well been the reason many of the said sweepers find themselves unemployed now.

For two years, faculty members attended board of trustee meetings and complained to the board about the administration.

While Webster University may not have all of these issues, it’s important to keep the idea of transparency in mind heading into the academic year. A bit of dishonesty can snowball. Take a look at the state of STLCC in 2010 and how the present institution contrasts to the latter. STLCC’s lack of communication and respect towards their community provides a valuable lesson for other universities, including Webster. Transparency is key when it comes to a successful institution.

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