My experience working at Eastern International University (EIU) was extremely negative, to say the least. The lack of communication, complete disorganization, and nonexistent educational standards are three of the biggest problems within this institution. Even though I was only employed there for a little less than a year, problems arose from day one of my being hired. In the department where I was teaching, there are no schemas of work, learning objectives, marking standards, or even a set curriculum provided for any of the classes being taught. The information being presented by the different lecturers often contradicted each other, causing confusion and a loss of confidence amongst students for their instructors. The manager of this department was also consistently absent and extremely difficult to get a hold of. This manager also did not appoint a provost or department heads so lecturers were often not able to get class issues or problems resolved.
Management also discourages open int*r*epartmental and external departmental communication. In my specific case, it was implied that I was not to consult my co-teacher for advice on a new class that I was asked to create. I later discovered that the manager had previously asked my co-teacher to design this class but was not satisfied with the results because the manager thought it was “too difficult” for the students to understand. Instead of informing my co-teacher of his concerns, the manager kept my co-teacher in the dark about coming to me with this project. This eventually caused unnecessary tension and confusion between the two of us, which is not a good way to start a working relationship. This attitude even extended to consulting teachers in other departments as well. I was implicitly told by human resources not to discuss my lessons or anything related to EIU standards or protocol with teachers in other departments. I was also told to “keep my distance” from them in social settings as well, even though we lived within walking distance of each other and often ran into one another outside of work. As a result, teachers and staff from all departments are extremely wary and distrusting of each other. Instead of promoting unity and harmony, upper management perpetuates an atmosphere of discord and sus*i*ion.
The bald-face lies and complete lack of communication told by human resources were the catalysts that caused me to leave EIU. It is common practice by HR staff to use the argument, “This is how things are done in Vietnam” or “the contract is not binding” so that they can backpedal on a previously agreed upon point. For instance, before I arrived, I was assured in writing that I would be allowed to take Christmas holidays off in December without any problem. As soon as I turned in my annual leave request a month later, however, I was told I had to work those two weeks, the argument being that Christmas is not guaranteed in our contract. The contract, however, DID state that Christmas Day is a paid holiday. When I pointed that out to HR, I was told that the “contract is not binding”, which totally contradicts the purpose of a contract. This kind of manipulation and deception is rampant in HR and I have had to deal with them being untruthful about delays in my work permit processing (up to six months), mistakes in my police background check (had to change hotels twice before these mistakes were fixed), and visa status (unaware of new government rules and standards at the time).
Not all of it was negative, there were definitely a few positives that came out of this experience. The salary in the department where I worked was very good, allowing me to live quite comfortably and travel in and out of the country. Most of the students are very sweet and lovely. They were my main motivation in going forward amidst the problems this institution has. These factors, however, were not enough to get me to stay. Eventually the other problems became so large and intolerable that I felt I had no choice but to cut my losses and leave.
Students are generally considerate, sweet, and hard-working.
Salary was very reasonable.
No educational standards applied or set, including schemas or work, curriculum, goals, and guidelines.
Very poor management and leadership skills in HR and senior staff.
Lack of support and professionalism in both academic and HR related issues.
Advice to Management
Elect a department chair or provost with the necessary academic and management qualifications to help establish academic goals, bring about unity among the facility, and resolve issues when the vice dean is unavailable. Hire curriculum designers, preferably with many years of experience, to assist lecturers and set an overall class standard for the course catalog.