By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
"MDCC faculty used to go to conferences and people would ask us about things we were doing," says Ciereszko. "Now, I've had people ask, “What's happened to MDCC? I don't see anyone anymore.'" The reason for this, she explains, is that, in Eduardo Padron's streamlined business model of education, sending multiple faculty members from different campuses to the same conference is considered a waste of institutional resources. Others think the rationale for such a policy has less to do with economics than with Padron's personality. "It's the top-down thing," says a current North Campus faculty member. "One person attends a conference, then comes back and tells everybody else what that person thinks they need to know. That's Padron's style."
The need-to-know style extends to transfers routinely executed with little notice or regard for the hardship such moves might impose on long-time employees. "If you have always taught at the North Campus and live in Broward County," asks one recently retired professor, "can you be expected to do your best if you anticipate being transferred to the Homestead Campus the day after tomorrow?" Firings are dispensed even more summarily. "After being notified of my dismissal, I was called into the college president's office and told to get my things in order," relates Ray Dunn, an ex-dean of student services at North Campus. "By the time I got back to my desk, I could no longer log on to my computer." Dunn had worked at MDCC for 27 years. "[Security] didn't escort me out of the building," recounts Dunn, "but I can attest that happened to other people."
The cumulative impact of the changes implemented by Padron, according to some, is that a once-vital institution now simply sloughs along, relying not on the quality of instruction it provides but on an economy of scale to survive. "If you have 50,000 full-time students and graduate 2000, are you really doing a better job than the college that has 500 students and graduates 400?" asks Ciereszko. Former North Campus president Kelly, now the chancellor of Delgado Community College in New Orleans, admits MDCC's reputation has declined relative to what it once was. "The school has gotten a lot of national exposure in the last few years, none of it very positive," offers Kelly, carefully choosing his words. "Certainly MDCC is talked about in a different light."
In 1999 the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a prestigious nationwide organization that defends faculty rights and academic freedom, sent representatives to Miami to investigate the dissolution by the MDCC administration of the college's faculty senate. Following their investigation the organization concluded that Padron abolished the senate as retaliation for the faculty's pro-union vote and that "in the course of [Padron's] first three years as president, Miami-Dade Community College [had] moved from an institution with a mature, participatory system of academic government ... to one that is heavily dominated by the administration." Last year the AAUP voted officially to sanction the MDCC administration, a measure that profoundly damages MDCC's reputation within the academic profession.
The AAUP's verdict brought with it immediate consequences, though not for MDCC. When Kendall campus political-science professor Clifford Young was awarded a fellowship by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)for his doctoral dissertation work, Padron became personally involved in convincing HACU to rescind the award. "Foolishly," recalls Young, "I told Padron I had gotten this fellowship. I didn't have to tell him, but I thought he'd be proud. I didn't know I'd gotten on his shit list for the AAUP stuff."
Young, a respected professor and recent recipient of an endowed chair, had been asked by fellow members of the faculty to help coordinate the visit of the AAUP investigators: pick them up at the airport, take them to their hotel, and generally show them around. He agreed. "After that I apparently became persona non grata with Padron," says the ten-year MDCC veteran. According to Young, the college president who had formerly been an enthusiastic supporter of Young's research called HACU president Antonio Flores in Texas, berating Flores for awarding Young the fellowship without first checking with him. Young was asked by the organization to decline the award.
Flores disputes Young's version, attributing the snafu to a simple misunderstanding. "It was a brand new program," explains the HACU head from his San Antonio office, "and the person running it was very inexperienced. Communication got confused." Citing protocol, he says Young couldn't even be considered for the fellowship without Padron's backing. "One of the qualifications for the award," recites Flores, sounding less like he's disagreeing with Young's account than indulging in semantics, "is that the person has to be nominated by the CEO of their institution. Dr. Padron told me that Mr. Young was not the proper representative for the MDCC system at that time." (Padron declined New Times's repeated requests for an interview.)
Young did not receive his fellowship. But the harassment didn't stop there. The professor's subsequent requests for professional-development leave from MDCC, time he expected to devote to completing his dissertation (a requirement for promotion to full professor), were repeatedly denied, as were his requests for time off to attend conferences. "Low-level administrators who wanted to stay on Padron's side decided they would do their part to punish me," explains Young.