Saturday, November 04, 2006

Letter of Concern from SIUC Alumni about Mass Comm

Sorry about the formatting, another cut and paste job.

A Letter From Concerned SIUC Alumni
May 10, 2006 (signature list & signature references updated July 21)
President Glenn Poshard
Vice President Academic Affairs John Haller
Chancellor Walter V. Wendler
Provost John M. Dunn
Associate Provost Don Rice
Mr. Samuel Goldman, Board of Trustees
Ms. Tequia Hicks, Board of Trustees
Dr. Ed Hightower, Board of Trustees
Dr. Keith Sanders, Board of Trustees
Mr. John Simmons, Board of Trustees
Mr. Roger Tedrick, Board of Trustees
Mr. Matt Townsend, Board of Trustees
Mr. Stephen Wigginton, Board of Trustees
Ms. Marguita Wiley, Board of Trustees
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:
Manjunath Pendakur arrived in Carbondale five years ago to become Dean of the
College of Mass Communication and Media Arts (hereafter “CMCMA”). He inherited a
thriving program of national distinction. CMCMA was the fastest growing college on
campus with a dynamic energy, innovative spirit and educational track record that one
Southern Illinois University Carbondale (hereafter “SIUC”) Chancellor publicly described
as something that other programs on campus could only dream about.
Students in CMCMA routinely won major regional and national honors for print and
broadcast news, advertising, photography, industrial video production and creative
television programs; the faculty was diverse and superb; imaginative cross disciplinary
programs gave students extraordinary educational experiences while also helping them
secure jobs upon graduation; and an unprecedented number of alumni from every
generation were dedicated to collaborating with various SIUC Presidents, Chancellors,
Provosts, Deans, Department Chairs, teachers and staff to enhance the professional
learning opportunities for students from every arts and communication discipline.
Dreams were given shape during the years prior to the arrival of Dean Pendakur.
Thousands of media careers were launched with often astonishing speed and enduring
friendships were born as a result of this special environment. Dean Pendakur was
warmly welcomed by his faculty, staff and alumni. Everyone had extremely high hopes
for what we might accomplish for the students under his leadership.
Tragically, since Dean Pendakur’s arrival much of what is described above has been
destroyed. Many of the most talented and effective faculty have left. Recruitment of top
quality film, journalism and video production students has declined. Visionary programs
have been decimated or eliminated. College achievement awards have decreased.
And, faced with a notoriously unapproachable Dean, frustrated students have
transferred elsewhere or resorted to posting their grievances on the Internet.
Furthermore, the same alumni who were once invited to campus each year to help
refine programs, design new ones or conduct seminars in their areas of expertise have
stopped receiving invitations or have been informed by Dean Pendakur that they are no
longer welcome. Faculty members in at least one department have been expressly
prohibited from having any contact with alumni since this Dean took office.
Could it be that Dean Pendakur possesses unique insights and wisdom that his
successful predecessors and several SIUC administrations somehow lacked? One
glance at CMCMA’s mission statement, as currently posted on its website, reveals a
deeply troubling truth: nowhere does it mention that the College seeks to train students
for successful careers in their chosen profession or to assist them in finding jobs upon
graduation. The omission is no accident. It exemplifies everything that has gone wrong
in CMCMA under Dean Pendakur. He is simply not interested in a career oriented
What purpose could a college possibly have other than the benefit of its students?
What practical good is an undergraduate degree if it does not include employable skills,
let alone the kinds of tangible career advantages that CMCMA once reliably offered?
Before Dean Pendakur’s arrival, the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts
proudly and eagerly prepared graduates for career success. For fifty years, students in
CMCMA and its precursor entities received a stimulating blend of theoretical
understanding and practical experience so as to help them compete and excel in a
highly challenging industry. This competitive edge of CMCMA had long been a priority
of the College. SIUC was known to gifted prospective students and discriminating
employers alike as a place where creativity, craft skills and knowledge were honed to a
professional level.
At first, Dean Pendakur pledged to respect and nurture that tradition.
Unfortunately, that promise was only one of many misrepresentations by this Dean.
Dean Pendakur also assured students, faculty and alumni that their most cherished
programs would be secure on his watch. They were not. And he lies to the public. On
the CMCMA website Dean Pendakur currently touts a US News and World Report Top
