Harrisburg Faculty, Trustees at Odds on President

January 14, 2020

Faculty members at Harrisburg Area Community College voted no confidence in their college president last month, while trustees have unanimously voted to extend his contract. President John Sygielski’s contract was set to expire at the end of 2020 but now has been extended through June 2023. According to information on the university’s website, the extension was approved by trustees before the resolution of no confidence was formally presented to Sygielski.

About half of the college's 812 eligible faculty members participated in the online survey in December. Of those who took a side on the resolution, 70 percent expressed no confidence in Sygielski and other senior leaders.

The resolution stated several faculty concerns, among them a hasty and disruptive reorganization of library services and virtual learning, the elimination of wellness counseling for students, and declining efficacy of shared governance. Faculty requested Sygielski and trustees consult all stakeholders in planning for these transitions and comply with existing shared governance policies. Additionally, faculty members requested that the president’s contract not be extended or renewed.

Sygielski’s reorganization of the college, referred to as the One College plan, is meant to stem what has been a sharp enrollment decline and retain students. It also called for eliminating staff positions, outsourcing functions and terminating programs.

“This action by faculty is regrettable, because the One-College reorganization and other measures are being taken to ensure HACC avoids becoming another statistic in the nationwide trend of college closings,” Sygielski said in a statement.

Kathleen Pratt, president of the faculty organization, said that faculty do not see the vote as a “divorce.” “Faculty care deeply for our beloved institution and our students. Our every effort is focused on the success of students and we recognize that HACC must thrive for students to succeed,” she said in a statement.

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