'Hell week' has new meaning at Diné College

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, Aug. 25, 2011

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Diné College's Board of Regents announced their pick for college president Wednesday as students and faculty members faced a chaotic first week of school.

Maggie George, the former faculty/chair administrator for the Center for Diné Studies at the college, took the helm this morning (Aug. 25).

On Monday, students milled about the main Tsaile campus trying to find classes whose locations weren't listed in the schedule, and some discovered their classes had been cancelled because no one had been hired to teach them.

One faculty member, who asked not to be identified, said he had reported to school ready to teach and been told he was on administrative leave because his position hadn't been advertised appropriately.

"Monday was hell," he said on Wednesday.

A student reported walking all over campus trying to find a class, and when he finally found it, there was no one there to teach it.

Human Resources Director Evelyn Meadows said the college had had a double whammy when it came to staffing. First, four faculty members who had signed contracts last spring had decided over the summer not to return.

Then at least one department hired an instructor without going through the proper protocol.

"We had a case where a department hired a non-Navajo male without advertising the position or going through a committee," Meadows explained. "As administrators, we couldn't let that stand. We're charged with following our internal policies and procedures as well as Navajo preference laws."

Interim President Marie Etsitty said she backed Meadows' decision.

"Especially now, after the Wisdom of the People grant, the Council is keeping a close eye on us," she said. "We have to make sure we do everything according to policy."

The Wisdom of the People grant was a massive, multi-year allocation for developing traditional Navajo curriculum. The Navajo Nation auditor general recently found many irregularities in the way it was distributed under previous president Ferlin Clark.

The board had opted not to renew Clark's contract in May of 2010 after faculty and staff complained of favoritism and financial mismanagement under his administration. Clark fought the firing and the case eventually made its way to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, which sided with the board last October.

Interim Dean of Academics Abraham Bitok said students and faculty who had complained to the Navajo Times about this year's campus chaos had exaggerated the situation.

"It's only a few classes, and we just postponed them until next Monday," he said. "It's being taken care of."

Meadows said the vacant positions have been advertised, there are applicants, and interviews will be held Friday.

Meanwhile, attendance for the first week of school dropped slightly from last year's first week, possibly due to classes being postponed, in spite of an increase in enrollment.

Attendance records showed 1,963 on campus this week compared to 2,019 the opening week of fall semester in 2010.

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