Academic professionals protest proposed changes in governance policies

by Paul Sand

Committee members from the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators, which represent the University’s second-largest employment class, are crying foul at a proposed change in governance.

The change is a new policy, approved Oct. 17 by the Faculty Consultative Committee, which would allow only tenured and tenure-track faculty to vote on issues concerning curriculum, amendments to the constitution and tenure. The policy also supports the creation of departmental constitutions.

“It’s approved in principle,” Faculty Consultative Committee Chairman Dan Feeney said. “It’s not the idea that this is the (final) document and we’re going to ram it down somebody’s throat.”

He said because faculty are involved in teaching, research and service at the University and academic professionals and administrators do not have to be involved in all three areas, the faculty should be the only department members to vote on policy changes.

Randy Croce, executive committee chairman with the council, said he is disappointed his group wasn’t allowed more input while the policy was drafted.

“We have been left out of the process,” he said. “No one except a group of the faculty knew anything about this.”

Croce said the academic professionals and administrators group wants to share governing responsibilities with tenured faculty.

“I think that when one group has their decision-making and their rights curtailed, it’s bad for the institution as a whole,” he said.

Feeney said the committee did not meet or discuss the proposed changes with University groups because the committee wanted the “tightest document you can write, so then you work from there.”

Feeney said he figured until the change was approved by two faculty committees, the policy wouldn’t move forward.

“You can’t have multiple versions of a document floating around with one group reacting and another group changing it over here,” Feeney said.

Feeney said the intent of the policy change is not to exclude academic professionals and administrators from decisions, but to bring “clarity and uniformity” to an area where there are many variations in how departments handle different employment classes.

The University’s professional and administrative class includes academic advisors, librarians and research associates, up to top-ranking administration officials including the president and deans. Civil Service workers comprise the University’s largest employment class.

However, Croce said this new policy affects only those professionals and administrators in academic units.

If people other than faculty are not able to teach classes the way they like, Croce said, they may lose their passion for teaching.

“That may sound alarmist, but there are no limits in the way the policy is written to safeguard the academic freedom or the independent decision-making of anyone besides the tenured and tenure-track faculty,” Croce said.

Teri Wallace, the council’s representation and governance committee chairwoman, said she is concerned that the policy may polarize departments that have worked well together.

“I don’t think anyone argues with the fact that the tenured faculty have a different relationship with the University than others of us and consequently, a different set of responsibilities, but I think this policy goes too far,” Wallace said.

While it is unclear which governing body will approve the new policy, Feeney said, the Federal Communications Commission has set a February deadline to present a final draft to the Faculty Senate. Meanwhile, he said, the FCC will discuss the changes with University groups, including the academic and professional council.

“Usually when things come out of the FCC they go to the Senate and that’s the end of it,” Feeney said. “This is different. The FCC recognizes that this is a controversial issue and it’s an issue that needs to be broadly discussed before you do anything about it.”

Paul Sand welcomes comments at [email protected]