Graduate Schools in America ranking that has not existed in a decade. Conspicuously,
that prized listing occurred years before this Dean took office. There have been a
myriad of other misrepresentations to the SIUC Administration, as well: particularly
about his success in righting a supposed sinking academic ship and the depth of his
alumni support. Perhaps most unfortunately, however, there have been repeated
smears by the Dean’s Office intended to diminish the reputations and contributions of
faculty and alumni, for no sin other than their concern.
Several noted CMCMA alumni have removed SIUC from their wills as a result. One
particularly successful individual, whose signature is included on this letter, had
previously bequeathed his entire estate to the College. He changed his will solely
because of Dean Pendakur’s policies and management style.
An alumna co-signer of this letter decided last week to cancel the CMCMA scholarship
that she funds until this Dean is removed from office. Also purged from the list of
CMCMA assets under Dean Pendakur is the annual Hollywood alumni reception for the
Dean and Department Chairs, privately organized and funded by another co-signer of
this letter and attended by hundreds of prominent Southern California-based CMCMA
alumni. Innumerable industry connections, student internships, alumni relationships,
graduate job opportunities and fundraising prospects enjoyed by Dean Pendakur’s
predecessor have ended as a direct consequence of this Dean’s conduct.
Indeed, something fundamental has changed in the College of Mass Communication
and Media Arts at SIUC, which enhances neither the quality of education nor prestige of
the University. Under Dean Pendakur, if you disagree with him, if you express an
independent opinion, if your priorities dare extend to the commercial interests of
students, or if you do not adhere to his personal ideology, then you are branded a
malcontent to be silenced. One outstanding member of the CMCMA family after
another has learned these lessons the hard way. Dean Pendakur has consistently
chosen to harass and humiliate his critics, real or imagined, rather than discuss issues
from an administrative or academic standpoint.
Since this Dean took office, the College has lost twenty tenured or tenure track faculty.
They are systematically being replaced by untenured – and, therefore, controllable –
faculty handpicked by the Dean and his small coterie of senior faculty administrators.
You may already be aware of Dean Pendakur’s efforts to marginalize authentic
disagreement as inconsequential dissent supposedly “stirred up by faculty.” But we
urge you, as duty bound administrators of a public university, to look past this smoke
screen and, instead, focus on merits of the statements put forward in this declaration.
Rest assured that many of us have watched Dean Pendakur most carefully since the
day he was hired. Our individual and collective experiences with SIUC and with him
give us the luxury of both accurate information and perspective. We have not been
provoked by faculty agitation, nor do we need it as a catalyst for action. The
overwhelming majority of us have been associated with CMCMA far longer than Dean
Pendakur. And we each feel a stronger emotional bond and sincere sense of gratitude
to it than he ever could.
We, the undersigned SIUC alumni, are motivated solely by our passion for the students,
programs and traditions of Southern Illinois University. Our careers have been good to
us and we owe a substantial debt of thanks to SIUC, the College of Mass
Communication and Media Arts and its predecessors. We vividly remember the
talented faculty who taught us. We value past administrators who guided the College
and SIUC with vision and caring. And we enjoyed collaborating with the many
professionals who excelled in those positions in recent years. We are trying to give
something back in the form of career-oriented experience, proven teaching techniques
and positive growth for the students' and CMCMA’s futures. We want only to see the
College restored to its former glory.
A crown jewel of SIUC has been systematically vandalized by Dean Pendakur. In the
process of revealing himself to be an inadequate educator, he has squandered the
national reputation and progressive programs of the College he inherited. He is
completely disengaged from the ambitions and needs of the students in his charge, and
the complex realities of the marketplace that they face upon graduation.
Even worse, he is openly indifferent to them.
Manjunath Pendakur’s contract is up for renewal this year. We believe that he has
repeatedly proven himself unqualified to hold the position of Dean and that his contract
should be terminated.
In considering our request, we urge you to reflect on several crucial goals which are
stated in the Core Values of the Southern@150 declaration on the SIUC website:
We must listen and respond to our students and provide instruction and services that
