Wednesday, September 13, 2017

An Insider's Surprising Look at Kennth Kitts & UNA

We asked if any our regular readers could clear up any of the seemingly odd financial situations, as well as administrative problems, at the University of North Alabama. Almost immediately we received this from a university employee:

In response to your recent post about UNA, I have some observations as a long-time employee there. First, federal grants are determined by the federal government and students qualify based on their financial aid application. Most UNA students just don’t meet the criteria set by the government to receive grants. The College of Nursing, however, has received millions of dollars in special grants to allow under-represented groups to attend nursing school. This program has been going on for years and, to my knowledge, is quite successful.

As far as UNA crime, I believe it is lower than the City of Florence. Because UNA is inside the City of Florence, I believe there would be a strong relationship between the two and crime statistics. If you look at other universities our size, our crime rate is very low.

That still leaves UNA with its largest budget in the history of the school, but still seemingly struggling to keep its head above water. What is wrong? I have a few observations:

Killing the Golden Goose – A couple of years ago, UNA was receiving a lot of donations from the outside public in support of its capital campaign. The person who coordinated all of this was Dr. Dan Hendricks, Vice President for Advancement. Dr. Hendricks was so good that he made the $25,000,000 goal even before the official kick-off dinner. So, what did Dr. Kitts do to show his appreciation, he fired Dr. Hendricks and replaced him with Debbie Shaw. Look at how little money she has brought to the campus. Oh, and by the way, was there even a search for that position once Hendricks was forced out? Likewise, Clinton Carter, as the institution’s Vice President for Business and Finance, did a lot in his short period of time to put UNA in a better financial position. His reward? You guessed it. Kitts fired him. UNA hired Vice President for Enrollment Management, Dr. Thomas Calhoun, to address declining enrollments. After years of hard work under his leadership, UNA finally saw a substantial increase in enrollment. That same year, Kitts fired Dr. Calhoun.

Tuition Discounts – Many years ago, UNA’s dimwit of a provost, Dr. John Thornell, made the decision that UNA would offer deep discounts to students with ACT scores as low as 21. He created the Vanguard Scholarship. This is not really a scholarship because no money is coming in from an outside source. It is just a discount in the tuition. If you check, many students come in with these scores. The result is that the new freshmen are paying far less than the rest of the student body and tuition has to increase annually so that current students can keep paying for these discounts. Let’s say you are a store that sells milk. Your cost for milk is $2.00 and you sell it for $3.00. However, to get more people to come into your store, you offer new customers milk at $1.50 which is less than you paid for it. Therefore, you must now raise the regular price of your milk to $3.50 in order to cover the difference. Why should your loyal customers pay for the new ones?

Wasting Money – Bottom line, UNA should have never moved to Division 1 Athletics. The students, faculty, and staff were not for it. However, the Board actually believes we will receive a huge revenue stream from television contracts. If they speak the truth, why are they so worried about the budget now? I mean, we should be rolling in the dough right now. The truth is that UNA will not see any media revenue for years. By that time, it will be ten years or more before we actually break even from all of the costs and higher salaries associated with the D1 move. UNA has also hired two marketing consulting firms and one individual marketing consultant (a friend of Kitts). After tens of thousands of dollars for these contracts, UNA has only made minor changes to its logo. Either UNA is not listening to its consultants, or I should go into logo design. Seems more lucrative than what I’m currently doing.

Inflated Salaries – When Dr. Gregg Carnes was hired as the Raburn Emminent Scholar, he was brought in because of certain skills UNA wanted. The emminent scholar is money given by an outside donor to “sweeten” the pot for good professors. This money is added to the regular salary that the professor would normally be paid. In this case, Carnes was making over $170,000 while all of the other accounting faculty were making less than half this amount. Now, there is nothing wrong with the Emminent Scholar program. It is designed to bring in top-notch faculty who have a special skill in teaching or research. However, when Carnes was promoted to Dean, he retained his Emminent Scholar position even though deans typically do not teach or do research. That is why he is the second highest paid administrator at UNA at over $225,000 a year. Nobody other than the president should be making that much at UNA. How about Tammy Jacques? What was her academic qualifications to become the Title IX coordinator? Yet she gets a big raise while her boss (Mr. David Shields) and her husband (Dr. Kevin Jacques) are currently being sued for, guess what, discrimination and Title IX violations. Interesting. Also, Ms. Catherine White and Ms. Cindy Conlon were promoted years ago from their director positions to assistant vice presidents, yet they only supervise one department and their responsibilities did not change. How does this happen?

Too Much Overhead – Over the past five years, look at the increase in staff positions at UNA. Student enrollment has not increased that much. Yet, UNA still finds the money to hire more staff positions. The last time I checked, UNA should be “teaching” and not “administering.” Most administrative assistants who work within the academic departments should be placed on nine-month contracts with the faculty. During the summer, hardly anyone can be reached within the academic departments, including the administrative assistants. These salaries should go down. While other institutions are either shutting down services, merging with other institutions, or eliminating positions, UNA is operating at status quo. For example, there is a director position open within the Sponsored Operations department. They are the folks who help you apply for grants and government contracts. About 12 years ago, this department was housed with Institutional Research. Why can’t they do that now and eliminate a director position? UNA spent numerous hours and vast resources in a recent cost containment/program prioritization plan. However, nothing has been done. It is time for UNA to become leaner so that our students will not have to pay to fatten the calf more.

Teaching Quality – UNA has many good and talented faculty. We also have our share of faculty who just don’t care. Many of these are tenured. We need to get rid of them. I will not tell you how many times students approach me to complain that, after turning in a homework or other assignment, they have to sometimes wait up to six weeks before receiving a grade or any feedback. Sometimes the student never receives feedback. If I’m not mistaken, about a year ago, UNA participated in a national survey and this was one of the major issues bought out by our students. Shouldn’t the objective of class assignments and homework be to generate quick feedback as to how the student is doing in the class? This is not a good example to set by a school who says it has small class sizes and caring faculty.

I love UNA and most of the people who work here. However, the administration has got its priorities all messed up and it is hurting everyone. The Board needs to recognize that nothing can be done without the upper administrators taking control. However, Kitts has shown that he has made some stupid decisions and he is quick to anger (i.e. Florence Middle School property and the first response letter attacking the student who was raped by a UNA professor). It is time for the Board to act and make some serious changes.


A new administration? Now it's wait and see. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a "spring cleaning" of the administration staff, the President and many of the Vice Presidents should happen immediately. Then a salary cap for all professors until the financial house is in order and a long term as well as the short term budget is put into place. THEN we go back and look at the policies that allowed things to get this bad and BURN them to ashes.