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Szymanski gets a bonus and a beating at BOT meeting

He said he didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but on Tuesday, UNF’s John White dropped a stink bomb in the middle of a UNF Board of Trustees meeting. The trustees met to decide if President David Szymanski should receive his $75,000 bonus for meeting goals set up in his employment contract.

White, the recently elected president of UNF’s Faculty Association, and Student Government President Ally Schneider expressed serious concerns both the faculty and students have with Szymanski.

The BOT meeting started off routinely enough with Szymanski discussing all of the goals he had achieved. Among the highlights was the increase in the State University System’s metrics goals, a significant increase in enrollment among African American students, reducing UNF’s tuition costs and improvement in UNF’s graduation rates. He also noted the success in getting the legislature to approve $6 million for the university’s new MedNexus program. President Szymanski took pride in discussing his relationship with staff and students– including showing photos of him and his wife meeting with staff throughout campus and holding zoom chats with students. After concluding his remarks, Szymanski left the meeting and that’s when things really got interesting. 

Overall it looked like BOT President Kevin Hyde would get a quick vote of approval on the $75,000 bonus as most board members expressed very positive feedback on the President’s performance to date. But not so fast. Just as it looked to be wrapping, White uttered eight memorable words, “I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade.” 

White told the board that there is a major problem they are not paying attention to and that there is a “crisis of confidence with the President that we are not addressing.”  White went on to say that Szymanski’s relationship with the faculty is “strained” and it’s “widespread.”

“The faculty do not feel it’s true that he meets with them,” White said. 

When asked for more specifics, White said, “It’s a number of things. Faculty was far more trusting of John Delaney even though we went a decade without raises… It’s telling we got raises and the faculty is very upset.” White acknowledged that Szymanski did reach the goals set in his contract and White said he personally wanted Szymanski to succeed. But White said that Szymanski has alienated the faculty, “He doesn’t answer his own emails… He won’t respond. I sent an email saying, ‘I want to work with you’ no response.”  

White said former UNF President John Delaney had an open door policy, but you had to go through a bunch of people before you could get access to Szymanski. 

BOT board member, Jill Davis expressed dismay at what she was hearing and asked Student Government President, Ally Schneider for her thoughts on the President’s relationship with students. Schneider, who earlier in the meeting expressed positive views pivoted saying, “I need to be honest how students feel about him… I think it’s worth noting that the people in the UNF community are a little less sold that he’s a great fit for UNF.”  

Schneider called Szymanski’s decision to get rid of tailgating parties a “really, really bad move.”  She finished by saying she would advise her successor to look hard at how the President improves his relationships with the faculty. Schneider told the board that she’s in a tough spot, “If I defend the President, I’m a sellout.  If I don’t, I’m jeopardizing my relationship with the administration.”

BOT President Hyde, and the other board members appeared to take all the information seriously. So much so, that Hyde said he’s going to revise the comments he made on Szymanski’s formal evaluation and that he’ll have in-depth discussion with Szymanski on these issues. 

As the board once again prepared to vote on giving Szymanski’s bonus, White chimed in one more time wondering if they needed to give the entire bonus amount.  In the end, the board did just that… all voting “yes” to Szymanski’s $75,000 bonus.


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Comments (5)

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  • J

    John S.Aug 28, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    That makes perfect sense! During this pandemic, our custodial dept is short-staffed and the university hasn’t contracted out additional cleaners to keep the campus safe, but give the Pres a financial reward based on the collective efforts of everyone else? He took the first 10 minutes of a COVID “townhall” meeting rattling off the metics results (that we have all heard and seen before), blah, blah, blah, blah.. sounding very insincere, like he’s done the same presentation 30 times before. Everyone…. keep in mind that several of the BOT are ultra-wealthy and $75k is nothing to them. $75k could cover 2 custodians for a year. —Only in UNF-land. “No one likes you! No place like this!”

  • J

    John SmittyAug 27, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    That makes perfect sense. During this pandemic, our custodial dept is short-staffed and the University hasn’t contracted out additional cleaners to keep the campus safe, but give the Pres a financial reward based on the collective efforts of everyone else? Keep in mind, some of the BOT members are ultra wealthy, so $75k is nothing to them… Only in UNF-land. No one likes you! No place like this!

  • C

    Chris GauronAug 26, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    Hyde is as big a problem as the President – He is legal defender of employers, and so proud of his anti-labor crusades that he gave his welcome presser as FSCJ Interim President as cleanup crew to their corruption fraud case that ousted their President standing next to his red MAGA hat, sending the unwelcome msg. that FSCJ is Trump University. He led the pick crusade in selecting Szymanski for hire. Note that he gave special clearance that an ethics board had reviewed the conflicts of Szymanski’s business interests, noting that as an Office Depot Hedge Fund Director, there would not be substantial conflict although UNF has vending ties with his company. Szymanski purchased $230,000 in hedge stocks with Office Depot just this Spring at the height of the unemployment crises.

    Szymanski is absolutely unapproachable, and only has others respond to emails, if at all. Complaints are not heard and/or met with retaliation threats. The way UNF counts transfer credit is disgraceful and is not adherent to FLBOE rule 6A-10.033. Credits are systemically all dumped into free electives category and, unique to to all universities in Florida, count as part of your UNF GPA, which have entirely nothing to do with your degree. Its basically like having your Geometry teacher giving you a test in Medieval Art History which is not part of your syllabus or anything you’ve studied and the teacher insisting it will be a major part of your Geometry Grade this semester.

    9% African American Enrollment is an abysmal statistic to brag about. Entering freshman are at only 5% AA in a city of 31%. FSCJ is roughly in line with the city profile at 29.5%. UNF does not honor its Transfer Bill of Rights to these transfer students and rather undermines state access to education statutes defined therein in preteding compliance with statutory mandates like the 2 + 2 agreement by inventing their own made up definition of transfer credit that feigns compliance by awarding “credit” that is not part of nor preparatory for any any part of your UNF degree, thus breaking the FL 6A-10.033 definition of credit and how it should be awarded.

    In a university of 17,000 only 17 African American students are enrolled at UNF who were alumni of one of the 21 public DCPS high schools – Shame! No, Dr. Szymanski, your African American accesss is not one of your selling points to brag about. The monopoly lock that requires half-time students to attend Summer classes exclusively at UNF in order to receive financial aid is telling as to how you are increasing access – the economically hardshipped students from FSCJ who’d prefer taking classes there at half price cannot do so, so must come here to endure the longer path that awaits them as disadvantage to the native student.

  • B

    Belinda RodriguezAug 25, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    Coudos to Jill Davis for actually engaging the students in the discussion! In a time that we are paying fees for on campus classes when our kids are not stepping foot on campus and so many parents are out of work or struggling in the Covid environment, I find it hard to see how a bonus could be expected or deserved. A graceful president would decline.

  • C

    CeCeAug 25, 2020 at 8:39 pm

    Of course they approved his bonus. Why wouldn’t they? The BOT has no serious ties to the university or how it works. They don’t actually care about the president’s relationship with students and faculty (both who said the relationships are strained!!).