Sometimes its really hard to admit you’ve made a mistake. Heck, I know I do. But, how do you explain making dozens of mistakes with seemingly no accountability? That seems to be the issue at our own Master’s University here in Santa Clarita.
For those who are unaware, Master’s is on probation from the accreditation agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Senior College and University Commission, for a number of transgressions that were outlined in a letter to the school and reported on by Brennon Dixon in The Mighty Signal on Aug. 17.
To make it clear, I am a big Master’s fan. We have been to many sporting and musical events over the years on the campus. We were in the crowd when a Master’s student from the audience sunk four difficult shots during half-time during a basketball game to win $5,000 last year.
We have watched opera scenes, stage musicals, baroque concerts and band performances. We have Master’s students in our home nearly continuously. We have many friends who are staff and faculty at the school. We love Master’s.
On top of all this, I am a Bible-believing Christian who has the same belief system as the school. To say these allegations came as a surprise was very sobering.
Or were they? We have been hearing stories from our many connections over the past couple of years that things were going sideways at Master’s. The WASC letter was merely confirmation.
It’s funny, but many of these situations happen because of poor accountability. Without proper oversight, organizations (both secular and religious) can slide from light into darkness. Take a look at item No. 1 in the letter on “Issues to be Addressed” — board independence.
Apparently, many of the board members were employees of a company that the president controls. Hard to speak up and question decisions when the president controls your paycheck.
The auditors also “received reports of a climate of fear, intimidation, bullying, and uncertainty” among staff. How is this accountability? HR should have been assuring a safe work environment free of fear and held those in charge responsible. This did not happen.
One of the most painful allegations is that the COO (who happens to be the president’s son-in-law) was caught in a conflict of interest because he supervised a contract from which he benefits. Further, this same COO ignored the recommendations of the auditors when the concerns were brought to his attention over six months ago.
To add insult to injury, this same COO was unaware of some of the basic regulatory requirements for running a higher-level educational facility including the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Yeah. Lack of accountability. I’m sorry, folks. This has nothing to do with spirituality or religious beliefs — this is just incredibly bad management.
I talked to Kevin Hill (dean of faculty) over at Master’s and he assured me that the WASC audit items will all be addressed in the November visit by the agency. Kevin was quoted in The Signal as saying, “There’s a lot of complicated issues, so we’re working diligently because its not something we can fix in a day.”
I’m not so sure, Kevin. I could fix things pretty quickly.
First thing that needs to happen is all board members who work for the president will submit their resignations immediately. No, I changed my mind. The entire board is gone. Appoint a new board made up of local pastors and university officials from UCLA, USC and such.
Second, the COO is gone. Such gross incompetence cannot be tolerated. Also, any staff who were hired without appropriate credentials. This is an at-will employment state. Staff changes can be made immediately without concern for the legal ramifications.
Third, job descriptions will be written for all staff. A real human resources manager will be obtained to make sure that the job descriptions remain current and correct. This HR person should be accountable only to the board until the problems are resolved.
Finally, the president must make a sincere and honest apology for the mess that has been created. With humility and a true desire to make things right, Master’s can be placed back on the track to success. It may be possible that the current president is not the person for the job.
I have heard some in the administration declare that the “school is under attack.” I would agree. But not from the outside. The most insidious attacks come from within.
Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and literally lives a stone’s throw from Master’s. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.