When Florida International University hired David Klock as its business school dean, the announcement lauded Klock’s distinguished track record, citing his experience leading two other business schools and his entrepreneurial expertise as CEO of a multimillion-dollar dental insurance company.
FIU’s president and provost thought so much of Klock that they made him one of the highest-paid business deans in the state, at $370,000 a year.
But a year later, a growing chorus of faculty and students is questioning the wisdom of that investment. They contend Klock’s management style has led to staff turnover and an air of anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the business school.
When several dozen students from FIU’s Healthcare MBA program met with Klock last month, they repeatedly — at times angrily — demanded an explanation for the exit of the program’s popular director, Nancy Borkowski. She unexpectedly stepped down in August, and many in the program blame it on Klock’s increasingly controversial leadership.
“You’re changing everything,” one student complained to Klock. “You’re taking the most powerful voice that FIU has in healthcare in South Florida, and you’re pushing her out.”
More than 100 students, staff and alumni have signed a change.org petition demanding the reinstatement of Borkowski, who remains at FIU as a faculty member. She declined to comment.
The abrupt resignation — which Klock insists was not his doing — is only one of many thorny issues embroiling the business dean. Some of that internal tension could bubble to the surface during a business faculty assembly scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday.
Klock has heard the criticism but said it’s limited to a small group of disgruntled employees.
“As a new dean, sometimes things change,” Klock said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “Things are done differently, and some small number of people just don’t like change, and they tend to want to make lots of comments.”
The new dean ticks off a long list of accomplishments in his first year: the hiring of 15 new faculty members; a 13 percent increase in the number of first-year and transfer students; a new focus on better serving undergraduates through improved technology and student advising.
FIU President Mark Rosenberg — who knew Klock previously and pushed for his hire — is standing by his pick.
“There is a campaign by a few people to discredit this individual,” Rosenberg said. “I’m not saying there aren’t issues. Every dean, there are issues. But this happens all the time. This is normal business for a new dean.”
Anonymous emails have circulated around the university in recent months, blasting the dean for a variety of offenses. FIU business professor David Ralston said the discontent appears widespread.
“He’s just apparently alienated the great majority of the faculty, from my own personal conversations with faculty members who wish to remain anonymous,” Ralston said. “The reason there’s so much anonymous email going around is that there is a fear of retribution.”
Faculty and staff have privately grumbled that Klock’s focus on the bottom line — second-guessing items such as travel, catering and employee raises — has demoralized the department. Some also say Klock lacks the international expertise necessary to thrive in Miami’s diverse culture.