help them achieve their full potential. We will welcome all students and do our best
to prepare them for purposeful and productive lives. We may be challenged at times
to reassess our current beliefs, attitudes, and methods.
We will seek excellence in everything we do. We will define excellence with durable
national and international standards. In order to be truly excellent we must look
beyond ourselves and our immediate world. We must focus on the best. We must be
determined in our quest to get there. We are better than we think we are, but not as
good as we can be.
We will manage ourselves in a way that exceeds effectiveness. We will be bright and
thoughtful about solutions to problems. We will recognize that Southern Illinois
University Carbondale is a place that values people and the human spirit. We will be
wise. We will be careful. We will only be tolerant of the highest moral and ethical
standards in managerial and leadership behaviors, at every level of university life.
Our decision making should be directed toward excellence in all things.
We will develop and foster a sense of pride in our University, its traditions, and its
values. Our view of pride will not be parochial, but will be broadly inclusive and used
to constructively elevate each person whose life we touch.
For those inspiring words to be anything more than empty rhetoric, SIUC must
demonstrate them through action at every opportunity. The pending contract renewal of
Manjunath Pendakur cries out for thoughtful examination, as does developing a
comprehensive plan to revive programs that have withered or died on his watch. We
challenge you to carefully consider the points raised in this letter and seek answers to
the following questions:
* Why have so many proven teachers, including at least one Teacher of the Year, one
Researcher of the Year and the Director of Graduate Studies, left CMCMA in recent
years? Since Dean Pendakur arrived one department alone has lost over half of its
tenured faculty. Another has just one remaining full professor. Why? And why
have so many emerged from CMCMA to recount chilling tales of mismanagement
and abuse by Dean Pendakur?
* Why did nine tenured faculty representing all three academic departments in
CMCMA prepare a fourteen page Bill of Particulars against the Dean this February?
And why were other complaints of Dean Pendakur’s abuses of power, dating as far
back as February, 2002, and written by a senior professor and former Dean of the
College, not taken seriously by Dean Pendakur?
* The Dean has been quoted by a number of students, former faculty and staff as
publicly making pronouncements such as, “The media and advertising are ruining
society.” If this accurately reflects his opinion, and we believe it does, then what
business has he running what was once a nationally recognized media program?
A Letter From Concerned SIUC Alumni - 5
* During Dean Pendakur’s tenure, has he personally had any major success in
fundraising or attracting external research or development grants? Aside from the
donations which resulted from arrangements made by Dean Pendakur’s
predecessor, such as the recent financial gift from the Virginia Marmaduke estate,
haven’t most grants obtained by CMCMA been the product of a handful of faculty
and staff?
* At a time when SIUC is trying to build alumni support for its programs and plans for
the future, why have so many CMCMA alumni with lengthy and positive records of
College volunteerism and activism, as well as a history of major financial giving,
been made to feel unwelcome? Why have so many faculty in the College reported
that they have been prohibited from having contact with their most accomplished
alumni? How does that benefit the students?
* How is it that these same alumni were able to work well with a variety of Deans,
Department Chairs and Administration officials, from President John Guyon on
down, only to inexplicably become “problems” to be eliminated by Dean Pendakur?
* Why did Dean Pendakur unilaterally disband the CMCMA Alumni Advisory Board
immediately after taking office, only to create the so-called Dean’s National Industry
Council, which has never formally met, made any recommendations or offered any
information whatsoever to anyone in the College?
* Why has Dean Pendakur allowed his faculty to become so out of balance with the
marketplace? In the year prior to his arrival, the tenure/tenure track faculty in the
Radio-Television Department, which has a long tradition of faculty accomplishment
in the industry, boasted 250 years of professional industry experience. Those
numbers have been cut in half or more. Why?
* At a time when most major universities are expanding their video and film
production curricula to meet exciting undergraduate recruitment opportunities, as
well as the career interests of their students, why has CMCMA reduced that
curriculum in favor of theoretical media studies? Exactly how many jobs are there
for experts in "Media & Culture," anyway?
* With Dean Pendakur’s professed support of student production opportunities and
journalism, why did CMCMA fail to make the finals in this year’s SINBA Awards
when Northwestern University, Eastern & Western Illinois and Illinois State
somehow did? Didn’t CMCMA once dominate those awards?
* Other than a few newscasts, how many hours of overall programming per semester
do undergraduate students produce, direct and host for WSIU-TV, such as the nowcancelled
award-winning “Studio-A CafĂ©” and successful “SIU Sports Weekly”?
How far has that declined under this Dean, and why?
* How many minutes of news does WSIU-TV offer viewers each week and why has
the vital training ground of the “River Region Report” been allowed to deteriorate?
Exactly how does that decision serve the needs of the Broadcast Journalism and
Production students, or the community service mandates of SIUC?
* What kinds of professional extra curricular film and television production training will
CMCMA students be getting in the future under Dean Pendakur, such as the awardwinning
RT Productions unit? Does he believe that class work alone is enough to
prepare students for careers in the media?
* Why is CMCMA spending so much money administering a reduced version of the
innovative cross-disciplinary Hollywood Studies Program? Isn't the expenditure of a
whole faculty salary, plus benefits, on a part-time position that was once routinely
provided at an adjunct rate, along with alumni help, a poor allocation of resources?
* Why were the academic components of the Hollywood Studies Program, including
weekly professional seminars, onsite tenure track faculty supervision and alumni
mentoring, abruptly eliminated by this Dean? Could this be why students are so
unhappy with the way the program is currently administered?
* What has happened to the advertising track in the School of Journalism, which was
once a nationally admired program of CMCMA?
* What happened to the innovative Interactive Multimedia and MA/MBA programs in
CMCMA? Isn’t the former dead and the latter, with only one active student,
terminally ill?
* Just what have been the successes of Dean Pendakur to further undergraduate
education in CMCMA? Which of his initiatives can be held up for acclaim? Are
there any dynamic or innovative undergraduate programs in place that were not
initiated by his predecessors?
* Why was Dean Pendakur’s term as Dean at the University of Western Ontario cut
short? Has anyone at SIUC looked into that? Although our information about this is
merely anecdotal, it is also disquieting. If there is an unflattering trend to this Dean’s
management record, should it not be investigated?
And finally…
* Beyond our specific complaints about the decaying curriculum, performance and
reputation of CMCMA, it is a fact that a substantial loss of employee morale and
alumni goodwill has occurred under Dean Pendakur. Is this negative environment
really the path that the SIUC administration wants to take with any of its programs?
In your roles as senior administrators and trustees, you have a clear fiduciary
responsibility to do what is best for the long-term welfare of the College of Mass
Communication and Media Arts, students, faculty and staff. If you decide to act on this
responsibility, then it is imperative that you replace Manjunath Pendakur. Soon.
Dean Pendakur has caused so much damage to the College and its programs, and
inflicted so much pain on good employees and their families, that it may take a decade
or longer to fully heal the wounds under new leadership.
The choice is yours.

The two hundred seventy alumni who have signed this letter stand ready to help
CMCMA recover. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to take your
responsibility seriously.
Respectfully yours,

There are 14 pages of names here. Send me email if you want a copy of the pdf file and I'll send it to you.


Anonymous said...

Now Dean Pendakur is doing the same thing to Florida Atlantic University's Dorothy Schmidt College of Arts and LEtters.

Anonymous said...

If you can offer any advice for us, please do! Our programs are starting to bleed.

PeterG said...

He ran along killing the college and throwing his ego around for years at SIU, until a new President of the system was put in place. One of the first acts of this new President was to get rid of this clown.

I don't think you can put pressure on a loser without the alumni. I would find something seriously wrong and rat him out to a big giver.

Doesn't anyone check references in the university arena? It was clear what he was.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Peter...I would love to get a copy of that PDF. I am a different anon than above and at the time it was posted the programs were starting to we are almost bled out. Please tell me how to get a hold of you so I can get a copy of that pdf file. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

and now he's being sued for anti-Semitism, ageism and fraud at Florida Atlantic. Maybe that will be enough to send him on his way before he destroys you like he destroyed MCMA at SIUC.