Schoolyard Bully

Metro-Dade Community College president Eduardo Padron has won a reputation as a take-charge leader -- and an intellectual thug

As he describes his exchanges with the union and senate leaders immediately after the union victory, a sardonic grin flickers at the corners of his mouth. He seems genuinely confused about why faculty leaders would argue that I-80 wasn't strong enough, then complain when he abolished the policy after they unionized.

"[Union leaders] were saying, 'I-80 is ineffective, I-80 doesn't work,'" he recounts. "Then the election takes place and all of a sudden they reverse that. All of a sudden, it's 'I-80 is wonderful, we want I-80.'" Although Padron is trying to evince bemusement over the faculty's reversal, he comes across as mocking them.

He expresses no remorse about dissolving the faculty senates. In fact, Padron declares, the senates as they had existed were troubled, especially since unionists got involved in the leadership. "If you look at the agenda for the senates for the last five years, it's hard for you to find an academic issue there." (Jim Jackson, who as of now was the last senate consortium president MDCC will ever have, vehemently denies that the senates gave short shrift to academic issues.)

"They called for a meeting in exile," Padron says, allowing himself a chuckle. "They do all these dramatic things, and who goes? Less people than the eleven people on [union] stationery." The actual number was at least 40. "You know, things can get very childish."

As for the group derisively known as his "Palace Brigade," Padron is appalled that anyone would question its legitimacy. Creating the committee was a demonstration of his belief in shared decision-making. "I think we have a great body of faculty here, and they are characterized by a lot of integrity," he says, his hands steepled. "I don't think that being elected or being appointed makes any big difference."

The ad hoc commission's recommendation for a new faculty government should be completed sometime in May. The union awaits a ruling from PERC on whether Padron acted improperly in disbanding the senates. If the AAUP is not satisfied with Padron's response to its letter, the group will sanction the college -- a black mark in academia. Meanwhile, the union is building up its membership in preparation for contract talks with the administration. Richard estimates these talks will begin in late summer.

Padron remains unrepentant. He shakes his head. "Frankly, if I had it to start all over again, I would do it the same way," he says with quiet intensity. "We have been very serious about, you know, putting students first. And the best thing we have going for us -- I've said this before and I will continue to say it; the union hasn't changed my mind -- the thing that makes Miami-Dade what it is, is its faculty. We have an incredibly talented, dedicated faculty who are second to none in this nation. That is the greatest source of my pride.

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