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Double Take

April 19, 2011

Donald Green is executive vice president of instruction and student services at Florida State College at Jacksonville, where he has worked since 1998. He is also, concurrently, the acting senior vice president of academic affairs at Essex County College, in New Jersey, where he has been working 15-20 hours a week as a consultant since last October.

What’s more, Steven Wallace, president at Florida State College and Green’s immediate supervisor, did not know about Green’s other job until two weeks ago, when someone sent him a story from a Newark newspaper that took note of Green’s hiring.

The Florida Times-Union broke the story Sunday about the strange case of Green’s work at the two community colleges, which are nearly 1,000 miles apart. Now, officials at Florida State College are reviewing the matter to ensure that no employment or conflict of interest rules were broken. The matter has stirred faculty concern at both institutions, and higher education legal experts say the matter is disconcerting.

Last November, a month after Green took the consulting job at Essex, he received a 30 percent pay raise at Florida State College to “bring his salary in line with the state average” of $166,000, The Times-Union reported. The newspaper also noted that, between November and April 8, Essex had paid Green about $46,000, at a rate of $130 an hour.

Michael E. Corby, a spokesman for Florida State College, told Inside Higher Ed that the matter was “under administrative review” and that neither Green nor Wallace would comment until that review was completed. Green, however, told The Times-Union that he had used “vacation time and off hours to conduct all his business with Essex County College and [that] his work there did not affect his work for [Florida State College].”

When contacted directly, Wallace told Inside Higher Ed via e-mail that he knows of “nothing of concern to date” about Green’s employment with Essex. Still, he cautioned that “the [administrative] review is not yet complete.”

Green’s employment contract with Florida State College does not contain any stipulations about outside employment or conflicts of interest, aside from those institutional polices and procedures that apply to all hires.

Stephen Milczanowski, president of the United Faculty of Florida chapter at Florida State College and a chemistry professor, said he was “stunned” to hear that his institution’s chief academic officer was splitting his time with another community college in New Jersey. He said he believes Green’s 15-to-20-hour-a-week commitment to Essex is affecting his work at Florida State College, and he points to the college’s hiring of another senior administrator with a similar job title, provost, as evidence.

“Most people would consider [Green’s] position to be that of one approximating a provost,” Milczanowski said. “Why do we need a provost if we have [Green]? Are we just doubling up on a position while [Green] does his thing in New Jersey?… It doesn’t necessarily matter that his other job is at another college. I mean, just do your job here. We’ve got plenty of problems here in Jacksonville.”

Marcella Washington, membership chair of the local chapter of the United Faculty of Florida and a political science professor, said the matter casts her institution in an unfavorable light. She also contends that the college is giving Green a luxury not afforded to faculty.

“We’re hired by Florida State College,” Washington said of instructors there. “Our job takes up more than 40 hours per week. If we are truly giving all we have to our students, we don’t have time for another job. For [Green] to have another full-fledged job to put in 20 hours a week is just not giving all the attention and concern to Florida State College. It’s unacceptable behavior. [From an administrator], it just doesn’t set a good example.”

Even if an administrative review finds that Green’s holding an administrative position at another community college does not violate rules, both Washington and Milczanowski said Green should be required to choose to work for only one institution. As faculty have just returned from spring break and only recently heard of this news, Milczanowski said the faculty union has not decided what kind of formal action it will take in response.

Essex Defends Hiring

Edythe M. Abdullah, Essex's president, did not respond to Inside Higher Ed’s request for an interview; however, she did send a one-page statement on her hiring of Green and his role at the college.

She wrote that, shortly into her presidency at Essex, her provost “opted to take a sabbatical” just as the institution was anticipating an April visit from its accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. She added that she “had no success” filling the position with someone from her “newly formed [New Jersey] professional network” and that, after the position was vacant for two months, she approached Green, a former colleague, who “agreed to take on the role on a temporary part-time basis.”

“Donald Green is an excellent resource, even if he is not able to devote his full attention to Essex,” Abdullah wrote. “To bring in an expert in academia who has received national honors and who could give 10-20 hours per week or month to fill a local void makes sense to me. Dr. Green is well-qualified to temporarily fill a void in this leadership position.”

Abdullah added that Green “serves in a quasi-consultant capacity” — a review of payroll records shows he has worked an average of 12.7 hours per week — and that his contract runs out at the end of the month. She noted that a search is under way to “find the right full-time, permanent candidate” for Green’s position.

Abdullah confirmed that she did not instruct Green to inform or get approval from Florida State College before taking the consulting position with Essex. Green’s contract with Essex — which authorizes him to work up to 35 hours per week — clearly notes that he is still working at Florida State College.

"Don [Green] is a professional," Abdullah wrote via e-mail to Inside Higher Ed. "I didn't feel the need to tell him to ask Dr. Wallace. Having worked in Florida the vast majority of my professional career, I know it's commonplace that administrators and faculty at Florida's community colleges lend their expertise to other community colleges. Florida State College at Jacksonville is far advanced in its use of instructional technology — and has the potential to be a real asset to its community college peers in that respect."

Michael Frank, president of the faculty union and a biology and chemistry professor at Essex, said he was “shocked” that Green was tapped for such a high-level position, noting that he and other faculty would have preferred that Abdullah hire someone local. Last month, the college’s faculty voted 101-6 for a no-confidence measure against Abdullah, calling her "unresponsive, indecisive, untimely and an untrustworthy administrator." They cited her hiring of Green, whom Frank said some faculty members have dubbed “the tenure-buster from Florida.”

A Unique Arrangement

Raymond D. Cotton, a Washington lawyer who specializes in compensation and contract issues in higher education, said most upper-level administration jobs are “quite time-consuming” and rarely limited to just 40 hours a week. He added that individuals in these jobs often have a “very limited amount of time to pursue other consulting opportunities.”

The contracts Cotton said he develops for higher education administrators “almost uniformly” state that “the employee agrees to devote his or her full business time to the university.” He noted that this does not always have to refer to another job, and that it might apply in a case where an individual has a volunteer management role with a nonprofit organization.

“In some cases — and apparently this is not one of them — being on the payroll of two institutions at a high level could be a conflict of interest,” Cotton said. “If there were two private institutions raising money for their endowment, even if they were in disparate states, that could be a direct conflict of interest.”

Regarding Green’s situation with Florida State College and Essex, Cotton said he was “most concerned” that Wallace did not know about Green’s other position.

“That’s inappropriate,” Cotton said. “If you have a high-level person working for the president and that high-level person decides to do something else that requires a lot of time, then the president needs to know that. The president, in my opinion, ought to be able to say, ‘You shouldn’t do that because I need your full-time attention here.' ”

For Cotton, this situation provides a simple lesson about higher education employment contracts.

“The takeaway here is that there ought to be an employment agreement — it doesn’t have to be 50 pages long — but there ought to be an agreement between the institution and high-level people," he said, "where all of these issues are spelled out and that tells what the expectations are.”

 

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