Friday, April 26, 2013

Report on the "Real Faculty Meeting"

hosted by the Colgate AAUP, April 11, 2013

An AAUP faculty meeting was held on Thursday, April 11, 2013 and attended by 80 faculty.  The following document provides a summary of the comments, organized by topic area.  The name of each speaker was not recorded so that all could speak freely.

The meeting began at 4:25 pm with opening remarks on the AAUP, a summary of conversations held between the President of our AAUP chapter and departments/programs, and a statement of the purpose of this meeting.  The focus of this meeting was university governance.  The following bulleted items summarize the major points that were raised.  They do not necessarily represent the perspectives of AAUP.

Elected committee power.  Elected governance committees lack real power.  Committees function in an advisory role rather than in a decision-making role.  Advice that is asked for is not taken seriously.  This is discouraging and disenfranchising.  The activities of various committees need to be better coordinated.

Appointed task forces.  The proliferation of appointed task forces undermines our committee structure.

Faculty meetings.  The structure of the monthly faculty meetings is dominated by the administration.

Faculty disengagement from university governance.  Faculty have become less involved in university governance for a variety of reasons—concerns towards the effectiveness of committees, inadequate amount of time, and prioritization of other interests and responsibilities.

Recollections from the past.  Faculty had a stronger voice and greater power in the past.  This has gradually eroded for a variety of reasons.

Faculty time.  There is insufficient time to manage an increasing workload.  This negatively impacts involvement in governance.  A four-course load is needed.

Relationship with the administration.  The administration was viewed as too top-down.  Faculty feel managed and not listened to.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty.  As Colgate has become more complex, it is questionable whether a singular Provost and Dean of the faculty is appropriate.  The Provost should represent the President’s interests.  The Dean of the Faculty should represent the interests of the faculty.  It is difficult for a single individual to represent both interests.  The hiring of external Deans may decrease representation of faculty viewpoints.

Time in office for the President and Dean of the Faculty.  It was noted that both are fairly new to their positions.  We owe them some trust and time to see how matters develop.  We should sit with them and work things out in constructive ways.

Board of Trustees.  Concerns were raised towards the composition of the Board, the interests that they represent, and their involvement in matters of the faculty (e.g., the curriculum).  Our goals are not consistent with the business model of the Board of Trustees.  The Board does not need to manage the curriculum of an institution.

Departmental and institutional hierarchies.  There is an increased level of surveillance in the work that faculty do, especially junior faculty.  There is an application of rules that interfere with effective mentoring between junior and senior faculty.  There is a need to practice trust among ourselves as colleagues.

Action.  Faculty were interested in concrete steps that could be taken by the AAUP.  How might faculty claim a particular power?  The AAUP should forge constructive strategies.  Perhaps a direct line with the Board of Trustees could be developed.  We need to start with collective items, not items that could be perceived as to our own narrow benefit (e.g., a four-course load).  We must be stakeholders in the institution.

Assertion of faculty voice.  Faculty are not using our full voice.  We need to better assert what is ours.  Nothing should be off the table for the faculty.  Hiring and the faculty are the domain of the faculty.  We need not change our governance structure, but we need to assert ourselves and make our committee structure more vibrant.

Faculty power.  It was noted that faculty are in positions of power across campus (e.g., department chairs, division directors, and associate deans).  We need to make better use of our power.  We are not fully utilizing our Full Professors.  We need to support our faculty administrators, even when they make a difficult and unpopular decision.

Faculty Affairs Committee.  The role of the FAC in setting faculty meeting agenda and in carrying out its various functions was discussed.  Perhaps the FAC is too small to carry out all of its functions.

 Tone.  The tone of our discussions and AAUP communications is important.  Our tone need not signify opposition to the administration.  There may be value in reaching out and working with the administration.  Kindness in tone, but firmness is needed.

Resurrection of Colgate’s chapter of the AAUP.  The revitalization of our chapter of the AAUP is appreciated.  The AAUP may provide a needed mechanism for identifying key issues and channeling our energy.

Unity.  We must not divide ourselves from one another.

The meeting concluded at 5:45 pm.

-- Prepared by Rick Geier, Secretary of the Colgate University Chapter of the AAUP