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CORRECTION (1/21/15): The article is updated to correct the title Dean of enrollment development and student affairs.  Dean Pfeffer did not send an email to “senior administrators.” Out of respect for his colleagues, Richard Pfeffer announced the move to the employees reporting directly to him prior to the official announcement at convocation on January 20.

A Brookdale official says, "The college doesn’t have a budget deficit of 16M. This fiscal year, Brookdale’s operating expenses are expected to exceed revenues by $4.8 million."  

LINCROFT, NJ - A major staff shakeup is expected to be announced at beleaguered Brookdale Community College.

Earlier this week, an unnamed source in college administration reported that Richard J. Pfeffer, dean of enrollment development and student affairs, will be switching positions with the Dean of the Freehold Campus, David M. Stout. The official announcement is expected to be made January 20. The move is planned for February 1.

The dean of enrollment development and student affairs serves under the president and executive vice president. The current executive vice president is serving on an interim basis – brought in after Dianna Phillips left to run a community college in D.C. Phillips came to Brookdale in 2011, leaving in October.

The move was initially announced in an email by Pfeffer sent only to employees reporting directly to him on January 12 – a copy of which was obtained January 13. The email says “I apologize for the email but did not want word to spill out from any source other than me.” It states that “effective February 1, 2015, I will be assuming the position of Dean of the Freehold Campus" and David Stout will become dean of enrollment development and student affairs. Pfeffer acknowledges the suddenness of the move, writing that “I know this comes out of the blue…”

According to state pension records, Pfeffer has been a college employee since 1988, while Stout came to the school in 1997. Hired as a psychology professor, he was appointed Dean of the Freehold campus in July 2013, when that position was created. Pfeffer and Stout are non-union represented administrators, referred to as executives.

One college trustee knew nothing of the personnel change until asked about it on January 13. Another trustee, who participated in an executive committee meeting on Thursday, January 8, said that the first the board learned of it was when college president Maureen Murphy casually mentioned it. Murphy advised the board that this change was part of the college reorganization, musing that “everybody’s happy,” according to the trustee.

Murphy made no mention of it in her January 8 weekly email broadcast that afternoon, sent to employees on Thursday afternoons.

Newly elected Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Carl J. Guzzo, Jr., Esq., Dr. of Public Health, contacted by telephone, said that as this is a personnel matter, by law, he was not able to comment at this time. When administration was contacted via email for comment, Murphy herself responded, advising that no official announcement was made yet and that when it is, a press release would be provided.

When contacted by telephone on January 19, Freeholder John P. Curley, the Freeholder liaison to Brookdale and frequent trustee meeting attendee, said he also had no idea of the significant staffing change. He did state that that he “wish[es] both men the best,” and with regard to Pfeffer, that “wherever he goes he will do a superb job.” Freeholder Director Gary Rich was not available for comment as of publication time.

A request for a copy of Murphy’s January 15 weekly broadcast email was made. The administration noted that a request under the open public records act must be made for the email. However, the email was obtained from a source, and there was no mention of the staffing change in it at all.

Brookdale is currently in the middle of a budget crisis, and recently announced a Reduction in Force plan that has garnered controversy in the press and served to pack County Freeholder and Trustee board meetings. Under the plan, at least 52 administrators and support staff will lose their jobs.

With regards to the budget deficit of some $16 million and the impending RIF, a proposal has been floated and several petitions circulated to raise tuition by $15/credit – enough to close the gap and prevent any need for layoffs. Speaking of the idea, several sources on the board of trustees reiterated their prior statements that there is no traction for such a move.

Reached at Columbia University – where he is a current student – Graduate Trustee James J. McConnell, Jr. had no comment on the deans changing jobs.  With regards to the proposal to increase tuition to cover the budget gap, he said, speaking for himself, that he wouldn’t support such a move, as it would be too much of an encumbrance on students, particularly those that are low income or receiving financial aid. “There are too many students that attend Brookdale seeking an exceptional cost-effective education, and such a move would impede them from acquiring it,” McConnell added. He is the only elected member of the board, chosen annually by the student body from among graduates that file to run.

Brookdale faculty and staff have mostly had the last 3 weeks off, returning today for staff convocation. The convocation is a series of meetings held at the beginning of each semester. A faculty source said the first session was a series of presentations in the arena of the Lincroft campus, ran by Murphy herself.

The next session, which ran from 10:15 until noon, was a Q & A in the Navesink rooms of the student center, presided over by the Interim Vice President. That session, which Murphy did not attend, was reported as a raucous session of questioning from educators. Specifically questioned was the switching of the deans, and how the move was announced without staff input, advertising for the positions or a search for candidates. The faculty then held an impromptu gathering in a classroom where more dissatisfaction with college administration was apparently voiced.

The Board of Trustees must approve any personnel changes, and the matter is expected to be on the human resources agenda for a vote at the board’s January 29 meeting. The meeting will be held on the Lincroft campus and begins at 5:30 pm. Subject to the open public meetings act, the meeting is open to the public, and a comment period is held on agenda items in the beginning, in addition to a general public comment period at the end.

Jeremy Baratta is a student and writer for the student newspaper, The Stall, at Brookdale Community College.