Monday, May 14, 2012

Highlights and lowlights from the Board of Trustees Meeting

In the swirl of finals, grading, and end of year reports that have absorbed faculty and students there has been a lot going on around us on campus—some of this comes up at the Board of Trustees meeting some of it does not. Here are some highlights from the public part of the BOT meeting on Friday that I gleaned. Please feel free to add commentary if anyone else was there who has something to add:

  1. We are again short one board member—a resignation, can’t remember which one at the moment. Not sure when that replacement will be made. Maybe this is the time to rally for a Faculty trustee?
  2. The Civil Service Employees, particularly the janitorial staff who work all around us are facing a loss of a paycheck in June because of a reordering/changeover of their payment schedules. If I understand correctly they had been getting paid one week in advance. In order to adjust this so that they work 2 weeks and then get paid, a pay period has to be missed. After some negotiation with Human Resources, the employees will be “loaned” a check in June and have deductions made over 6 pay periods. It seemed a reasonable solution until a couple of members of the civil service staff spoke out during the public comment period and asked, “were there Union Representatives at these negotiations with Human Resources?” The question went unanswered, no union representatives spoke up, and the follow-up question was met with more silence: “Is it legal?” I wonder what the answer is.  It was nice to see the Library Auditorium harboring a contingent of the greenshirts of our workers alongside the suits for a change at this Board meeting. I wonder, however, if anyone noticed them leave en masse at one point. I hope they get the answers they need.
  3. Another thing that came out was that a contingent of Civil Service employees lunched with the Trustees on Friday which continues the Trustees’ attempts to reach out to all sectors of the university—faculty, staff, students. At the last Board meeting, some members of the Faculty Senate met with the Trustees.
  4. President Watson gave his report praising “Dr. Henderson” (is she a doctor now?) of Enrollment Management on the aggressive marketing and the improved statistics she has made in various areas—I couldn’t keep up with all the numbers. Did I hear our grad rate moved from 14% to 21% in a 2-year period? Did I hear that we would be at a 25% grad rate in May 2013 for first-time/full-time freshmen? Sounds good, I think, at least it will keep the Trustees happy. The word “branding” was bandied about (as usual). And Dr Watson owned up to working “quite a bit toward shared governance” although he provided no examples of this.
  5. New Senate President Phillip Beverly gave a Senate report making reference to the Senate’s dismay over that shambles of a “Communications Policy” that was issued this spring on the heels of the computer usage policy. Since Dr Watson has been invoking his absolute right not to hire a department’s faculty search choices if he does not deem them worthy of employment at CSU (e.g. “I am the great and powerful wizard of Oz”), the Senate expressed its dismay over this failure to let faculty, who know their own disciplines and departments better than he does, have a say in the hiring of their colleagues. Faculty at CSU, if you remember, do not have a right even to RANK candidates of their job searches and the Union failed to bring this to the table in the last negotiation. Dr Watson claims the right to review ALL the application files and turn away finalists. I understand he wants to see “writing samples” from incoming faculty—hello, we call these articles and books at the university-level. Is this all just part of the CEO’s micromangerial style we’ve heard about? Or, is he afraid we will be hiring too many more potentially disgruntled white faculty to add to the cadre of those he famously attributes the last few years of apple-cart upsetting on campus? So the Senate is on record at least of calling attention to various departments’ unhappiness about their overturned searches and while no one is against the checks and balances that any institution needs to have, the overreach of the executive authority into academic matters is taking on unfortunately high proportions.
  6. Public Comment. Oy veh.
It is interesting that some students accomplished what is usually a faculty-based action and offered to the Board of Trustees a petition of about 150 names citing “no confidence” in President Watson and his regime. The spokesperson cited several examples of Dr Watson failing them and recalled a quote from Oliver Cromwell of all people (certainly not my favorite historical figure) to the Rump Parliament of 1653: "YOU HAVE BEEN SAT TO LONG HERE FOR ANY GOOD YOU HAVE BEEN DOING. DEPART, I SAY, AND LET US HAVE DONE WITH YOU. IN THE NAME OF GOD, GO!."

A second student spoke to the Trustees as the guardians of the university who needed to pay attention to the internal crises on campus. To Dr Watson he said that he must seriously seek the support of faculty and students because “you cannot steer this ship alone” and finally he asked, “do you believe faculty have control over curriculum matters?” The question was left to be answered at another time and place. These “students” by the way, are grown men who have a certain amount of age and experience behind them. They were not the typical students that that cadre of 4 or 5 disgruntled white faculty members are usually accused of manipulating. I was surprised and impressed as I have been so often by CSU students.

The meeting ended shortly afterward, but clearly the discussion is not over.

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