Efforts by SUNY Cobleskill President Don Zingale to improve the college are being undermined by his flawed and detrimental leadership style, according to the State University Faculty Senate.
The report about the governance at Cobleskill was compiled by a committee of six who visited the campus March 1-3 and talked with the college community. The investigation was the result of a joint request from Zingale and then-campus governance leader Melody Eldred that was issued in November of 2010; that was in lieu of a no-confidence vote on the president that some faculty members had requested.
The report mostly focused on complaints and evidence regarding Zingale’s management: “The central problems for President Zingale appear to be his personal interactions, ineffective communication and inconsistent management.”
The report makes recommendations including the promotion of a more inclusive and collaborative atmosphere, the institution of a leadership team and the development of better community relations.
John Kowal has been campus governance leader since January. “I would consider it a very fair and balanced report,” he said. “They are substantial recommendations.”
Kowal interpreted the recommendations as a way to build on Zingale’s strengths and mitigate his weaknesses.
In an addendum to the report, Zingale said that he appreciated the recommendations and predicted that they will play an important role in shaping Cobleskill’s future. He added that many of the recommendations represent ongoing endeavors of his presidency.
However, Zingale also said criticisms were based on misleading or skewed information. “[The report] invites erroneous interpretations that the cited negative opinions represent the wholesale beliefs of a much larger group,” he wrote in a rebuttal this spring.
Kowal contested that. He described an extensive outreach effort by the team, which sought out numerous voices from the campus and surrounding community. Because interested parties could present written concerns or describe their opinions in person during the committee visit, Kowal said many voices were heard.
“The team really provided an opportunity for a broad look at the institution,” Kowal said. “This process didn’t just include a small group of people that are really mad at [Zingale].”
The report recommends that a progress report should be sent to the State University Faculty Senate president by the end of the 2012 spring semester.
Kowal expressed disappointment with this recommendation from the visiting team, saying they should have left a representative on campus to ensure the implementation of their ideas. “I guess they believe we can handle it,” he said.
Kowal characterized the timetable as realistic. He said the important thing is that there is evidence of positive change in the near future.
Kowal added the caveat that leaders need to come to a position with certain skills and might not be able to be learn those traits.
Zingale referred all questions about this issue to a college spokesman. A spokesman for SUNY Cobleskill would not respond to questions about the report but said the recommendations are being considered.
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