PETOSKEY — North Central Michigan College’s board of trustees met on Thursday to appoint a new member following the resignation of Jennifer Shorter.
Shorter, a long-time Petoskey resident and family retail heir, was appointed to the board in 2022. She resigned on Oct. 26, citing frustration with the college’s culture.
Shorter said she initially wanted to join the board because she knows how important NCMC is to the community.
“Obviously, NCMC is an important and vital part of our community from so many different angles," she said. "It is a huge economic driver in our community as well. I wanted to be a part of that. That is encouraging and I like to be involved in things that make an impact in our community."
However, Shorter said she soon saw red flags in the college’s leadership strategies.
"I am also a huge proponent of taking care of employees and making sure that the culture is a right fit," said Shorter.
Shorter said she tried to talk with college president David Roland Finley about management style, and felt unsuccessful in her attempts.
“I take culture and climate very seriously — in terms of how the employees are treated and how things are taken care of," she said.
Shorter cited a climate survey from the college that shows dissatisfaction among employees.
The college’s employee survey is conducted on an annual basis and is intended to provide the school's leadership with suggestions on improvement. The most recent survey results came out in March, according to Shorter.
Shorter described comments in the college’s employee survey stating that if an employee makes a critical comment they are berated and there is retaliation from “the president of the college."
She added that in the five years that Finley has led the school, the survey results have gone down each year in regards to the faculty, staff and administration's perceptions of leadership.
"Even in the time I was there, it was frustrating to see things getting worse," said Shorter. "I kept trying to raise the flag that there is a huge sense of urgency with this. We have to make a change. Every month that goes by nothing is getting done. I feel that one of my biggest jobs there was to make sure the employees are getting taken care of."
In July, the board approved an investigation into an altercation that took place on June 22 at a Luncheon Lecture about Enbridge's Line 5 where a group of Anishinaabek protesters disrupted the event. Several college officials, including Finley, were filmed attempting to push the protesters out a door and take a banner from them.
Following the altercation, faculty members at the college pushed for the board to launch an investigation, specifically asking that an inquiry be conducted by a neutral third-party to eliminate the possibility of Finley overseeing his own investigation.
The results of the investigation have not yet been released.
Ultimately, Shorter said she felt like her efforts to help the board manage staff and faculty were futile.
“We all only have so much time and energy to give,” said Shorter, who described feeling as if she were “beating her head against a wall and not getting anywhere."
“I just don’t quit something because someone doesn’t take my advice,” said Shorter.
When asked to respond to Shorter's accusations, Finley said he had not seen a letter of resignation from Shorter and was hearing these criticisms for the first time.
"While I have not seen Jennifer’s resignation letter, learning that her dissatisfaction with my leadership style played into this decision is informative. I appreciate her sharing this feedback. While the climate survey shows we have areas to improve upon, results reflect overall agreement with most of the response statements, affirming the focus on student success and equity by all team members at the college. We are formulating plans and working in earnest to make improvements in the areas of need," Finley wrote in an email to the News-Review.
At the board of trustees meeting on Thursday, the board unanimously appointed Keith Pretty to fill Shorter's vacated seat.
According to Chairman Dan Rasmussen, Pretty joined Northwood University as its president and CEO in 2006 and retired as its president emeritus in 2019. Along with other college leadership roles across the state, he has held several positions of leadership in the private sector. He earned a bachelor's of science degree in education from Western Michigan and a Juris Doctorate degree from Cooley Law School.
Shorter also leveled criticism at the board for the way they conducted their search for her replacement. She felt the process was not done in an inclusive fashion and the public was not made aware of the available position.
Both Finley and Rasmussen referred to the short timeline of 30 days they had to find a replacement, and Finley said Shorter's seat was filled in accordance with Michigan election law.
— Contact reporter Annie Doyle at (231) 675-0099 or email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: NCMC board appoints new member following Shorter's resignation