EDITORIAL: Dedication to Meningall is questionable

Answering to allegations against Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Capeheart-Meningall is becoming a major project for USF and President Judy Genshaft, and the time has come to question USF’s commitment to an employee who has proved to be unprepared and unfit for the authority with which she’s entrusted.

The report – stemming from the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity’s (DEO) investigation into accusations of discrimination and intimidation by Meningall – clears her of violating USF policy and any blatant discrimination, but also tells a story that transcends bureaucratic rules: An administrator who is in over her head, bullies her employees and manages poorly.

A large part of the investigation was composed of 40 individual interviews of employees in the Division of Student Affairs. The report states that 60 percent of those who participated “exhibited physical anxiety.” Some asked questions that suggested a fear of being videotaped or recorded during the interview process. Many shared “concerns that their open participation would affect their long-term employment.” The investigator thus concluded that there was a climate of apprehension present in the division.

Suggestions in the report on how to fix the climate include providing Meningall with an executive coach and the creation of a three-person panel to “ameliorate the climate” of student affairs.

According to the report, the climate in the division is also questionable enough to warrant the creation of an ombudsman post to hold Student Affairs accountable. The report also suggested metrics be developed to measure whether the division is successful and efficient.

It seems like a large fiscal commitment – especially in such a difficult budgetary climate – to make for one individual who has been on the job for two years, and was hired with the expectation that she could do her job well.

The findings also mention that the climate is not conducive to managerial effectiveness. Managers have the power to dictate the climate and, clearly, Meningall has created an environment of intimidation. When employees are concerned that they may be bugged, or refuse to speak on the record for fear of losing their jobs, there seems to be questions about whether Meningall has misused her authority as a manager.

The findings explained the climate of fear in the division in part by saying that Meningall may have acted in a bullying manner because she was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of her position.

An effective manager, however, is able to cope with the challenges and pressures before him or her without creating a climate in which employees are made to feel intimidated and under surveillance.

What USF must now decide is whether Meningall is worth the monetary and personnel investment required to fix the souring climate in Student Affairs.

What is clear, however, is that the University shouldn’t have to pay to teach an individual with seemingly poor managerial skills how to manage at the expense of her staff.