ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: Bergen Community College’s faculty will vote Nov. 30 whether to censure President G. Jeremiah Ryan, as tensions among students, faculty and administrators near a tipping point.
From left: Miller, Ryan, Dacey
Things nearly boiled over last week, when an undetermined number of work-study students were told they had exhausted their federal pay and had to seek school funding to keep their jobs, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Eyebrows also were raised at the return of Tim Dacey, who took a leave of absence earlier this year to work as the county administrator under Executive Dennis McNerney, who was voted out of office earlier this month.
Dacey, former Gov. Jim McGreevey’s onetime chief of staff, said all along that he planned to return as BCC’s vice-president of administrative services — after taking a leave of absence to take the county job in February — once the elections were over.
In his stead, Ryan temporarily gave the administrative services position to Dennis Miller, who then angered students and faculty with a private September symposium attended by vendors who do business with the college — each of whom paid $60 to attend. The fee included the purchase of Miller‘s book.
BCC employees have to put the use of any materials used in a course that they profit from (textbooks they’ve authored, for example) through a panel of department heads and faculty before these can be used, staff members told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. However, neither they nor the website could find proof that Miller cleared the move with anyone.
Before landing the Bergen job, Miller was president and CEO of Somerset Medical Center in Somerville — the hospital that employed serial killer Charles Cullen, who admitted snuffing 13 patients and trying to kill two others.
His hiring at BCC is only one of several beefs that students and faculty have with their president.
Ryan’s administration already had lowered the federally-funded salaries of the student workers to minimum wage before suddenly announcing that the federal government had a cap on the funds at $1,500 per semester. This at first left all of those who‘d reached the threshhold out of work, according to letters sent to the students.
However, an undetermined number of those who immediately consulted the school’s Career and Transfer Center were able to keep their jobs.
“Demoting and firing student tutors and lab aids means less help is available during lab hours, and a student is more likely to go away and never come back if they have no help trying to solve a Flash or 3d animation problem,” one disgruntled faculty member said.
“Our computers and IT infrastructure have fallen into disrepair. Internet access has become all but unusable, and no one even knows whom to call about it.”
Amid the turmoil are concerns about federal accreditation in BCC’s surgical nursing program, which supplies a significant number of nurses to hospitals in Bergen County. With accreditation, their degrees cannot be certified.
Representatives of BCC’s faculty unions overwhelmingly approved drafting the censure motion against Ryan that will be voted on by the full faculty next week.
“[I]f such vote passes among the faculty popularity in the big vote, [student representatives] will start collecting petitions with student signatures,” said one of those representatives, Yoel Weisshaus.
According to a staff memo issued by the faculty union:
“A Censure is a process by which a formal reprimand is issued to an individual. It is both a condemnation and a public reprimand of that person’s job performance. It differs from a vote of No-Confidence in that it offers the person censured an opportunity to reform his inappropriate behavior whereas a vote of No-Confidence simply asks for the person’s removal from office.”
Meanwhile, moves continue in the front office.
Having returned to the school, Dacey is now in charge of administrative services.
Miller, meanwhile, “has been assigned to the position of interim chief development officer,” according to a notice sent by Ryan.
“In his new position, Dennis will oversee the Bergen Community College Foundation, including the launch of the College’s capital campaign; the Office of Grants Administration; the Office of Civic Engagement and Government Relations; and the Nonprofit Leadership Institute,” Ryan wrote.
Miller, a former Woodcliff Lake resident who had been at Somerset Medical Center for five years, quickly left after Cullen was arrested, citing personal reasons. He eventually surfaced at BCC, where, during Dacey’s absence, he oversaw the budget of one of the nation’s largest community colleges.
Miller came in with direct ties to Ryan, who worked with him at the Alman Group.
And although he has been a full-time employee at the college the past two years, Miller also has maintained a consulting business: Dennis C. Miller Associates in Morristown (He lives in Denville now).
Under U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, several of the recent federal prosecutions out of Bergen County have involved consulting firms established by those with political and governmental connections — including people in full-time county-related jobs who moonlighted elsewhere.
BCC has a connection to the probe:
The chairman and former commissioner of the Bergen County Improvement Authority, Ronald J. O’Malley, has been named in a 68-count federal mortgage fraud indictment returned against him and a partner of his Ridgewood firm.
Of $50 million worth of bonds sold during the improvement authority’s biggest year, more than half went toward the purchase of a building for BCC in the Meadowlands.
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