higher education

FIU business dean gets mixed review in survey

 

FIU’s business school and its controversial dean scored negatively in an employee satisfaction survey.

mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

An anonymous survey of morale within Florida International University’s business school has revealed considerable unhappiness among the professors and staff — renewing questions about the leadership of business dean David Klock.

At a cost of $60,000, FIU hired an Orlando-area firm, C-Suite Analytics, to perform a confidential satisfaction survey. Since taking the $370,000-a-year position in 2012, Klock has encountered an angry backlash from faculty, though both Klock and FIU President Mark Rosenberg previously characterized the protests as limited to a disgruntled few.

But the results of the outside survey suggest that the frustrations at the College of Business run much deeper. The overall climate at FIU was rated on a 6-point scale, with a 3.5 score representing a neutral outcome, where positive and negative responses are evenly divided.

FIU’s score was a 3.24 — meaning negative responses outnumbered positive ones. Roughly 59 percent of employees characterized the general mood as either “fair” (28 percent), “poor” (20 percent), or “very poor” (11 percent).

Respondents were also particularly harsh on Klock, as questions about the dean and his leadership team received some of the lowest scores.

“We recognize that there are some major concerns and some wide-based concerns,” FIU Provost Douglas Wartzok told about 100 faculty and staff who gathered to hear the results Thursday afternoon. “But the positive part about it is that not only do I recognize it, the dean recognizes it.”

Klock’s job does not appear to be in any jeopardy.

Wartzok promised that the business school will work to improve the communication between leadership and the rank-and-file, which was highlighted in the survey as a main area of dissatisfaction. Wartzok also said Klock will begin holding monthly meetings with a “staff council,” and department chairs will be given more power.

To track whether progress is being made, Wartzok said FIU will ask College of Business employees to answer the same questions a year from now. Next year’s survey should carry a somewhat-smaller price tag, Wartzok said.

Klock did not attend Thursday’s presentation. In previous interviews, Klock said only a “small number of people” were unhappy with his performance as dean. Via e-mail, Klock was asked if the results of the survey have prompted him to re-think that view.

Klock’s response: “The survey results should be read in the context of a culture in transition. To me, the results are a balanced representation of a complex organization and typical of the diversity of thought in a university. With that said, having a clear set of constructive goals put before us provides an excellent blueprint for continuing to improve the experience for students, faculty and staff in the College of Business.”

Wartzok said he told the dean not to attend the presentation, in hopes of encouraging a “more-open conversation.” A persistent complaint under Klock’s leadership has been employees who say they fear retribution if they criticize the dean publicly.

Last year, some faculty members took to sending out anonymous e-mails attacking Klock. Rosenberg — who handpicked Klock as dean — was outraged by the e-mails. In October, the president publicly blasted the unknown authors as “ gutless.

In Thursday’s survey results, many respondents said they don’t feel comfortable airing complaints because of the possibility of retribution.

The provost’s strategy of presenting the results without Klock there appeared to do little to make employees more at ease. Relatively few questions were asked during a Q-and-A session, and no one spoke out against the dean.

After the presentation, two faculty members declined to comment, saying they feared being punished for doing so.

A total of 464 employees (including faculty, administrators, staff, and graduate assistants) were invited to participate in the survey, and 250 responded. C-Suite’s CEO Dick Finnegan acknowledged that some at the university had expressed worries over whether their answers would be truly confidential. Finnegan said the company did keep track of which employees started and finished the survey, but no one matched anyone’s answers to a specific name.

In answering the survey, employees were asked to agree or disagree (or “strongly” agree or disagree) with a variety of statements. The statement that scored the lowest (with the most disagreement) was “The [College of Business] dean and his leadership team effectively manage change.”

Statistically speaking, Finnegan said questions about Klock were the strongest predictors of overall satisfaction.

“If we want to improve the climate, we should start at the top,” Finnegan said.

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