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.”