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LHU’s leadership question

TARA MITCHELL

Lock Haven

I have been working for almost three decades, with 15 of those years at Lock Haven University (LHU). I’ve had part-time jobs, temporary jobs, and full-time jobs, all with a variety of supervisors.

At LHU, those supervisors have been Deans, Provosts, and Presidents, along with the various and sundry people at the PASSHE offices in Harrisburg. I can’t name all of the PASSHE people, beyond the Chancellor, but I can name every one of my Deans, Provosts, and Presidents at LHU, including former Interim President Barbara Dixon.

In working for them, I worked with them on several initiatives because of my various roles on campus and in the Lock Haven community. I did not always agree with them, but I knew one thing: They believed absolutely in their vision for Lock Haven University’s growth. They wanted Lock Haven University to succeed, and they believed that their vision would allow it to do so.

Since Feb. 5, LHU has had a new interim President, and, for the first time in almost three decades of working, I am not sure my supervisor wants my company to succeed. My new interim President, Dr. Bashar Hanna, has been Bloomsburg University (BU) President since 2017. Despite the “integrations” (i.e., mergers) not being an accomplished fact, the Chancellor’s Office and the Board of Governors chose to name the BU President as the person to lead LHU in this moment.

I suppose they believe they are just getting a head start on life after the Northeast integration. Even though the integrations have not been approved, the Chancellor’s Office is moving ahead as if they have been. BU has advertised for a joint diversity position with Mansfield University; BU’s President is serving as interim President at LHU.

Maybe they are right and integration is a given, but BU and LHU are two separate entities right now, with different schedules, values, and structures.

Rather than seeking out a neutral interim President, which we have had before, they brought in the President of BU to lead us. I keep thinking of that old adage that you cannot serve two masters.

Dr. Hanna, as BU President, would be expected to advocate for Bloomsburg University.

Dr. Hanna, as Interim LHU President, would be expected to advocate for Lock Haven University. Based on his social media activity on Twitter, he does the first. The second? Not so much.

I would, and will, ask him how we will advocate for LHU as a two-campus entity (Lock Haven and Clearfield) beyond BU… when I can. His first town hall with faculty at LHU is not until March, a full month after he began as President.

While a month is not a long time for hearing from an established supervisor, it is a long time before meeting your new one. He did not even send out an email addressing the faculty until Feb 15, a full 10 days after he was appointed interim President.

He is already a controversial President, with students, faculty, and staff at Bloomsburg University, Kutztown University, and Lock Haven University speaking out about the allegations of sexual harassment against him.

He also, though, is a President who seems far more interested in leading the Bloomsburg campus than the Lock Haven or the Clearfield campuses for which is he now responsible. Whether or not this merger occurs, things at Lock Haven University will change, and change is difficult.

I understand that.

However, LHU faculty, staff and both current and former students, as well as the towns of Lock Haven and Clearfield, deserve more than an interim President whose loyalty and focus are clearly with another campus.

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