Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Summary of the Colgate AAUP Faculty Meeting

September 30, 2013

An AAUP faculty meeting was held on Monday, September 30, 2013 and attended by 70 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 ideas summarized below do not necessarily reflect the perspectives of the Colgate chapter of the AAUP and its officers.

The meeting began at 4:23 pm with the introduction of the officers of our AAUP chapter, and opening remarks by the chapter Vice President.  This afternoon’s meeting stems from concerns towards faculty governance raised at the AAUP faculty meeting held April 11, 2013.  Two primary worries were expressed at that time.  (1) University committees serve an advisory rather than a decision making role.  (2) The structure of the monthly faculty meeting is not conducive towards discussion of agenda items.  The purpose of today’s AAUP faculty meeting was to converse with elected faculty representatives from the five Standing Committees of the Faculty—one category of committee.  Future AAUP meetings may include representatives from other committees.  The session began with the introduction of the representatives, followed by brief remarks from each committee’s representative, and concluded with a question and answer period.

The committee representatives were introduced and summaries given as outlined below. 

The Committee on Faculty Affairs (FAC).  Key agenda items for the year are continued efforts towards the revision of SET forms, development of policies towards faculty mentoring as called for in the new promotion and tenure guidelines, governance and communication with the Board of Trustees, and strategic planning.  The FAC also sets the agenda for the monthly faculty meetings.

The Committee on Promotion and Tenure (P&T).  The new role of the P&T committee in the promotion and tenure process was reviewed—a shift from watch-dog role to decision making role.  Meetings held thus far have focused on getting ready for the new role.

The Faculty Nominating Committee.  To have effective governance, an appropriate ballot must be assembled.  This is the Nominating Committee’s primary role.  To carry out its function, the Committee annually circulates a committee preference form.  Last spring, the Committee developed a new protocol for P&T elections prompted by the adoption of a new procedure for the review of tenure and promotion cases.  This year, the Committee plans to iron out kinks encountered during last spring’s P&T elections.  A better method for tracking who is serving and in what capacity (by gender, rank, division, department, etc.) is needed.

The Faculty Committee on Affirmative Action Oversight (FCAAO).  The Committee proceeded last year without a director, but there is now a new director in place.  This may provide guidance to the Committee.  The Committee did not appear to do anything in its stated charge (e.g., it had no role in faculty searches).  There are aspirations, but no clear role for the Committee.  The Committee is open to suggestions from the faculty.  It was noted that there is presently a separate affirmative action oversight committee for faculty and for staff,.  It was questioned whether this structure is ideal.

Advisory and Planning Committee (APC).  The APC is comprised of elected faculty members, appointed faculty members, and administrators.  Presently, the Committee is engaged in the ongoing strategic planning process.  Members of the APC met with departments to hear concerns and aspirations.  Working groups were formed to examine various areas.  The working groups prepared reports summarizing their investigations and recommendations, and open fora were held.  The reports are largely concluded, with the exception of the campus master plan which has required some re-working due to the recent purchase of a tract of land adjoining Colgate’s campus.  A framing document is being produced that will summarize the overall strategic plan for the next 5 years.

Those in attendance were then invited to ask questions and share comments.   A summary of the questions, responses, and comments are organized by topic area.  Five primary topics were addressed.

1.   Committee Power.
  • FAC plays the key role in bringing legislation to faculty meetings for a vote. 
  •  P&T will now have a vote in tenure and promotion cases.  The P&T vote is comprised of five elected faculty.  The Dean of the Faculty has an independent vote.  Both votes are forwarded to the President. 
  • The Nominating Committee potentially has a lot of power as it decides who stands for elections.  However, the Committee may not be fully utilizing its power given challenges in finding individuals to stand for election.
  • The charge of the APC is advisory, not decision making. 
  • The FCAAO has not had a clear role recently, but the Committee could influence affirmative action policies, and could work on faculty retention.

