Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's been a year and all I got....

So where does one begin when a situation has deteriorated to such a degree that discussion is all but useless. The university given the tagline “Failure Is An Option”, by the local paper of record, continues its steep descent into an uncertain future. One thing that is clear about that descent however is that unless tenured faculty speak decisively, the “Failure” will be the responsibility of the faculty because of their reticence during the descent. It took more than a year of fits and starts with the administration to negotiate a contract that provides for nominal pay increases, no shared governance language and no accountability for an administration that routinely demonstrates its ineptness in adhering to the provisions of the contract. I can imagine the T-shirt saying “I waited more than a year for a contract and all I got was...”
For your consideration I present the following. Five faculty who submitted materials for Fourth Year Retention were denied retention by the President after going through a rigorous quality control process. Only when their materials reached the CEO’s office was a problem detected. And no loyal readers, it wasn’t a problem of adequacy on the part of the faculty members. It was a problem with imaginary provisions of their Departmental Application of Criteria. Yes, at least one of those faculty members is on record for challenging the administration for applying criteria that didn’t exist. This does not bode well for implementation of the new contract. Historically, (the past 15 years) some  administrators involved in the personnel process have inexplicably lost their ability to comprehend the provisions of the contract. I believe that condition is reinforced when there is no consequence to change that behavior. So what we end up with are administrators who don’t adhere to the contract and create both a hardship for individual faculty members and a depressed state of morale among the faculty generally. If demoralizing faculty through inept management, ill-conceived ideas, inane execution and general incompetence is the goal of this administration then as the British say, they receive full marks. And if the governing body of this university supports the continued management by ADD, then their complicity in creating a legacy of failure will be inescapable as well.
At the end of the day, I believe the only thing I can take to sleep with me is my integrity intact, un-compromised, inviolate. And so here I have a professional responsibility to cast my single vote for or against contract ratification. I could, given the secret ballot, just go along and support the hard, tedious work of the union negotiators. Or I could question my conscience and ask is this the best that could be done. It has been a year. What difference would a few more months make, if it provides some protections to an unappreciated faculty and accountability to an inept administration?
So at the end of the day I decide to sleep soundly knowing that I wasn’t complicit in ratifying a contract that was so clearly against my professional interests and a document that perpetuates the mismanagement of an institution perceived to be a “Failure.” My integrity won’t let me willingly and knowingly contribute to failure. Will yours?


  1. Thanks for this thoughtful post, as well as for the correction it makes to an earlier blog post which I wanted to highlight. Here, it notes that 5 faculty members were denied 4th year retention last spring, which is correct (as opposed to 14 that was reported in an earlier blog post, which is incorrect). What is not noted here is that 4 of those 5 decisions were recently reversed, so that those 4 faculty members were retained and can now apply for 5th year retention. Of course, this reversal speaks exactly to the problem that Phillip identifies here, that there have been many problems with administration applying the contract and/or DACs appropriately (which in the case of these 4 decisions was apparently admitted). This decision reversal also raises a number of new questions, such as why did this happen in September and not back in May or June? How much of a benefit is this reversal for those faculty members, given that they might have wanted to use the summer to do work that would prepare them for 5th year retention?

    In the spirit of correction and accuracy, I also wanted to note that no faculty members were denied tenure this past academic year, something that a previous blog post obscures in its comment "the rate at which the administration is denying tenure."

    In thinking about contract, I just wanted to throw out one more idea. No contract can ensure that it will be implemented the way it should be, so we need to make sure that whatever our contract is that we remain vigilant (as the saying goes). If any faculty member experiences a violation of the contract, s/he should file a grievance. That's not a perfect process, but it's one way to assert our voices and try to protect our rights.

  2. Thanks, Philip and Steve! We must remain vigilant. The upper administration's lack of regard for faculty illustrates their lack of understanding of the university and its role in our society. This is NOT a business so corporate "best practices" and corporate-speak do not work. We need academics and scholars to run this university. This will not be a guarantee that the university will work as it should but there is certainly more of a chance that it will work better if true educators run an educational institution. The Board of Trustees must be held accountable for the decisions that they have made in recent years that have allowed for the misguided direction of our university. All faculty should show up at the Board meeting next week.