Some faculty members at Colorado Mesa University (CMU) are raising red flags about CMU presidential candidate Dr. Mirta Martin.
The concerns stem in part from controversies arising during Dr. Martin’s tenure as President of Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Kansas.
The Kansas Board of Regents hired Dr. Martin as FHSU University President on May 2, 2014. She resigned abruptly on November, 23, 2016.
Concerns about Dr. Martin’s management of the University were described in a November 11, 2016 article posted by Tiger Media Network (TMN), Fort Hays University’s “convergent media hub.” The article, “Tempers Flare at Faculty Senate Meeting,” gives a detailed account of a contentious FHSU Faculty Senate meeting held on November 1, 2016 about then-FHSU President Martin, who is now one of three finalists being considered by the CMU Board of Trustees for president of CMU.
Shoe-throwing and other ‘unprofessional behavior’
The 11/1/2016 meeting was convened by FSU Faculty Senate President, Philosophy Professor Carl Miller, to discuss concerns about Dr. Martin and the school’s management.
Miller stated at the meeting that:
“I recently reviewed an eleven page letter that someone wrote cataloging examples of malfeasance, corruption, misbehavior. They had seven different categories of abuses and examples in each one of those categories. They included abusive and unprofessional behavior, including the president throwing a shoe during a meeting and verbally abusing other faculty members during small meetings. Restrictions on free speech, including student media. Cronyism in hiring and promotion with seven different examples of that within different departments. Lack of transparency and accountability, which began at the very beginning of her administration with the re-engineering proposals. Lack of shared governance. Failure to make decisions based on sound reasoning and data. Financial mismanagement.”
Miller stated that within about eight hours, more than 100 faculty and staff members had signed onto a statement presented to the Kansas Board of Regents about President Martin’s leadership and management. Following is the statement that was presented to the Kansas Board of Regents:
The following statement has been supported by well over 100 faculty and staff from 17 departments in 4 of the 5 colleges at Fort Hays State University. Unfortunately, not all departments or colleges were approached due to the time constraints of today’s’ meeting. Given the current climate at FHSU, these departments, faculty, and staff have asked to remain anonymous due to the potential retaliatory behavior by upper administration. Individuals welcome the opportunity to talk with the Kansas Board of Regents privately should they wish for additional feedback and Carl Miller, Faculty Senate President, has been granted permission to initiate a meeting.
Understanding that no single statement could adequately capture the chain of events that has led to this moment of disquiet, and that other senators must speak on behalf of their departments, the faculty in the aforementioned departments offers the following statement of deep concern to the Kansas Board of Regents: Today our university is clouded by anxiety and dread, much of it generated and exacerbated by the statements and actions of President Mirta Martin.
Dr. Martin has repeatedly and publicly spoken with heightened emotion, supported only by anecdote, about the threats to the job security of staff and faculty if we fail to support her plans for the university. The fact that we all understand the financial challenges faced by state government revenue shortfall only intensifies the sense of despair many feel when our own leadership implies the financial exigency of the institution.
We do not have faith that the President is committed to shared governance or evidence-based leadership. We experience her leadership as a refusal to share information, impulsive and emotionally driven decisions about programs and personnel, cronyism in hiring practices, and a loss of the autonomy and creativity necessary for faculty and staff to thrive and take joy in our work. Further, she demonstrates a habit of later denying what she has said to our faces, as many in this Senate can attest. We have great concern that Dr. Martin can regain the confidence and collegial purpose of increasing members of our university community and the community of Hays.
We urge the Kansas Board of Regents to take actions to address fully the conditions of employment at Fort Hays State University.
Additional concerns raised by FHSU faculty included administrative bloat, and mismanagement.
Dr. Martin abruptly stepped down from her position as President soon after this meeting, on November 23, 2016.
In September, 2017, Martin applied to be president of the University of Montana. An article about her in the college paper, the Montana Kaiman, described her as a “controversial but experienced administrator.”
The Montana Kaiman article quoted Denise Orth, associate professor and Faculty Senate President at FHSU, as saying she did not think Martin had been an effective leader.
Orth said of Dr. Martin, “She turned out to be more of dictator.”