It was pointed out that it is important for committees to set clear agenda for the year at the start of the fall semester.  The agenda will determine what gets discussed.

2.   Appointed Committees.
  • As such committees are appointed by the administration, the composition of these committees are not under the purview of the Nominating Committee.
  • It was noted that time taken by service in appointed positions competes with time for service in elected positions.

3.   The Nominating Committee.
  • The Nominating Committee does not operate with all of the information that could be helpful.  They do not know why individuals wish to be on a particular committee.  Information on service is not all in one place.
  • Hope was expressed for better record keeping and for more accessible records with the further implementation of electronic reporting (e.g., faculty self-reports).
  •  Only a subset of faculty express interest in serving on elected committees.  Many faculty do not complete the committee preference form, even to indicate that they are unwilling to serve.
  • It was observed that the Committee used to be more actively involved in the selection of candidates.  The Committee once exerted more power, and was not dependent on the preference forms.
  • The mandate of each committee is not universally known, especially among junior faculty.  Guidance and encouragement from senior faculty would be helpful.

4.   Strategic Plan.
  • It was asked whether the faculty will vote on the strategic plan.  It was stated that a motion will be brought for a sense of the faculty resolution at a future faculty meeting. 
  • It was asserted that the faculty needs a voice while it still matters—before the plan and the framing document are finalized, and well in advance of the January Board of Trustees meeting.  There was a call to discuss the strategic plan framing document at the October faculty meeting, a month earlier than the initial plan, as there is limited time left to provide input.  Some felt that there had been inadequate opportunity to discuss the new student life resolution of about 16 months ago.  In light of that, it was asserted that it is important to discuss the strategic plan at the October, November, and December faculty meetings.  It was proposed that the October faculty meeting should focus on the strategic plan and the annual faculty compensation report.
  •  It was noted that the APC and working groups have been gathering input throughout the whole process through a number of means.
  • Concern was raised towards the campus master plan and the elimination of parking in the vicinity of the chapel.
  • In response to a question on the relationship between the campus master plan and the strategic plan, it was explained that the Campus Master Planning Working Group is one of the strategic planning working groups.  The relationship between the elected Committee on Campus Planning and Physical Resources and the Campus Master Planning Working Group was queried.  It was stated that the working group includes some members of the elected committee.
  • Concrete results of the last strategic plan were reviewed.  Institutes, introduction of athletic scholarships, the purchase of Greek Letter System houses, and the Ho Science Center were cited as key elements of the prior strategic plan.

5.   Faculty Meetings.
  • The role of faculty meetings was questioned.  Are primary decisions to be made in committee, or will there be a time in faculty meetings to debate decisions?
  • Concern towards the structure of faculty meetings was raised.  Faculty meetings are largely comprised of presentations.  Lengthy presentations decrease opportunities for discussion.  This is not a new phenomenon.
  • It was argued that special meetings and fora are not the same as discussions during the monthly faculty meeting.  There seems to be less opportunity to discuss items at faculty meetings if they are not on the agenda prior to the decision point. 
  • The portion of the monthly faculty meeting devoted to “questions for chairs of standing committees” was discussed.  This agenda item comes late in the meeting when there is no time to discuss.  In response to a question on whether one is required to alert a chair of a question in advance of the meeting, it was stated that while it would be courteous to alert a colleague that a question is coming, it is not required.  We can ask any question from the floor.
  • It was asserted that we have the power to change what happens at faculty meetings.  We need to use our voice and speak up.

6.   Other.
  • The APC was put forward as a good example of shared governance in that many from across campus work together on the committee.
  • It was stated that campus governance is in a rut.  A symptom of this is a sense that there are some things that we can and cannot discuss.  This is not simply due to perceptions towards the administration.  Some items do not get discussed because we forget to bring them up.
  •  It was noted that there are places on campus where we cultivate apathy (e.g., Department Chairs telling junior faculty not to serve).  Some of this apathy also comes from the experience of serving on ineffective committees.

The meeting concluded at 5:46 pm.

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

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