Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Padron's Way

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Padron's Way

Article excerpt

Combined with racial and faculty/administrative tensions, the take-charge style of President Eduardo J. Padron is creating a highly-charged power struggle at Miami-Dade Community College

Dr. Eduardo J. Padron is not your average college president. With his take-charge attitude and corporate style, he came into the helm of Miami-Dade Community College three years ago with a bang.

Padron's supporters describe a fierce leader who has taken great strides for his alma mater. He's created unprecedented diversity throughout every facet of the college. He's haggled impressive new transfer agreements. And he's wired the school to keep up with the fast-paced technology revolution.

He was strong enough to make the tough decisions when they were called for, they say. And even when those decisions weren't celebrated, he held his ground. He got the college back on sound financial footing when miserly state funding forced the budget into the red. In short, his take-charge style saved the school.

However, three years into Padron's tenure, he faces a horde of disgruntled faculty. The same confident style that drew support for him when the former district president Dr. Robert H. McCabe retired in 1995, has turned off many of the college's professors who now say he's an autocratic administrator who makes decisions with little regard for faculty input.

Last March, after four previously failed attempts, the college's faculty overwhelmingly voted to unionize. More than 90 percent of the 780 full-time faculty cast ballots, with 70 percent favoring a union.

Many cited their inadequate influence with the state and national legislatures, who were making extensive changes impacting education, as a critical reason they needed a union. But the Miami-Dade vote in large part turned on whether faculty here at the nation's largest community college agreed or disagreed with the policies -- and even the personality -- of a Cuban economist turned community college president.

In May, the New Times of Miami -- an alternative weekly newspaper -- slapped Padron with the label of "school yard bully" and pictured him larger than life on its cover with faculty members fleeing from him.

The article slammed the chief administrator for what the newspaper alleged were hard-hitting tactics, and it charged that he had earned "the undying hostility of his own faculty."

Now, six months after the union vote, Miami-Dade's faculty remains fractured, its morale rock-bottom.

Some say the flack that Padron has gotten has been well-earned. But others remain convinced that their president is unjustly criticized merely because he is a minority president who "shook things up."

Tough Enough for Tough Decisions

At fifty-three, Padron's neatly-trimmed mustache and brushed-back hair are tinged with dashes of gray. He is a well-dressed chief administrator in dark suit and canary-yellow, speckled tie. A staple of his uniform is a button, which glares from just beneath his lapel and reads "Students First."

As his eyes gaze across his humble office, out the window and over the empire that is his community college, he smiles and avers in his soft-spoken voice: "I don't think there's a better job in the world."

And for the record, he doesn't think there's a finer faculty in the world either. Several faculty members attest that his esteem is sincere.

But Padron's trouble with the Miami-Dade faculty began when he instituted a dire-needed, cost-cutting strategy aimed at reducing a $3.3-million deficit.

"We had a serious problem of underfunding and we could not wait for the money to come from heaven or the legislature," he explains. "The solution we needed to find was from inside."

So he eliminated eleven of the school's sixteen athletic teams, 119 administrative and staff positions, and gave each campus a new president and appointed interim academic deans -- all without the counsel of the faculty. …

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