After nearly three years leading Brookdale Community College, President Maureen Murphy appears ready to leave New Jersey. Few tears are likely to be shed by faculty and staff at the college.
Murphy sent a letter to the Brookdale staff last week announcing that she is “exploring select opportunities.” She is among four finalists being considered for the presidency at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. If she lands the job, she will be returning to the Lone Star State. She was lured to New Jersey from San Jacinto College South in Texas for five years. Perhaps her form of leadership, such as it is, is better suited to Texas than to New Jersey.
During her brief tenure at Brookdale, she alienated faculty and other staff with her imperial reorganization of the college that resulted in staff layoffs that could have been avoided with a relatively modest tuition increase and other cost-cutting measures offered by the faculty and ignored by Murphy. She also failed to engage the faculty and staff in budgetary and policy discussions.
Brookdale has lost nearly $14.7 million in the past three years because of a $393,000 reduction in state aid, $9.4 million in county aid and $5.7 million in lost tuition revenue.
In fairness, Murphy’s rocky tenure at the community college has not been entirely her fault. She was saddled with a county Board of Freeholders that foolishly and dramatically cut its share of aid to the college, and with a weak and inexperienced Board of Trustees.
Also, when Murphy arrived at Brookdale, it was still reeling from the legal troubles of the college’s former president, Peter F. Burnham, who had pleaded guilty to misconduct and theft by deception, and admitted to using college credit cards to pay for personal expenses. He also admitted taking $20,000 in college tuition reimbursement for his son to attend Monmouth University, even though his son had already received financial aid.
Nonetheless, it was sheer chutzpah for Murphy to be proclaiming her brief tenure as a major victory for Brookdale even as she informed the college community that she wanted to move on.
“We have had to make some tough decisions, but my time at Brookdale has been one of the most rewarding periods of my professional career,” Murphy wrote in the email to staff. “The new structure is in place, the college is stabilized financially, and I am proud of what we have accomplished.”
It is hard to know whether or not those so-called” accomplishments” will stand the test of time or if they will shepherd in an era of alienation and discord at the institution.
Not that it ultimately matters to Murphy, who announced that that she is looking for another job while in the very same sentence declaring, “My commitment to Brookdale is steadfast.”
At least, apparently, until she gets a better offer. For the sake of students and staff at Brookdale, the sooner that happens, the better.