Mercer Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Donald “Guy” Generals Jr. will be leaving the college to be the next President of The Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) where he will begin his tenure as of July 1. The CCP Board of Trustees (BOT) ratified the decision to hire Generals April 10 amid protest from their faculty union who requested more time and consideration before he was approved for hire.
In a news release CCP BOT Chair Matthew Bergheiser said Generals was “ a skilled administrator who understands the barriers to education that confront many of our students, and he has built his distinguished career on developing innovative approaches to overcoming them.”
In a March 27, 2014 article for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan Snyder reported that a straw poll showed that out of the 200 faculty members that voted, only 3 percent favored Generals over the other candidates.
The other candidates were Dr. Judith Gay, who served the last eight months as Interim President and will remain with the college as Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Manchester Community College president, Gena Glickman, who was the choice the faculty union favored.
Generals said, “You always have concerns about faculty support. There are 400 faculty there, they took a poll of 200 so you know, as a sort of an armchair statistician, I think there’s questions there. Does it concern me? I guess it does concern me but I’m not worried about it…..I will win them over.”
A key concern cited by faculty regarding Generals’ hiring was his role in the closing of the Katherine Gibbs School in New York City in 2009, a for profit two-year college that ran into problems with faculty qualifications and remedial class offerings according to a January 31, 2007 New York Times article by Karen Arenson.
When contacted for comment through the CCP communications director, Linda Wallace, Gay stated that she had no comment on the hiring of Generals. Glickman did not return repeated calls for comment.
According to the resume that Generals submitted with his application to become CCP’s new president, his accomplishments at Mercer include “guiding substantive change to the online education program.”
Regarding his involvement with Mercer Online, Generals said “Mercer Online existed when I got here but I think I really expanded it.”
When asked about Generals’ involvement with Mercer Online, Daniel D’Arpa, Assistant Professor of Spanish and coordinator for Mercer’s foreign languages, said, “Nothing that I am aware of came down from him. In the 4 years I’ve been here, I’ve worked closely with the Mercer Online team. I saw no specific visibility with anything with Dr. Generals attached to Mercer Online.”
Generals also helped to bring the American Honors college to Mercer. American Honors is a for-profit organization that is changing the way that honors credits are handled on Mercer’s not-for-profit campus.
In an April 2, 2014 article, Susan Synder reported for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “In a previous interview, Generals had said he preferred working in the non-profit education world. ‘The profit motivation was something I realized professionally was not for me” he said.
When asked about American Honors, Generals said, “I don’t know if they are for-profit, I know that they are a private entity. We had an honors program here and we thought this was an opportunity to expand it in a way that becomes a national model”
Dr. Gianna Durso-Finley, Sociology Professor and Dean of American Honors at Mercer, said, “Dr. Generals has been a strong supporter of the Mercer Honors Program ever since he came to the college. When American Honors approached Mercer in the spring of 2013, Dr. Generals acted quickly to bring both Honors faculty and other interested faculty into the conversation. The final decision to bring American Honors to Mercer was made by the Board of Trustees at their November meeting.”
In regard to his other initiatives while at Mercer Generals said ”I instituted and operationalized our assessment program…I think I created the culture of assessment. I think I reinforced innovation amongst the faculty by creating a Dean’s position. My greatest achievements are being able to work with people and do things, you know, work with people who can take an idea and run with it.”
English Professor Carol Friend told The VOICE that indeed Generals’s contribution to the culture of assessment had been significant. She said: “Assessment is a big part of MCCC. As the reading coordinator for the college, I worked closely with Dr. Generals looking at efficacy of our programs and at remedial education. We’ve done quite of a bit of assessment. We also created a variety of courses and assessed their outcomes; whether or not they were delivering better instructional methodologies.”
Dr. Generals is also credited with creating a new deanship position for Instructional and Institutional Effectiveness. According to Linda Scherr, who currently holds this position the responsibilities for this position include “overseeing MercerOnline, overseeing the Office of Institutional Research, assessment and planning, and being responsible for faculty development and accreditation.”
Dr. Robin Schore, Dean of Liberals Arts said, “I think the position was a long time coming. Some people don’t think it’s necessary, but some people think there needs to be more management. I can say that I think Linda Scherr is doing a good job and that everything is being handled well.”
In addition to increasing administrative positions, Generals was involved in work to expand offerings on the Trenton campus.
Photography professor Michael Dalton worked on an initiative with Dr. Generals to bring visual arts to the new Trenton Hall at the James Kearney Campus.
In an interview with the VOICE, Dalton said “some things have moved forward with Trenton Hall but other plans have been dropped, altered, or put on hold. There is a communication gap between when the visual arts faculty are asked to participate and what gets rolled out. Subsequently, we are sometimes asked to submit new plans not knowing what happened to the old plans. That being said, I was always willing to work with Dr. Generals.”
Generals also spoke about his work to expand of the study abroad program. “The goal is to completely globalize the college…We’ve sent students abroad for full semesters, none of this was available before I got here,” he said.
Andrea Lynch, Director of Study Abroad at Mercer, said, “In February 2009, Dr. Generals asked me to head up a study abroad program. We didn’t have anything like that here. We offered our first study abroad trip in 2010. In the five years since that time we have sent 78 students abroad. this year we sent 8 students to london – so our total would be up to 86 students from 2010 to 2014 who have studied abroad.”
Despite the controversy over Generals’s hiring at CCP, the decision to move ahead was formalized in April.
CCP Board of Trustees Chair Matthew Bergheiser said in a VOICE interview: “I know there is one issue on which we all agree, one issue on which we have to agree and that is that the agenda that matters most at this college…breaking down barriers for our students and giving them the opportunity to succeed. And at that job, I know beyond the shadow of doubt that Guy Generals will excel.”