I’m putting this here since this blog appears to be a top search result for background information on Dr. Martin. I think it’s important to have this type of information available since it’s common practice that candidates for these positions are lined up by rather opaque search firm recruiting lists, and it is becoming even more common to not have a group of candidates, and just say “here’s our sole finalist” (for good and bad reasons, much discussed in places like IHE and The Chronicle).
In IHE 5/27/22, Dr. Martin announced she will not seek contract renewal, and then was fired as president at Fairmont State: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2022/05/27/fairmont-state-board-terminates-president%E2%80%99s-contract
A bit of confusion over the stated timing. A local news piece on the matter indicates she was fired a day after announcing her intent: https://www.wdtv.com/2022/05/19/board-governors-votes-end-dr-mirta-martins-presidency-fairmont-state-university/
Having worked under Dr. Martin directly for a period of more than 6 years I have seen that her leadership style is nearly incompatible with shared, collective governance models. Why? Because shared and collective governance models where every faculty member thinks they are or should be in charge don’t work. Most higher education faculty have NO BUSINESS being in leadership roles. They don’t have it genetically, They’ve never trained for it and they just simply have no clue about what being a LEADER involves. That’s why they are faculty at Universities. Dr. Martin brings leadership and sets up a staff for success. Often times this upsets the status quo of “how we’ve always done it” even though how they’ve always done it was completely wrong and a catastrophic failure. Do the right thing and they’ll turn on you like sharks. EVERYTIME! It’s pathetic and most University programs don’t deserve her.
As the Provost at FHSU under President Martin I can confirm what AGuyWhoKnows stated above (and I have no clue who that person is). In addition, I was the supposed victim of the shoe throwing incident which was done completely in fun and with laughter, but twisted by her political opponents to their ends despite the fact that I stood up in a Senate meeting and said this. Dr. Martin is a great leader who tackles issues head on and makes decisions solely based on what is best for the institution. Unfortunately anyone who makes decisions also makes enemies. Any institution would be lucky to have her as a president.
I was at FHSU when she stepped down. She was railroaded out by a good ol’ boys network (and that news article is filled with distortions of truth, in other words, ‘lies’). The faculty at that school were essentially committing fraud by assigning themselves ‘overload’ courses, and placing, like, one student in each section, then getting paid for each section. In some cases, faculty were practically doubling their salaries. Martin put an end to that, and they hated her for ruining their grift. Plus she’s a woman (she “speaks with ‘heightened emotion”?? Are you effing kidding me? How misogynistic can you get?) and Hispanic, and that played a part in their hatred of her. Seriously. The former president started the campaign against her the day she was hired. In her current position at Fairmont State, she saved that school from closing it’s doors. She took a school that was in danger of being shut down or swallowed up by WVU, and turned it into the strongest (financially) school in the state. She would have been great for CMU, imo.
AGuyWhoKnows claims to have been at FHSU when Martin left, yet also knows the financial and political status of Fairmont State University well enough to cast Martin as its savior. Since her ascension to the presidency, Martin has behaved precisely as described in the accounts cited in this post, including such overreaching as dismantling the Senate website in order to prevent the publication of minutes including discussion of faculty opinions of her performance. She has treated the faculty, staff, and even students with contempt and dishonesty from the first. When students opposed her plans to switch to digital textbooks, she screamed at them and asked how they “could do this to” her. Faculty and staff who spent their lives working up on the hill have fled to WVU, found other positions in colleges out of state, or taken early retirement. Depending on what narrative better suits her plans, FSU is in dire straights or in better financial shape than ever. CMU dodged a bullet.
By that mascara, she didn’t get the memo that 1981 is over.
You know, Anne, it’s unfortunate that you ask people to identify themselves, but nobody does because they are all cowards.
Yes, Denny, everyone is a coward, except the guy who abandoned journalistic integrity to curry favor with the local power brokers, and then squeals like a stuck pig when it’s pointed out.
A real Patrick Henry, you are.
“Denial of autonomy and creativity.” –
Well that pretty much sums up people who are waiting for Jesus.
Well another one down, you do NOT want this kind of behavior in a college setting, better to be too lenient with faculty than too strict and acerbic. I am highly surprised that she made the final three with this kind of behavior.