Colleges craft constitutions

A top campus official is going over the guiding documents for several school entities.

by Haley Hansen

As leadership and colleges change, University of Minnesota faculty members aren’t always sure of their roles.

To provide more clarity and consistency, each college will have a University-approved constitution that clearly defines its leaders’ and faculty members’ roles, making it easier for the two groups to work together.

Senior Vice President and Academic Affairs Provost Karen Hanson is currently reviewing the colleges’ constitutions, and her office will publish them online once the review process is complete.

The constitutions lay out guidelines, including which faculty members can vote on college policies, and the procedures for program changes and committee selections. They also establish the roles of students and staff in the colleges’ governance.

Constitutions for the colleges already existed before the Faculty Consultative Committee took on the issue nearly three years ago, but some faculty members were concerned that the documents lacked consistency between colleges, which prompted the recent drafts.

Faculty Consultative Committee chair Rebecca Ropers-Huilman said it’s important there’s a mutual understanding among colleges about the part faculty members play at the University.

“People have varying views of what faculty governance means and what faculty should have a hand in and what they shouldn’t have a hand in,” she said.

The constitutions also outline the specific duties of each college’s dean.

Though the documents can’t comment on the dean’s terms or other conditions of employment, they include a procedure for a “vote of no confidence,” which would serve as a recommendation to the provost.

The constitutions may also outline means by which faculty, staff and students can provide input on dean search committee membership and the finalists.

Chemistry professor and former FCC chair Christopher Cramer, who helped create the ad hoc committee for the constitutions, said some faculty members were searching for ways to air grievances regarding their college’s leadership but found there weren’t any stipulations in how to do so in the earlier college constitu-tions.

Additionally, he said making the documents available online for the public will legitimize the documents and make the inner workings of each college more clear.

“It’s not transparent if you can’t find it,” Cramer said. “And so having it where everybody agrees, ‘that’s the language, that’s the date it was ratified, that’s the date it was approved,’ [then there’s] no ambiguity.”

Kathleen Krichbaum, chair of the Academic Health Center’s Faculty Consultative Committee and nursing professor, said while communication between faculty and college leaders has always been open, the revised constitutions will make it easier for faculty to bring forth concerns.

“We have the opportunity as faculty to be consulted and to consult administration,” she said. “[So] as clear as we can be about where the lines are that we need to draw and what needs approval and what doesn’t, that helps everyone to understand and operate more clearly.”