May 1, 2016

° empty


OPINION: Kentucky State University hiring push a failure

Published 8:18 am Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Marketing fail. 

That’s how I’d label the new strategy Kentucky State University has launched to attract a “transformation team” following an unprecedented period of high staff turnover.

Yet despite the broadly reported cases of “hirings and firings” at KSU in the past 15 months, the university has seemingly rolled out a new campaign on social media and other outlets to target new employees. An advertisement on its website — aimed at recruiting dozens of new professors, department chairs and others — encourages professional job hunters to “join the transformation and be a part of the KSU team.”

KSU has recently posted dozens of high-profile jobs on its website, including ones for director of financial aid and director of admissions and registrar. President Raymond Burse is also currently seeking an executive administrative assistant, according to university job postings.    

The question any prospective candidate should pose if given the chance to interview at KSU: What happened to the previous staff?

On the other hand, serious applicants probably shouldn’t ask ANY questions.

Just last year, K-State reportedly slashed dozens of adjunct and other teaching positions in an effort to cut costs. It also slashed or replaced a number of long-time staffers and top cabinet officials who served as advisors to the president. Before the end of the last academic semester, KSU severed ties with the dean of the university; vice president for external relations; and vice president for business among others. Many of those former cabinet members were personally tapped by Burse to rejuvenate the school. In other words: they were supposed to be the “transformation team.”

It’s unclear what led to the resignations and/or terminations of these staffers, but many have said privately and publicly that it’s a result of top leadership on “the Hill.” Since the university rarely issues comments on personnel issues, outsiders — including prospective candidates for employment — are often just left to “read between the lines.”

That’s unfortunate since “Frankfort’s University” essentially belongs to us — the citizens in this town, the students who pay tuition and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth who fund its operations.

We all want to see it thrive. But I’m just not convinced that selling these new job openings as a chance to “transform” the struggling school will attract top candidates. That’s because the brightest candidates will likely do their research and consider the stability of any position before applying for the job. 

Certainly the folks booted from high-level cabinet positions in the past few weeks now harbor regrets about accepting short-lived roles at KSU. And newcomers likely hold similar fears of working at a place that’s become more renowned for its “revolving door policy” than its “open door policy.”

But while it’s easy for me to cast criticisms, I’ll try to view the situation objectively.

For KSU loyalists, please know I’m not trying to throw stones from my glass house. This newspaper has also seen its fair share of turnover in the past year as it reorganizes under new ownership. I understand all too well that budgetary cuts often translate to staff cuts. We’ve too seen reductions. 

I also recognize those in power are entrusted to make difficult decisions. It’s seemingly impossible to please all stakeholders — many of whom just aren’t comfortable with change.    

I’ll add that The State Journal doesn’t always get it right, either, especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. But I believe both institutions play an integral role in this community and I know we’ll both weather the storms. 

As The State Journal resolves to put its best foot forward in 2016, I hope that KSU will resolve to do the same. 

It takes roughly 30 days for a caterpillar to complete its metamorphosis into a butterfly, and while it certainly will take KSU longer to “transform” I hope that when the school finally emerges from the cocoon, it will spread its wings and soar.