Minnesota college faculty vote no confidence in president, seek change in leadership

Sandy Kiddoo
Of the 88 percent of faculty members who cast ballots, 96 percent voted “no confidence, ” in Northland Community & Technical College President Sandy Kiddoo.
Northland Community & Technical College

Faculty at Northland Community & Technical College in northwest Minnesota have taken a vote of no confidence in President Sandy Kiddoo, and are asking for a change in leadership.  

Faculty at the college’s two main campuses, in Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks, Minn., held the vote last week. Of the 88 percent of faculty members who cast ballots, 96 percent voted “no confidence.”

Kiddoo, who was named president of the college in 2021, said in a statement after the vote that she is committed to “collaborative conversations on how I can improve and work together” with faculty.

Brent Braga is the president of the faculty union chapter at the East Grand Forks campus. He said that faculty have been concerned about Kiddoo’s leadership for several months. 

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“The aim of the vote was both to alert local administration, as well as the system office in St. Paul, that faculty are deeply dissatisfied with President Kiddoo’s performance,” Braga said. “We are concerned that this president’s leadership poses a threat to the continued viability of the institution.”

Among the faculty’s main concerns is the college’s enrollment. Colleges across the Minnesota State system have seen student numbers drop over the past 10 years. Braga said at Northland, that decrease has been steeper than it has at other schools.

“We have seen not just an enrollment decline, but a real decline in the climate or the culture at the college. It feels like our hallways are very empty, it doesn’t feel like there’s any vibrancy to the institution,” Braga said. “This president hasn’t offered any clear direction, any clear vision, in that.”

Faculty are also worried about the viability of the school’s academic programs under Kiddoo. Braga said that three programs were put on a suspended status earlier this year because of issues with their accreditation status, and that Kiddoo’s communication with faculty about the issue has been lacking.   

Amid these challenges, Braga said the college has seen high turnover in staff, including the departure of four full-time administrators in the fall.  

“To see four high-level administrators leave, I think, is indicative of a very serious problem at the top,” Braga said.  

Kiddoo, in the statement issued after the no-confidence vote, said that she will continue to work with faculty to address issues.  

“Given the long-term enrollment challenges and the aftermath of the pandemic at higher education providers throughout the country, high rates of turnover are not uncommon,” Kiddoo wrote in the statement. “I fully understand the concerns, anxiety and discontentment among the Northland community these changes bring. I am committed to continued collaborative conversations on how I can improve and work together to provide high-quality and affordable education opportunities for our region.”

Braga said faculty don’t believe necessary changes can happen with Kiddoo at the helm. Last week, the union informed Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra of the results of the no-confidence vote.

“I believe that the best way to resolve these differences is through robust engagement and identifying structures and practices that will address the concerns,” Malhotra wrote in a statement. “I am committed to working with faculty leadership and President Kiddoo so that Northland can continue on a sustainable and accelerated path forward.”  

Braga said Kiddoo has not contacted him or faculty leaders at the Thief River Falls campus about the vote. He said that faculty leadership has been in conversation with Malhotra about their concerns for several months. They’re waiting to see what comes of the no-confidence vote.

“Faculty are deeply invested both in the institution and in our students’ success,” Braga said. “We will continue to work with the president, as we have throughout her nearly two-year tenure now.” But he said the faculty see problems in Kiddoo’s leadership of the college, and “we don’t believe that those are all likely to change in the near or the medium-term future.”