HARFORD COUNTY — Dr. Dianna Phillips has resigned as Harford Community College’s (HCC) President, according to a statement from the college Monday afternoon.
It is not known if Phillips’s alleged resignation is related to the alleged incident involving three former senior administration officials who allegedly used their work email accounts to “speculate” about “ employee status” of lower-level employees.
Dr. Jacqueline Jackson, Vice President for Student Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness, has been named interim president of the college.
HCC’s press release included a statement from Reverend Cordell E. Hunter, Sr., chair of the Board of Trustees of Harford Community College, who praised Phillips for her accomplishments while president of the college.
“The Board sincerely thanks Dr. Phillips for her contributions to the College over the past three and a half years,” says Reverend Hunter. “During her tenure, Dr. Phillips facilitated an inclusive strategic planning process, strengthened the College’s partnership with Harford County Public Schools, and fostered an optimal learning experience for students. We wish Dr. Phillips well in her future endeavors,” Hunter said.
“The work of the College will continue, uninterrupted, using our strategic plan as a roadmap. We have the utmost confidence in the faculty, staff, and administrators of HCC, and will continue to support them as they work to secure the best possible future for our students, the College, and all of Harford County.”
According to HCC officials, Jackson has served as HCC’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness since 2017. The role will now be filled on an interim basis by Jennie Towner, Associate Vice President for Student Development.
HCC will be holding a board meeting Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., but will hold a closed session meeting to discuss a “personnel matter.”
Former employees speak out
In the past weeks, the Whig has heard from several former employees of HCC who allege a toxic work environment during Phillips’s tenure.
“Absolutely I experienced a hostile environment. I would not have left when I did if the circumstances were different. I went through some pretty bad stuff. I witnessed others that were subject to that environment as well,” Ken Krsolovic, former Athletic Director at HCC said.
Krsolovic said the alleged hostile environment caused him to retire earlier than planned and has negatively impacted the athletic department.
“We had 13 varsity sports when I was there and now only 3 coaches remain from when I was there and I left in February of 2018. We had 92 athletes with a 3.0 or higher in the fall of 2017. This fall of 2019 it’s 41 students,” he said.
“The women’s basketball team had to cancel two games after Christmas break because they didn’t have enough players. They only have 8 softball players for this spring and we had the best women program when I was there.”
Krsolovic, who retired from his position two years ago, said he believes the toxic work environment is also negatively impacting enrollment.
“We had several hundred athletes and now their numbers are way down. If I was a professor, let’s say a Chemistry professor, I would suspect there are similar outcomes in their situations with their students.”
Another former employee who wished to remain anonymous also contacted the Cecil Whig after reading the story about the alleged speculative chart for employee turnover.
“During my time at HCC, I was not properly trained then told I should know everything about my role when I had been on the job for less than one month,” the person said.
“Then the bullying started. I think my boss disliked me from day one. Then, within about a month or so I started to find out that other people who had been in my role had the same issues. And then those women found me and started to tell me their stories of bullying and verbal abuse. They told me how they were belittled and singled out, which I experienced too. One woman told how [boss] would make very rude comments about her in front of other people while she was working at her desk. I said to them at my exit interview that I had been treated wrong and I disagreed with their decision. After I left I encouraged the women to band together to fight, but they were all too scared.”
The Whig has also obtained documents from a previous HCC employee, including HCC’s SWOT survey. A SWOT survey is used to help an organization identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
“HCC brought in a consultant to help them develop their updated 5-year strategic plan. As part of the information-gathering, all HCC employees were invited to respond to a survey with their thoughts/input on the college’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats,” Carol Allen, former HCC Director for the Library said. Allen also said she retired early due to a toxic work environment.
“I can’t think of a single instructor who is content and feels valued at this institution,” one person wrote on their survey.
Another employee wrote, “the new administration is highly incompetent, egotistic, and completely out of touch with the actual social, economic, and political climate on the campus. It appears that the administration is aware, but not concerned about this.”
Many employees wrote about their concerns regarding the alleged cost of certain projects or “improvements” that have taken place at HCC.
“There is great concern over the nature of the high-cost, consultant-heavy, painfully unplanned and poorly doled-out “improvements” that have cost us virtually all veteran leadership and left us with upper and middle managers that are indebted to the administration that hired them,” wrote one person in the SWOT survey.
The Cecil Whig has filed a Maryland Pubic Information Act (MPIA) with HCC in order to obtain documents about expenditures and improvement projects.