Monday evening July 13 about 6:15 PM, I received at my home a phone call from John Hacker, reporter for the Carthage Press. John informed me that he had spoken with Bruce Speck, via a phone call to Bruce’s office, about the situation surrounding my decision to resign the position of Academic VP eighteen days after my appointment had been announced. He indicated that he would like to give me a chance to comment. I asked him if he would share with me Bruce’s comments. He responded that Bruce said that it was my preference to return to full-time teaching and beyond that he considered it to be a personnel issue and additional comments would be inappropriate.
Because I was comfortable with Bruce's response, I made the following remarks, which later appeared in an article in the Tuesday, July 14 issue of the Carthage Press.
When contacted at home, Oakes said he enjoyed his time in the administration but it was time for him to return to the classroom.
“Dr. Speck and I disagreed on the appropriate management style of the academic affairs division,” Oakes told the Carthage Press. “I always enjoyed being in the classroom and working with students. And I’ve enjoyed this past year working with John Messick as his associate VP. The circumstances made me feel like the best thing for me would be to be back in the classroom.”
Tuesday morning, I learned that later Monday evening John Hacker contacted Bruce at his home for additional comments, which apparently Bruce agreed to make. The resulting article, which was posted on the Carthage Press website Tuesday morning and appeared in Tuesday’s issue of the paper, is attached to this email.
Bruce did as he originally indicated to John Hacker would be inappropriate; in my opinion, he divulged to the public media an
incomplete accounting of the context for my decision to return to full-time teaching-faculty status. I feel that he communicated enough details about an institutional personnel matter to call into question my loyalty to Missouri Southern, made it appear that I would, for selfish reasons, walk away from an obligation to serve eighteen days after agreeing to accept the assignment, and implied I had refused to carry through with the strategic planning project, a project that I personally
had designed and led and which Bruce acknowledged in the article as being carried out very effectively. Therefore, I feel that it is my right and obligation to, without violating anyone's right to privacy, set the record straight.
Reason for Resigning
John Hacker accurately quoted me. My reason for resigning was:
“Dr. Speck and I disagreed on the appropriate management style of the academic affairs division”
Please allow me to share with you four of the many characteristics that, in my opinion, a good leader exemplifies.
1. Often, because of the size and complexity of an organization, it is necessary to delegate responsibility and authority to others. After doing so, a good leader does not micro-manage those individuals.
2. A good leader recognizes that his/her authority is a grave responsibility that affects the lives of other people and should be
exercised very carefully. Sometimes difficult decisions must be made. Sometimes corrective actions must be taken. However, when an individual is not meeting performance expectations, that person should be made aware of the concerns and be given a fair amount of time to develop and implement a remediation plan.
3. A good leader understands that positive reinforcement almost always works much better than does negative and the former should always be the first approach. However, if it does become necessary to exact punitive measures, then those measures should be fair, proportional, and implemented in a humane way.
4. A good leader uses inspiration, motivation, and fair treatment to engender support and participation, not threats.
In the Carthage Press article Bruce is quoted as commenting:
“There’s nothing nefarious about this,” Speck said. “Essentially, Jack decided he was going back to the classroom. There are a series of things that led up to that but it’s a personnel action so in some sense it’s hard for me to give a lot of details about that.”
The series of events that Bruce refers to made me feel that, if I had stayed in the VP position, I would be acquiescing to a management style that violated each one of the above four principles, which I could not do. Had I done so, going forward I would not been able to look two of my colleagues, two of your colleagues, in the eye.
Continuing with John Messick
Before accepting the VP appointment, multiple times I recommended to Bruce that John Messick and I be allowed to continue to serve as VP and Associate VP, respectively, for one more year so that a smooth andminimally disruptive transition plan could be developed and implemented. John indicated to me that he would be willing to stay in the VP position and would announce that FY 2009-10 would be his last year, at which point he intended to return to the Biology Department. On one of
the occasions in which I recommended to Bruce that John and I continue in our current positions for one more year, I also communicated to him John's willingness to do so.
Conditions for Accepting the VP Position
Prior to the June 25 email message in which Bruce announced to the campus that I would be assuming the position of Academic VP, in three different meetings I had clearly communicated to him my requirements for accepting the job.
Plan for Moving Forward
Accepting the fact that John and I would not stay in our current positions for one more year, I developed and I was in the process of implementing a very good plan for moving the university forward by appointing Susan Craig as Interim Assistant Academic VP and restructuring the division (see the attached organization chart) so that the 14 academic/student support offices reported to the Interim Assistant VP. This would have allowed me to focus my attention on the four academic schools, the Office of Assessment and Institutional Research, and the Lifelong Learning Department and also have the time to
continue as leader of both the Strategic Planning and the Shared Governance projects and to make sure that MSSU was moving down a path that would prepare the institution for the spring 2011 Higher LearningCommission focused visit.
Strategic Planning Project
Bruce did not ask me if I would be willing to continue leading the Strategic Planning Project.
I consider it to have been a privilege, a honor, and one of the highlights of my career to have been given the chance to work with John Messick and to serve MSSU from the Academic Affairs Office this past year. I really appreciate all of the support that you gave us.
I urge you to provide Brad Kleindl the same level of support. He deserves and he is going to need a lot of help. It is in the best interest of MSSU that he succeeds.
Via a group of documents, I have shared with members of the MSSU Board of Governors details of the events that occurred, starting with the Thursday morning June 18 meeting with Bruce and John Messick at which Bruce asked me to consider accepting an appointment to the Academic VP position and ending with my request on Monday morning July 13 to return
to full-time teaching-faculty status. I trust in their judgment and I am confident that they will handle this matter in a way that is in the best interest of Southern.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Letter: MSSU president negative, resorts to threats
Missouri Southern State University faculty and student body were stunned last month when Jack Oakes abruptly resigned as academic vice president, just 18 days after he accepted the position. The letter was sent to faculty members following a Carthage Press article in which Oakes thought University President Bruce Speck treated his resignation in an unprofessional manner. The text of the letter is printed below: