Board of Trustee Jimmy Hopkins says his priorities for CFCC are 'transparency and collaboration'
Two leaders within the Cape Fear Community College Faculty Association have resigned, a concerning faculty climate survey from 2020 was shelved, and questions have surrounded the board of trustees’ oversight of the college. WHQR spoke with Trustee Jimmy Hopkins about some of these issues.
Hopkins said he stands by CFCC President Jim Morton’s leadership after former faculty members Chardon Murray and Suzanne Baker came forward with new allegations that Morton has created a hostile work environment.
Hopkins said he’s never received any negative feedback: “I will tell you in 10 years, I’ve never had one faculty member contact me with a complaint.”
And he said he’s willing to engage with faculty and the public about any issues that arise.
“My door is certainly open, always has been. [...] There’s never been a time that I’ve not been available or that I’ve been told not to be available,” said Hopkins
In the Board of Trustees’ recent self-evaluation, no areas like ‘board-president relations’ and ‘policy role’ received an overall rating of ‘needs improvement’, but Hopkins said there are things they can change.
“Anyone who says they don’t need to improve probably should get an ego check. But I think we can all improve. I think obviously there are some issues with the faculty; I think they need to come to us. Maybe we need to be more accessible to them,” said Hopkins.
He also addressed the atmosphere of the Board of Trustee meeting in January 2020 after a WECT story broke about an allegedly toxic workplace: "So the optics could have been handled better, and informing faculty, staff, the community that we did take everything seriously. [...] We could have done a better job of telling folks what we had done."
But he said he stands by the fact that the former 2020 CFCC employees Sharon Smith and Kumar Lakhavani, who had alleged Morton was creating a toxic work environment, did not go through the proper channels in filing a grievance, "As far as the board's concerned, we had no name on the complaint, not one. We had nobody stepping forward [...]."
Hopkins said the board of trustees did their due diligence in investigating those claims, "We dug in, did our research; we did talk to the state office."
And he's supportive of the president's character, "You know, personally, I've had conversations with Jim, and I don't think there's a malicious bone in his body or anything is done in a way to try and harm anything to do with the college or anyone associated with the college."
He added, "I can't tell you the number of emails we got from faculty and staff, saying, 'Thank you for standing behind the president.' No one reported that story. And again, I did not get one email personally. But I would dare say there are probably 35 or 40 emails in my computer saying we're grateful that you have President Morton leading this college."
But Hopkins said he wants the faculty to feel that they can come to him, ones who are saying they fear retaliation, "I will always protect anyone who is scared for any reason."
He's also exploring ways the board’s meetings can be more accessible, like releasing their agenda documents earlier and live streaming their meetings. He also said he’ll look into some recent changes to the Faculty and Staff Handbook, including the grievance policy -- and finding a way to conduct another college climate survey, one that more of the faculty and staff answer.
Moving forward, Hopkins said that his priorities for the college are "transparency and collaboration," and that after Thursday's conversation with WHQR, he would call President Jim Morton to discuss some of these issues.